Sabra Crockett, The Comeback Kid. Acrylic on canvas, 42 x 42 inches
Born a Yankee, and wandering through the South, Sabra finally found her home in Louisville, Kentucky with all the beautiful song birds surrounding her, and the most spectacular variety of trees she could possibly hope for.
"I am fascinated by the tragic beauty of nature. There is a secret language to it that I am still trying to decipher. It is a feeling I get when observing the birds, animals, and trees around me. The feeling that I am experiencing something that is so familiar, and yet so extraordinary. The art of survival, I suppose. I see the struggles, the triumphs, the perseverance, and the failures. I feel a connection to it all. I find my humanness in nature." -Sabra Lynne Crockett
BFA Rochester Institute of Technology
2022 Meadows Gallery at Masonic Temple Home Louisville, KY
Eastern branch Public Library, Lexington, KY
Birdwatching, The Art Center of the Bluegrass, Danville, KY
2021 The Education of Desire, Kore Gallery, Louisville KY
2021 Black and White Show, Kore Gallery, Louisville, KY
For the Birds?, Portland Museum, Louisville, KY
2020 Homage, Manifest Gallery, Cincinnati OH
Birdsong, Lark and Key Gallery, Charlotte, NC
Bird, Nest, Nature, Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, CA
Ave Aves, Surface Noise, Louisville, KY
2019 PRBTN 19, Loudon House, Lexington, KY
Mix It Up, New Editions Gallery, Lexington, KY
The Future Is Now, Gallery 841, Louisville, KY
Reveal, Kentucky Artisan Center, Berea KY
Kentucky Wildlife, The Living Arts and Science Center, Lexington KY
Years of Chaos- Issues that are Destroying Us, Kore Gallery, Louisville KY
2018 The Modern Prometheus, Louisville Free Public Library, Louisville KY
Family Dynasties, Masonic Temple Home, Louisville, KY
Art Sanctuary Selected Member Exhibit, Consider Boutique, Louisville KY
SALON 2018, De Harmonie, Leeuwarden NE
2017 Duplicity, Gallery JAAN, Louisville KY
Open Studio Weekend Juried Exhibition, Cressman Center, Louisville KY
SALON 2017, High School of Art and Design, NYC, NY
Gridworks Revisited, New Editions Gallery, Lexington KY
2016 Holiday Exhibition, Downtown Pilates, Louisville KY
2016- present Art Sanctuary Annual Member Exhibit, Art Sanctuary, Louisville KY
Unmasked exhibition, Louisville Visual Art, Louisville KY
2013 Silver and Gold, Art from the Heart Gallery, Louisville KY
2018 Mystic, and Come Dance With Me, located on exterior doors, Alley Gallery, Louisville KY
2017 5710 New Cut Road Mural, Auburndale Neighborhood, Louisville KY
2015 Gallopalooza Horse, commissioned by LG&E, Louisville KY
2014 BANA Mural, I-264 underpass and Bardstown Rd, Louisville KY
I Am I Can I Will I Dream Tree, Parkland Community Gardens, Louisville KY
Jefferson Development Group
Rabbit Hole Distillery
Belle Noble Entertainment Group
2019 Alyson Standfield, Why Putting your Plan on Paper Matters, Art Biz Success blog
Keith Waits, Only the Strong Survive, Arts Louisville
2018 Britany Baker, An Artist Abroad, The Voice Tribune
2017 Keith Waits, Vignette: Sabra Crockett, LVA Artebella
2016 Eli Keel, Artist Sabra Crockett, “Speaks for the Trees” In Two New Exhibitions, Insider Louisville
2015 Jolea Brown, The Artist: Sabra Crockett, N Focus Magazine
2014 Sabra Crockett, Editorial: Public Art Is a Necessity, Arts-Louisville.com
RADIO and TV
2018 Jo Ann Triplet, “Leo podcast #66”, Leo Weekly
2017 Louisville Metro TV
WHAS Great Day Live, New Cut Road Mural
2018 Professional Development Grant Award, Great Meadows Foundation.
2017 Professional Development Grant Award, Great Meadows Foundation
2019 International SWAN Day, Downtown Louisville Free Public Library, Louisville KY
2018 New Cut Road Mural- My Journey into Creating Public Art, the Little Loom House, Louisville KY
2014, 2015, 2018, 2019 Career Day Speaker, Highland Middle School, Louisville KY
10 Questions with Sabra Crockett
- Outside of art, what hobbies do you have or how do you like to spend your free time?
So, I just went paddleboarding for the first time last month, and I am in love! I used to be a huge camper and outdoor person when I was younger. I grew up near Lake Ontario, and went to the Adirondacks frequently for hiking, canoeing, and climbing. Paddleboarding brought me back to that world of being on the water, the strength and endurance of canoeing, and the leisure of laying out and soaking up the sun's rays. When I have time, I also love to dance. I grew up in the hardcore and punk shows of Rochester, and I also was a club kid. I find dancing to be cathartic, and a great way to get some pent-up emotions out. Of course, I do a lot of bird watching when I can.
- What do you like to listen to while working in your studio?
Oh my, it really runs the gamut. It can range from Bikini Kill to Gorecki, to DJ Minx. Slow core, Goth, Industrial, House music, Afro pop, 1st wave ska, I mean whatever really connects with me at that point. Sometimes I'll just listen to binaural beats if I just need to really focus.
- Do you have any pets?
Two cats, Hera and Phoebe. Hera sleeps by my side every night. She's my little familiar. Phoebe is sweet too, but has adopted my son, Kai. Phoebe and Hera both grew up in the same litter but are not birth sisters. As a kitten, Phoebe was saved by a kind person that found her in a garbage can, and she was raised by Hera's mom. We've had both of them for 13 years.
- Do you have a personal motto, mantra, or philosophy on life?
I just learned about the term sIsu, which I believe is a Finnish philosophy that believes in the perseverance of living through life even in times of adversity. It's about grit. When I was young, I was told not to give up. Plus, I have a natural tenacity that has gotten me through some pretty tough times. I also believe in the power of positivity. I wasn't really given a lot of encouragement to be an artist from family and friends, but I knew that that is what I wanted to do by the time I was five. So, having people tell me that I would fail at an early age made me dig deeper into myself, and I really had to learn to believe in my abilities. I never thought I was the best artist, I don't even know what that definition would be when I think about it. I guess I saw kids in college thinking they were the best and told that they were the best by their peers and family members. Then coming to college, they seemed to get a wakeup call. It messed with their sense of self. I never had that. I was never the best at anything I did. However, just knowing that I wasn't the best pushed me to strive, to experiment, to continue learning. I am constantly learning, and I wouldn't want it any other way. I've been able to make art as a living for over 25 years now, and I have so many people wanting advice on how to do it. I guess I would say a fierce belief in yourself, and what you are doing. Also, make your mission bigger than about just your survival. Extend a sense of bettering the world around you in every action you do, even just by being kind and showing compassion. It truly can change things.
- What is one skill would you like to master?
Sewing/ quilting. It's a skill that runs in my family but sewing machines and I have a contentious relationship. I broke three of them in one day during Home Ec class, and the teacher gave me a thread and needle and told me to embroider something. I still have it. It was a calico cat I drew from memory.
- What was your first job?
I worked in a bakery at 14 years old. After school I would work there, and on weekends I would get up at 5:30 am, but be done at noon. I would put out all the new donuts, bagels, pastries and breads the bakers made the night before. I heard some very interesting philosophies from the bakers when I had a chance to talk to them. One baker I remember talking about ambition, and how it's better for everyone not to be so ambitious. Just to be content with what life has given you. I knew at that point that that was not my philosophy.
- Do you think dreams have hidden meanings?
Absolutely. I have deciphered dreams I have had years ago by sharing them with others. I'm big into symbols, signs, and hidden communication. Sometimes the best way for me to solve a problem is to dream about it. I've had a catalog of dreams in my head since I was young. I write them down, and then go back to them sometimes.
- What is the best concert you’ve ever been to?
One of the most emotional ones was seeing Bauhaus play at House of Blues in Atlanta. One of the most enthusiastic ones was seeing the Pixies play at the Palace here in Louisville. It felt like a 45-minute standing ovation. The crowd was ecstatic! The most recent that was really great was seeing Kraftwerk play in Nashville.
- What do you think happens after death?
We all become mushrooms, and our consciousness is absorbed into the mycelial membrane which is connected to all of life. We forget ourselves. We forget our ego. Until we are absorbed into another consciousness, and the process starts again.
- What is the best advice someone has ever given you?
Celebrate something every day and be thankful for something every day.
“There seems to be a vacuous spiritual sense in our society.” — Sabra Crockett
Artist, Sabra Crockett
Artists have painted nature and animals since the cave paintings at Lascaux, France. Those early renderings are documents of time: season by season, lifetime by lifetime, they are the first recorded history; but over the ages of time artists moved away from sociology and began capturing the complex beauty of other species as a means of expressing a reverence for nature. Art was also used to recognize the divine, and the natural world was often where they found it.
These paintings by Sabra Crockett are well-observed studies of specific birds, but they are placed in specific, idiosyncratic visual context for the purpose of conjuring a spiritual connection. The artist explains:
“My goal is to be a mechanism for shifting people's awareness towards nature. I believe that we have become disassociated with nature, therefore becoming disassociated with ourselves. There seems to be a vacuous spiritual sense in our society. Religion has become a sense of identity, rather than a transcendent self-discovery, and tuning into the higher self. Personally, connecting with nature has always been my way of connecting to the divine. Now I feel that our beautiful parks, wildlife, and habitats are being threatened even more. It feels like an assault these days. So I focus on imagery for people to create a connection with our natural world in hopes there will be a connection within themselves.”
In January 2017, Crockett was a recipient of a Great Meadows Foundation Professional Development Grant, and currently is a participant in Gridworks Revisited, Lexington, KY. She will open a solo show on March 31 at Downtown Pilates, Louisville, KY, and will be included in SALON International, in New York City April 12 -16. Summer will bring exhibits at Dragon King's Daughter in May, and at Evolving Gallery in June, both in Louisville.
Hometown: Rochester, New York
Education: BFA, Rochester Institute of Technology
Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.
Sabra L. Crockett: artist, business owner and totally GenX. Photo by Jolea Brown Anderson, Creative Photography
In this first post of our Generation X-pert series, I am pleased to introduce you to Sabra L. Crockett. Currently, Sabra is the owner of Sabra Lynne Decorative Painting, LLC in Louisville, KY, but I remember her as one of the most creative and artistic students of the Class of ’91 at Webster High School. She’s totally GenX, and I had the opportunity to pick her brain about how generations interact in the art world, giving constructive feedback to artistic Millennials and raising Gen Z kids. After spending some time reminiscing about our favorite ’80s music, we got down to business. Part One of our conversation follows, edited for clarity.
GenX Manager: If anyone told me that after high school I would be video conferencing with you about Generation X stuff I’d think, “Hmm..sounds right. ”. So this is great–thank you.
Let me piece together what I know about 2017 Sabra: you are an artist in Louisville, KY and have two sons?
Sabra Crockett: I do. I have two boys; a 15-year-old and an 11-year-old.
GXM: And I have a daughter that just turned 16.
GXM: I think what blows my mind is I remember our teen years so vividly. And when I try to explain to my daughter what it was like being a teenager in the 80s, it’s the GenX version of ‘we walked 5 miles to school in the snow uphill’ speech: “We didn’t have Hot Topic. We didn’t have Manic Panic. If you wore a band tee it’s because you were at the show and we dyed our hair with Kool-aid.”
SC: My husband kept all his band tees. I’m going to make a quilt.
GXM: And you’re GenX like me, but your parents weren’t Boomers. They were actually a bit older—the Silent Generation. How did that influence you?
SC: Yes, they grew up during the Depression. Everything was saved. Everything was an investment. Nothing was ever thrown away or wasted. You used something until you could not use it anymore. And you worked really hard and earned everything. Nothing was ever given to you freely. There always had to be some form of labor or achievement that you had to create or accomplish.
GXM: That’s really interesting. So when you were growing up, and when you were a young adult, did you feel you were different from your peers in that way?
SC. Yeah absolutely. I know a lot of my friends who just automatically got cars when they were young and were helped out a lot more by their parents. And my parents were like, “Nope”. But that sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency that I was able to have really helped me as an artist and as a self-employed person. On the other hand…it can be a hindrance in a way because I am soindependent and autonomous, it can sometimes be hard to work in a group and collaborate. And I do find that working with Millennials, they really want to collaborate. But I’m like ‘OK give me a task, let me go do it now and do it right’.
GXM: So very GenX.
Let’s talk about your career—I know you are working in the arts, which is fantastic and totally what I would have expected from one of Webster High School’s Class of ’91 ‘Most Artistic’. What was your path?
SC: After high school, I really wanted to go to school at the Art Institute of Chicago. And I was accepted and I really thought I was going to go and my parents said, “We can’t afford it.” So I had to figure out where I was going to go to school in like, a week. So I went to what was then Beaver College (now Arcadia College) in Pennsylvania to study Fine Arts, but I was only there for one year. Loved Philly, but I came back home and got my Bachelor’s from RIT. Graduating early, I was ready to give up, get a “regular” job and make some money and not do art. Then I got a call from the RIT placement office about a position for a Scenic Artist at a local theater. I said, “What’s a Scenic Artist?” and they said, “We don’t know, go find out”. So I applied and I got the job. That was amazing because that was a time where I was able to use my artistic ability to actually have a job and make money.
I was there for a year. Then I moved down to Montgomery, Alabama to be a Scenic Artist at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. And that was an absolutely incredible experience. I knew nobody in Montgomery. I moved there by myself with my little kitten and my Toyota Corolla full of stuff, but no furniture.
I got there and it was amazing. There were props artisans from all over the country, really talented costume designers. I got to meet August Wilson. It was an incredible experience. Then my husband, who is also from Rochester, got a job in Montgomery and we were there for six years. And I was getting to a point with theatre where I felt like I hit a plateau and couldn’t learn a lot more. And while I was working in the theater on the weekends, I had my own little side business doing murals and faux finishes for restaurants and private homes as well as working with an antique dealer.
So when I had my son–I think it was our first year anniversary–I said ‘I think I’m going to start my own business. I think I’m going to go out and do that because I kind of need more flexibility’. And I couldn’t do theater and a side job and take care of my child. So I decided to go out on my own. And it was terrifying. But I was able to do it for a while and then we moved to Louisville, KY.
I was really lucky–I got in with the top designers. And the thing with Louisville is they love new people. It’s a very interesting city to live in. I have lived here for 14 years now and it is a culturally emerging city.
GXM: That’s my understanding too—it’s something of a hot spot right now.
SC: It’s an incredible city, and there is a lot of support for the arts. All types too– performing arts, visual arts. I’ve established great relationships and made lots of friends. I have found a home in Louisville.
GXM: What has been your experience with working with other generations in the art world—Millennials in particular? You mentioned internship programs you were involved with.
SC: Yes, I started an internship program with a local college here and worked with interns throughout my career as a scenic artist. Giving feedback has been interesting—both as a Northerner and as a GenX-er.
GXM: You’ve got kind of a brutal honesty double whammy there.
SC: Right! I had to really figure out what the Millennial value systems were and what worked well for them. And what I’ve noticed is they need a lot of encouragement, a lot of positive feedback. So if I softened my approach, I questioned if my feedback was going to be effective or taken seriously. With Millennials, I’ve had to be very patient, very encouraging, and above all—be a really good listener. I find that being a really good listener helps in all aspects of dealing with any generation. And communication is absolutely key.
I have noticed that Millennials like to text more, and I have no problem with that. I like that. In my role as gallery director for a nonprofit organization, I deal with all kinds of generations. I was working with a gentleman from the Greatest Generation who was very clear: “I don’t do email. You can either call me or you can write me a letter.” The Boomers I deal with seem to like email more.
GXM: What kind of generational issues have you observed in the art world, and as an artist yourself? Are there keen differences?
SC: Boomers seem to equate art with status. For a lot of Boomers working to establish themselves, having a big house and a fancy car, was very important. And most of my clients that I work with in private homes–doing murals and finishes—tend to be from that generation. So for them, it’s a status symbol—a beautiful work of art they can show off to friends.
Millennials, not so much. For them, I think it’s more about individuality. And I can appreciate that as a GenX-er, because we value our individuality as well.
Tune in next week for Part 2 of my conversation with Sabra and get her take on GenX’s defining moments, what it’s like to be a GenX artist, business owner and mother, and what advice she has for people who want to have a career in art. Catch the exciting conclusion right here!
Sabra L. Crockett: artist, business owner and totally GenX. Photo by Jolea Brown Anderson, Creative Photography
This week is Part Two of our Generation X-pert conversation with Sabra Crockett, owner of Sabra Lynne Decorative Painting, LLC in Louisville, KY. (You can check out Part One here). Let’s jump right back in.
GenX Manager: You spoke about giving feedback to Millennials and how you have to be mindful of how it might be received. Does it take it up a notch when you are critiquing someone’s art, something that can be so personal?
Sabra Crockett: Excellent point. I know that there are artists from all generations that really take their art so much more personally than I do. And I think it’s because of my background as a scenic artist. My art was never “my art”. It was the designer’s art. It was the director’s art. It was the audience’s art.
So I never had that preciousness with my art, and I have been able to detach myself, to an extent, from my art—and that’s important. I do recall how much more personally Millennials took feedback, and I thought maybe it was just because they were younger. But it also might be because of the encouragement that they had from their parents. “You’re wonderful! What you do is great!”
I never really had that. My parents tried to get me to move away from art, and I put my foot down. I said, “Look I’m going to be an artist. There’s nothing you can do about it. I’m going to school and I’ll figure out a way to make money.” Because they were right to be concerned about that, of course. I know as a parent I’m concerned about that as well too, to a degree.
GXM: There’s that GenX independence. Let me ask you–because I am hearing a lot of GenX influence in your story—what comes to mind for you when you think of Generation X? Did you have an affinity towards that label growing up? Do you have it now?
“We (GenX) were labeled as slackers, negative, cynical…a little anti-establishment.”–Sabra Crockett
SC: I do. We were labeled as slackers, negative, cynical…a little anti-establishment. But really we were pragmatic. I do have an affinity for Generation X because the people that I grew up with were so damn smart. They were so politically engaged and aware, and they cared. But it wasn’t “hippy dippy” (really we were so anti-hippy dippy). We were all about love and peace too, just with an edge.
We were very passionate about causes. I remember being in PETA at Arcadia College and getting the college to stop experimenting on mice. I remember writing letters to corporations encouraging them to end those inhumane practices. We really wanted to make a difference. We took a responsibility for our actions and our future because nobody else was going to take care of us. We got that message a lot. I felt that we really had to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and take responsibility for our futures.
GXM: What comes up for you as some of the defining moments of Generation X?
SC: I think of Kurt Cobain’s death as a defining moment. Going back, Nirvana and their influence was a defining moment. I remember it was my first year in college and we all gathered around a stereo to listen to Nirvana’s album, Nevermind and we were like, “This is amazing!” Then it instantly became mainstream, so Kurt Cobain’s death hit a generation of fans pretty hard. I think our connection with media in general; the rise of MTV for example, defines GenX.
It’s so different now—the Internet has given us so much information but it seems harder to find people that you truly connect with. I remember as a kid hanging out with friends, going to their homes. And my kids Skype or text friends. They’re hanging out too—just not in person. It’s wild.
GXM: Generation Z—the true digital natives. It’s very interesting to watch this generation come of age. They are remarkably informed, and more engaged than I remember us as teenagers. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
SC: I think they have greater potential to be more informed, than us as teenagers, because of their access to digital media, and the internet. It’s really encouraging. I feel that my son’s generation is definitely more accepting of difference than our generation was. And it’s not nearly as cliquey as when we were growing up. We kind of defined ourselves by our label. I was labeled different by others at first, and didn’t find self-acceptance until I owned the label. I considered myself a ‘freak’ or a ‘punk’ by the type of music I listened to, and the culture I surrounded myself with. It’s what we called, “Alternative”, back in the day. Even if I don’t look like it now, I still consider myself that way. The alternatives took those labels, which were something negative, and built a kind of persona around that, because we weren’t accepted by mainstream society. Now my teenage son will say, “Yeah, I’m a nerd. I’m definitely a nerd.” I’ll say, “Cool. I’m glad that you’re owning that. It’s not a negative thing.” And it’s not! It’s much more accepted to be a nerd in my son’s generation. It’s also more accepted to be gay, bi, trans… My son had a friend come out in front of his classroom in the 7th grade! That was unheard of when we were kids! I’m just so absolutely encouraged by how our children are perceiving the world, and each other.
GXM: It is pretty awesome. Let me ask you this—you’ve been a working artist for nearly two decades. What advice would you give someone just starting out?
SC: I would say if you can find a “Business for Arts” class—take it! In college, they don’t teach you about how to price your work, how to generate a client list to keep in contact with, how to balance your budget or how you do your taxes. These are all things that you need to know, because the thing is, as an artist, you are a business owner. You have to treat your art “career” as a small business. And if you can find a program that can help you market and sell your art, that’s really helpful. Most importantly, if you can find a cause that is bigger than you or your art, and your art feeds into that cause, that is where you will thrive.
It’s important to be organized and to have good planning skills. This is what non-artists may not understand. I don’t go up to a wall and just start painting. There is so much planning and effort involved. I need to have a budget and a timeline. I need to create estimates so I need to understand my fair market value. And that means I have to understand what other artists are creating and selling. I don’t think people understand that you can’t be a flake if you’re going to be a successful artist. I am so appreciative of what I do, but it’s not the fun that people think it is.
Being professional is also really important. It’s important to be on time (that’s advice for Millennials specifically). If you’re given an opportunity, show that you appreciate it by being on time and being professional. Also, communication is key. For me, I like to know that my interns are engaged in the process. So ask questions, be engaged. And listen. Listen to your clients. Listen to their concerns and desires. Be empathic.
GXM: That’s really good advice. I think you’re correct about the perception that non-artists might have about the rules of engagement. They’re really not that different. It’s work, right? Thank you so much for being our first Generation X-pert.
To check out Sabra Crockett’s work, visit www.sabralynne.com.
Are you a Generation X-pert? We’re looking to interview GenX-ers about their career paths, their experience leading employees, and how their specific industry interacts with Boomers, GenX, Millennials and more as part of a series for TheGenXManager.com. Email HeidiMarcin@gmail.com for more information.
Posted by Keith Waits | Dec 11, 2014 |
The artist in front of the Bon Air mural.
Commentary by Sabra Crockett
Ed. Note: Sabra Crockett is a local artist who worked as Lead Artist on a mural located on Bardstown Road under the Watterson Expressway. It was sponsored by the Bon Air Neighborhood Association as part of a larger beautification plan that was funded by a $33,000 Metro Government grant. It was officially unveiled this past September.
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Sabra Crockett. All rights reserved
Recently, WAVE 3 news did an investigative report on the questionable spending of city funds on capital infrastructure, and used the mural located at the Watterson Expressway and Bardstown Road as an example. The reporter stated an erroneous amount of “over $30,000” for the actual cost of completion. Although, we are still awaiting some invoices to be sent in, the actual cost was closer to $12,000. I should know, since I was the project manager and lead artist on the project. However, it still angers me that the government spending money on public art is considered a waste of money. I need to make something perfectly clear: Art is not a luxury. It is a necessity, especially public art.
Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Council argues that:
“Cities gain value through public art – cultural, social, and economic value. Public art is a distinguishing part of our public history and our evolving culture. It reflects and reveals our society, (and) adds meaning to our cities and uniqueness to our communities. Public art humanizes the built environment and invigorates public spaces. It provides an intersection between past, present and future, between disciplines, and between ideas. Public art is freely accessible.”
Public art is important for everyone’s benefit. It shows that a community cares about their surroundings. It brings vibrancy to businesses and public places, draws out-of-town visitors, and inspires connections and creativity. Public art defines a city. It breaks up the creeping, homogenized blandness of so many American cities. It also creates an opportunity for the artists to become civic leaders. It can, and often times, does bring communities together, by allowing opportunities for the residents to participate in the act of making art, as well as create a sense of ownership and pride to a neighborhood. It increases awareness of not only the public space, but also how we can become a better steward and protector of that space.
People like to move to, and be a part of cities that have their own distinguishing presence. We look at, and recognize cities by their icons, like the St. Louis Arch, and the Statue of Liberty in New York City. Public art has also evolved into interactive experiences, like the hydraulophone fountain located outside the Ontario Science Center, in Ontario Canada, or Meejin Yoon’s, Light Drift, temporarily located along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where thousands of people played and transformed the installation to change the color of 90 floating neon orbs.
It also has been proven time and again how important public art is to revitalizing a city economically. One of my favorite success stories is the Community Bridge in Frederick, Maryland. A desolate concrete bridge was painted to look like an old stone bridge with the use of trompe l’oeil techniques. Thousands from all over the world come to visit this beautiful work of art every year. This project has revitalized an impoverished city, brought together a community that was racially and socio-economically divided, and spurred economic growth by developing tourism. Imagine if we had something similar to that in Louisville! In fact, according to the Louisville Fund For the Arts, the arts have a $250 million impact on this region’s economy. So when I hear that a project that I was a large part of, being attacked for wasteful spending, I have to wonder, where are our priorities?
I have been a professional artist in some form or another for nearly 20 years, working in both the public and private sectors. I have painted sets for theatres in the area, such as Actors Theatre and Stage One, as well as in New York and Alabama. I have worked in numerous private homes and businesses painting custom works of art. One of my most recent projects, a collaboration with a dear friend, Linda Erzinger, was a sculptural tree in the Parkland Community Garden located in the West End. When Linda and I were putting the finishing touches on the tree, a bus full of children along with a church counselor came up to it and started discussing it with their group. It brought them inspiration, and sparked conversation about where they stood in this community. It brought them hope for the future. That’s when I knew that this piece of public art was successful. I feel, as an artist, that I have a responsibility to create quality art that inspires. I truly believe public art can be a catalyst for positive change.
In a profession where your worth to society is constantly challenged, I think it is time for artists to start declaring their real value to the rest of America and the world. Artists bring ingenuity and freshness to ideas and ideals. We often question societal, and political values where others may not, and we work just as hard at our craft as any other professional. I believe there is a gross misconception of artists as being flaky, frivolous, and lazy: that our talent just comes out of our head. True, we have the ideas, but one needs discipline to carry out and make those ideas into tangible things. Believing artists have these negative traits hurts everyone. It impedes forward thinking, and stagnates us civically and economically. When artists team up with city planners, civic leaders, businesses, and architects great ideas and inspiration are the results.
So, the next time you hear a negative report on the government spending money on any public art project, please consider it an investment toward your community. Think of the opportunities it will bring, and the positive change it can make for us all. Thank you.