Editor’s Note: This is a departure from our more common posts – news, sports and opinion. Instead, this piece is the writer’s first person account of his experience on his way to and during a discussion at the Art Gallery.
I was late, as usual.
It wasn’t because of the frequently used “there was no parking” excuse. I spend little time acquiring a spot and then gently breeze into class a minute late. I go straight to the last row of the back lot and park my dainty, rugged Toyota Camry in an unfathomably compact space. No, it was more the fact that I was a tad bit educationally irresponsible: studying very little and procrastinating too much. I pondered this thought when I was hounded down by a voter registry solicitor.
You make eye contact kindly and pray that they decide to skip over you, but they won’t. “Are you registered to vote?” This question he asked to me was a definite political survey ploy. There was no right answer that would rid yourself of the volunteer. If you have any soul at all, you can’t just ignore them and keep walking. So if you reply no, they have you. They suck you in to registering and then signing a petition. Even if you are registered, they still have the petition to reel you in with.
The smart students think quickly. A concise, “I’m late for class,” always does the trick. The gullible ones you’ll see filling out paperwork clipped to brown boards. The stupid ones, like myself, will respond, “I don’t care about education,” when asked if I would like to sign a petition supporting education.
I quietly crept through the narrow opening of the Art Gallery door and was pleasantly surprised. A significant amount of the black plastic chairs were filled with students. I wondered how many of them were required to be here, maybe an assignment or extra credit opportunity. However, while observing the audience more discretely, I noticed that the room was full of aspiring artists. There was a wide spectrum of knowledge nipping nerds looking intently intrigued and entertained. The artsy and avant-garde anxiously waited to ask stimulating questions. There was even an older woman with white hair and a budding soul.
At the head of the group of chairs sat five artists. The table in front of them was littered with Starbucks. Anyway you could make it too: steamed, brewed, iced etc. IPhones were fully charged and a single pair of hipster aviator sunglasses reflected the afternoon sunrays to the center of the table.
A Scottish man began to speak about his history and past experiences with art. His accent made it almost impossible to understand him on the tape recorder, but he told a story when he spoke with a classic rashly bent Euro humor. I bet he tells stories with his art, with sweeping strokes sparking the beginning followed by the color of the rising action, ending with a climactic framing. Every point and topic he addressed by a beautifully constructed story.
On the opposite side sat an ex-punky-looking surfing art teacher, who was a connectable figure. He could easily draw upon the crowd for a laugh with a strategically placed joke. He had me in his hands like putty too, molding me into an animated audience member. Attending seven different colleges didn’t give him the “stereotypical” artist experience, he said. Maybe he had some private advice he could give me after the discussion. But I had no time and had to leave soon. The discussion moved to a relaxed Texan who mentioned how when he was young, aspiring artist how he drew inspiration from a bee-keeping art teacher.
A technically titillated female artist shared that like most teenage girls a boy had introduced the world of art to her, “He took me into the darkroom and when that white paper dipped into the water I was like wow,” she said. She also stated that during her artistic intrigue, photography was on the cusp of its technological modernization. Her love for math and science furthered her interest in art.
With $500 in his pocket, the Scottish artist “foolishly” jumped on a plane headed for America and had no intentions of ever coming back, he told the crowd. After overstaying his welcome, he elected to attend the University of Illinois to avoid deportation. The Scotsman highlighted a book artist that taught the importance of “embedding” thoughts and concepts into art.
I looked down to see someone’s art lying on the cold, gray floor. I stared for moments, but still couldn’t get it. Maybe the problem was that its conceptualism was over my head. I wouldn’t have time to stay after and meander from each professor exchanging ideas. I considered leaving the tape recorder with a note on it with my name and phone number.
My train of thought was derailed with a tale I’ve heard before. The professors aligned around the table in concurrence announced the truth that every artist, whether you’re a writer, painter or sculptor, would soon face. It was a plague that attacks the nucleus of the artistic dream: the realization that we all must entertain a primary career not involving art to maintain a livable income.
People like the ones seated at the discussion chose teaching, honing their passion while impacting young fruit-bearing minds. Most of us will all come to the scary comprehensive thought that we will have to earn a living with a career that does not focus on our passion. Economic success might only be possible through non-relatable work subject matter.
However apocalyptic the “artist’s” future may appear, I left the Art Gallery with an overwhelming sense of hope for the art community. If passionate artists from all different mediums can come together and inform, discuss and interact with one another, then there shouldn’t be much to fret about. Events like this discussion are instrumental in feeding the addiction that aches in every withdrawn artist.