Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Art, God and Youngstown

Thanks to Michael Green and the Nakely Collection for use of this image. Oil on Canvas. 3ox65 inches.

Because of my recent blog posts where I mention God, Faith or quote the Bible, quite a number of people have made statements to the effect " An artist with Faith is a rarity" or "Most artists are decadent and unbelieving". These sentiments have disturbed me, to say the least, because I find the artists of our community to be highly spiritual, conservative people. Northeast Ohio is a stronghold for Christianity and conservatism and our art community reflects these aspects of our culture. In addition we have strong traditional Jewish, Native American, Muslim and Hindu influences, to name just a few of the world religions that call the Valley home. The artists who don't subscribe to traditional religions and who consider themselves Unitarian, Agnostic or Atheist have a highly developed sense of Social Justice and a genuine interest in promoting Humanitarian issues.


From my experience, one cannot be an artist without having a deep sense of faith in the greatness of the Universe that surrounds us. Artists are continually looking for meanings and patterns in the world, and are constantly questioning what is right, good and beautiful in their search for these meanings and patterns. Within these searches is a quest for the Divine outside as well as inside our being.


Being an artist, one is constantly touching the vast creative force of the universe. I find that if one makes an effort to reach out to this force, it will reach back and infuse itself into the life of an artist. Most artists that I know are not in it for the money or popularity but for that moment of Enlightenment when this Immense power joins us in the studio.


As a Painter I find that every painting is a prayer and that laboring over a canvas for 8 or more hours at a stretch is a form of deep meditation. The artist who is in union with the Infinite Creative Force of the Universe eventually becomes an outlet for this force, and brings Life to wasteland areas of our world and our collective consciousness.

Generally speaking, I find that most of the stumbling blocks in the path of the progress of the Arts is misinformation, wrong assumptions, and belief in negative propaganda generated by national media, politicians and local criminals. If we can set these aside and engage in dialogue with the artists of our community, we will all be better off and wealthier in ways that we can only imagine at this time.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Why I love Art Youngstown

When I first encountered Art Youngstown, I had my doubts. They were taking on a huge challenge with little money and human resources. While working with them however, I found a group of people with a level of dedication that rivaled the former Dutton Alley Art Community. When preparing a show, people of Art Youngstown work long hours, unpaid, sometimes under extreme conditions. Almost all the founding members have full time jobs and some have small children in their care. There were times some were very ill and after a hard day of work wanted nothing more than to be home in bed. Yet they came down to the galleries to work. When I say work I mean mopping large areas of floor, washing walls, basic carpentry work, painting large areas of walls, tedious computer work, dealing with the public and fund raising, to name just a small number of chores. These are jobs for which museum workers at the Butler and McDonough are highly paid.

And the efforts of Art Youngstown have borne fruit. So many unrecognised artists who cold not break into the local art venues were given the opportunity to show their work and build their resumes. Many of these artists made dramatic sales which they ploughed back into their art businesses.

The Inaugural Exhibition brought nearly one thousand people downtown on opening night. These people then visited the clubs and the restaurants after the opening. Art Youngstown has been creating a great deal of positive energy and good will amongst the Youngstown residents as well.

What was most impressive to me was the DEMAND by the public for original art. I saw a few incidents that almost amounted to conflict between art buyers over pieces for sale at the first Art Youngstown event. Those naysayers who constantly chant "You Can't Make Money Selling Art In Youngstown" really need to get out more and experience the reality of the art business in this city.

Art Youngstown is doing things right as well. On staff they have a Certified Public Accountant who handles the finances and a Lawyer who handles the contracts and legal matters. Two of the younger staff members are very skilled in promotion and Internet Technologies.

Artists, business owners and public, please respect and support At Youngstown. They have made the downtown a better place and you are directly benefiting from their presence.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Corrections

Thanks readers for the corrections. I spend alot of time out and about gathering information and talking to people . This often occurs over loud music in clubs and over staticky cell phones. People are often in a hurry and I am also reaching into the depths of my memory for information that was stored decades ago. Sometimes seemingly trustworthy sources turn out to be unreliable, though good intentioned.
If you disagree with what I am writing for any reason whatsoever, please send me an email or publish a post of correction. I will publish almost anything as long as it is not graphically obscene etc.

Disclaimer

Please note that I Do Not Belong to any Youngstown art organizations nor am I a board member of these organizations. I speak for myself and I Do Not Represent Art Youngstown, The Oakland or any others. I remain independent so that I can be free to speak my mind without interfering with the progress of these organizations.

Art Youngstown-Great Room Show

Dylan Weaver, my favorite Youngstown Artist.


Timmy, you need to wear that suit out more often!






I had no idea you could play, Mr. Terlecki. A True Renaissance Man.
Rock on Art Youngstown! The large, live potted palms were a very nice touch. The Music was great as were the professional ballroom dance demonstrations. The event was like one of those wonderful dreams but I didn't wake up. When it was all over I stepped outside into the misty night. The city was full of night life with people hanging on the corners outside the restaurants and clubs and the traffic pouring from the convocation center. This is how it's suppose to be. We are a REAL CITY.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Success is the Problem

Lately I have approached several of the Old School Artists about rebuilding the downtown art community. Aside from the fact that they are a bit pissed at me for opening old wounds etc. they have responded with statements like" Even if I was interested in helping out downtown I don't have the time or energy!"
One artist was laboring over complex preliminary drawings for a massive mural to be painted in an area mansion. The project will take 3 months to complete and the fee will fully fund her life and career for at least 6 months. This artist will also be hiring at least one other professional artist to assist.
Another artist explained that the demand for his work is so great that he is backlogged for about a year. This situation is common among the professional artists working in the Valley.
Because of Spring Break, others are jetting off to art Meccas around the world such as New York City and Rome and the last thing on their mind was Youngstown.
However, after a bit of cajoling, cooing softly in their ears ,offering back massages and promises of dinner at Armando's on me, several of them actually offered to help......to be continued..........

WOW!!!!!

Tonite, while driving home from a jam packed BW3's I passed the nearly completed Youngstown Business Incubator addition that will house Turning Technologies . It was snowing and dark outside but Man o Man that place was a glowing jewel. Like something right off the Gold Coast of Chicago or in the best 'hoods of Lower Manhattan. I was momentarily stunned: was I dreaming? It has got to be the most beautiful of the new buildings downtown by far.
Thanks YBI for the new downtown treasure!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Yo' Daddy's Cartoons








Well, what can I say. This new show at the Butler is controversial. Despite my love of Warner Brothers cartoons, this show has weirded me out a bit, in ways I am not sure I understand. Above are just 4 out of the 60+ original preliminary drawings, paintings and cells on display through May 18th.
There is also a CD playing of songs from the cartoons on the intercom and cartoons being show in the gallery and on the large screen in the coat room. Probably one of the few times you can bring small children to the museum and have them occupied. Hmmm. On second thought, maybe you don't want the young impressionable minds of your children absorbing these images?!

"Euros Only" Response

Since the "Euros Only" post I have been receiving emails from literally all over the world. It is amazing how many Youngstowners live in places as far away as China.

The most involved emails have come from Anthony, former Youngstown Artist, who now lives in sunny Italy. He brings up the extreme differences between the European and American cultural expectations of art and how this affects desirability of Youngstown art in international markets. He mentions the concept of marketing artists rather than their work. Koons and Hearst are examples he uses.

In earlier emails he talks about the extreme divide between the wealthy and poor in Italy and that the cradle of Western Art is not the comfy bed of roses we imagine it to be. Some of Anthony's ideas and commentary are a bit over my head. There is a reason why he is in lovely Italy with a beautiful girlfriend, living his dream while I am lurking about in the dark and rain of a cold Youngstown March. Dumb it down a little, would ya Tony?
Miriam, who has spent many years in Germany, made the suggestion that we should concentrate on mid size German cities such as Hanover versus the major cities such as Hamburg where professional European artist are firmly entrenched and who would offer stiff competition for newcomers. She also suggests targeting the middle class versus the wealthy if we are strictly interested in sales of work that would fall into a "decorative" category....Thanks..More to come....

Monday, March 17, 2008

Who IS This Guy?!

Not long ago I took serious issue with Phil Kidd over an art related subject. Baby, I was mad for a million reasons. I decided to confront him. A long time ago an old Drill Sargent once told me, "You never really know a man unless you've fought him in battle". Wait a minute. Maybe that was John Wayne in "The Green Berets". Anyway, I charged into this Youngstown Throwdown with my Kung-Fu cranked to "Hi-Fi", both me Gats blazin', and Kelly Pavlik on my mind (all via e-mail, of course).

In the heat of battle, with our emails raining down like Katusha Rockets, I came to realize that this guy is diplomatic, professional, fair, patient, and Damn It, sensitive, because I think I just hurt his feelings.

Needless to say we sorted things out but the situation got me to thinking. Phil, doing all that he does in the downtown, is fighting the same thankless, demoralizing battles that we Old School Youngstown Artists fought many a year ago. He is one of the fresh soldiers to take the battlefield. One thing I noticed about Phil is that he has attended nearly every Art and Cultural event offered in the downtown. In all fairness he attends more than most of us art supporters. He is ALWAYS a presence at the Oakland and Art Youngstown events and he donates a lot of his Defend Youngstown apparel to cultural fundraisers.

The Zero Tolerance Policy, initially disdained by so many Youngstowners, has now brought much hope and safety to many neighborhoods. Recently I heard a young, streetwise, tough, anti-establishment artist from the South Side vehemently defending this policy. Knowing this person as I do, I was very surprised to hear this. As we all know Mr. Kidd had a hand in the creation and implementation of Zero Tolerance in Youngstown.

Old Schoolers, we need to recognize all the young people who are doing their best to promote this city and breath new life into the downtown cultural scene. I have seen so many of them selflessly donating their time, money and skills to save this city just as we have done. We could certainly teach them a thing or two and we absolutely need the boost of hope, idealism, and promise that they offer.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

GOOD NEWS (for a bit of a change)

Within a quarter mile of downtown Youngstown, there are tens of thousands of square feet of studio space, gallery space, printing presses, print drawers, kilns, potters wheels, easels, foundry equipment, welding equipment, dark room equipment, shelving, film equipment, computers and related equipment, and art supplies sitting idle, waiting to be put into use.
This was all purchased by artists who were investing in the art community in the early and late nineties. We all saw the end coming for the downtown art scene so several artists and art supporters purchased buildings and equipment to rebuild the art community within close proximity of the downtown.
But because of the criminal activity of the late 90's and early 00's (see #3 INFILTRATION) these investors became fearful and rather than risk their investments and reputations, they halted their endeavors.
In addition to these resources there are tens of thousands of dollars sitting in private trusts, handled by downtown banks, that are designated for art organizations and endeavors. This money, to a small extent, is distributed every year to local cultural organizations. However, the people in charge of these trusts are also fearful of this money going to disreputable endeavors so they are very tight with it. I believe this money can be freed up substantially for downtown related arts organizations. Recently I was helpful in getting some of this money into the hands of a downtown organization for an art gallery.
I promise you this: If we as artists can recover and maintain our reputations as responsible and reputable people, if we can rid ourselves of the small number of crooks poisoning our art community, all of the above will be ours in a years time. But let me stress: Time is Definitely Running Out! The buildings with the studios and galleries are tentatively up for sale.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

#3 INFILTRATION: Puppets and Whores

By the late 90's the Youngstown art scene was fragmented and isolated but holding its own in a meager, bleak sort of way. The successful artists were living and working here but developing their careers outside of the area. At this time I was showing my work at galleries in Cleveland and New York City.

It was about this time that I noticed and influx of people who labeled themselves as artists and involved themselves in the various art communities and organizations in Youngstown. They were very aggressive in their politicking and self promotion, yet they seemed to create little or no artwork. After a time it became apparent that these people were predominantly drug dealers and criminals who were using the art community as a cover for their illegal activities. At some point they began attempting to recruit legitimate artists as front men and promoters. Artists are known for their integrity and Virtually No Artists Took Them Up On Their Offers. At one point I was offered 30 thousand dollars a year, cash, to work 15 hours a week in an illegal drug distribution operation. This offer came from someone higher up in one of the local crime rings. I suppose I should have been flattered but I turned him down.

Eventually a very small handful of lesser grade artists took these people up on their offers. Once this occurred these crime rings became incredibly aggressive and through their artist puppets began a campaign of manipulation and oppression. We came to realize that these criminals were closely associated with some of the influential people from downtown. Our worst nightmares were revisiting us. Many of the puppets and pseudo artists were installed in various businesses and organizations in Youngstown and began to control resources, monies and opportunities that the legitimate artists were depending upon. It became general knowledge among the artists that you either played ball with these people or you were completely shut out. We suffered such things slander, damage to our property, threats, car thefts, illegal surveillance, severe damage to our reputations, identity theft and robberies to name a few. When I began to speak out against these groups, my car was shot twice at the driver's side door handle so that every time I entered my car I would be reminded to keep quiet.

Propaganda was something that these criminals and puppets used to their fullest advantage. In order to keep control and preserve their financial interests,they promoted messages through various organizations and businesses such as" The Youngstown Art community is a Failure", "You Can't Make Money from Art Sales", "Artists are Starving", "Artists are Creeps and Perverts(except for us puppets)" "Everyone Hates Artists (but us puppets are cool)" , " Artists are Criminals (except for us honest puppets)", "Artists are a Danger to this Community (Us puppets will save you)", "Artists are Anti-Religion (but us puppets are God fearing)" and other such messages of fear and defeat.


Then by the Grace of God, the massive FBI and DEA Sweeps of 2003-04 hit the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys like a tsunami and many of these people were indicted and imprisoned. Dozens more fled the region.

Today the Youngstown Art Community is regaining its strength but there are still problems. Organized crime persists in America because its systems are efficient, basic, applicable and easily taught to others, no matter how stupid or ignorant they might be. There is still a handful of people who hold their positions in various organizations and businesses in town since their installation by the criminals of the late 90's. They continue to use their techniques of propaganda and oppression to influence our art community as they are still financially benefiting from the oppression that they are propagating. We MUST get rid of them if our art community is to be fruitful and healthy.

Friday, March 14, 2008

#2 Pain and Fragmentation

During this time of the Expulsion of the artist from the downtown, many artists were badly affected emotionally, mentally and economically. Even the artists who didn't live or work downtown were greatly disturbed by seeing their downtown peers oppressed.Among several of them I began to see signs of post traumatic stress. At that time I sought therapy and was told I was suffering from PTSD due in part to what I had experienced downtown.

Many of the artist (who did not have the resources I had) never sought treatment and still suffer today from the effects of the violence and oppression brought against them. As things progress downtown I have been urging them to be a part of the activity but it is difficult for them to hear me. Talking with them about the downtown brings back so many memories of oppression and loss. Many have told me that if they get involved and we start rebuilding the downtown art community, the city will destroy it once again.

Previously the downtown art community served as a major networking point for artists from all over the Valley. People from the University, the Butler, the Bakery and the Mattress Factory all met there to socialize and handle business. Remember, there was no Internet at the time and the downtown community served some of the same networking and information dissemination functions as the Internet does today. We had an amazing interaction from all areas of the arts including music, dance and theater .

With the downtown community gone, the Butler's influence faded dramatically, and the Bakery and the Mattress Factory went their own separate ways. Bliss Hall offered some help, shelter and networking but this was all under the stifling umbrella of conservative academia. In an era before the massive and rapid distribution of information via the Internet, each community became severely isolated. Consequently, The bitterness, suspicion and fear planted by the downtown politicians put down solid roots.

Despite these circumstances, the people of the Valley still demanded the services and influences of the art community, yet the working artists were unable to meet these demands, at least at the previous level of the former downtown art scene.

This situation created vacuums, especially in the area of art management and business, and unfortunately was ripe for corruption and exploitation...To be continued.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

#1 A Very Bad Place to Start

I arrived in Youngstown in the late 80's and found a thriving art community developing in the downtown. Located between Dutton's Alley and West Federal Street, it boasted 10 or more working studios and a 2 or more art galleries. Local dignitaries such as Al Bright kept his studio there. Nearly every weekend during the warmer months we had cookouts and parties in which dozens and sometimes hundreds of people turned out. This was one of the safest places in the city at that time and young people from Poland, Canfield came to hang with the blessing of their parents.
The highlights were Halloween and Christmas parties sponsored by a certain Mr. Pergande in his leased 2 story building. These were lavish events that literally defy description. I could only use words like grandeur, splendor, mystery, and the like but these still couldn't capture the experience. These parties were so successful and gained such a reputation that we were drawing hundreds of guests from as far away as New York City. It was truly an honor and privilege to be a part of these events.
To top it all off, we were all making money from art sales. I mean lots of it. Even as a young buck at the time, I was pulling in 2 thousand dollars a month during the Christmas and tax seasons because these events alone. The more experienced artists were making much, much more.
One of our major activities was the preservation of historic buildings in the downtown. We organised protests at City Hall and at demolition sites. This ruffled some feathers to say the least. Eventually the City and several mega businesses downtown decided they needed more parking and that the Dutton's Alley Art Community had to go. They set a date and began trying to evict the artist but were met with fierce resistance as we had access to money and the influence of the wealthier members of the greater community. Things eventually became very ugly with the city and these mega businesses slandering us, illegally shutting off utilities. issuing illegal parking tickets and culminating with the horrible physical beating of one of the artists by thugs directly associated with one of the downtown politicians. This artist was nearly permanently blinded because of the assault. We fought against these people for several years ( some of them were known Mafiosos who eventually did hard time because of FBI indictments of the late nineties). In my opinion it was a stalemate as the buildings slated for demolition stood for years after, only to be recently torn down for YBI expansion.
We artist had to leave however. We were wounded and fragmented as a community after years of fighting this truly good fight. Unfortunately this was where our real troubles began. To be continued.....

Unite or Die

Over the past 6 months I have been getting very bitter about the lack of progress in our Youngstown art community, specifically in the Downtown. We have been presented with so many opportunities of late yet none of them seem to come to fruition. The ones that manage to gain a foothold and survive don't seem to be very healthy.
Over the years I have been involved with many art and cultural organizations. Some of these include Fourth World(Cleveland), Cleveland Independent Art, Spaces(Cleveland), Art without Walls (New York,NY), Ohio Arts Council(Columbus), Wayne Center for the Arts (Wooster), Valley Art Guild(Sharon), Trumbull Art Guild(Warren), Outreach Gallery (Warren), Artist of the Mahoning Commons(Youngstown), The Oakland Center for the Arts (Youngstown), TipTop Gallery (Youngstown), the Pergande Gallery(Youngstown) and Art Youngstown Inc..
I have worked professionally for the Butler as a subcontractor, a volunteer and in Security. I also worked professionally at the McDonough Museum of Art as Exhibition Assistant while a student, and as Exhibition Preparator (Head Curator) and Artist in Residence after graduation.
Last Night I became so bitter and distraught of the current status of the art community as it relates to the downtown that I was just about to give up. I decided, however, to use this blog to give it one last shot at improving our artistic life in this city.
I am going to be as diplomatic as possible but I am not going to pull any punches. I would imagine some of you(even my friends) are going to be irritated by what I have to say in the upcoming posts.
We absolutely Need To Make Changes. The downtown is growing and we risk being cut out of innumerable opportunities. Art Youngstown has made abundantly clear that we as artist are absolutely needed downtown but if we fail we only have ourselves to blame.

RITA! What a Lady!

RITA is the state agency hired by the city of Youngstown to collect city taxes from those who work and do business within the city limits. Nearly everyone I know resents RITA and the city for collecting these taxes. Personally I don't resent paying my city taxes and I am glad that RITA has made it easy for me as a subcontractor to pay these taxes. I get a nice notice in the mail, a brief formula for figuring what I owe and a convenient place downtown to pay in cash if I desire.
I receive so many benefits from the city that at times I am actually glad to pay. These days so many organizations get a chunk of my money, including the Church and various art and cultural organizations, that I figure I am paying my dues to be a part of a club of 85,000 members. Consider what you are getting for your money: great location in the state, great inner city parks, a convocation center, impressive downtown events to name just a few. So take my advice: pay it, shut up and enjoy the city.

Great Art Youngstown!

The Ohio One Building
The entry to The Great Room.


Again Art Youngstown is having what promises to be a great show. How could it be otherwise in a venue known as The Great Room?
This fantastic space is 5 thousand square feet , has 25 foot high ceilings and is completely decorated in heavy wood work to nearly the ceiling. There are even hand carved wood griffins above the entry. The lighting is seductive and warm and the space is an incredible place to display original art. If you have never seen the Great Room in the Ohio One building this is your chance to enjoy the splendor and grandeur of Old Youngstown.
The show opens Friday, March 14th from 7:00pm until 10:30pm. Afterwards take in the sites, sounds and nightlife of downtown Youngstown. Plenty of establishments will be open for your drinking, dining and music pleasures.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

EUROS ONLY !

Lately we have been bombarded with news of impending recession and if we are lucky recession is all we will have to face.

As an artist this news doesn't concern me as it does many Americans. The personal economy of artists and the economy of the Fine Arts in general don't necessarily hinge on the economic state of Middle Class America. Traditionally the driving economic force behind the arts has been the wealthy. In fact, when the overall economy is suffering, this often means that the wealthy have more money, resources and power than ever. For example, I never hear complaints about high fuel prices from my wealthy friends who heavily invest in Gas and Oil. Strangely though, I am beginning to hear complaints from the wealthy about the high cost of Manhattan and European Fine Art and Antiques.

The American Dollar continues to fall like so many dead leaves from Autumn trees and a cold winter wind is blowing. The Euro however is rocketing into prominence like a 4th of July firework. Many reports are coming out of Manhattan stating that Europeans are spending Euros like mad on American Art and Antiques, because of their currency's strength against the feeble Dollar. In fact signs saying "Euros Only" are appearing in gallery windows.

This is putting American Collectors into a tough position. Collecting Art by the wealthy is much more than an obsession: it is also an investment, and the general rule for collecting for investment is "Buy the Best". Well, the Europeans are buying most of the best, leaving American collectors to fight over the scraps. In addition, it is no longer lucrative for art and antique dealers to import from Europe, and American collectors no longer have easy access to these valuable investments.
Now American Art Collectors are turning to contemporary, regional, American Artists to fulfill their collecting and investing desires.

To reiterate what I have been saying in this blog, we have a tremendous resource in the artists of our Valley. Many of us have been selling our work to those very collectors for years now. We can easily tap into the National and International Art Markets in a much more profound way if we can work together and get REAL support from the powers within our community.

Here is a list of things I would like to accomplish in the next 6 months: Create a stronger unity amongst Valley artists, Use this unity to promote Valley art nationally and internationally, establish strong contacts with European collectors, and establish Youngstown in the Manhattan and European mindset as a Cultural Mecca. To help assist in accomplishing these goals I would be happy to hold meetings to discuss and formulate plans. Email me: Artbake777(at)aol.com.

The above was written from my intellect. Now let me speak from my spirit:

Youngstown, here is another Golden Opportunity laid at your feet. Will you ignore it like you have so many other opportunities over the past 30 years? Are you still blinded by ignorance and pain? So much so that you won't care for the Geese laying the Golden Eggs?
Many years ago when I arrived In Youngstown, I felt God (the Ultimate Artist) himself lead me here, and over the years encouraged me to stay to help keep a cultural light burning in a dark place. Now I feel as though time might be ending for myself and most other artists here, due mainly to the many years of disrespect directed at us by local leaders and others. Currently, in my heart I am very troubled. To quote Jesus from the Book of Luke, Chapter 10 verses 10-12:

"Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say: 'The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you'. Yet know this: the Kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town".

Some of the Holiest, Wisest, Most Compassionate people in this town are the Artists.
Don't ever forget that Youngstown.

Blogging is how I spend my leisure time.

Thanks, Cedarwannabee for the comment and sorry I didn't get it published sooner. This blogging business is still new to me and I've been incredibly busy of late.
As for you Anonymous and your lengthy comments, I have to say that I can't publish anything that doesn't relate directly to the subject matter of this blog or the comments of the readers. Your ideas are legitimate and compelling and I enjoy reading them. My repeated suggestion is that you start your own blog. You seem to have the time and energy and me and others would make it a point to follow your work. I am certain that you would get a strong following as your writing is timely and important.