climate

A Place for Creatives to Come and Perch


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by Chris Breslin 3/11/13

Mercury Studio takes the temperature of Durham’s arts scene.

Unless you’re paying attention, you might mistake the “café work area” of Mercury Studio for another coffee shop, only without the periodic clamor of an espresso bean grinder. When I visited the controlled bustle of the workplace (equal emphases on work and space) this fall, I began to see rhythms and relationships that make this “community-minded coworking space” different from the third spaces in abundance here in Durham, North Carolina.

Near me sat an ER doctor at his personal desk diligently writing a novel. A “home-schooled” teen—which, in this case, deserves scare quotes, as the studio becomes equal parts “home” and “school” on any given school day—works slightly less assiduously through a Mark Twain novel. Later in the day, after-hours studio members drifted in (all members have keys and around the clock access) to work on their passions and/or professions, everyone from videographers to pastors and accountants. Everyone who uses Mercury Studio pays to be a member, and prices vary based on need and use, from the periodic café member to the more dedicated desk or studio member. Some members are full-timers hanging their shingle in the company of others. Others bear a litany of “who-also-______” titles: some who-also pursue a passion, some who-also start to work on the next thing to get them out of the job they hate. Whatever the scenario, they’ve been welcomed into a different way to do it at Mercury Studio, which opened in early 2012.

Katie DeConto helped start Mercury in part because of her first job after college, an office gig that made her wonder if “pushing papers is all there is, you might as well get comfortable,” says the 27-year-old New England transplant. But she relished the fact that her job let her build relationships. “I began to realize what a wasted opportunity it would be not to be able to get to know people who are different,” says DeConto.

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Meanwhile, Milligan College friend and trained painter Megan Jones contacted Katie with similar thoughts. “Both of us were realizing the value of a community of people who keep you accountable but also respect the work that you’re doing,” says Jones. Connecting professionals, part-time creatives, and professional artists is especially key for Jones. She says, “Bringing actual artists into the picture elevates the view of artists as professionals and not just ‘art as hobby.'” Non-artists and artists need each other, for they each have something unique to offer the other, says Jones. And artists certainly need other dedicated artists to provide the kind of mentorship and companionship specific to their craft. One of Jones’s early major contributions to Mercury was the vision of professional rapport among like and differently skilled creative professionals.

In this pursuit, Mercury has been true to its elemental namesake: acting as a thermometer and indicating the kind of sea change bubbling up from its surroundings. Without restaurants, art galleries, a major indie record label, and other co-working and creative entrepreneurs around it, the studio might seem like an oddball, either unaware in trying economic times, or painfully idealistic about the desire for people to want to be around each other. Instead, Mercury Studio fits in. It makes total sense in the landscape and dynamic of a city named by The Atlantic as the most creative-class rich metro area in the nation.

Located on the edge of a growing and renewing progressive Southern city, Mercury Studio differs from other small business incubators in that it doesn’t merely serve as a space to get off the ground and then leave, but rather a more stable spot in which to create. Rather than viewing Durham, with it’s affordable cost of living and entrepreneurial spirit, as a launching pad to bigger and better things, many of Mercury Studio’s inhabitants are committed to growth and welfare of their fair Bull City. But ask if Mercury Studio is a “Christian business,” and DeConto shifts in her seat. “This place is so saturated with Christianity that almost everyone knows. We’ve tried to build it on community and grace, concern and consideration of everyone around you. There are no crosses anywhere though.

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“It’s very natural,” DeConto says, “all of it flowing out of what we want to be as people and what Jesus might do.”

While half of the Studio houses carrels and café tables and the other half gallery and artist studio space, the entirety bears Jones’s aesthetic touch. Almost every detail of the old storefront, from its repurposed doors-make carrels, to its gallery space bearing the art of a renowned concert poster artist, hints at the intersection of creativity and hospitality that DeConto and Jones have fostered.

In his book The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield says, “The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.” Mercury Studio is designed precisely to combat this sort of existence. While many artists know and experience Pressfield’s description, these co-workers feast on something more than either the mere proximity of coffee-shop working or the isolation of secluded studio life. Through “art salons,” workshops, and other events, the artists stared criticism and ridicule in the face. The result is something strange and at times downright trinitarian: finding one’s existence enriched and passions flourishing in mutuality. These salons offer critique and interpretation for finished or unfinished work, and have served to raise the water level for local artists. They represent hospitable safe havens from the harsh world of inattentive and often unfair criticism, instead providing room for contemplation and advice. In the past several months, Mercury Studio has begun monthly “Listening Rooms,” events that invite local musicians not only to perform but to receive questions, offer answers, and provide an interactive glimpse into new and often unfinished material.

While Mercury’s doors have been open for a year, Jones and DeConto are excited to see how every new member will change the identity of their experiment. DeConto says she is continuing to learn “. . . the power of giving a person a space to belong without expectation. I’ve seen that in my home, my community, and in my church. I’ve watched the effect on a person who has not previously been given that, being told that they are allowed and accepted and cared for. To get to watch them blossom and achieve things.”

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Changes are also indicators to Jones and DeConto that the mustard seed of an idea they planted in early 2012 is growing into something much bigger: a witness of creativity and hospitality to the city around it, a place for workers, like birds, to come and perch.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/thisisourcity/7thcity/place-for-creatives-to-come-and-perch.html?paging=off

Community-Based Art Can Be a Significant Force for Social Change


great-wall-of-los-angelesThe Great Wall of Los Angeles depicts the history of LA, with special emphasis on Native Americans and minorities.

Written by Tim Takechi 

from The official blog of Global Visionaries

The arts are supposed to be a vehicle for social change. So why doesn’t it seem like it?

As school districts and universities across the country face massive budget cuts from federal and state governments, funding for the arts (including both performance-based and visual) is expected to be threatened.

After all, doesn’t it make sense to cut programs that don’t help our students improve math and science test scores? How does your skill with a paint brush or violin help you make advances in environmental engineering? Or compete with China? Or India? You get the idea.

So before we delve into an obvious rant about how the arts are essential to a healthy society, it is important to note that critics have a strong argument for wanting to focus more attention on math and science.

American students are our future. As the Baby Boomer generation starts to approach retirement age, there will soon be a large talent gap in important areas of social infrastructure such as education and engineering.

It is important that we have plenty of fresh young minds take over these jobs when the present generation decides to leave. Now you can see why certain government officials have little problem cutting music, theatre and visual arts funding.

So what can be done to preserve our nation’s artistic output given these shrinking budgets?

That’s where community-based art comes into play.

What is community-based art, you may ask? Let us explain:

Community-based art is any art created with the purpose of engaging a particular community (defined by any geographical or demographic boundaries you see fit) into a larger dialogue with the purpose of generating positive change.

A great example of a community-based arts organization is The Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), an organization serving the larger Los Angeles area. SPARC strives to give a voice to and celebrate LA’s ethnically and economically diverse population. They focus especially on “women, the working poor, youth, the elderly and newly arrived immigrant communities.”

One of SPARC’s most famous projects is The Great Wall of Los Angeles, a half a mile long wall featuring artwork encouraging interracial harmony.

Also check out Jumblies Theatre located in Toronto, Canada. Jumblies is dedicated to building relationships between multicultural artists and their larger community through partnerships, arts ventures, education and workshops.

Consider Jumblies’ most recent venture, The Scarborough Project. It is a community arts training program based in one of Toronto’s most ethnically diverse municipalities. Reaching out to Scarborough’s large immigrant population, Jumblies works to empower the community through artistic expression.

Closer to home, Barbara Luecke is the Sound Transit Art Program Manager and parent of a former Global Visionaries participant. Since 2006, Barbara has overseen and coordinated more than 50 arts projects integrated in light rail, commuter rail and bus express facilities all over Seattle.

One striking piece of art that can be found at a Light Rail station is a sculpture entitled “Rainier Beach Haiku” designed by Japanese-American artist and retired university professor Roger Shimomura. Located at the Othello Station in Rainier Valley, Shimomura’s humorous sculpture explores the difficulty of living in two different cultures at the same time.

rainier-beach-haiku“Rainier Beach Haiku” by Japanese-American artist Roger Shimomura sits at the Othello Station.

4Culture, a cultural service agency serving the King County area, kicked off their 2010 Site-Specific series by hosting the Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre’s musical re-enactment of the 1970 historical take-over of Fort Lawton.

Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre engages “Native Indian and Alaskan Native youth to express themselves with confidence and clarity through traditional and contemporary performing arts.” RES has staged more than 130 productions with youth ages 11-19.

All these organizations will agree that it’s better for people to express themselves through art than violence. Too often marginalized folks feel the only way they can empower themselves is by committing crimes against society. The people of SPARC and Jumblies Theatre want to reverse that by creating public art in a spirit of inclusiveness.

Organizations such as Arts Corps and 4Culture do not in any way represent an alternative to public school arts programs. Instead, they illustrate that there are other venues for empowering young people to artistically express themselves that go beyond the four walls of a school building.

wing-luke-asian-museumWing Luke Asian Museum features art created by Asian-American artists.

These organizations, like all nonprofits, are funded through a combination of public and private money. None of these folks are out to get rich. That is not why they do what they do. People like Barbara Luecke and Roger Shimomura are motivated by a desire to improve communities through arts engagement.  Too often communities are forced to come together after tragedies like natural disasters and violent acts.

Community-based art is a fantastic way for people from diverse backgrounds to come together in a healthy, constructive and vibrant manner.

If your local school is planning to cut funding for the arts, don’t be afraid that our artistic legacy is lost. There is reason to have hope. In times of need, sometimes all it takes are a dedicated group of people, a dream and the will to make magic happen.

Obviously, it is preferable that funding for the arts continues in public schools. But if that doesn’t seem possible, don’t feel like it’s a lost cause.

Just research all the projects mentioned above. Most of them started on a shoe-string budget and continue to exist today. Unfortunately, we cannot change cuts to education spending. That is left to politicians. What we can do is take heart that there are other venues for cultivating tomorrow’s artists.

They might not be found in a classroom. You might have to take a peak outside your window.

http://gvisionaries.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/community-based-art-can-be-a-significant-force-for-social-change/

Closing Weekend


Closing weekend for the Art of Drue Roberts at The Art Junction.

The Art Junction presents:

                         The Road So Far…

The artwork of Drue Roberts

Regular Gallery Hours:

Fridays & Saturdays September 14 – October 6, 2012 4:30 – 7:00 p.m.

*Special showings upon request!

 

Drue Roberts graduated from Willard High School in 1993 and went on to study Geology. After graduate school, he became an environmental geologist performing studies at superfund sites, the military and national laboratories. Drue is a self-taught artist who specializes in acrylic painting and has shown his work in Santa Fe, New Mexico and in Ohio. He and his wife have travelled the country and now reside in Granville, Ohio with their two boys.

Art is an extension of the inner artist and there is always some trepidation in sharing so much of one’s self. “When I think of showing my artwork in my hometown, it simply terrifies me,” Roberts shared. “Here I stand at the midpoint of my life worrying how people I haven’t seen in 20 years will react to it. Much of what I’ve spent my life seeing, analyzing and interpreting is wrapped up in these paintings.” A lot of how he sees the world has been colored by his experiences and the culture that exists in Willard, Ohio.

 

Roberts, a geologist by trade who has traveled the country with his work, taught himself to draw and paint. He began with colored pencils and eventually graduated to acrylic paints, which he’s used to develop his unique style of layering paint using bold colors and pronounced light and shadows to produce his diverse themes. Roberts’ experience as a geologist dealing with environmental contamination inspires much of his work. “Presenting an amplified view of our surroundings awakens the viewer to the impact our lives have on the world around us,” he said. He also adds that the murals of Diego Rivera, the sparseness of Edward Hopper and the dinosaurs of William Stout influence his work.

The Road So Far…


The Art Junction presents:

   The Road So Far…

The artwork of Drue Roberts

Opening Reception Saturday, September 8, 2012 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

at The Art Junction

2634 Prairie Street, New Haven, Ohio 44850 next to the New Haven United Methodist Church

Regular Gallery Hours:

Fridays & Saturdays September 14 – October 6, 2012 4:30 – 7:00 p.m.

*Special showings upon request!

Drue Roberts graduated from Willard High School in 1993 and went on to study Geology. After graduate school, he became an environmental geologist performing studies at superfund sites, the military and national laboratories. Drue is a self-taught artist who specializes in acrylic painting and has shown his work in Santa Fe, New Mexico and in Ohio. He and his wife have travelled the country and now reside in Granville, Ohio with their two boys.

Art is an extension of the inner artist and there is always some trepidation in sharing so much of one’s self. “When I think of showing my artwork in my hometown, it simply terrifies me,” Roberts shared. “Here I stand at the midpoint of my life worrying how people I haven’t seen in 20 years will react to it. Much of what I’ve spent my life seeing, analyzing and interpreting is wrapped up in these paintings.” A lot of how he sees the world has been colored by his experiences and the culture that exists in Willard, Ohio.

Roberts, a geologist by trade who has traveled the country with his work, taught himself to draw and paint. He began with colored pencils and eventually graduated to acrylic paints, which he’s used to develop his unique style of layering paint using bold colors and pronounced light and shadows to produce his diverse themes. Roberts’ experience as a geologist dealing with environmental contamination inspires much of his work. “Presenting an amplified view of our surroundings awakens the viewer to the impact our lives have on the world around us,” he said. He also adds that the murals of Diego Rivera, the sparseness of Edward Hopper and the dinosaurs of William Stout influence his work.

 

The Art Junction is a community-based art education program designed to bring gallery space, local art exhibitions, lessons and creative opportunities to the Willard area for adults, teens, seniors, and children to learn to create together a better community! For more information on this or future programs at the Art Junction contact Kevin Casto M.A., Director, at 419-935-3404, email theartjuction@yahoo.com or visit our blog https://theartjunctionwillardohio.wordpress.com

Basket weaving workshop


On June 30th the Art Junction held it’s first basket weaving workshop.

Linda Kirgis led the workshop, teaching and demonstrating how to create a small, round reed basket.

What kind of basket should a Beginner start with?
Any simple structure will do.
The students in this workshop created a round made of flat materials. “Round” means a basket that has spokes in a radiating base pattern- like the spokes of a wheel. “Square” means any kind of simple square or rectangular base pattern- woven like a checkerboard. “Melon” means the structure wherein 2 hoops are placed within each other & assembled with God’s eyes patterns.

What are most baskets made of?
Antique American baskets have usually been woven of hardwoods like ash, oak & hickory. However, today most American basketweavers learning to weave use the tropical materials “reed” & “cane”. This is not to say that the hardwoods aren’t used, but they’re expensive and trickier to work with. Most patterns & kits will use reed and cane.

What are “reed” and “cane”?
Reed and cane are the products of the tropical vine “calamus rotang”. They’re harvested in various parts of Asia, then processed in factories into the different sizes of reed and cane. Reed is the inside of the vine, and cane is the outer bark. Cane is also the material used for woven chair seats. Flat reed comes in various widths as measured in fractions of inches: for example, 3/16″, 1/4″, etc. Round reed is measured in numbered sizes. Smallest numbers measure the smallest diameter. #1 is a very narrow weaver (spaghetti-sized), whereas #8 is a good sized spoke (almost pencil sized). Anything larger than #10 is generally furniture-gauged.

Why are basket materials used wet?
Basketry materials are too brittle to be woven in their dry state. When soaked for as little as 15-30 minutes, reed & cane become flexible and easy to manipulate without friction & breakage. 

How long will reed (and baskets) last?
Baskets can last indefinitely if stored in a moderate climate. Not too dry (not in an attic) and not too wet (not in a humid area). Reed, however, has its limitations. The only way to find out if your stored reed is useable for weaving baskets is to soak it for 15 minutes and try it out. If the reed is brittle and continues to break, it’s not worth weaving with.

If my baskets are dusty, what’s the best way to clean them?
Assuming that we’re not talking about priceless antique baskets from early native American periods, the easiest and most efficient way to clean your baskets is with a garden hose. Hose off the dust and let them dry thoroughly. Baskets can also be put in the bathtub so that they freshen up by absorbing moisture directly. Once again, rinse off the dust and let them dry completely to avoid mildew.

The participants did a wonderful job learning a new skill in this creative endeavor of basket weaving.  They also have a great new basket they have made.  If this sounds interesting to you contact the Art Junction to inquire about future classes in beginning and advanced basket weaving at 419-935-3404 or email theartjunction@yahoo.com.