career day, every artist is a piece of the continent

Let’s just say that I think any person who aspires, presumes, or feels the calling to be an artist has a built-in sense of duty.    Patti Smith


Michelle Dock, Gallery Coordinator at Tempe Center for the Arts, invited me to speak at Career day. Friends of TCA, and one woman in particular (whom I met that morning) Robin Trick, sponsored and organized the morning event.  Approximately 100 students from Tempe Union High School District attended the “visual arts” themed talks.

Tempe Center for the Arts

My take on participating in Career Day for the Arts goes like this…

I have a continuing series of blog posts titled No Woman is an Island*;  the posts are about the people and/or organizations that purchase and/or support my work. After my experience today I can also add-on… Every Artist is a piece of the Continent*.   Creative endeavors depend on a whole chain of people, each of them specialized, creative, and willing to move energy… ideas, material, money… etc.  That larger, more complex picture and its process, is as valuable as the solo artists studio process.

This morning we learn about one particular big picture: The Tempe Center for the Arts. Today I get a view of the variety of ideas, work, and workers that had to come together to create this building. Their purpose was clear, because the buildings purpose was clear.  I can simply say that without architects, engineers, contractors and specialized construction crews … my work might not be hanging here today. And without Robin Trick, owner of restaurant House of Tricks, we would not be gathering together this fine morning, to share our work with this group of young people. Without vision, great ideas, and a working and organized structure…life could be pretty dull and slow to move.

The keynote speaker, John Kane, an architect from Tempe’s Architekton begins the event. He  addresses the students in the main theater of the TCA. I listen to Mr. Kane as he talks about how the great building we are sitting in came to be. He talks about the designers, engineers, contractors, various construction crews, and the artists who contributed their skills. There are many wonderful details in this space, and he expresses that all of them have a purpose.  He makes it clear that there was an idea that sprung everything forward.

And we learn that within those ideas there was always a challenge to meet. He explains how those challenges affected the design process and outcome. For example, the TCA sits right under the flight path of airplanes leaving Sky Harbor. No one wants random noise as part of any arts event, unless of course, it’s deliberate. I learn about… attenuation, a related specialty concerning sound. Fascinating. Mr. Kane noted three forms that  influence the final designs of the building: One is the Stealth Bomber (sound bounces off edges and angles differently than it does other forms apparently), and the other is a Conquistador Helmet. I forget the third, because the visual connections of these two is so very clear as they come up on the screen (so sorry I didn’t get photos).

wondering if the students are appreciating this opportunity to be hearing all of this ….

Afterwards the students are taken in three separate groups (guided by FTCA volunteers) to listen to 3 separate short talks by local artists and administrators that included: myself in the gallery (in front of my work – which is currently on exhibition), artist Laurie Lundquist, who was part of the team of people who designed the bridge outside the TCA, Public Art Coordinator Maja Aurora, and Gallery Coordinator Michelle Dock.

Michelle Dock as I mentioned, is the Gallery Coordinator.  She’s also an NMSU alumni (as am I). During the introduction lecture I ask her how long she’s been at TCA. A year before it opened, she replies.

Maja Aurora, the Public Arts Coordinator (City of Tempe) whom I know from the Dam Art Movement  “DAM-IT” (a bladder burst…long story…artists were given pieces of the rubber to…be creative with. I have 2 pieces).  Maja pulls out her cell phone to share the Tempe Public Art website with us. She explains…you have to click on “Public art self-tour” http://www.tempe.gov/arts/publicart/ And she shares a Public Art Archive Website (enter “Tempe” to see the photos she’s included) http://www.publicartarchive.org/

…and artist Laurie Lundquist. I had a moment to connect with Laurie, whom I didn’t know.  She’s the artist on the team that designed the Pedestrian Bridge that sits right in front of TCA. She shares a bit of the public art process with me. Are you the designer of that bridge? What is your role as artist?  (I don’t have a lot of experience with public art but I’m curious.)  I am one member of a large team. I am an artist, but the process includes a whole bunch of people.  I come in with ideas and sketches, and others have input into what will and will not work. We have lots and lots of meetings.
Click here for info about the construction and some of the bridges facts.

I won’t get to listen to their talks, I head to the gallery, where I’m due to speak, in front of my work.

I enter the space, and…well…sort of forget I’m supposed to be talking about my career. I see my paintings, and I decide to talk about them. Artist as career seems awkward, it’s really my life. Fortunately  I always give a little background when I talk about my work so I do mention my education, and why I continue to stay in Arizona. Arizona has supported me in my work as an artist, I explain.

I share with the students that as an undergrad student I studied metalsmithing and ceramics. And as a graduate student, my areas of emphasis were drawing and printmaking.  I didn’t actually start painting until I left the academic setting. Painting is now my primary concentration. I ask if they want to hear about the work on the wall.  I share content, form, and process.

Because I’m  process oriented I appreciate their curiosity in this area.  I discuss the mediums: Casein and Egg Tempera.  The egg tempera gets them…well…the yolk does actually. What kind of yolk? Chicken? Duck? How does one separate the egg yolk from the egg white? (funny they should ask, click here) Is that all it takes, pigment, water and egg yolk? I do talk about stretching and framing, the work my framer does for me. He does his work and I do mine, I explain. I discuss materials and a bit of the cost. In particular, the cost of the egg tempera itself…which is hardly anything…the egg part that is. One female student comments that sounds like a great profit margin! …there’s lots more involved, I say with a grin, I do all-right.

I mention influences, and give some personal background… they ask great questions. Before it’s all over I’d speak to three different groups and briefly connect with a separate group of visitors from Canada….the gallery is a full house today, and Michelle Dock…is looking calm and collected.

The morning ends with lunch in the Lakeside Room.  Turkey or Vegetarian sandwiches are the choice.  A student invites me to sit at his table, so I do. Everyone at the table ranges in their interests: engineering, photography, architecture and graphic design. Did they realize how much they’d just experienced? Yes. Our conversation starts with architecture, followed by graphic design, moves into western theology vs. eastern philosophy and ends with them showing interest in the arts ability to pique curiosity and thoughts about their future…. excellent.

When all is done I recall the last thing I’d heard John Kain say as we left the theater to move to our individual areas. He said that the Tempe Center for the Arts was designed to last at least 300 years. That’s a long time.  While talking to the students about my work, I noted how long-lasting egg tempera and casein both are. When I make something I think about it being here for 100 – 200 years….maybe longer should I be so lucky.

Examples of the mediums I use go way back to the 1st century, in the case of egg tempera. We also know casein was used in ancient Egypt. Something as solid as cement, steel. stone, and wood, and something as fluid as egg tempera and casein.. can have lasting impact if put together with intention. Buildings, Art,…and the people who make the stuff…and have the ideas….push the boundaries and connect generations.

Current exhibit: Mixing It Up: Building an Identity  closes on Jan.28.  That means you have one more week to see it.

*No Man Is An Island-John Donne

2 thoughts on “career day, every artist is a piece of the continent

  1. Monica:
    Wow, this made my Monday morning! What a great event and the students- I’m excited to think about how they will mold the artworld next. Thanks to everyone that particpated!
    Michelle

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