Arts, Forward!

Walker Teen Art Council, 2009-2010. Photo Cameron Wittig.

Since graduating from college I have made my career in arts institutions. I’ve worked as a museum educator, public programmer, and now work to support artists in their fund raising and teaching artists about services and resources that can help them grow their practice. In my studies I’ve focused on the arts in the realm of cultural and social policy and thought about the kind of quantitative research that can be applied to arts organizations to better understand and articulate the value of arts and culture in society.  I’m excited to announce that for the next few months about I will be blogging about some of these topics as a blogging fellow on the new website ArtsFwd. ArtsFwd examines innovative practices in arts leadership and is a really exciting place for sharing ideas and about adaptive strategies to create dynamic change in the arts sector and move it, well, forward.

Artist Marie Watt gives a talk at Crow's Shadow

My first piece explored arts leadership in rural areas, which features Melissa Bob, the new Interim Executive Director of Crow’s Shadow Institute outside of Pendleton, Oregon.  My second piece profiles the Teen Arts Council blog at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota and shares some fantastic ideas of how arts organizations can effectively engage teens and honor their voices in an arts institution.  I hope you’ll check these out and join us in the conversation! There’s a lot more innovation to come from ArtsFwd, and we’d love your input!

Advertisements

Killerfemme in Pictures

By Chrisdoodles on Instagram!

Recently I’ve had the pleasant surprise of receiving two drawings! The one above by my Instagram friend Chrisdoodles was done from a picture I posted when I was all decked out and ready to go to the Cherylween: Prellraiser dance party (you can see the original here). The picture below was on a flyer for another iteration of the Suzanne Stroebe and Caitline Rueter’s Feminist Tea Party, which I participated in when they were at the New York Foundation for the Arts. It shows me leading a discussion about feminist art and aesthetics and if there is such a thing.

I love these two pictures because not only are they graphically bold and match my aeshetic, but because they capture two sides of my life that sometimes feel very distinct from each other: there’s the side of me that wants to dress up, have fun, wear an outlandish costume, dance with my friends, indulge in silliness and and forget about the world. Then there’s the side of me that is thoughtful, easy going, cautious, and measured. I want to sit down and engage in discussions in a reasonable manner about the big questions and how to address them: inequality, culture, art, ideas. I think these two drawings show that our lives are complex, and that’s what makes them balanced, nuanced, complicated and joyous.

The Dance Party That Will Ruin Your Life

During the day on Saturday I received this Facebook message, “Halloween snow! A white CHERYLWEEN. The dandruff of the gods is beckoning us to have a shampoo ritual! See you tonight at the Bell House!”

Leopard coat bought when I was 20 at Magpie in Portland, Oregon

In my last post I promised to show you what my nice, black outfit with tasteful gold highlights turned into. That’s right, with the application of some goody “Wake Up With Curls” curlers I turned into PRELLRAISER. What? Prell shampoo + horror movies = Prellraiser. That is, if you are CHERYL, the notorious, Brooklyn-based dance party put on by museum educators who love cats, jazzersize, sequins, video art, fake blood and authentic fun.

CHERYL: ARCTIC FURY from CHERYL on Vimeo.

Absolutely fabulous and ready for @cheryldance

I love CHERYL because it lacks any sheen of New York attitude, is friendly for both queers and hetero people and condones general arty weirdness.  Going for over three years strong CHERYL started in a tiny bar (which has since been renamed and redone) in South Brooklyn because aforementioned arts workers were frustrated they had to keep going to Williamsburg to go to the fun dance parties. They made a dance, they made a video, they found really good DJ’s and CHERYL was born.

HOW TO CHERYL from CHERYL on Vimeo.

It’s since grown into a globe trotting phenonemom, the Cherylites have been named some of the “most stylish New Yorkers” and they’ve had artist residencies and gallery shows and made some of my favorite videos. With themes like “Arctic Fury,” “7/11,” “Nausea,” “Administrative Soul,” “Sasquach on Broadway,” “The Great Depression Take Two: Electric Boogaloo,” “The White Cube,” and “Goth Spaceship” this is not your average dance party.

CHERYL: NAUSEA from CHERYL on Vimeo.

CHERYL: 7-ELEVEN from CHERYL on Vimeo.

With all their acclaim, CHERYL remains an amazingly fun party run by nice people who are glad that you are there. It’s still held regularly  in South Brooklyn, the videos are as full of socially commentary, catchy beats, and fake blood as ever, and it’s my favorite (and probably only) place I dare to wear ridiculous clothes and cut loose on the dance floor. Here’s a few CHERYL looks over the years. I hope to see you on the floor the next time!

Photo by Nolan Conway

At the White Cube, photo by Nolan Conway

Me and Andy, my friend from high school, at the White Cube

At the 7/11 party, this photo was featured in a slide show on the Village Voice's website. Yes, I made my own Slurpee hat out of pompoms and a stolen Slurpee cup.

Slurpee hat. Masking tape on my shirt. Must be CHERYL.

Customized shoes for CHERYL 7/11

EuroCheryl-28

EUROCheryl

The theme was EUROCheryl. Okay. I'm holding a copy of L'Etranger.

Sasquach on Broadway. I made this dress and reused it for the "Nausea" party, the photo of which I sadly cannot find.

Cats Conversing

Not sure which party this was for - I think "Thanks for ruining my prom, thanks for ruining my life," but I can tell you that Ida the cat stayed home that night.

Arctic Fury, the first CHERYL I ever went to I was too lazy to create a costume. Fortunately there is always a craft table, so I just put some silver sparkly stuff around my waist.

Texas is the Reason

I love Houston!

Texas has its own mythology. Its own place in the American imagination. Depending on who you ask Texas is the reason for the United State’s current political mess, or the greatest place in the US, or somewhere in between. It is a universe unto itself, a huge and diverse place, full of long drives and very pretty countryside. I was lucky enough to spend a few days there in mid-September and take in some of the cities and sites. And of course, the Tex-Mex food.

The Orange Show

The Orange Show, Houston, TX

When I first got to Houston I felt overwhelmed by the highways, humidity and strangely quiet downtown. I hid in a Starbucks and tapped away on my computer. Thankfully, the next day some native Houstonians helped me get hip to the more alternative and arty side of Houston. One of the huge highlights is the Orange Show, a folk art environment created by a postal worker named Jeff McKissack that was began in 1956 and completed in 1979. I loved the Orange Show’s immersive space and the passionate group of people behind the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art that are working to preserve it and other “folk” or “self-taught” art environments and traditions in Houston.

Ladies Only

Ladies only in this part of the Orange Show

Purity

Purity of the orange is celebrated at the Orange Show

I also soaked up some more “traditional” art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston where I soaked up a room sized mural of mountains and flowers that looked like a traditional Chinese ink painting, but was made out of gunpowder by Cai Guo Qiang. I also discovered the self-portrait by Suzanne Valadon and spent several minutes in front of it contemplating her sheer determination to paint and make a life for herself as a woman artist.  In their gift shop I picked up two Frenchie books – My Little Paris (en anglais because I am a cheater) and Ines de la Fressange’s guide to Parisian style.  I visited the Menil Collection, including their hotly contested Bzyantine fresco chapel which is being returned to Cyprus next year, and some smaller art spaces like the awesome Spacetaker artists resource center and gallery.

I love this self-portrait of Suzanne Valadon

I love the sheer determination shown in this self-portrait by Suzanne Valadon at the MFA Houston

A little bit of Paris (France) in Texas!

In the MFA Houston gift shop I found a treasure trove of books about Paris!

Artist commissioned cross walk

The sidewalks outside of the MFA Houston are painted in collaboration with a local artist

I also fortunately got away from the corporate style restaurants downtown and found one of my favorite things about Texas: spacious coffee shops with nice breakfast menus and outdoor seating. These places are so inviting, like you just want to hang out all day eating and sipping fair trade coffee. I enjoyed both Brasil and Empire Cafe (which are quite close to one another and the Menil Collection) as well as the super El Real, which has great Tex-Mex and is in an old movie theater!

El Real Neon

Neon at El Real!

Old Western at El Real

Westerns at El Real

After Houston I took a quick, few hour stop in San Antonio, and then rolled on to Austin. After some frenetic days of work on the road I took a little bit of time to unwind with my friend Jennifer. We took a drive about an hour outside of Austin to Krause Springs. Located in the rolling hill country it almost feels like a folk art environment as well, with rock pools, wind chimes and a spring fed lagoon. While Krause Springs felt like an oasis, Texas is going through one of its worst droughts on record and we drove through the remnants of a fire on the way there, charred trees with ashy leaves making the landscape look otherworldly.

Enjoying the spring fed pool

Krause Springs, in Spicewood, Texas

I couldn’t skip eating Tex-Mex in Austin either, of course, and Austin is home to even more fantastic cafes with outdoor seating and of course, coffee shops that serve the delicious (and huge!) breakfast tacos.

IMG_4866

Tex-Mex, Austin style!

But of course, after all that Tex-Mex I took a little break and Jennifer, her friend Jennifer and I had a lovely girlie dinner at a perfectly French brasserie called Justine’s with lovely food and delicious cocktails (also check out the “amazing” section of their website).

Justine's Brasserie

Cheers!

Toast to Texas friends at Justine's

The Saturday Night Crowd at Justine's

The Saturday night scene at Justine's

Austin photo shoot

Photo shoot outside of Arthouse TX

I also managed a visit to the Austin Film Society, Arthouse Texas and Domy Books, where we saw a wonderful opening, I connected with an old zinester friend, and purchased a book called I ♥ Macarons. Indeed, it seems like I found a lot of France and a lot of art and a few friends in Texas, even though I didn’t visit Paris (Texas).

Detail of the Art Show at Domy Books

Detail of an exhibition at Domy Books, Austin

Interview with Impractical Labor in the Service of the Speculative Arts on NYFA Current!

The ILSSA Reference Reports, a component of the ILSSA Quarterly, are an ever-growing and collaboratively generated annotated list of resources relevant to ILSSA members. The group's founders call the Reports “our analogue Internet.”

Impractical who? Speculative what? What is she on about? If you love bookbinding, zines, letterpress printing, type writers, old Polaroid cameras, and any and all things that have to do with obsolete technology, you will love this project. Impractical Labor in the Service of the Speculative Arts was started by Bridget Elmer and Emily Larned, two artists who are letterpress printers and bookmakers that I greatly admire. It was Emily who suggested I intern at Booklyn, a Brooklyn-based book artists alliance, my first internship in New York. I also worked in Emily’s studio all through college, binding books, scoring and folding CD covers, and sorting type, in exchange for the use of her beautiful Vandercook press and lovingly homemade lunches. It was this kind of impractical labor, and Emily’s inspiring example of how to do it, that made me think very carefully and clearly about what it meant to be an artist and how one builds an artist’s life and balances their life and work.

Set letterpress type for the ILSSA leaflet, What is craft and why does it matter?, included as part of an ILSSA Research Quarterly.

Bridget and Emily’s project/organization is a membership organization that borrows from ideas of a labor union and a research institute and a performance project all rolled into one. I was very flattered to interview them for NYFA Current and I hope you will read the full interview here about their activities.

The Utopia Project Volume III: The MacDowell Colony

The library at the MacDowell Colony

The main building at the MacDowell Colony

Far into the wilds of southwestern New Hampshire, down a back road shadowed by pine trees, is the MacDowell Colony. It is an artists’ residency that is over 100 years old tucked away in the small town of Peterborough. It was founded by composer Edward MacDowell and his wife Marion, a pianist, who bought a farm there in 1896. Edward felt he created his best work in on the farm and when he passed away Marion championed the idea of giving artists a chance to thrive in the same environment he found so inspiring.

Kitchen garden at MacDowell

MacDowell Chickens

The MacDowell Colony invites artists from all disciplines to take part in a residency where they work in a community with their peers. Artistic excellence is the only standard for acceptance and all room, board and tuition is covered.

Inside the library at MacDowell

Entering the grounds of MacDowell feels stepping into a unique microcosm of society. Each resident is given a bike to use to travel around the campus to their studio, residence and the library. There are regular talks and presentations. The food is locally produced, much of it grown on the MacDowell campus. A local sheep herder brings their sheep to graze on the fields of the colony during the day.

Residents' wine bottles in the dining room

I also admired MacDowell’s openness and interaction with the local community in Peterborough and Southwestern New Hampshire. They regularly host lectures, presentations, screenings, and performances that are open to the public both on the campus and in downtown Peterborough, a super cute New England village if I’ve ever seen one (and I’ve seen a lot!). The Resident Director David Macy is very involved in making Southwestern New Hampshire a culturally vibrant place and is involved in town and regional planning organizations. I think this speaks volumes to the strength and history of the colony and how it is not just an isolated place for artists to perfect their craft, but a dynamic organization that helps serve as a cultural anchor for the region.

I have a secret dream to move back to Maine and start an artists residency and organic restaurant on my parents’ farm. David’s involvement in cultural development in Southwestern New Hampshire helped me see that my vision could also combine my interest in city planning and public policy and that a pastoral artists residency can also be a responsible community member.

My review of Gary Indiana’s “Last Seen Entering the Biltmore” on NYFA Current!

Gary Indiana

There was a New York City that I dreamed of when I was growing up. It was a mixture of Greenwich Village during the Beatnik era and the Lower East Side of the 1980’s. It was full of punks, dreamers,  activists and artists. The dangers that might have been lurking there were more aesthetic than real. Poverty and hunger were stylish accouterments. All who were there possessed the ability to transform the urban environment. While obviously this political, arty urban paradise existed only in my imagination some lived it in all its gritty, dangerous, complicated, hungry reality. Patty Smith lucidly captures it in her recent book Just Kids.  Gary Indiana’s new compilation out from MIT Press, Last Seen Entering the Biltmore, collects his poems, prose, short plays and works of art from the late 70’s to the present, chronicling through his artistic production his time in this environment after he made the decision to “not to do anything he didn’t want to do” and to become a writer. Last Seen Entering the Biltmore captures Indiana’s sense of absurd and also his strong artistic integrity. I wrote a full review for NYFA’s online magazine for artists, NYFA Current, and would be honored if you checked it out here.