Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Review: Akron ArtWalk, September 5, 2015

On Saturday, September 5th a new friend of mine, Erin, joined me to discover Akron's Downtown in the form of an ArtWalk. A little unsure as to what we should expect, we NEOH newbies (Northeast Ohio for those who are confused) drove into Downtown Akron with visions of the booming Brooklyn arts scene clashing with visions of abandoned steel warehouses and creepy alleyways. I think what we found was closer to Brooklyn...

Akron, Ohio, also known as Rubber City because of the tire industry, is located in the Rust Belt, that economically shocked part of our country that saw the steel, car, plastic, and polymer industry money flood in and right back out again with just as much force. The Goodyear Blimp still flies around here and the mansions still line the streets in certain neighborhoods but the devastation is palpable. As you drive around various parts of Akron there are overgrown parking lots, empty weedy squares where houses once stood, and broken windows in hollow warehouses. I think Akron could identify with Eric Clapton as he sings "Once I lived a life of a millionaire..." Even the river still struggles a bit with healthy levels but has come a long way from the blaze of a dump site it was in 1969. Much like the city.

Amid these gloomy facts are glimmers of flames. That is not Akron's only legacy. Not at all. The rocks and parks and trails and trees are gorgeous. The natural resources are delightful. The Cuyahoga River is rushing and most definitely not on fire anymore. The buildings built in Akron's heyday still stand and command reverence along brick streets. New buildings glimmer with hope for more progress towards a healthy and vibrant community. And, even without the money, tourism, and packed streets of other cities, Akron's arts and crafts scene is active, innovative, and entrepreneurial.

Not surprisingly, The Downtown Akron ArtWalk as well as another recent event called PorchRokr showed an abundance of rust, found objects, industrial souvenirs, and steam punk vibes. But usually not in some kitsch angsty way. I got the feeling that ideas reigned over depression, spirit over gloom. Cool things are happening here.

Erin and I enter the scene. People and energy filled spaces as we followed our map and the delightfully bubble-like stickers from the warehouse studios and Crafty Mart of Summit Art Space to the funky upstairs Ro3 Gallery. The atmosphere was down to earth and inviting. People were talkative, hanging out, meeting each other, showing each other artwork and eating and drinking. I downloaded the Akron Art Prize app for the evening where I could find pieces on display and save them to my list. I had 5 votes to use and I wanted to be sure to choose my top 5 favorites.

Restaurants, music venues, shops, and galleries were all on our map for the evening. We covered as much as we could and could've seen more. A trolley drove about picking up and dropping off happy art seekers. Akron Glass Works was a highlight since they were hard at work in the hot studio. A human anatomy book cut into topographical incisions also caught our eye. We meandered into Urban Eats, a coffee shop/cafe with large plywood pieces on the wall holding graphic black and white stencils. There were multiple paint nights going on in public spaces, giving people a chance to see and experience the process of making. Or remaking. Like Akron. 

Erin and I made our way back to our car and passed a long line of young people waiting for a flashy club to open. The combination of events over the course of the evening surprised us both and prompted Erin to exclaim, "This is actually Akron!" #ActuallyAkron is my new hashtag for the city. #ActuallyAkron is pretty cool. The Akron Art Prize will be chosen and given out at a later event. I'm definitely going. 


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Empty House Studio

Back in 2012 and 2013 I ran a little place called The Empty House Studio. Read more on our blog or just get the idea with the mission below:

TEHS inspires, creates partnerships, promotes collaborations, and hosts creativity. 

The mission of The Empty House Studio 
is to provide a place for artists
to create, meet, collaborate, inspire, discuss, and grow. 

The Empty House Studio, an active art studio, is a nurturing space for 
...artists, curators, actors, arts managers, musicians, dancers...
to experiment, challenge their fears, and learn from failures 
through various demonstrations, lectures, classes, 
Happenings and pop-up shows. 

That experience taught me so much about collaboration, good management, and the artistic community's needs. I experimented with events and organizational structure, use of space, broad community acceptance of alternative ideas, and social media. We had a planned termination date, an idea I heard about in my MA program, and worked to fit as much in that time frame as possible. It was crazy, it felt crazy, and I loved it.

Blake Stenning, a fellow Empty Houser and former colleague in the Arts Management program at George Mason University, published an article and photos about The Empty House Studio back in 2013. He recently sent me the article and photos which I shared on The Empty House Studio page but I wanted to share here as well. Find the article below. Enjoy!

Midway through their Fall 2012 semester, GMU Arts Management classmates Sarah Coffin, Christine Bauer, Henri Bielawski discovered they shared a similar dilemma: the struggle to find a balance between their artistic inclinations and management pursuits. Although they were dedicated to learning the skills to become future art administrators, there was a moment of truth where they felt their own personal artistic expressions were becoming increasingly neglected. Soon thereafter, something unexpected happened…

Sarah’s cousins, who currently live in Africa, had just purchased a small bungalow in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, VA, and asked if she would consider house sitting until they relocated to the States later in the summer. To sweeten the deal, they agreed to allow Sarah to host artistic gatherings there. It was an idea Sarah had to offer like-minded individuals, who longed to engage in communal creative activity, a place to share and to experience the artistic process with others.

When Sarah originally applied to GMU’s Arts Management program, she wrote in her personal statement that it was her goal to create an artistic community oriented around opening one’s senses to experience the world. Suddenly, the circumstances were in place to put her ambition to practice and to apply her learning in a real-world situation while still working towards her degree. Upon hearing about the proposal, Professor Claire Huschle encouraged Sarah to pursue the project as an independent study, and The Empty House Studio (TEHS) was born.

Sarah, along with Christine and Henri, began work on the TEHS’ mission statement and quickly launched both a blog site and Facebook page. Within a relatively short time they had one hundred “Likes”; an amount which has more than doubled as word spread beyond their immediate circle of friends. Beginning in mid-December, TEHS hosted its first of many on-going weekly events. While some of these gatherings have been based on a theme, such as culinary creations or salsa dance, many are unstructured and simply encourage people to show up and be open to new experiences.

During these happenings a trained musician might find new inspiration by experimenting with painting, or a writer might try collage to stimulate a new story idea. The nurturing environment cultivated by TEHS has become a conduit for creativity in all forms, and one feels the palpable energy as a buzz of activity fills the rooms. Many who come for the first time return again as regulars, and each subsequent gathering presents a new opportunity for someone else to join and connect.

This coming June, TEHS will vacate its Del Ray address as Sarah’s relatives return to the US. What happens next has yet to be determined. Whether moving on to inhabit a new physical location, or perhaps, instead, becoming a framework for alternative creative endeavors, TEHS has already instilled in many the spirit of being in of the moment. The message is clear: for those interested in sharing a creative experience with others, now is the time!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Dancing with Failure"

Would you say yes? If failure walked up and asked you for this dance? Would you say yes? I'm not sure I would. 

Chris Horne is a devil of a failure. He says so himself. In fact, he just spoke to a gaggle of creatives and community members in Akron, OH about his dance with failure. Now, just to clarify, he is the successful creator of The Devil Strip, an art, music, and culture magazine/ newspaper/ online news source covering everything hip and relevant in Akron. He also won the Knight Foundation grant to do something called Unbox Akron which is rolling out this fall. Unbox Akron is incredibly creative and the anticipation of its debut is killing me. But how did he get there? Through great failures, he says. 

Creative Cog Akron, an artsy speaker series put together by Katelyn Gainer, kicked off with Chris Horne's "Dancing with Failure." Horne took me by surprise. In his conversation about failure he directed us toward community rather than self-realization. He said that "we are wired for connectivity and being connected is what gives us confidence ... Being local is being human." 

He suggested that whether you will fail or succeed in your pursuit is not the question. The questions are, rather, whether you are taking action that makes us better, whether you are telling stories, and whether you are connecting people. We all seek a purpose, a drive, and a mastery. Can we help each other in these pursuits? Horne says yes. We know ourselves through our community, they help you find energy for your ideas and push you forward. But they can also catch you when you fail and help gather the pieces of failure to try again. 

Dancing is such a whimsical word to use with something as weighty as failure. Trying something potentially incredible could take off and soar or it could crash into a burning wreck. That burning wreckage is exactly why failure is weighed down with so much fear. But Horne said that to dance with failure isn't to try to lighten its reality. To dance with failure is to let it be a possibility. And in community, that isn't such a scary prospect. 

Live Local. Dare Greatly. 

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." - T. Roosevelt 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Community Inspiration

Picture from Lifehacker  
Kathryn Coneway is an inspirational community arts advocate and an incredibly hard worker. I had the pleasure of working with her in her Northern Virginia Art at the Center not too long ago. She recently blogged about her work and I loved the following paragraph: 

"Shared spaces support creativity by making greater resources available than might be available to an individual. Shared spaces also create a center for creative energy so that makers working in the same space might benefit from the energy and influence of others working side by side, as well as other groups who gather there at different times.  Makers leave traces and these in turn inspire new work." 

(Read the full post here)

Heres to hoping you leave some inspirational traces today in making art, playing with your kids, or talking to a friend or stranger! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What is "Creative Placemaking?"

There's a new hot word going around: PLACEMAKING. Before you ignore it or pass it off as a fleeting trend, you might want to jump on this band wagon; it's a fun one.
Photo from NatGeo

Placemaking is making places. Take a second to think about that obvious statement. What does it mean to make a place? What is a place? When you use that word, to what are you usually referring? An area or building or establishment that has some specific purpose, right? "That place we went to for dinner..." Or "that place with the great hiking trails..." Some places just exist - Niagra Falls for example. Other places have been made - the visitors center at Niagra Falls, for example. 

"Placemaking" or "Creative Placemaking" is a movement striving to put some more thought into the places we make, to include more people in the process of making community oriented spaces, and to infuse these places we make with a creativity that is life-giving/inspiring.

Will our artists and creatives be reintegrated into communities as vital resources? Will we become a more flexible, creative, and human society? I sure hope so.
"A good public space ... is not only inviting, but builds a place for the community around an artwork, or culture venue, by growing and attracting activities that make it a multi-use destination. Alone, no designer, architect, or artist can create a great public space that generates and sustains stronger communities. Instead, such spaces arise from collaboration with the users of the place who articulate what they value about it and assist the artist in understanding its complexity. Public art projects that engage the community in aspects of the art-making process can provide communities with the means to improve their environment and the opportunity to develop a sense of pride and ownership over their parks, streets, and public institutions. Ultimately, however, public art projects will be most effective when they are part of a larger, holistic, multidisciplinary approach to enlivening a city or neighborhood. In this way, public art can contribute both to community life and to the service and vitality of public spaces. This is the promise of the emerging “Creative Placemaking” movement."*

I love the idea of a community of workers from various fields combining their tools and ideas to create a place. I love this call to unsilo our professions when it comes to creating public spaces. Main Streets, walkable town centers, multiuse parks... Find out what your community is doing on this front and see how you might contribute. We must learn to be active participants in what we enjoy rather than passive recipients.

Read more on the NEA website.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Trivial Changes of Time..."

Don't merely jump on the waves of trend... Guest blog post from GK Chesterton. (ha!)

"It is from the old wrangles of Rads and Reformers and True Blue Tories that modern art has borrowed this queer notion of incessant Progress and each generation crowing over the last. When I read all this confident exposition about new methods that must now supersede old methods; of how Yeats and Swinburne must yield to Mr. Eliot and Mr. Pound, just as Tennyson and Browning had to yield to Yeats and Swinburne, I heave a sigh that is full of old and tender memories. ... Anyhow, I have now come to believe in a totally different theory about novelty, and even the necessity of novelty. What puzzles me about current culture is that it ignores the very truths which it exaggerates. ... novelty is not necessarily improvement. It does not necessarily give the man for whom the old things are stale any right to scorn the man for whom the old things are fresh. And there always are men for whom the old things are fresh. Such men, so far from being behind the times, are altogether above the times. They are too individual and original to be affected by the trivial changes of time."

- GK Chesterton

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Etsy ReOpened!

I am so happy to announce that I am reopening my Etsy shop! Now that I am back in the states, shipping is affordable again and I will be selling my work. Please stop on by Etsy by following the gallery/link on the right side bar!

Thanks and happy shopping! 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Recent creations

Check out my Island blog (a temporary venture for this year on Dominica) for some new creations!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


The movement in this old video is incredible. From an article in Hyperallergic about NY Public Library's new archives of major historical dance videos.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Maker's Struggles

"The Studio" Update: Re-rooting and Patience  (from my island blog: The Study and The Studio)

Something interesting is happening. I wasn't quite sure what it was until recently. After a few weeks, a few long walks up steep hills, and a few conversations with wise people, I think I'm getting a glimpse. 

I've been quietly frustrated with my seeming abundance of time and corresponding lack of production, inspiration, and energy when it comes to making things. "So much time and space and new resources: What is wrong with me?"... is the mantra subtly threading through my everyday. It is a mantra that can creep in for all of us in different ways. We have certain expectations of ourselves and of situations. Then, in the situation, we wait to see those expectations filled rather than what the actual experience brings. We build a social construct in our mind that becomes a faux-Truth even before the experience can produce the actual reality. 

Beginning in December of last year, I was uprooted and replanted. I graduated from a Masters program, welcomed my fiancé back from 4 months apart, got married, turned 30, and moved to an island. When I got here 2 months ago, it was as though I put my hands on my hips and stood there watching, waiting, expecting to see fruit bloom as soon as my feet hit the ground. Well, where was the fruit?! I'm adventurous, creative, and now I've got time. What is wrong with me? Stupid tree. It doesn't work anymore. Great, now I'm on an island with so much time and I'm worthless. Am I drowning or acclimating? Acclimating, obviously, right? RIGHT? Get on with it!

My lack of patience astounds me. My wise sister said maybe I should recognize mini-wins each day (like the day I figured out how to change the propane tank on our stove and carried the 50lb. thing all the way home just to prove something to myself). Maybe I shouldn't try to be producing creativity in the midst of figuring out the basics of living, of surviving (like how not to get run over while crossing the street or crossing in front of an angry donkey). The daily hardships of this place are real but hardly seem so to outsiders since my pictures mainly exude the beauty of this Nature Island. How do I explain things? How do I communicate (an act of expressing something inside of me) through my artwork that which I haven't yet ingested? 

Like any adjustment (losing a loved one, moving, getting married, new job, new kid...), patience is key and expectations can kill the possible joys in your new reality. I am grateful for a partner who shows me this patience and one who can see my fears and emotions I try to hide oh so well. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

February: Island Canvas'

February's drawing theme is Flora and Fauna. Welcome, February!

Alternative surfaces. They are everywhere. My stone, seed pod, stick habit is raging now that I live on a tropical volcanic island. You should see the stones, sticks, and seeds! Ahhhh!! I can't get enough.

Anyhow, once I get over my astonishment at the object, sometimes I'll paint it.

Here are some of the bits of the flora and fauna I've painted... or painted on so far.

A coconut end nub.
My craft paints ... I finally found some at a grocery store in Roseau. 

Coconut nub. 

Coconut nub.

Coconut nub.

Seeds I found on the beach. 

Priming the canvas... 

Left: A sprouted coconut.
Right: The scene up our hill. 

Left: Cocoa seed pod on the tree.
Middle: The view of Cabrits/Fort Shirley
Right: Bird's eye map of Dominica. 

Beach rock (volcanic)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Morning Structure

I recently posted on my "island blog" about our morning structure. See that here. But to keep things clean and simple and drawing focused here I will just include the structure of my pack each morning:

You can zoom in on the money if you have a Mac... Thats really what it looks like! 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Abandoned Resort

From our unfinished cement roof, I can see an odd large brown and white structure with a red roof just a little ways off. The odd thing is that it looks beautiful but eerily empty... because it is.

It was never finished. There are no walls on the staircases that ascend to the many floors, there are vacant holes where there should be windows and doors, and some balconies lack railings. Andy and I went exploring and climbed through the space. It is solid concrete and looks like the apocalypse suddenly whisked the workers from their work; tools left rusting, nut and washers piled and stuck together with rust and moss, shutters, chairs, and window frames leaning against walls. I found out that they just ran out of money and there it sits. And its huge.

Here is a quick sketch of the bottom floor. The staircase opens to the grass and sky above and those doors opened to an office full of tools, oven racks, metal shelving, and other random items, stacked, rusty, and deteriorating. But the concrete is solid and as good as new. It would've been such a cool resort. This downstairs area in the drawing was leading to a dining hall on the right with a large front porch. There are small huts around a man made lake that probably would've cost an extra something for a night. But it stands empty.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shipping Containers For Everyone!

This old rusty freight container sits in front of some beautiful homes down one of the streets in our neighborhood. But when you really start noticing, there are shipping containers everywhere! They are used or just left and they are all over. I think I need one. I could work a studio in there... 

Monday, January 13, 2014

2014 on Dominica: Year of Drawing

Hello from the little Nature Island of Dominica!

I've been on the island for a week now and am getting acclimated to my tiny section of the island. I'll be ready to explore more of the place soon, I'm sure, but I've got plenty right here for now. The island is wild. There are sunny rain storms, rogue cows, and colorful fun-house looking homes all over the hillsides. The clouds move faster and life moves slower. The locals smile easily if you make an effort to be polite. Housetops are mostly unfinished so that home owners don't have to pay taxes on them. The roofs are flat cement with lose cinderblocks and rebar sticking up out of the cement. Andy and I often climb the stairs (with no banister or anything to protect you from the edge) to the roof and sit on cinderblocks. The view is unreal. And I want to draw!

The view up the hill...
I've decided to make this year a year of drawing. I will hopefully have more time to draw and the slower pace of life seems conducive to time sitting and drawing.

Rather than drawing randomly I will have a theme each month and draw within that theme during the month. I might switch them around but here are my ideas so far. Any ideas for the last two months?

January: Island Structures
February: Flora and Fauna 
March: Sky and Sea
April: Food
May: People
June: Medical School
July: Vessels 
August: Travel
September: Creativity
October: Everyday
November: ............
December: ..................

Here is my first one for January:

My neighbors.

See more of island living here: