Thursday, March 26, 2015

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Humans are interesting creatures...this past week I had what started out as a depressing experience but ended up as an opportunity with vast potential. The entire process really made me think about how often we fight to protect the status quo in situations that fundamentally will never be what we want them to be. It's sort of the opposite of that old Groucho Marx joke "I don't want to be part of a club that would accept people like me as a member." Maybe we have some primitive need to be part of the club...even when it doesn't work for us. 

One of the ways I figured out the right solution was to face a few hard questions: 

1. Am I working as hard as I can on this situation? If the answer is no...then maybe I am not really committed to it. 

2. Does the situation (with the people involved) have the potential to become what I need?

3. What will be lost if I walk away? 

Honestly...the answers helped me understand that the time had come to move on. The amazing part was as soon as I faced that decision...and chose it...then all kinds of alternatives started coming to  mind. I realized I was so fixed on making a bad solution work, that I had closed myself off to all the other amazing possibilities. 

Let's face it anywhere you have humans, you'll have conflict. The issue at hand wasn't some massive thing in my life, but I have reached a point where I don't want to spend any more time making bad solutions work. I think the same is true with making art, name it...winning the argument isn't the same as making the right choice.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Having an Exhibition

This past weekend I was in Sacramento for the opening receptions of my exhibition at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center. They had a Friday reception for their members - which was very lively. The group has been in existence for over twenty years and they have a very active membership. They produce over 24 shows a year, host workshops, artist talks, critique groups and a student night...pretty impressive. 

On 2nd Saturdays, the city has an enormous Art Walk from 5-9pm...and we did the entire gig. It was quite something to have continual waves of people coming through the gallery.  I got to talk with people who'd never been to a gallery ("my wife made me come") to seasoned artists who make sure they know what's going on in the local art scene. My favorites were the ones who took the time to really look at the work and I had some great conversations about how I work, why I use repeating themes, what my goals are etc. 

I'm happy to say, we had both print and catalog sales. I had discussed the gallery's previous history of sales to get an idea of what the market was like and I created a catalog of the work for viewers without deeper pockets. Here's a link to the publication - and right below it are one from my American Triptych series and my Multiple Viewpoints series.  On Sunday I gave an artist's talk about Creativity - which got a nice group of about 25 people. Overall, we loved being in Sacramento, it's a great hybrid of a small town and large city. It's very easy to get around, has great restaurants and it's super easy to get out of town. They have four community colleges in their district, plus a university...and Davis is just a stone's throw away.

When I was in grad school, one of my instructors talked about how many "art worlds" there are out there and this weekend really got me thinking. Living in a larger metropolitan area, buyers can become jaded - but when you get a bit further out, the quality of the work is still amazing, but there seems to be a more direct line to people who want to buy art. Consider this when you're putting together your "hit-list" of places you'd like to approach for a show...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Five Ways to Make Your Own Photo Group

This week my focus was on community - as in, no one makes it on their own. I got to spend time with several of the terrific people I went to my undergrad (Art Center) with. It was like a reunion of old army buddies remembering basic training. In the days after, I thought a lot about the gathering and the truth is, I wouldn't have made it through school without them. 

As a teacher, I try hard to create situations where my students will bond and work together, because I know that their chances for success increase dramatically if they build a community around what they're trying to accomplish. 

So here's a few steps to consider building your own community: 

1. Email (text/whatever) four friends to meet for coffee and bring one new photo each. 

2. If you're in a photo class, approach the instructor and ask if you could take the last X amount of time during one lab section and have an informal "photo club" meeting. If Photo club is too corny a word...create your own. 

3. If you've got a car, invite several photo friends or classmates to go up to a local park. If you're located in Southern California - consider Antelope Valley, where the poppies are in bloom now. 

4. If you don't have a car, look up what photo shows are happening locally and have a group of friends take public transit there - spend the day shooting. 

5. Don't want to reinvent the wheel...go to your local photo supplier and scan the notices for groups you'd be interested in. In SoCal there are: SoCal Photog Association, South Bay Camera Club,  Clickers and Flickers just to name a few. Start attending and see if there are other's you'd like to create a splinter group with. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why is public funding for the Arts important?

A few years ago, education in California suffered another in a long line of cuts and we're only now starting to recover from it. Of course one of the first things to go is the Arts...because hey, how can they be essential? Well, according to the Otis Report on the Creative Economy, in 2012 there were 404,000 individuals directly employed in the creative industries of LA and OC. These workers supported an additional 322,3000 indirect jobs for a total of 726,300 jobs generating $50.6 billion in labor income. So, at least for SoCal, the Arts drive a lot of traffic!

Now think about the impact this industry has on our daily life and culture.  The shows we watch, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive...all of these are designed and created by a creative class of individuals. With the recent cuts in arts education, middle and upper income students compensated by shifting to private schools and tutoring to continue their arts education. But what happened to low income students?

I teach at a community college in California. These colleges are one of the only options for low-cost quality education in the Arts and I think we do a terrific job - but what happens when these students want to compete for 4 year degrees? Admission to almost all BFA programs is through a portfolio or audition process. It seems like a fair process unless you really stop to think about it.

Higher Ed throughout California now has a non-repeatability rule, which stops students from taking an art class a second or third time. Why is that important? Because one Life Drawing class doesn't make you great...or even really good...and that's what you have to be to get into a BFA program. Those students with higher incomes compensate by taking private lessons, so they now have an even greater edge than before.  The same thing plays out in Music, Theater and Dance where they have auditions for entrance to 4 year degree programs.

If we don't find ways for low income students to engage with the arts, to develop their voice, then we don't have diverse viewpoints in film, tv, magazines. Diversity isn't just a politically correct buzzword, it's really the life blood of an exciting an innovative culture. If you'd like to let the Board of Governors know that they should return repeatability to the Arts in California Colleges because the new system is reduces access for low income students - send an email to: Karen Gilmer the BOG and Consultation Council Liason at

Keeping a low cost arts education in mind - here's a link to Free or Paid MFA programs located throughout the US.