Monday, May 4, 2020

GRASSROOTS & BEYOND

Some art activists start out marching in the streets but eventually they will find their socio-political voice coming out in their body of artistic work, I know I have. There are many ways to express how we feel or what we want to say about the things going on in our world. Some artists tend to be rather subtle, they exhibit clever wordplay and imagery delivered with a graceful, quiet power. Listening to or seeing their work is like trying to stare into the stillness of a deep well, there are many layers of meaning.

Other artists relish in hitting their audience over the head, so to speak, with the audacity of their opinions. These artistic voices tend to be strong, bold, and hard-hitting, the type of work that stays on your mind long after they have left the building. Whether your voice is quiet or loud, subtle or bold; there is a place for us all, because each of our voices is precious, beautiful, and unique. How will you choose to express your artistic voice today?

ARTISTS AS ACTIVISTS

Many smart, caring artists end up becoming activists, if they weren't already before they began their artistic career. In an age when activists are vanishing, being arrested, assaulted, targeted, and even killed, having the right trustworthy circle and a strong self-care game are very important. Always make sure the vigils, marches, and other actions you check out are legitimate, as fake events (mirroring real ones, but with key differences, like location or date) are becoming more common on social media sites. Always have a plan in place for legal defense and know how to protect yourself.

Make sure that you pick events that have real, non-violent action planned, and not just signs and speeches with little or no substance. Sometimes being an artist and activist can go hand in hand, and other times politics, infighting, disinformation, and drama can get in the way. Get with the right people and remember to care for yourself so you don't get lost in the fray.

PRODUCTION TIPS & TRICKS

Producing art related events can be a beautiful and rewarding community experience. But at times, shows can also be stressful, costly, and time consuming. Here are some ideas for making your event run smoothly.

1. Always Be Prepared: I plan my shows, particularly major events, as much as a year in advance. Whether it is an art exhibit reception, a college poetry event, a music concert, or an open mic, you should always plan at least a few months in advance if not more. Create press releases and a flyer, ask for participant bios, links, video clips, and photos, and treat the flyer like a vision board. Have a backup plan in case of weather, cancellations, or other foreseeable problems.

2. Treat Others with Respect: The worst thing is seeing a venue owner, producer, host, or manager who really don't care about or respect all the hardworking artists out there. As a producer, it is your job to respect artists, and to revere and support their art. If you truly don't care about artists, you’re in the wrong business. That's why some of the best producers are themselves artists.

3. Imagery & Words: Use imagery that is bold and vivid, and words and event titles that make your event stand out. Make sure your press releases, flyer, and event descriptions are easy to read, somewhat detailed, and have strong images and the right size and type of font. When there are lots of events going on, and people often first see an event on social media as a tiny jpg image, how you use words and imagery are vital.

When preparing for a major event, also remember the importance of self-care. Meditate before your event if possible, which will put you in a calm and composed state, ready to deal with those last minute details and problems. Use social media to your advantage to promote often on several platforms. And don't forget to breathe and stop for a moment to enjoy your hard work and the beauty and complexity of the world of the arts.

TIPS FOR HOSTING EVENTS

Like being an event producer, hosting shows can be a joyful and rewarding experience when done properly. I’ve been a host and arts event producer for ten years, and I’m grateful for the wonderful, vibrant arts community we have here. Here are some tips and tricks on bring the best host possible for your event.

1. Plan Ahead: If you are also a performing artist, always have a set prepared in case you have to fill a spot. You can also make a limited Open Mic list that people can sign up for. You can pull from this list to fill any unexpected gaps in the show.

2. Create an Itinerary: Create a flexible, precise, timed itinerary for your shows, particularly large scale events. This will ensure that your event runs well and your audiences are content.

3. Get to Know Artists: Know your artists, and always go hard for them when promoting or introducing them. Treat the people you are lucky enough to work with kindness, love, and respect, and they will return it tenfold.

Hosting events can be stressful and trying at times, but a vibrant community cannot thrive without the arts. Celebrate the meaning, beauty, humor, grace, and depth that artists bring to your community and your events will always be timeless and memorable.

PAINTING TIPS & TRICKS

If you're a new painter like me, getting started can be daunting. Painting can be intense, physically tiring, and mentally consuming. But there are a few tips and tricks that can help you get started on your visual art career.

1. Do Your Research: Research different types and styles of painting. Read books, go to local and regional galleries, and talk to other artists. Try to get a feel for what you might be interested in. Also spend time researching different art supply stores, paint and painting accessory brands and their products for the best offers and coupons.

2. Experimentation is Key: “Artists must experiment because there is no other road-map, no other way to discover how best to navigate their own practice, or what other possibilities for creating might be out there.” (Medium.com: The Startup: “Why Artists Must Experiment” – Kat Crow; June 2019). During my time as a painter I have worked with dyes, shaving cream, oil paint, acrylics, chalk, glitter, alcohol inks, and more. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty (literally). Try unusual color combinations, new perspectives, and abstract art in different mediums. If you can draw, try making your first landscape or portrait.

3. Take Your Time: Always take your time when working on a project and be patient with yourself. This will lead to less mistakes and a higher level of learning. Sometimes when a project is taking longer than expected artists tend to get tired, uncomfortable, and impatient; this is when mistakes tend to happen. Stay calm, drink lots of water, and take several breaks (both moving and sitting) to improve circulation. Always wear gloves and make sure there's plenty of fresh air flow in your workspace as well, as some of the materials used can be quite toxic.

Painting, like any visual art, can be challenging and difficult work. But with persistence and the right set of tools, you will soon be creating with the best of them.

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS & TRICKS

I've always been fascinated by photography. My stepmother and I used to take long walks outside together, and she always had a camera glued to her hand. She was pretty solid with a camera even back then, and she was one of my inspirations for becoming a photographer. Even though I have no formal schooling in photography, I have been a photographer for over ten years and I’ve learned some useful guidelines over the years.

1. Lighting - Lighting is very important. Planning some nature photography and then the clouds come in? You can wait until another day, or go out and make an attempt anyway. With today's technologically advanced cameras and editing programs, even some of the darkest, grainiest photos can often be salvaged. Make sure your taking advantages of new tools, without overdoing it.

2. Freeze Frame - Often we ask others to be still and pose for us when we are the ones that need to pause. Be still and observe what is really happening around you. Then you will be more aware when the right moment comes for that perfect photograph. This works well at everything from professional wedding photography to nature photos.

3. Know Your Equipment: Buy a decent camera, and then take the time to actually read the manual. Learn the cameras best features and use them to your advantage. Some people think you need an $800 camera to get great pictures, but with today's technology, that's no longer true. I've taken some of my best photos with a cheap camera I ordered and a used camera from a friend.

In these times there are hordes of amateur photographers out there with cell phone cameras. With so much saturation of the field, it's often easy to get lost in the chaos. Find a way to make your photography stand out, whether it's odd angles, unusual colors and composition, interesting objects or scenes, or just knowing your equipment and how to maximize its effectiveness. Before you know it, you'll be creating breathtakingly beautiful and unique pictures.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ELDERS

No one in my life shaped me more than my great-grandmother Maria. When she came to the United States she became known as Mary, but we all called her Nana. She was basically a mother figure to our entire extended family, in fact she was the glue that held our family together. Instead of throwing our elders into nursing homes that are more like warehouses for the forgotten, we should cherish them, honor them, and learn from them. They have a vast array of knowledge and experiences to share with us, and they deserve all the love and respect in the world.

The role of elders changes depending on what part of the world you are in. “Traditionally, elderly people in China were held in high regard. They’re the patriarchs/matriarchs of the family.” (SLATE: “In Your Country, What is the Role of Elderly People” – Faye Wang; May 2013).

I inherited a lot of my passions from my Nana, everything from cooking to gardening and writing poetry. She taught me how to be a good person and much more. We've all had that special elder in our lives, whether it be an uncle or aunt or a grandparent, teacher, or family friend. Always treat elders the way you'd like to be treated when you get older; as a distinguished and welcome community and family member.

TIPS FOR ART EDUCATORS


Teaching can be a rewarding and challenging experience for many artists. Being an educator requires great knowledge, patience and strong people skills. I’ve had the privilege of teaching people aged 6-65 (WCHOF: Confluence Academy; Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition; Nine Network), and it’s been both rewarding and challenging. Here are some tips on how to make your journey into teaching smoother and more successful.

1. What are Your Expectations? Decide what your expectations are being you take the job or sign that contract. What do you expect for benefits and pay? What about hours? Are you willing to travel? These are some of the many issues you should look at. Also, what is the school or organizations expectations of you? Are they reasonable, and can you meet them? What is the condition of the school? How are the classes and classrooms structured? Do the teachers and students there seem happy or frustrated? Some educational institutions may have certain educational requirements, and may do a background check as well.

2. Always Be Prepared. Whether teaching a new subject or not, always do your research or brush up on existing knowledge. When prepping for the classroom, make a list of items you will need and double check that you have everything before your first class starts.

3. Connect with your students. Believe it or not, whether my pupils are six or sixty I always call each of them ma'am or sir. By starting off with a foundation of respect, the students tend to respond in kind. You'd be surprised how well it works. On the other hand, never be afraid to confront bullies or incessant troublemakers. Many students are dealing with underlying issues and situations you may be unaware of. Learn to be a good listener and remember to be patient, kind, firm, and non-aggressive. With some patience, wisdom, and skill, teaching can open up a whole new world, for you and your students.

Good teaching takes lots of practice, knowledge, skill, and patience. Utilize these tips and learn more of your own and soon you will be on your way to a fulfilling teaching career.

WRITERS CLUBS


Many writers are fascinated by the idea of a writers club, but aren't sure whether they should join one and may not to know much about them. There are several local and regional writers clubs to choose from if you wish to join one. Some clubs are larger than others, and you also may want to factor in traveling distance, fees, etc. I was lucky enough to be a part of the Eugene B. Redmond Writers Club of East St. Louis, which I was a member of for five years. Joining the club changed my writing skills and my life. Here are some things to look for if you're thinking about joining a writers club.

1. Is this club located close to where you live? If not, you may not qualify to join the club, and should check the organizations rules and regulations.

2. Are the clubs member fees reasonable? Are the fees due monthly, quarterly, or annually?

3. Is the club conducted in an organized, professional manner?

4. Do members treat one another with respect? Make sure that you are prepared to listen, write, ask questions, rehearse, research, learn, perform, promote, speak in public, take notes, edit, and give and receive criticism in a positive and constructive way.

5. Does the club benefit the community it is in? Does the club have public or private events?

6. Before joining any club, ask yourself what you can bring to the table by joining.

Joining a writers club can be a positive experience that promotes serious personal and artistic growth for both you and the organization that you choose to join. Take your time and do some research before you do and you won't regret it.

THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORS

A vital part of any person’s support system is one or more solid mentors. This is especially true for artists. A mentor should preferably be someone with more experience than you, someone who is stable, accomplished and has a good head on their shoulders. Other helpful traits in mentors include wisdom, patience, a good sense of humor, kindness, knowledge, and confidence. Being a mentor to others can make you a better person and improve your career, and there are many young people out there who could use someone like you in their lives. “A remarkable 75% of executives say mentoring has been critical to their career development, according to a survey by the American Society for Training and Development.” (Forbes- YEC Women Council Post; October 2018).

A good mentor is always teaching, even when it seems like their just chewing the fat. So pay attention, ask questions, and be grateful! Mentors may not even be in the field you're in or want to go in, but that doesn't mean they don't have anything to teach you. Just like our grandparents, teachers, and other role models, mentors have many life lessons and skills they can draw from. Count yourself incredibly lucky if their ray of light happens to fall on you. Special thanks to my mentor and dear friend Dr. Eugene B. Redmond.

Monday, March 23, 2020

ARTISTS IN A TIME OF CRISIS


Even during the best of times this world can be a difficult place to live in. During personal, national, or worldwide crisis life can become unbearable. Artists may find themselves and their families overwhelmed with stress, frustration, anxiety, and depression. Currently our country and many others across the globe are struggling with the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the world seems to have turned upside down. Here are some tips for dealing with this crisis:

1) Know the Enemy: Learn about the COVID-19 Virus. Stay up to date by reading articles from credible sources and watching TV news programs. Two sources everyone should check out: The CDC (Centers for Disease Control – www.cdc.gov) and the WHO (World Health Organization – www.who.int).

2) N95 Masks: Do not buy or use N95 masks unless you are having COVID-19 symptoms, have a compromised respiratory system, are a high risk candidate, or are a caregiver for an infected person (s). The masks are desperately needed on the frontlines. There is a shortage of masks, protective gear, respirators, and tests for the virus. N95 masks are most needed by hospital staff, emergency workers, and first responders. However, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other U.S. health officials are now recommending that the public wear non-surgical masks as a way to slow the spread of the virus. 

3) Hoarding: Do not hoard food and other items. Panic will not help any of us, and those who are hoarding are robbing other people of the food they need, including vulnerable, undeserved communities like the elderly. Please take only what you and your family need. Do stock up on shelf stable items, as they will last for a while and won’t spoil easily. Always make sure you stock up on any vital medication. Don't forget the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables as well.

4) Cleanliness: Wash your hands with soap and hot water as often as possible. If you are unable to stay home during this crisis, decontaminate yourself every time you come home by washing your clothes and showering immediately. Stay at least six feet away from other people. Carry hand sanitizer that is at least sixty percent alcohol and use it often. The virus can travel in your hair, on your clothes and skin. Some initial studies have shown the virus can survive on surfaces like metal and plastic (through droplets expelled from the mouth or nose) anywhere from nine hours to several days. Always cover your sneezes and try to cough into the crook of your elbow if possible.

5) Artist Resources: If you are struggling financially at this time due to canceled events and tours, try having a live streamed concert or solo show from home and ask for donations, or use the time to finish that big project you’ve been working on. There are many resources to help artists during a crisis like this, don’t be afraid to use those resources. There are also a lot of local art NPO’s who are struggling, consider making a donation to one or more of those organizations today. For a list of arts resources for artists during the COVID-19 Outbreak, visit Creative-Capital.org. For a list of local arts organizations you can support today, please visit KranzbergArtsFoundation.org.

6) Quarantining: If you and/or your family are quarantined or self-quarantining, use the time to take free online courses, teach your kids something new or engage in a new hobby, play games, dance, watch movies, and spend time outside in nature (a safe distance from others). This could be a great time to learn useful skills like canning and gardening and get your home and yard in order. It might also be a good time to reconnect with loved ones and friends who are estranged or who you’ve lost touch with over the years. This crisis should remind us of how fleeting life is, and how important personal relationships are to us. If you have symptoms and they worsen, call your doctor or the Emergency Room immediately. 

Stay informed but don’t lose your focus. Keeping busy and maintaining some sort of routine will provide much needed stability in a world gone mad. We are all in this together, and the sooner we realize this the faster we will get through this tragic crisis. May God bless and protect you and your families.