Sunday, September 1, 2013

A is for Art Bar and Other Awesomeness

So my partner, the spectacularly-bearded Santa Cruz street poet Kevin Devaney, just launched the IndieGoGo campaign for his truly awesome & amazing solution to the gutting of funding for arts education. It's called the Art Bar and the basic, brilliant way it works is this: since artists are always broke and working at bars anyway, what if you opened a bar that specifically hired artists and used the money from the beer sales to help them fund outstanding arts programming and free arts education in local schools? That is, what if the beer you're out buying on Saturday night was actually paying for your kids and your community to do poetry, painting, theater, visual art, dance, design...? Sounds like a great freaking deal, right? Right. (If you want to donate the cost of one beer to making this model of sustainable funding a replicable reality, you can do so by clicking here! You will get many thanks and also poems and other great perks!)

Did you know there's a whole category on Wikimedia Commons called
"Drunken People in Art"? I was looking for an appropriate illustration for
"Art Bar" but I just couldn't resist this. It's by William Holman Hunt and
it's called "The flight of Madeline and Porphyro during the drunkenness
attending the revelry (The Eve of St. Agnes)" from somewhere  around
1847. The Art Bar will not look like this, of course, except maybe for that
swell pink cape the  guy is wearing. Swell pink capes are always welcome.

I am really proud of Kevin for launching this; the Art Bar has been a dream of his since before I met him. More than four years later he's damn close to making him happen. It's a good time for me to watch him do it, too. You see, it's been an intense couple of weeks here behind the scenes at the Museum of Joy. You know how I was all like "Hey, so the universe gave me a kick in the pants about actually starting this whole museum thing"? And you know how I had that whole job I really loved at the Exploratorium? Well, I guess the universe decided I wasn't taking the kick in the pants quite seriously enough, so it decided maybe I might take its advice about getting moving a little more seriously if I, you know, didn't have another museum inconveniently distracting me. Or, at least, that's how I'm choosing to view the fact that I, along with over 18% of the Exploratorium staff, no longer have employment at that most-beloved of institutions. Thanks a bunch, universe.

It's not the worst thing that could have happened. I'm super freaking sad because hey, excuse me, I wasn't done with that. It feels a little bit like I was eating my dinner perfectly contentedly at some nice restaurant and the waiter (who is the universe in this analogy, okay, bear with me, I'm not a goddamned poet) came along and made off with my dish just as I was raising my fork for a second. But the truth is that maybe I was getting a little full, you know? Okay, yes, I'm being a little flippant about this when I don't feel flippant about it at all, but given that I live under the federal poverty line anyway, the truth is that this is a much less terrifying thing for me than it is for many of my extraordinary coworkers, many of whom have spent significant portions of their lives at the museum and whose loss represents over 250 total years of Exploratorium work experience. (If you're interested in the details of the layoffs, which are not really covered in full detail by the NYT article I linked to above, please feel free to contact me.) After all, I have a project of my own to start.

Do I have any idea - really and truly - of how to start the kind of strange and beautiful and ephemeral institution I imagine? Yeah, no. Does that matter? See above. Visionary shit mainly gets accomplished by throwing yourself off a cliff Gandalf-style and hoping the eagles catch you on the way down. (It helps if you have family/friends/a trust fund to provide some nice padding on the ground if those pesky birds don't show up, of course; I've got the first two, which are the important ones.)

The observable universe. Yeah, I know, it's big and complicated
and it might not actually be personally interfering in my daily life.
But I like to think that it is. Because of quarks, or something. (Huh,
maybe this is why I lost my job at a science museum.)
By Unmismoobjetivo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons

A friend of mine who's doing some wonderful creative work of her own (she just released a lovely free-to-download indie album on Bandcamp called The Barefoot August Witching Hour, for example) recently posted a link to a totally fabulous blog post written by an artist about collaborating with her four-year-old to create a series of truly delightful portraits. (They really sorta put the whimsy back in whimsical; you should see the incredible stuff they produced together here.) The point of the post, though, wasn't "Look at me, aren't I cute for working with my little girl!" No, it was actually about how the artist was initially reluctant to share her own brand-new sketchbook, and how, once she saw what her daughter had added, she realized the work was wonderful, much better and more imaginative than she would have come up with on her own. She was writing, in essence, about letting go of a little control and seeing the magic weirdness that happen when you open yourself up to things not going exactly the way you'd planned.

Okay, so maybe it's a cutesy story. But it was a well-timed and poignant one for me. Because it's a scary business, this giving-up-a-regular-life-to-build-ridiculously-ambitious-dream-structures thing. I suppose on some level I don't think I was ever going to do anything else, and yet I've been dancing around the difficult part -- the devoting-my-whole-life-to-it part -- for years. I've sometimes feared that maybe I'm not a real artist because real artists don't procrastinate; they just have to make art, or something. But Catherynne Valente says a lovely thing in Palimpsest (one of those books I find simultaneously incredibly brilliant and incredibly maddening because I wish I'd had all her ideas first but I'm afraid I just have all her writerly tics instead -- like the fact that she uses adjectives like people in the 1500s used spices, by the fucking pound --) that's sort of stuck with me. I won't give you the exact quote, because I find it sort of annoyingly worded, but the gist of it really means something to me. She writes about how whenever there's a quest, for a treasure of some kind, the trials and tribulations the hero/ine goes through aren't to prove they're worthy of the treasure. No, they're already worthy; the tests of skill and courage are just to prove to the world how badly they want it, just how far they're willing to go.

Well, here's my goddamned sword and knapsack, I guess, and over the mountain I go...

1 comment:

  1. Oh, man, see, I'm finding out all kinds of things.
    And, well, darn! I wanted to come see you at the museum! Now, you just have to get your museum built so I can come see you there.


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