New York’s Art Students League in Battle over Air Rights Decision

English: Looking north across 57th St at Art S...

English: Looking north across 57th St at Art Students League of New York on a sunny afternoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Creative space is sacred to an artist. So, it’s not surprising that passions have flared on West 57th Street in New York at the prospect of change adjacent to—and cantilevered over—the site of the famed Art Students League. The 140-year-old nonprofit art school “that counts Winslow Homer, Norman Rockwell, Georgia O’Keeffe and Mark Rothko among its alumni” is, according to The New York Times, the scene of a “battle being fought between the school’s leadership and a faction of its 3,945 voting members” over the granting of air rights to build, in part, above the school.

On paper, the deal looks good for the Art Students League, which has negotiated to be paid close to $32 million in return for granting air rights—the right to build in the empty space above a piece of property—to Extell Development Company, which intends to build “one of the tallest residential towers in the world” next door.

The League administration’s plan, according to the petition that was circulated earlier this year to gain support for the decision, is to allow Extell to “build a cantilever some 30 stories above the League and 6,000 square feet of air rights.” Then, they’ll use that money in the arts building to add floors, additional studios, unveil skylights that have been covered up, and to restoring “gallery space and the library.” Their board also sees this as a way to provide the League “a strong foundation for a capital fundraising campaign to pay for the expansion.” Further, they want to have money to use to “keep tuition low, and augment the League’s endowment to serve future generations of students.”

The dissenting group, which is called ASL 2025, has also expressed dissatisfaction with the school’s president, ­­­­­­­­Salvatore Barbieri, claiming that he has “ruled by fiat, making up the rules as he goes along.” Led by Marne Rizika, a painter and printmaker, and Richard Caraballo, a graphic designer, ASL 2025 claims there have also been “efforts to intimidate and stifle any dissent.”

In return, according to the Times, President Barbieri, has called the attacks a “classic pattern of amateurish slanderous writing” filled with “false and distorted allegations without supporting facts.” And the institution’s lawyers have said, “Under Mr. Barbieri’s tenure, the league is in better financial shape than it has ever been…. Its prospects for longevity and the ability to educate artists for generations to come have never been brighter.”

But that’s not the way Rizika and Caraballo see it. “The sense of collegiality that formerly existed between art students, instructors and administrators, in an ‘open-door’ policy, has disappeared,” said Ms. Rizika, who unsuccessfully challenged Mr. Barbieri for the presidency several weeks ago, “and been replaced with autocratic rule, which has included hiring armed guards for members’ meetings.

“The opponents agree that overturning the sale itself is impossible. The purpose of the suit, Mr. Caraballo said, is to challenge the way the 2014 vote approving the deal was conducted.”

Today, the League remains an institution run by artists for artists. They follow in the footsteps of the many famous artists who have “shaped the vocabulary of art worldwide, [and] have been instructors, lecturers and students at the League. They include, among many others, Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, Helen Frankenthaler, Man Ray, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, Red Grooms, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Ben Shahn and Cy Twombly.” Hopefully, the two sides can reach a comfortable agreement soon. Perhaps it can help to recall what Paul Klee once said about his art space: “All is well with me. The rain doesn’t reach me, my room is well heated, what more can one ask for?”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Diversity is Critical to the Success of the Arts—and Arts Education is the Key

Diversity-millennials

Calls for increased diversity are no longer episodic or quixotic; they are regularly heard across our business and cultural landscapes. And, if trends we see currently with Millennials continue, the need to cultivate diverse arts audiences will increase.Advertising Week this year identified the need to focus on diversity as a main theme, pointing out that while Millennials represent our “largest (and most diverse) generation, most marketing decisions and campaigns are run by alarmingly non-diverse groups.”Science News reported, too, that Americans are growing more genetically diverse, “choosing mates with ethnic backgrounds different from their own.”

In the arts, the desire for change bumps up against a number of challenging realities. One is that there are fewer non-white artists and organizations in traditional areas of the arts, such as classical music, and it takes time and a commitment to arts education to effect a change. Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, president and artistic director of the nonprofit Sphinx, and her husband, Aaron Dworkin, who is a MacArthur fellow who served in the Obama administration, have been working to change that for quite some time. Sphinx, headed by Ms. Dworkin as president, operates programs that reach “over 100,000 students, as well as live and broadcast audiences of over two million annually.” Last week, for example, Syracuse, which has “the highest rate of concentrated poverty among black and Hispanic communities” in the U.S., benefited by having the Sphinx Virtuosi ensemble perform at schools throughout the city and at the Red House Arts Center at Syracuse University.

Dworkin, whose organization is based in another struggling city, Detroit, and who runs yearlong programs there, has seen the impact arts education can make, providing “a place of refuge and a place where [children] can feel confident, where they can have fun and have a break from their everyday challenges.”

As in other traditional areas of art, “classical orchestras tend to be overwhelmingly white. According to a 2012 report by the League of American Orchestras, only 4.5 percent of orchestra musicians are black or Latino—hardly representative of the general population, which, according to the 2010 census, was 13.6 percent black and 16.3 percent Hispanic or Latino.” Sphinx has been responding to that in a variety of ways, including providing free violins and lessons to elementary students in underserved communities, hosting a summer camp to work with aspiring young musicians who “demonstrate aptitude toward classical music but lack resources and access,” and by sponsoring an annual national string competition for Black and Latino youth. Red House Arts Centerhas worked similarly on the local level in Syracuse, to help underserved populations by “creating opportunities…and bringing the arts to students in struggling Syracuse elementary schools reaching 2,200 kids each day.”

“In the Syracuse City School District, about 10 percent of students in kindergarten through eighth grade play instruments, and about 65 percent participate in choral ensembles. In high school, students generally choose one or the other, or participate in art classes,” according to the Syracuse New Times. Sarah Gentile, supervisor of fine arts there, has been working had to improve that, but that type of change requires funding, parental and community support.

A big part of the equation is the value placed on arts education and the arts by the society overall. According to Americans for the Arts, “In America, the arts are often seen as a luxury. They are the first thing to go when school boards cut budgets, and successful arts policy is seen as the exception, not the rule.” As Creatiquity, a research-backed news site that explores issues in the arts, said in an article entitled “Why Don’t They Come,”

People with lower incomes and less education participate at lower rates in a huge range of activities, including not just classical music concerts and plays, but also less ‘elitist’ forms of engagement like going to the movies, dancing socially, and even attending sporting events.

Jennifer Swan reported on this for the NPQ Newswire at the beginning of this year,outlining findings from three National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) studies. The article concluded with a quote from NEA Chairman Jane Chu:

“The implications from this research are significant. The findings show that there is great diversity in how people engage in the arts, and this gives us a framework to use our creativity to innovate new ways to reach these audiences.”

At a time when funding and support for arts and cultural nonprofits is on a decline, it is more important than ever to prove their importance to our representatives, communities, and leaders. With reports like these, and other arts advocacy groups like Americans for the Arts, we are evolving from a perspective of “art for art’s sake” into one of “art for business’s sake.” No longer are arts and culture something “extra”—they are an economic driver with an impact on our neighborhoods, our jobs, our employment, and, as always, our creativity.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Woodworking on Wheels – Pop-up Arts Ed

Beth Ireland, Wood Sculptor and Educator

Many folks may not realize it if they don’t have kids,  but schools are besieged right now, lacking classrooms, and no more art, shop, or science class. But I’ve seen how much of a difference introducing art can make in their lives.  –Beth Ireland

13 Beth Ireland art1 13 Beth Ireland art3

 

13 Beth Ireland bagThinking outside the box comes naturally to Beth Ireland. Whether making herself a feature in her own art installation (well, that was in a box she built – but definitely non-traditional); mixing wood with tinsel, polymer, toys and other unusual material to create bowls and vessels; or as in her recent adventure, turning a cargo van into a wood turner’s traveling workshop; she takes a novel approach people love.

The cargo-van-workshop also has a mini bedroom and bath to serve as mobile living quarters when Ireland is on the road traveling to schools and colleges to teach woodworking across the country. She coordinates with project partner, Artist Jenn Moller who shares her passion for bringing art instruction to kids, particularly those in troubled areas, whose districts (more and more these days) don’t have budget for arts education. Now in its fourth year, their program called Turning Around America, has introduced thousands of kids to woodturning and woodworking, and the results can serve as a model for future thinking about arts ed.

“When we conceived of a traveling educational program, our main goal was to empower people through the simple act of making an object in wood. The first project consisted of a seven-month journey around the country teaching hand skills through wood turning and woodworking to as many groups and individuals possible,” says Ireland. Given that today a lot of adults as well as kids don’t learn how to use tools to build and fix things as they once did; that alone would have been great, but Ireland and Moller also discovered that young people really latched onto what they were doing.

Their most recent program, entitled Turning Around Boston, was part of an initiative sponsored by the Eliot School to bring a basic woodworking experience to Boston Public School students who ranged in age from kindergarten through high school. Ireland and Moller, along with local volunteers, introduced more than 1,000 young people to woodworking. According to Moller, “The most consistent statement we heard from teachers and parents was, ‘I have never seen them concentrate so well.’” Moller said she’s wondered, “What is it about working with tools to solve problems that engages so many students? I believe it is in our human DNA and, as budgets are cut and electives are eliminated, the wonderful benefit of developing hand skills and working in wood has been taken away from many public school children. It is one thing to understand this intellectually and another to witness the besieged state many schools are in because of funding problems and problematic politics”. Ireland agrees and has great concern about the increasing disparity between the haves and have-nots in our society. She’s seeing so many children who are being left behind in areas where arts education is considered a luxury.

“What we’ve also seen is that kids can have very different responses to the opportunity – those with less access and privilege often have been some of our most creative and motivated students. Whereas some schools we’ve visited that had many thousands of dollars’ worth of tools and equipment, but people there weren’t getting the kids excited and engaged, so it was all going unused.” Ireland’s also run programs outside the U.S. including one last fall in Guatemala – where adults and kids were both involved in the program and were often very interested in designing their own custom tools for work and home.

Next up for Ireland is to run a woodturning intensive for adults at the Center For Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine from January through March 2014. But more arts ed will also be happening, and she welcomes invitations from schools and communities to bring woodworking and art to their hometown. More information is at http://bethireland.net and www.turningaroundamerica.com.

Beth Ireland is a Woodturner/Sculptor who draws upon a lifetime of professional, traditional Woodturning/Woodworking skills to explore sculpture, architecture and relational aesthetics. Her belief in the power of the object drives her work, exploring the idea of memory locked in objects, and the creation of object as a visible symbol of memory. Working alone and collaboratively she delves into the anthropological meaning of making in our modern lives.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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Gold, Silver and Tin: Metalsmithing with Marlene True

Marlene True, Metal Sculptor

13 Marlene True art

As an undergraduate student, Marlene True thought she would pursue ceramics, her first love in art. But when she took an elective in metal work, she found she loved the range of materials and techniques that involved.

She did find it challenging to find ways to bring color to the metal work, but that changed when she heard a lecture by Bobby Hansson, author of The Fine Art of the Tin Can, which provided a whole new medium that she found she loved and is still using today in her art along with other metals.

Tin cans, which are actually made from mild steel with a thin tin coating, proved to be colorful, lightweight, yet structurally strong, so allowed for working in larger pieces. True knew that in the process of fabricating, soldering would remove painted images, but discovered she could use gold plating and powder coating to get the surface color she wanted.  Fabrication methods such as Cold-connecting gave her the ability to build pieces while retaining the original color or image.

True started working with tin ten years ago and, by 2008, she felt really established with it.  She sold at craft shows and found she loved talking with people and engaging – and saw that consumers often wanted to share what they knew about the history of some of her found tin items – whether they were food cans, cosmetic tins, or other types of old containers. She also enjoyed doing research and finding out more about the product’s background and how it had changed – both in its graphic design and usage over the years. When at one point her work turned to using bottle caps to make tiny spoons and other items, she discovered people had some very particular brand loyalty to favorite types of soda and beer!

While selling at craft shows she found that she needed to make a lot of production items to have enough inventory to sell, and through that process learned she preferred working at her bench making one of a kind pieces which kept the work moving in new directions.

Following graduate school at East Carolina University, she was invited to teach at Pocosin Arts in Columbia, North Carolina. She enjoyed the experience and asked to do a metalwork residency and, since they didn’t have their own metal studio, she brought her own bench and material and had a fantastic experience. True then helped write a grant to get a metals program started and, when the grant came through, she stayed on to teach a Jewelry and Business class. “It’s a great place to be, and now we have students and teachers coming from all over for all sorts of metals and jewelry classes.”

True has embraced the business side herself and believes artists must be prepared to be active with that if they want to gain traction for their art and career. “It’s time-consuming. You have to order materials, do your accounting, handle photography and advertising, attend shows, and teach courses. Perhaps you can get help with some of it, but most people have to expect to spend about fifty percent of their time on the business side of the work. It’s best if you can view it as part of your creative process.”

Personally, True has found that the big challenge is managing her time. “You can easily spend every waking hour doing your artwork and what’s related to it. I try to keep a balance with my personal life – and find that stepping away for a bit helps me get refreshed to do better in my art.”

Her main tip for artists is: Don’t rush! “I find when I teach, students are often anxious to get to the end point of a project quickly. I tell them that, if they try to find a shortcut and rush through the work, they’ll usually pay for it in the end trying to correct something that a little more time spent in the beginning would have made a non-issue.”

For those interested in working in metal, she recommends The Society of North American Goldsmiths, which was the most helpful to her in learning more about the field through conferences, workshops and the opportunity to meet other artists. “They run a lot of exhibitions of work, so people can enter art into shows. I’ve also found their Maker’s Profiles very helpful because it provides a place for people to post images of their work and news about what they’re doing – like a mini website, but even better because you get the benefit of traffic from a large audience.”

True is now Director of Pocosin Arts, where she still does some teaching and continues with her own artwork. Her work can be seen at Penland Gallery, Penland, NC; Dow Gallery, Deer Island, ME;

Metal Museum Store, Memphis, TN; Facèré Gallery, Seattle, WA; and Equinox Gallery, San Antonio, TX. She’ll be teaching at Thomas Mann Studio Flux in New Orleans from October 30 – November 5 and then in scheduled to teach at West Dean College in Chichester, West Sussex, UK from May 2 – 5.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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Exploring with Fiber, Images and Mixed Media: Artist Wen Redmond

"Touch the Soul" - mixed media

“Touch the Soul” – mixed media

"Landlocked" - digital fiber

“Landlocked” – digital fiber

"Shine" - holographic images

“Shine” – holographic images

Inspiration: images, the outdoors, feelings, evolving techniques – and getting into flow during the art process. Rules: not many, but two are — Stop listening to other people. Try new things.

While many artists enjoy working with specific steps and structure, Artist Wen Redmond prefers the and alchemy of mixing original images, mixed media materials, substrates and mediums and responding to what evolves. Not someone to create the same thing over and over, she constantly changes her work and processes. One of her variety of workshops is called Serendipity Collage, and it includes painting, dying, stamping screen-printing, mono printing, stitching and other means of surface design. The emphasis is to catch the muse, go with the flow and allowing the materials to inspire art making.

Materials: fiber, fabric, paper, foil, photographs, scotch tape, paint, fabric dye, photocopies, thread, lace, leaves, coffee grinds, tea leaves, seeds, molding paste, wire mesh – and whatever inspires and seems to fit a piece.

During her career, she’s made art-to-wear-clothing, wall art, jewelry, art books and several signature digital imagery works. She uses a wide range of materials and particularly likes working with non-precious material – you’d be surprised what coffee grounds can do to add interest and texture — and she’s constantly exploring and expanding the boundaries of what can be done.

In describing her work, Redmond has said, “Fiber art has sustained my creative impulses since 1973. It’s a fluid and expanding art form.” Early on in her career, she moved from making art for personal gifts to making art to sell, including pieced wearable clothing and jewelry and wall art. “You have to be a business person to be an artist,” she explains. “It’s easier to find a market today because of the Internet, since you don’t have to run to each brick and mortar store and gallery to try to find the right venues to sell your work. I’ve done that, and I’ve also done the art and craft fair route, and it’s a lot of work and folks don’t realize that when they start out. Now, you can promote your artwork and programs you teach online. I have an art blog, a blog about my workshops and a website. That said, I also have placed my work in galleries. More recently, I’ve been doing more teaching, which I’ve found very rewarding.”

She will be leading workshops in Quilt Surface Design Symposium, Columbus, OH from May 26-June 8; the Abrusso School of Creative Art, Italy from Sept 2-8, 2014, and the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops in Greenville, New York from December 4-7.

Early on, Redmond found the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, an art guild in the state where she lives, was very helpful in finding opportunities. Initially, she was juried into one of their shows and then began selling her work at numerous galleries in New Hampshire and then branched outside the state. Her work can be found nationally.

Wen’s work lately has been creating larger scale wall art and abstract collage, which is a form she gravitates toward. “I like the effect you can get with transparency when working in layers because when you view collaged art from a distance you see the overall picture, and as you get closer, you find there’s a lot to discover hidden underneath. She often uses watercolor paper as a base. She has learned how to use different mediums and materials to get desired textures, effects and images into her Media Mix work.”

Redmond has created several signature techniques, including the Serendipity Collage Technique published in Cloth, Paper, Scissors Magazine; and her Digital Fiber Techniques. Holographic Images, using printed photographs on silk organza to create a unique 3-D effect, published in Quilting Arts Magazine and featured on Quilting Arts TV. Textured Photographs is her most recent publication both in magazine and now a DVD workshop. Her workshops are available on Interweave.

Her work has been exhibited nationally including at Fiber Philadelphia, Art Quilt Elements, Columbia University, Craft Boston, and the Museum of AQS in Kentucky.

She’s represented by galleries including the League of New Hampshire Galleries; the Tappan Zee Gallery, NY; the Textile Center, MN; the Visions Gallery Shop, CA and the York Art Association, ME.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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Immersion Learning for Art at Peters Valley NJ

Kristin Muller, Executive Director

Peters Valley School of Craft

Making time to do art can be a challenge, particularly when it’s not your day job. And, even when it is part of your weekly schedule, the distractions of email, social media, and other daily demands can put what’s left for creative time at a premium. “Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, New Jersey is one of just a few places in the country to offer an immersion program for craft where people can go to explore new areas and to move their art to a new level. New and returning students go there to learn from artists working in multiple disciplines,” says Kristin Muller, Peter’s Valley’s Executive Director.

“What we offer is different from attending a class or a workshop because we have everything right here on site. Many people who come stay on campus, so they’re working, eating and socializing with our resident artists and staff and with the artists who are teaching here during the time of their stay. At any given time, we have classes in ceramics, metalworking, fiber arts, jewelry, woodworking and other media, so people have a chance to explore beyond their own area. Further, since courses run over a 3-5 day period, it requires more of a time commitment, so we get pretty committed students. Our process is also different than a lot of other programs because the focus is more on process than on producing a product.

“This is a tough time for people working in the arts, particularly with what’s happening at the government level. We’re all feeling it, and it’s important to realize that we need to support the arts and arts education. At the same time, many people recognize the value of this type of learning and how it can contribute to society, business and other areas. Artists learn to be problem-solvers, and here we’re teaching those skills, which are very important.

“Our organization, like many in the field, is looking for new ways to expand our outreach and gain more visibility. We’re exploring bringing artists into schools, expanding into assisted living, and recommending artists for special needs programming.

“Programs here run between May and September. We offer around 125 workshops. There are 30 buildings on our campus, which is in the Delaware Water Gap and part of the National Park Service. We have a store, and at the end of September each year, we hold a large craft fair. This year, the Fair will be September 28th-29th. Overall, we handle about 600 students in the course of the season.

“I’ve been here about four years, and right now we – the administration and our Board – are running a lot of assessments to see how we will handle future funding, how we can improve operations, and to see what kinds of business systems and marketing will help us meet our needs over the long term.

“We’re also always talking with artists and arts professionals about what’s going on in the field, since as with many fields, so much is changing, and we will all benefit from working together”.

Kristin Muller is also a passionate ceramic artist and writer.  She grew up in both South and North America attending schools in Argentina, Chile and the United States.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Studio Arts from Southern Connecticut State University and a Graduate Certificate in Ceramics from Hood College where she is completing a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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Arts Initiative Sends Bronx Kids to College Free

Neil Waldman, Illustrator and Arts Educator for Change

13 Nicholas Flachsbart art1

Take motivated students from a low-income area, add art instruction, benchmarks for high grades, and the prospect of a ticket to a first-tier college and, if you’re author and illustrator Neil Waldman, you’ve got The Fred Dolan Art Academy in Bronx, NY. Founded seven years ago and recognized by The New York Times and New York Daily News for its innovation and success, Waldman’s initiative has just gained a new revenue stream, Dream Yard Press, a not-for-profit children’s publishing house founded by Waldman, and which is publishing its first picture book, Al and Teddy.  Here’s the latest on his education art initiative:

What prompted you to start the Fred Dolan Art Academy?

I grew up in the blue-collar neighborhoods of the east Bronx. It was a world of factory workers, plumbers, and shopkeepers. But my love was for drawing and painting, and I soon came to realize that if I wanted to do those things for the rest of my life, I’d have to go to college. I managed to do just that, and eventually became a writer and illustrator of children’s books.
It was during that time that a dream began rising within me – to return to the neighborhoods of my youth, find young artists there, and help them go to college. With this in mind, I created the Fred Dolan Art Academy, named after a recently departed friend. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTy6rqgV9oY&feature=em-share_video_user. The Fred Dolan Art Academy is a free Saturday school whose mission is to help young Bronx artists to build their portfolios, while encouraging them to raise their grades, so that they can be accepted to college. To date, 23 students have graduated from the program, all going to college with scholarships.
We’ve done this by giving the kids hope for a better future. Teaching them art has served as a bridge to academic success because they now understand that if they work on their art and raise their grade point averages, they’ll be eligible for scholarships to college.
Were they kids who had interest or particular talent in art?
The students who join the program are lovers of art, but we don’t require any art background or skill set to be accepted.
I think that talent is overrated. I believe in commitment and passion for art (or any other field). If people work hard and diligently, there’s no reason they can’t succeed . . . And we’ve never rejected a single youngster. All we require is that they attend classes every Saturday, and work steadily while they’re with us. In most cases, our graduates choose art as a career, but some have decided to pursue other fields in college. Some are now majoring in architecture, finance, creative writing, and theatre.
Do you think you’d have gotten similar results with other subjects?
Yes. I think it could happen with any subject. But our expertise is in art. The academy’s teachers are all successful artists and art educators, capable of teaching the skills necessary to succeed in the art field. But our kids come from families where no one has ever gone to college. And so there’s no understanding of the importance of a college education.
We’ve been doing this for 7 years now, and the data bank is growing. Every one of our 23 graduates is now in college with a scholarship. Our success is proving that hope is the most powerful tool. Without hope, there’s no reason to succeed in school. With hope, the goal of a college education becomes real, and our students have begun to realize that it’s possible to spend their lives doing what they love most.
What are your thoughts about future of arts funding?
Unfortunately, when school budgets drop, art and music are first to be cut. That’s a shame . . . and a concern. I’m hoping that through programs like ours, people will begin to realize that art can be a vehicle that leads to academic success, career fulfillment, and ultimately, the transformation of one’s life.
Who has stepped up to the plate to help?
We’ve had wonderful people offering their help and services, and we are very grateful to them.
We started with a Kickstarter campaign and received donations ranging from $10 to $1500. That provided seed money for Dream Yard Press, which is our new publishing venture. Our first book, Al and Teddy, (audio book, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCwJikL7BGg&feature=em-share_video_user) will be published in December. All proceeds will go to supporting the Fred Dolan Art Academy.
Cornelius Van Wright, Robert Casilla, and other artists are serving as teachers there; a lawyer named Mitchell Pines has volunteered to help set us up as an independent not-for-profit corporation; Bill and Beth Johnson have donated their time writing the teacher’s guide for the book, and setting up an educational outreach program, where we’re hoping to get donations of $250 from individuals who want to gift a carton of 28 Al and Teddy books to a teacher of their choice.
This all makes a big difference because we can make more profits on book sales, and use that to support our students. We’ve found that it costs about $1000/year to support each student in the program.
What’s surprised you most about doing this?
Everything has come together in a seemingly effortless manner. One after the other, people have continually come forward and volunteered their time and expertise. I’ve been amazed at how much they’ve done to help us further the program.
What are your dreams for this project?
My dream is that we can help all the kids who want to be part of the program. So far, we’ve helped 23 Bronx kids go on to some of the top colleges with full scholarships, and the schools they’ve gone to – Dartmouth, the Rhode Island School of Design, NYU, USC, SUNY Purchase, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Now, word of the program’s success has begun to spread. This year for the first time, we’ve had to turn kids away. Looking at the faces of those kids was sadder than anything I’d ever imagined So I’ve created Dream Yard Press, a not-for-profit publisher of children’s books in the Bronx. All the proceeds from sales of our books will go to the academy.”AL and TEDDY” is our first picture book. It’s the story of love and friendship between 2 brothers, and the power of art to transform their lives. I’ll attach 2 images from the book, and “A Bronx Diary,” the story of the Genesis of the academy.
We’ve had articles so far in The New York Times, the New York Daily News and others in recognition of this as an important model for what can be done via arts education to make a difference. My goal is for the academy to grow. I’d love to have “AL and TEDDY” considered for awards, so we can help more and more kids. In the long run, it would be great to have our own facility, and to show what’s possible to make a difference in the lives of kids who need help breaking out of what can seem like dead-end situations.
How can people help?
We’d welcome hearing from people who can help as teachers; in fundraising, non-profit and publishing advisors. We also particularly need help in creating an “AL and TEDDY” website.
Individuals can help us to by:
  • Purchasing a copy of “AL and TEDDY” http://raabassociat.es/14e2Rbh
  • Gifting an “AL and TEDDY” book box to your favorite middle school teachers.
Neil Waldman has been writing and illustrating children’s books for 40 years. His books have won the Christopher Award, the National Jewish Book Award, the A.L.A. Notable Award, the School Library Journal Best Book Award, and many others. Notable among these is a gold medal from the United Nations in a closed international competition in which Waldman was chosen to represent the United States. The world body selected his entry as the official poster for the International Year of Peace. Today it hangs in the halls of the U. N. General Assembly. He has designed postage stamps for thirteen nations, written and illustrated more than fifty books for young people, and has illustrated the covers of seven Newbery Award winners
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Green trends and Landscape Design

Nick Flachsbart, Landscape Design

Nicholas Flachsbart design

What’s trending in your field in terms of design?

Right now a big trend in landscape architecture is the incorporation of green infrastructure for, mostly, large buildings. From high rise office buildings to classrooms and apartments of nearly any size, a green roof may create an outdoor social environment for its occupants while also acting as a climate controlling device and greatly reducing water runoff.
Though this area of the field is focusing upon private space, and is geared toward an engineering standpoint, I find it enormously critical for helping the general public to understand how dynamic the field is. Where people would often confuse landscape architecture with horticulture or simply landscaping, they are now seeing more consciously and carefully designed green spaces where it is highly unexpected, and beginning realize the social and cultural impact of the field.

How are models used in the design process?

Landscape architects use models for a whole number of reasons and purposes. A preliminary model may be built during the design process in order to analyze spatial creation. It is extremely crucial to produce these models because it brings any design flaws to your attention, which are often overlooked on a two dimensional drawing that lacks depth. I find more abstract models to be the most effective during the design process because it gives you a chance to explore different materials and mediums. For instance, where foam may be the best representation for trees in one design, metal wiring may be more appropriate in another. One may study the layout of a site by layering chipboard to fit the contours of the topography, allowing them to walk themselves over hills, through valleys, across bridges or along a shoreline. You could perhaps use a model to discover or manipulate different view-sheds you want users of the landscape to have. That is, you may want to block a view of a river until one reaches a certain point along the curvature of a path – and now you are creating a more intellectual experience for that person.
In short, there is no limit to how and why a model may be used. A good landscape architect will design with models, and of course to show a client your design, a model can make or break their decision to use it. Today, many models are done via computer programming, but the more sophisticated and large scale design firms seem to be more likely to build a final, physical rendering to show a client
Where do you see the intersection of fine art & landscape design?
I don’t believe that the idea of fine art is something that can simply drift in and out of landscape architecture. They are interwoven into something that is both expressive and practical. High Modernism of landscape architecture suggests even that it is fine art. Many people consider architecture to be fine art if it displays a great concern for aesthetic qualities, even though an architect must consider structural engineering into their work. Similarly, landscape architects juggle the principals of design as well as civil engineering, yet people seem extremely reluctant to call it fine art. Personally, I do not believe that the field fits in as a traditional fine art, but instead uses the same theories to create pieces of work much more literal than the method by which it was conceived.
 

Which artists have inspired you?

Environmental artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude have probably been my biggest influence as an undergraduate student in the field. Known best for the Running Fence project in northern California and The Gates in Central Park (images attached), they have redefined the idea of art for me. British artist, Andy Goldsworthy has definitely been, and continued to be, a great source of inspiration for me as well, beginning when I watched the documentary Rivers and Tides. What both artists have in common is the temporary nature of their work. What is most beautiful to me is that an artist can have the selflessness to create a work of art that is not in a museum or gallery, but instead ceases to exist after a few weeks or even hours after completion.

 

What are the most common design mistakes?

It seems to me that most design mistakes in the field root from a misunderstanding of the goal of taking on a project. I have made all of these mistakes, often more than once, and I’m sure with more to come. The first and biggest design mistake is to compete with surrounding architecture. Because most projects have structures in the vicinity, a designer will become offended by ostentatious buildings and thus try to place more importance on the landscape with great amounts of hardscape and materials (excessive concrete, granite, marble, wood, walls, lighting, exotic plantings, water features…etc) in space that does not benefit from such.
Another common mistake is to design for yourself. One cannot simply conjure up a design they like and use it where ever they wish. A landscape is a living, breathing, and dynamic palate that changes on a daily basis, and thus the design of a landscape is inherent in nature. The question is not how you want to design the land, but how the land wants to be designed.
Thirdly, it is very typical of landscape architect students (as most mistakes are made before becoming a professional, but certainly not all) is to overestimate the power of landscape elements as space definers. What I mean is, when attempting spatial creation in a design in plan view (from above, on paper), it may appear that a row of trees and light posts will define an edge. Yet, if you’ve ever walked along a path that has a tree every 20 feet and a light post between each pair of trees, you’ll know how weak that edge truly is. However, using topography for instance, we can build up a 7 foot high hill at a very steep slope along a path and define the edge quite well because we cannot see over it. One must understand what a point is, how we turn that point into a line, the line into a plane, and the plane into volume.

What tips would you give to people who might consider pursuing this field?

Do not let people discourage you. The truth is, most people have no idea what landscape architecture is – and even the first year studying in the field may not be enough to understand it. Read books about the subject, as it can be very motivational. Be sure you love the artistic and technical aspect of it, because a pretty drawing of a landscape means nothing if it you don’t know how it will be built, and designing commercial parking lots limits expressive opportunity

Which organizations would you recommend to people who want to learn more?

The most important organization in the field (in the U.S.) is the American Society of Landscape Architects, which has an enormous amount of information on what we do. Theirs is the official organization from which a graduate and experienced (2 yrs minimum) junior landscape architect can receive their license after a series of exams. Another great way to learn about the field is to simply google search, “(city of your choice) landscape architecture” and see what firms come up. Click on their link and read through their design philosophy and check out their portfolios.
Nick Flachsbart is a seventh semester student of Landscape Architecture at the University of Connecticut.
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A Passion for Art Photography and for Saving Our Natural World

Guy Tal, Art Photographer and Educator

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Guy Tal found success working in Silicon Valley for six years and then at a Utah financial services firm, before deciding to give up both the rat race and the financial security at age thirty-eight to pursue art photography full time. “It was very scary after having ‘invisible hands’ put money in my bank account each week, but it was something I knew I had to do.

“I’d gotten interested in photography as a teenager, and practiced it semi-professionally for more than fifteen years, selling and publishing a lot; so I had a good foundation. When I started, I didn’t focus on selling my work, but on teaching about the creative process. By the time I left my corporate job, I already sold books and essays, and had published articles in national publications. My workshops had also gotten a lot of good feedback, and I had a good online following, and that’s what I relied on.

“There have been a lot of challenges in recent years that have made it very difficult to make a living in this kind of photography. Probably the biggest has been the change in selling stock images, which at one time was the major source of income for many photographers, and now, with the free services on the Internet, has largely died out. So these days, unless you’re a big name with strong client relationships, it’s very tough to make a living selling photographs.

“For me, focusing on instruction, leading photography tours and publishing, have proven to be a good business. There used to be a mantra in the business that photographers don’t buy other photographers’ work, but I never subscribed to that – probably because I didn’t find it to be true about myself. So, my customers and clients often are professional photographers, or people who intend to pursue it seriously. Rather than focus on the technical minutia of operating a camera, or simply drive people around to postcard locations, my workshops are about the practice of photography as art, on finding ways of relating to the natural world on a personal, interpretive, level, and expressing the significance of such experiences through photography.

“I work with people who are at many different levels, though I do weed out the very, very beginners, since it’s important to have a working knowledge of the camera out of the way in order to pursue creative work. It also offers a unique experience because we go beyond the well-known iconic views, particularly in some of the remote areas we visit in the national parks, and spend time on understanding the art and science of expressive imagery, rather than simply documenting natural phenomena.

“I offer some workshops where I’m the primary teacher, but I also sometimes collaborate with others. We give field workshops, and then every other year or so I offer a limited number of one-on-one internships by phone and Skype with up to five students.

“I approach the photography of natural things as a form of art and creative expression, and I believe that beyond producing aesthetic images, it can also be a means of finding happiness and fulfillment. My process is described in detail in my Creative Series ebooks, which outline my six-phase process of Concept, Visualization, Composition, Capture, Processing and Presentation.

“When I’m working on a piece, I think and visualize first, and then use tools to express the story I want to tell with the image, or a portfolio of images. It’s not about the technical trivia of using a camera, but about sharing something meaningful and personal.”

In an article in Aperture Academy, Guy said this about the biggest challenge facing landscape and wilderness photographers in the future:

“I think we are the lucky ones. We still have wilderness available to us, and revolutionary technologies we can employ to create images like never before. While I see technology improving, I fear that the experiences we are after are fast disappearing in favor of misguided corporate and political agendas. If at some point in the future you could have a 100-megapixel camera that weighs less than a pound and costs $500 but nowhere left to hike and experience and camp in solitude, there will no longer be a reason for what we do.”

Guy Tal’s work has been published in many magazines, including LensWork Magazine, Outdoor Photographer Magazine, Popular Photography Magazine, Digital Photographer, Landscape Photography Magazine, and On Landscape. He’s said, “I do not consider myself as a photographer who creates art, but rather an artist working in the medium of photography. Where some photographers take a representational approach to the landscape, I wish instead to use visual elements and natural aesthetics as evocative metaphors, creating images that are not merely of, but about places and things that have become personally significant to me.”

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Art Quilting Growing Global: SAQA

An Interview with SAQA Executive Director, Martha Sielman

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How did you first get involved with SAQA?

I got involved with the organization around 1999/2000 because I was making my own quilts and moving more toward developing my own designs making art quilts. At that time, Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA), which was founded in 1989, had about 800 members. They needed a volunteer to run the Connecticut region, so I volunteered.

We only had six members in Connecticut at the time, but when I heard about a local art show, I asked SAQA if we could exhibit, and they said yes. Sharon Heidingsfelder, SAQA’s executive director at that time, suggested I invite other members from the East Coast to participate. To my surprise, 50 people entered. I realized then that there was a need to find exhibit venues. Art quilters wanted to share what they had created.

That led to starting the “Fiber Revolution” group, made up of SAQA members in the northeastern U.S., which quickly began doing ten exhibits a year. I loved doing the organizing work for “Fiber Revolution” and found that I was spending more and more time on it and less time in my studio.

So when Sharon retired in 2004, I applied to be SAQA’s executive director. Since then the organization has quadrupled in size to over 3,200 members. We’re now international in more than thirty-one countries, and we see continued growth, including in Korea, Taiwan, Eastern Europe and Africa.

I’ve also been writing about the field in a number of books for Lark Publishing–Masters: Art Quilts, volumes 1 and 2; Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World, and Art Quilt Portfolio: People and Portraits, which was just published this past Spring.

What do you see as SAQA’s role as compared with other organizations in the field?

A number of organizations focus more on professional development. There are regional organizations around the country, like the Contemporary Quilt Association in Washington State, the Professional Art Quilt Alliance in the Chicago area, and Front Range Contemporary Quilters in Colorado.

There’s also the Surface Design Association, which has close to five thousand members and is also international. The difference is that they cover all types of surface design, while SAQA focuses just on art quilts.

How do you define an art quilt?

Definitions are tough, but I think the best is: A work of art created with fabric and thread. SAQA’s official definition is “a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.”

Is there a divide between this and traditional quilting?

I see it all on a continuum. I think of traditional quilting as using designs and patterns that have been used for hundreds of years; contemporary quilting as using similar patterns while playing with color and form; and art quilting as completely original in design. But, as I said, trying to set a particular definition is a slippery slope and there are many, many counter-examples.

What important strides have been made in establishing quilts in the art world – as compared with the past?

There has been a lot more interest from the art world – at museums, at galleries, and from collectors. There’s a lot of cross-over happening between the fine art and craft worlds.

Have you seen increased interest in art quilting?

Yes, there continues to be very strong growth, including internationally. We’re finding that people, especially women, around the world are interested in working in fiber arts, in part as a reaction to the electronic world. Art quilting offers a different, wonderfully tactile way to express oneself.

What new developments, products, and techniques are you most excited about?

The biggest development that I’ve seen is the increased interest in long arm quilting machines being owned privately. The machines are quite expensive and take up a lot of space, so they were originally designed for industrial use – where people who bought them intended to do quilting for others. Now, individuals and small groups are buying them for their own use. I often talk with people who say they’ve been thinking about the purchase for a while and are willing to devote a room in their house – sometimes even the living room – to set up a machine. I think that reflects a change in our society to being less formal, and using space in the house differently.

There have also been changes in sewing machines, where some are more of a hybrid that can offer more speed and cover a larger surface area than a standard machine, but which are less expensive than a traditional long-arm.

Other trends I’ve noticed are the use of recyclable material, use of sheer fabrics, and working in three dimensions. On the color side, there’s a lot of use of neutrals now, rather than jewel tones and saturated colors.

I see growing interest in quilting because people have a desire to make things, to express themselves creatively, and to connect. Art quilting offers a great way to immerse oneself in doing all of that.

Martha Sielman has been Executive Director of Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. (SAQA) since 2004. Her career in art quilts began in 1988, when she learned to quilt, and has included more than 20 years of work as a professional artist, author, lecturer, curator, juror, and arts administrator.  She is the author of Art Quilt Portfolio: People & Portraits; Masters: Art QuiltsMasters: Art Quilts, Volume 2, and Art Quilt Portfolio: The Natural World.

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