Part of our philosophy here is that anyone has what it takes to be an artist. You don’t need to be formally trained—although sometimes that helps—to express yourself in an artistic way.
That’s why we make our studio space open to any and all do it yourself artists on our “Do It Yourself Weekends.” These do it yourself art weekends happened roughly once a month, but sometimes the space is too busy to allow that so sometimes it’s only once every other month.
The idea behind them was simple. We have tons of artists within our community who love creating art, but they don’t always have the ability to go out and purchase all of the equipment, the accessories, and they wouldn’t know exactly how to set it up even if they did. So how can we get these artists, who are dying to produce their work, into our studio space? That’s where the “Do It Yourself Weekends” came into play.
Once a month, or once every other month, we open up our studio space to the full neighborhood, and for a nominal fee you can use all of the equipment. We usually charge around five dollars for an entire day of studio time. Where else can you find a deal that good? And obviously word has gotten out because the last few weekends we have had so many people we’ve had to put some time restrictions on certain activities.
These weekends are great because they solidify a community of local, independent artists. Our do it yourself weekends aren’t just about making art, although that certainly was the catalyst to start them. They’ve not turned into something much more. Locals will come in just to get a glimpse of what’s going on and see a few artists at work. They may buy a few pieces from the gallery upstairs or they might go out back to the BBQ.
That’s right. Our little gatherings of local artists have gotten so big that we actually have cookouts now. It’s not a continual cookout obviously, but either Friday evening or Saturday afternoon we will have a cookout for all of the people who are milling around. It keeps them interested longer, and the smell of the food actually helps attract people from the area too.
All in all, it’s a great event that is well worth the time and effort to put it together. We have sculptors, painters, printmakers, graphic designers, and just about any other kind of artist you can think of. You name it and odds are they are here.
Our next objective is to try and organize a block party weekend at all of the surrounding businesses so that we can generate more attention for everyone. A few of the local businesses are closed on the weekends when we have these, but if we could get some of them to stay open and have a full block event, the exposure would be great. I’m sure it will be a great success and after our initial run, we’ll have even more local businesses joining in.
As any good student of art history knows, fine art isn’t something limited to the West. In fact, the ancient art that has come from the Orient far predates anything found in Europe.
My love and appreciation for all theses art was the primary motivating factor that led me to teach English abroad—and to go somewhere that was a distinctly foreign culture to my own. Being the son of European immigrants, most of Europe did not fit this description, as I have been there numerous times to visit family members and do some sightseeing.
However, I have never been anywhere in Asia. I had never been to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or anywhere else. Everything was completely foreign to me—and that was precisely the appeal of it all.
Now that I had the idea in my mind to do some traveling abroad, the next hurdle that presented itself, was how am I, a struggling artist living in San Francisco going to afford my way all the way to a different country to take in their culture and art in any meaningful way?
After doing some digging, the answer appeared to me with bright lights, clear as day. I found a number of organizations that offer PAID programs to teach English in Hangzhou and elsewhere.
There it is! That’s the ticket! Are you telling me that I can actually get paid to go overseas, live out a lifelong dream, and learn all along the way? Sign me up.
It didn’t take much time at all and I was on my way to mainland China to teach a classroom full of eager students who wanted to learn how to speak and write in English. Don’t get me know, this wasn’t something that just anyone could do. I always excelled in English, all throughout high school and college. And, in fact, I have a minor in creative writing, so this was something that was right up my alley. But, all in all, if you get the certification to teach English in Baotou, and you meet all the other requirements, you can do the same thing.
So, off I was to a new land, full of learning, adventure, and a new culture I had never experienced.
After teaching for a few months, a few of the other schools affiliated with my placement organization came together to have a mid year teacher meet up. It was great to get together with other teachers who are doing this for the first time, just like me. I spoke with some of the teachers from the programs to teach English in Nanjing, China and they had many of the same experiences that I had, which was reassuring to hear.
When you are new at something, you wonder if it’s just you making the mistakes or having the problems or questions that you do, but really everyone is thinking the same thing. It’s never easy your first go at something, so it was great to connect with these other teachers to hear about the experiences they had with their students.
Even though I’m not quite done with the program yet, I have been to so many different art museums and exhibitions. China and the surrounding regions are scaling up big time the amount of money they invest in cultural activities, so it is a booming place to be. Very exciting stuff!
The modern world of art goes way beyond the traditional studio. Art and design is in everything that we do, own, and operate. Companies like Apple take great pride in their designs and the fact that they hire artists with all types of backgrounds. In fact, Steve Jobs has been quoted as saying the best programmers, computer technicians, and creative people are artists. People who paint, draw, play music, and create designs work on much more than art projects.
This month I had the opportunity to talk with a local artist who is partnering with two companies that specialize in creating professional review courses for the CPA exam. Todd worked with Gleim CPA review and Fast Forward Academy on their newly redesigned courses in an effort to modernize them and bring them up to date for the next generation of certified public accountant candidates.
Todd started his project with Gleim. They were in the process of designing a user interface that allows CPA candidates the ability to access their study questions, quizzes and videos while reading the textbook. This is an important design feature that allows users to access all areas of the review course at once. Todd said that his experience as an artist was essential for this new project. His eye for design helped him organize a layout for the course that would accomplish everything. He was also asked to help redesign the Gleim cpa review discount books. Needless to say they loved his work and are in the process of planning a new project for him.
Gleim isn’t the only company that was impressed with Todd’s work however. Fast Forward Academy is a newer professional review course company that is trying to establish itself as one of the most modern companies in the industry. They strive to provide the best user interface and sleek design that will allow students to learn and remember information faster. Although Todd hasn’t started work with FFA, he is in the process of working out a deal with the company to start their first project together. The Fast Forward Academy cpa study course will no doubt increase its market share because of Todd’s great work.
As you can see, there is a need for artists of all kinds outside of the traditional art communities. Who else is going to design mainstream products, websites, and services other than true artists? An engineer or accountant would be able to create something so beautiful that consumers want to purchase and use it. Only artists can do this. So for all of you reading this with no idea where their art education and background can lead them; think corporate America. Think tech companies. Think outside the box. There are opportunities for all of us out there.