Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Starting an Art Center

By the end of March , I am going to submit a proposal to lease this building as an art center  And I would like your input!  You can join this discussion on this blog or at my Facebook Page.

Here is some background and some of my ideas so far:

The building is located in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood in Saint Paul (my neighborhood).  It is a WPA building, built in 1938 and designed by Clarence "Cap" Wigington.  Wigington was the nation's first black municipal architect, serving as senior designer for the City of Saint Paul, Minnesota's architectural office for 34 years when the city had an ambitious building program. It is big enough to have two full size classrooms and one room for a gallery/event space.  It also has a small office space, 2 bathrooms and limited storage (and a flagpole on top).

Here are some of the questions I would like to address through the activities of this art center:
- What media can be taught best in this small site with limited storage?
- How and what can this center give to the artists who live in this immediate neighborhood?
- How and what can this center give to the neighborhood around it?
- What can the community give through this art center?
- How can individuals be taught to create beautiful artwork they care about?

If I acquire the building, it will be too late in the spring to create a full slate of classes for the summer.  So, this summer will be about trying different types of programs, getting feedback from the community and developing the fall schedule.  At this point, I am not too concerned with financials.  That will come later. 

I think that is where I will stop with the questions and thoughts, but you could add comments about any aspect of starting a new art center.

Who am I to start an art center?   In 1994, I started the education department at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory and coordinated a fine art and botanical art program there for nine years.  The arts programming was very successful.  Since then, I have helped to create a city-wide beautification program called Blooming Saint Paul.  I have taught undergraduate art classes at Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY and at Bethel College, Saint Paul, MN.  I have taught community education art classes and workshops for the last 18 years.  To learn more and see my work, please check my website: www.markgranlund.com.

Thank you for posting your comments and thoughts here or at my Facebook Page

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When I Am Not Painting I'm Being Grandiose

I have not felt as if I have been doing much artwork lately, although that is not true.  I have been doing much computer work finishing up the layout on several Book of Bartholomew stories.  I have also been working slowly on the city council scene for one of the stories.  Below you can see the inked version.  I am currently painting the image with watercolors.

One thing that has been preoccupying me is that soon I will pursue a building to begin a small art center in my neighborhood.  I have been talking with many people about this endeavor and trying to develop a mission for the center and configure what programming would take place.  I have decided I want more people's input, so that will be my next post. Stay tuned.

Sometimes I loose sight of what is important.  The training I received in school, and the general paradigm of the era I grew up in, was that artists cranked out work to be sold in galleries.  If you weren't producing paintings you weren't an artist - you were a hobbiest.  It is hard to shed that old paradigm which is no longer true.  Technology and the general understanding that being a creative artist simply means creating something and putting it out there for anyone to see.  I hope this change has come about because artists have figured that out that there are far more artists than the gallery world can provide for.  It is not up to the gallery owners and collectors to decide who is and who is not an artist.  It is no longer a matter of sitting in your studio producing as much as you can and, if it doesn't work, then getting a real job.

The other paradigm for artists back then was to become an art professor at a college and then have summers, weekends and a little help from students to get your work done.  Today, with the technology we have, the paradigms has shifted.  There are more avenues for expression and more venues for exposure.  So what am I doing when I am not making a painting to be sold at a gallery? I'm busy making the world I want to live in.  A creative world where people are helped with their life decisions. A world where artists collaborate with each other because of the energy and potential for satisfying work.  A life where the walls between disciplines are breaking down. A life where the walls between people are crumbling.  Yes, it sounds grandiose, and it is - but it's not.  It is simply making a decision every day to do something creative and to reach out while doing it.  This is against the grain and counter to society and most peoples lives.  That is the only reason it seems grandiose, because you can't be grandiose unless you are contrary to the norm.  Anything contrary to the norm will seem grandiose - or grotesque. I guess I am choosing not to seem grotesque.

So what am I doing when I am not painting?  I am still here making, working and being my grandiose self.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sketchbooks and Journals

I am not a big journal person.  The collection on the table above is probably half of the journals I have kept over the last twenty five years.  Some are half empty. The one in the middle is the oldest and is from college.  The binding is coming apart and the drawings in it are smudged.  The newest one is the smallest journal just above my one from college.  Now, as I mentioned, I am not a person who is constantly putting my thoughts and feelings about art, life and what I ate this morning into a document that will live beyond me into immortality (or shame).  I am also not a sketcher, an artist who works out everything in miniature before approaching a canvas or piece of watercolor paper. I find nothing wrong with that process, I just am not that patient.  I want to make things as few times as possible before being done.

This is what I mostly do in my journals and even my sketch books: I think through structure.  The image above is for a story I have started about the beginnings of cities and culture.  For stories, I do not write down ideas and then figure out an order for those ideas.  I start with an idea and build the structure of the story, going from one thought to the next.  It is an intuitive line of thought and feeling I follow.  Structure comes from my feelings of boredom.   If I am getting bored with an idea, or part of the story, my mind drifts to something more interesting.  I will then pick up that thread and follow it to the next.  In my journal I jot down a beginning and where I want to be at the end of my story.  I will also write down thoughts of what might happen in the middle, but I usually end up somewhere else.  I spend as little time as possible in my journals, preferring to spend it writing or painting or drawing the real piece.

Here is a sketch and the completed ink drawing for a Bartholomew story.  The sketch is maybe 6" x 8".  The final drawing is 10" x 20".  In the sketch I was trying to determine the larger forms in the piece and composition.  By the time I completed the ink drawing, some things had changed from the sketch.  The audience on the sides of the composition are not in arching rows and the council are sitting at a square table area.  Individual faces, bodies and expressions are determined in the moment of drawing.  I like most of my work to be done on the final piece, not on the preliminaries.

Personal journaling is something I no longer do.  As I have looked back over the years at my journals, I find the same drivel repeated every few years.  Obviously, I was not getting anywhere with it.  Like my art, I prefer to spend my time in the final experience of living, not in the sketching out of what I might think about my experience.  I find responding to what is around me far more interesting. But that's me.