Two Thousand and Nine!
If there’s one thing that’s certain about 2008, it’s that just about everybody in America is glad to see that f**king thing gone. We’ve all reaffirmed the importance of government leadership by doing without it for eight years. And, even though no one really knows who & what to blame for who & what, now we all seem to gauge the size of the mess our little experiment got us into to mean that maybe good leadership might be powerful enough to fix it. We’re all hopeful, anyway.
I put up a new calendar that features art by my four year old niece.
By way of relative measure, it challenges confidence in my effectiveness as a college art teacher.
I can deal with that though, because I’m not a college art teacher any more. And, that’s what I’m here to write about.
On January 12, my birthday, I’m going to start a new position with the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. I will be a Recreation/Enterprise Facility Manager I. I also hope to find a way to streamline my title before any business cards are printed. There’re a lot of mouthfuls there for one little card…
I’ll be working to open, then help manage a new art center in Brentwood, MD — just a couple of blocks outside the NE District of Columbia border. I was sold on taking the position, after meeting some of the people involved, when the person who will be my supervisor said the bottom-line purpose of the center is community development. The humanities and humanity.
The Brentwood Art Center is set to open this spring. I’ll be sure to post an announcement so any of you in DC Metro can come to the opening. For now, you can see the building (under renovation), here — just look to the NE (spin the little “N” on the compass so that it faces SW):
Needless to say, I’m elated to have landed a job in the arts now while the economy is dishing the field such a heavy beating. I’m also excited to be out of academia. It’s so easy for academicians to not be connected to anything but academia. That, and now is terrible time to be looking for a tenure-track job in any field, let alone the arts.
As recently as August, I wasn’t too worried about finding a non-academic art job. Now, I feel like I dodged a bullet.
Ah, two thousand and nine.
Post Part 2, My Story:
a.k.a. the background that would explain why I hope everything’s going as swimmingly as I hope it is.
I’d like to lay all this out to resolve a vague, pent-up, coming out of pseudonymity, blog house cleaning. You know, new year, blog’s close to it’s first birthday, maybe you want to know why I think my new job’s a better fit for me than college teaching, etc.
I started off in our world amidst the hills outside of Cincinnati. In the hills.
There are certain personality types that towns like Cincinnati or St. Louis just can’t hold. You sound out your sort of emotional sonar and there’s just nothing out there for it to bounce off of. A person who finds his/her self in such a position can incubate a dissonance that can be, at least, artistically productive. You could stay and hope to maybe score one in the name of art; hope to not flatten out through cultural attrition or elevate adolescent self-destruction into adulthood. Or, you can leave. I left.
I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. It was, summarily, the antidote to cultural banality. Chicago is the great and rightful mecca of young people disillusioned with the flatter lands of meat and potatoes.
(Cincinnati counts as part of the flat land, even if geography disagrees.)
During the reception for my class year’s BFA thesis exhibition, I met a guy who operated a little non profit gallery that focused on what I’ll call pre-emerging artists. He hired me under the table, from time to time, to paint, spackle, hang art, etc.
It was there, spackling in the hallway, that I met Josh Garber, for whom I eventually started working part-time as a studio assistant.
When I quit my bartending job, Josh recommended me to Paul Klein for a preparator job at Klein Art Works. Paul has a great paternal talent and impeccable, if seemingly idiosyncratic integrity, and there is no better person for an aspiring young artist to work under. I keep a link to his Art Letter in the column to your right.
While working at Klein Art Works, I met Cheonae Kim. After spending an 80-or-so hour work week with her, installing her exhibition and executing wall paintings under her direction, she invited me to study at Southern Illinois University. I spent three years there, finishing my MFA in 2004.
Soon after returning to Chicago in 2004, I ran into my friend and former neighbor, Mike Bancroft, in the (formerly) Bank One on Milwaukee Ave. just south of Fullerton. I’d curated art exhibitions as parts of fundraisers for his non-profit, Cooperative Image Group (Co-op Image). So, when he said they were looking for someone to team-teach a silk screen printing program for teens, I jumped on board. I would go on to give Co-op Image everything I could/everything I couldn’t stop it from sucking out of me for the next two years. We opened an art center in Humboldt Park, did more than I could write out, and radiated a special blend of awesomeness that proves art doesn’t have to be snotty and that the ‘hood is spilling over with great kids who flourish as soon as something good comes to the third world side of America.
(America is, in fact, partly a third-world country. If you haven’t seen it, you’re ignoring it.)
Alas, money. Health care. Money in the arts. Health care in America. While I doing was a little-trial-by-fire-everything at Co-op Image, I also worked for a while at a baselessly pretentious antique prints gallery, framing art and trying to undo preservation damage faster than they could improperly store things. I taught as an adjunct at two community colleges. I did freelance web design, which I never liked, and other freelance art/design-ish things.
I took a one-year contract as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art in New Media at the University of Toledo. It was a good job. Toledo… if you don’t understand the shape Toledo is in, I doubt I can explain it to you. My wife couldn’t and probably never would have found a job there.
I spent the next summer teaching in a youth summer arts program for the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo. My students made this site for it: www.yaaw.org. (The roll-over on my photo was their idea.)
Then, I left Ohio, again.
I taught for one year at Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge. It was in many ways a positive middle ground between the discourse I enjoyed at the university and the focus on serving where it counts that I enjoyed in the non-profits. The high percentage of students who didn’t want to be there, let alone learn, did wear on me.
Through it all, I’ve worked in construction, retail, galleries, non-profits, and higher ed. I’ve done art handling, art facilities maintenance, customer service, curatorial work, education, and community building.
I feel lucky to be starting a new job that will utilize all of these experiences. I hope I’m as good a match for it as I think it is for me.
My life has seen quite a number of obstacles. Unemployment has been a tougher one, emotionally, than I would have imagined. My life has also been wonderful and full of good fortune. I’ve been able to do so many things I wanted to do. I met my wife on La Playa Barceloneta — how many of you can say that?
It all begs a question though: What do you do with a blog name like “Teaching Artist” when you don’t teach art anymore. “Administrating Artist”? “Arts Administrator: When you say it fast enough…”