Monday, November 29, 2010

Leo Tolstoy Said

I've been combing Bartlett's Quotations for some art thoughts.  Here's what Leo Tolstoy said in his 1897 non-fiction work, What is Art?

"Art is a human activity having for its purpose the transmission to others of the highest and best feelings to which men have risen."

Tolstoy also wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina (among others) and is considered by many the world's best novelist.

Joan's Visual Work

Below is a photograph that Joan Weber took at the Spotlight UB production of Gay Expectations Too.  Dancing are Tony Byrd, Vincent Thomas and Steve Satta and Todd Mion lit the show.

There's No Choice

Joan Weber is a teacher, actor, director, teaching artist, photographer, first executive director of Arts Every Day, consultant and camp counselor. 
I interviewed Joan previously

Some thoughts from this second Joan interview:

  • "So, when science took a powder and it became arts and sciences, then arts lost its value but not its importance.  That's where we are now."
  • "Then the why art question is there's no choice.  It has to be.  We have to interpret the world around us and everybody does it differently." 

"All art is but imitation of nature."  Seneca, Epistles

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks to My Super Art Friends

It's Thanksgiving and I'm feeling grateful for all my super art friends who donated their time and hearts and brains to this video blog.  Everyone rocks on this blog.  If you want to hire these people or work with these people, you should.  They are all smart, funny and amazingly talented humans.  Thanks, super art friends!  You are my heroes; you create art in your community.

John Wilson and Robert Hitz goof around post interview :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baltimore's Murals

Following Todd's discussion of public art below, here is an example of Baltimore's marvelous murals.  This one is nestled at the corner of Clipper Mill and Falls Road and always makes me smile.

A panel at its western end reads:

  • Created by 45 JHU students
  • Americorp VISTA
  • Sean Montague
  • Christine Gyland
  • Kirk Seese
  • Michael Beer

Thanks!  You have all improved my life.

Public Art vs. Museums

Todd Mion is the chair of the Harford County Cultural Art Board and a lighting and sound designer.  I interviewed him in this video blog
In our second interview, we discussed public art.  Todd believes that public art in the community enriches our daily lives more than art in museums.
Do you?

Do Words Have Legs?

Anthony Scimonelli is a filmmaker, actor and musician and part of the The Togetherness Panel

Anthony filmed the trailer for my ghost novel Dredging the Choptank; view it at

Anthony and I free-wrote on the prompt:  do words have legs?  And Anthony's free-write was this lovely poem that he performs in the video.

My words have legs
And I dance on top of them
Sometimes, wind chimes
I sit and giggle at how they move me
And when I feel loose and juicy
They help me out of a jam
One time they got me into a jam
So I said I would never abuse them again
But I lied - or failed
I'm not sure
But a war wages inside of me
Providing me
With casualties
Just like sticks
I find these legs can often break
No mistake
They can be fragile
And they can bend

Drawing God

Joan Weber is an actor, teacher, teaching artist, photographer, first executive director of Arts Every Day and a consultant. She's been thinking about the question "Why art?" for a couple of years.

Some thoughts from the interview:

  • "Once one can ask the question "Why?," then there must be art."
  • "Art is one answer to why and how."
  • "There's no other representation of the imagination."
  • "If we're not using the gift of imagination that is given to us, then we are being irresponsible."
  • "It is irresponsible of us not to nurture the imagination for it is from which we get all advancement."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Simon's Art

Graphic designer Simon Fong designs the posters for Spotlight UB events.  Here's one of my favorites:

Solution-Based Art

Simon Fong is a graphic designer.  He designed my website

Draina Makes Us Happy

Raine Bode is a director (she directed the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival production of Antigone in the header), graphic designer, stage manager, photographer, production manager, and founding artistic director of Mongrel Theatre.  She also makes a fine whiskey sour.
Dana Whipkey is a musician, actor (he's in the Antigone photo as well), dancer, and singer.  And Dana makes us all giggle.

Raine and Dana (or Draina) reviewed my crazy art questions and then Dana danced.
It's refreshing to remember:  art makes us happy.  It's that simple.

Joe Dennison's Fish

Two things:
I wanted to give cred to Joe Dennison for contributing to the language choice of Y-Art.  Joe fabricates yard art that he calls YART or Yard + Art = YART.

And I wanted to post one of his paintings.

You can see more of Joe's art at

Art=Food for Consciousness

John C. Wilson is an actor, director, pot-thrower, pie-baker, board member Theatre Project, graphics designer, and bookmaker.
Robert Hitz is a musician, composer, producer, educator, recording artist, and improvisor.

Before the interview, John, Robert and I free-wrote on the prompt:  does art change the world?
Robert free-wrote a gorgeous essay:
Is there actually a world without art?  It seems that the whole of creation, a rather large universe as we currently understand, is an expression.  An expression of force, chemicals, electric, radiant, cosmic and seismic shifts - into the wondrous equation we have life consciousness and self knowledge.  This is where our part of the expression comes in.  It is the sentient perspective that we wish to express, to communicate who we are, what we feel, touch the mystery of the whole thing.  It is a really magical existence to contemplate but the ride is made even more amazing by "telling out" of the story from each of our perspectives.  This expression gives meaning to our lives, both validation but equally important, the ability to communicate, to share, and to change this wonderful thing one person at a time.  One piece of art at a time.

Joe Dennison Dances Orange

Joe Dennison is a poet, painter and playwright.

Before the interview, Joe and I free-wrote on the prompt:  can dancers paint?  Free-writing, Joe created this poem:

dancing, painting, beyond scope
beyond hope, no stopping
not slop, no flop, just breath and breathing.
I dance as I paint, my hips move
my lips word up sounds
sighs and anger at wrong turns
and joy of the correction of that wrong turn.
sometimes in tune with Pink Floyd rhythms,
I start to add color and mystery, I start to add depth
is it there?
if it's ever there . . .
painters dance
dancers paint like a Merce Cunningham leap,
almost freeze frame beauty,
still unfolding story.
painters dance with brush
with color, with the expression jump and leap.
we are all dancers and painters.
we are all leapers of faith
and singers of self, that soul searching jig
that eyeful of hip hop
that dots our insides with fear and frustration
the pigments I love are bold
are orange, my only color, that great glory orange
I dance orange.

The Togetherness Panel

Three super art friends arrived simultaneously in the UB Student Center Performing Arts Theater to be interviewed, and our conversations gravitated towards topics of empathy, trust building and the one-ness that evolves in art projects.

The panel includes:

  • Anthony Scimonelli: actor, musician and the filmmaker who filmed the Dredging the Choptank book trailer that's posted on YouTube
  • Christine Demuth:  actor and teacher at Baltimore's Lab School
  • Lisa Mion:  dancer, choreographer, production manager, stage manager, musician, lighting designer, and amazing cook

"Art fosters togetherness."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cheerleading & Car Shows

Todd Mion is a lighting designer, sound designer, teacher, musician, production manager and technical director.
He talks about defining art and is willing to be hired to light cheerleading competitions.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Personal Peter Toran

Peter Toran is a playwright, actor, director, screenwriter, teacher, board president of the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, producer of Spotlight UB and a sharp dresser.

Some quotes from the interview:

  • "Art is innate because that's part of being human."
  • "Art enables us to make sense of the nonsensical world."
  • "Art and love are part of the same concept and word."
  • "Drama's vitalistic expression is the light of the common day."  [Emily Dickinson]
  • "We create reality."
  • "We use art to get to the underneath, to the personal, to play the truth."

Gregg Wilhelm

Gregg Wilhelm is the executive director of CityLit, publisher, teacher and cook who the Urbanite and Baltimore Business Journal named as one of Baltimore's most influential under forty.  Gregg was at Apprentice House when they published my ghost novel Dredging the Choptank.  Please visit CityLit's site at

Some quotes from the interview:

  • "Why art?  Why air?  Why water?"
  • "Try getting through a day without a story."
  • "Art transcends time."
  • "Why isn't art taught in schools?"

Christopher Walken Said

Of dancer singer actor choreographer Gene Kelly that he made dancing look like a natural extension of walking and singing look like an extension of talking.

Kendra Kopelke, cousin of Buffalo Bill

Kendra Kopelke is a poet, teacher, director of the University of Baltimore's MFA Creative Writing and Publishing Arts program, musician, editor, mother, dog-owner, bookmaker and cousin to William Cody Buffalo Bill.

Before the interview, Kendra and I free-wrote on the prompt what does it mean to express?
From Kendra's free-write:

  • It [expression] is a way of making a response to being alive, isn't it?
  • Every leaf I have seen and held in my hand and marveled at has been a new beginning for me.  It expresses its life - through me and gives me a feeling for being alive.  Everyone wants to fulfill, fulfill, fulfill - right?  One's hope is to feel alive in all of its dimensions.  Words do that for me, not any words, but the words that live or make their home in poems.

Some quotes from the interview:

  • "Art makes the yes."
  • "How do we truly learn things?"
  • "Poems get to the heart of things."
  • "Art comes out of the disagreement."
  • "You are teaching us the underneath."

Sing a Song of Art

I want to sing a song of art,
find the path to the underneath,
hold up the mirror, hold the dress rehearsal.
I want to talk, talk, talk
the talk that builds new bridges in my soul.

All passes.  Art alone
Enduring stays to us;
The Bust outlasts the throne -
The Coin, Tiberius.

Henry Austin Dobson, Ars Victrix

Jimi of All Trades

James Kinstle is the Artistic Director of Pumpkin Theatre, an actor, director, scenic designer, founding member of the Flying Tongues, President of the Baltimore Theatre Alliance, previous Artistic Director of Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, dancer, choreographer, vocal coach, teacher, physical comedy consultant and the list goes on.  Jimi has been contributing to the Baltimore arts community for years.

Before the interview, Jimi and I free-wrote on the prompt:  can everyone express?
From Jimi's free-writing:  Expression is vital to human existence.  Arts gives us a dialogue within which we can express.

Some quotes from the interview:

  • "Art is a means of expression and it gives the capacity to our audience to express."
  • "Try getting through a day without a story."
  • "Art is the reflection of the community and vice versa."
  • "As an artist, I'm interested in improving my community and making it a better place."
Thanks, Jimi, you rock.

Let's talk about art

In November 2010, I interviewed my super art friends in the University of Baltimore's Student Center Performing Arts Theater and in those conversations, I asked "Why Art?"  Some of my super art friends free-wrote with me before the interview.  I held the camera and we talked about art.  My super art friends' broad range of answers exploded my brain.
The original question of art's justification shifted to:  why isn't art taught in schools?
And:  how do we teach how to reach the underneath, to the core of what it means to be human?
Art can help us.
Please discuss.

Rodin's The Thinker -- is he thinking about art?