November 20, 2010

Hello from BBC?

It often has slipped my mind how historically important the art center is.  Two years ago i answered the phone in our office to, "Hi, this is {fill in cute sounding British boy's name here} calling from the BBC in London."  Of course it caught me off guard and my immediate thoughts involved tricking BBC Boy into bring me back to London with him...but i was able to hold my composure.  They were interested in conducting an interview with one of our founding ladies, Margaret Burroughs.  Apparently BBC was making a documentary about art in the recession, and well- that's the economic situation our art center grew out of in the 1940's and is currently surviving another spat of.  (Makes sense eh?)

The art center emerged out of the WPA funds from the New Deal and is one of the last standing art centers out of 110 that were opened through this government funding.  Eleanor Roosevelt was there for it's opening in 1941, and yes- we'd love for this lady to stop by some day.  (Although, my boss and i would rather host her counterpart.  My boss wants the art center's mens room to be redone... and well, i'm into those ears.)

The art center also has a landmark status as per it's original 1940's New Bauhaus design.  The interior was made to be functional and cost effective, however these things are severely outweighed by it's charm.  The wood paneling spanning the first floor gallery and lobby has the markings left behind from hanging every piece of art, each hammering mistake, or splash of wine :)
April 1942

November 11, 2010

-i'm bad at introductions-

I've been sitting in my comfy blue chair with my computer on my lap for some time now... trying to figure out how to introduce the art center without being overwhelming and gabbling on and on about it like i always do.  I am all too aware that i can single handedly stress other people out by talking about it.  (NOT a good date topic.  Equals date FAIL.)

So, lets talk about inclusion vs. exclusivity.  Working for a culturally specific and historically significant art center can seem like a touchy or strange situation, especially if it's obvious that I don't belong to that group, but to me it's a non-issue.  What is most important is that people are introduced to the space with an awareness of and respect for it's history, mission, and place in the community.  Although the art center is one of the oldest African American art centers in the country, it is not an place designed to be exclusive.  "Welcome home."  That's what we say to every person who walks in those doors regardless of race, gender, economic background... you get the idea.  It is a home.  It is a sanctuary.  It is a living historical institution (... a museum, a gallery, a workshop, a meeting place, a hub for artistic thought and expression... i can wear you out on what it "is".)  IT IS NOT EXCLUSIVE.  (Praise the stars and the cosmos!)

The idea is to share the rich history and let people navigate the space with informed eyes, open minds, and eager hearts.  I think i just wrote a formula for love? 


eghads this is getting ridiculous.

Point being, this is an inclusive community not an exclusive one.  The art center is going to be overwhelming no matter how you're introduced to it- so for now i will leave you with a poem.  (OH YEAH- THIS JUST HAPPENED.)  This is by an artist who spent a lot of time at the art center, and is known to have enjoied sitting in the window of our gallery.  Her book of Selected Poems was my favorite bit of reading material that was given to me as part of my introduction to the art center.  Without further adieu...

kitchenette building

We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,
Grayed in, and gray. “Dream” makes a giddy sound, not strong
Like “rent,” “feeding a wife,” “satisfying a man.”

But could a dream send up through onion fumes   
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes   
And yesterday’s garbage ripening in the hall,   
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms

Even if we were willing to let it in,
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,   
Anticipate a message, let it begin?

We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!   
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,   
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.

November 6, 2010


I thought i would be fitting to connect the beginning of my experiences at the art center to my current situation.  There are squirrels living in my bedroom wall- waking me up with their gnawing little teeth and the irrational nightmares of them falling through the ceiling and landing on my face.  Coincidentally, i got what is probably the funniest call I've ever received from my boss last week.  He was explaining to me that our maintenance guy had been cleaning out the third floor room... and before he finished his sentence i started laughing and responded, "Oh, they found Scrat and Fievel."

Ah, yes.  We couldn't figure out what they were at first- and i had named the first one Fievel.  Then the second one came plumiting down from the ceiling and landed on my head.  Awesome. Conclusion: mummified squirrels from who-knows-what kind of hazardous poison pest control method.  This incident occurred whilst gutting the room for the restoration project my friend and I decided to embark upon.  (We wrote a proposal and got funding for rehabbing the third floor room in order to host the center's art archive.)  Thankfully i was wearing a doo-rag and a face mask... and probably already covered in enough other 100 year-old house dusty mayhem to be considered a walking toxic mess anyways.  For some reason, we couldn't throw the squirrels out and decided to keep them in the photo trays and hide them amongst the other things we put back in the room once the project was done.  Recently steps towards completing the room by installing an HVAC system had finally began, and whilst rummaging through the all the stuff that got thrown in there in the mean time... well... ooops?  And yes, i requested to keep them still.  It may not make sense, but i feel like they embody my experience with that first project at the art center.  My boss didn't want to admit it, but didn't want to let them go either.  The squirrels living my wall won't have the same fate- and as annoying as the current situation is, i cant help but think of Scrat and Fievel and laugh.  Annnnd, I feel like that's a good note to end on for my first post :)