Weekend Art Experience at Creative 360

This past Saturday I enjoyed being a part of an art experience at my workplace, Creative 360 Studio and Gallery. I call it a art experience rather than an art fair because it was so much more than just an opportunity for people to “buy stuff”.

We had a diverse group of local artists working in a variety of mediums and styles, and also featured beautiful art and handmade items from our artists with disabilities in the inclusive arts and wellness program I run, Express Yourself Artshop. Treats were catered by the program’s culinary class.

Throughout the day, we also enjoyed a number of performances by talent of all ages and abilities. Our Artshop Community Theater members each performed the monologues they wrote portraying themselves as their favorite artist, writer, or musician. There was a singer who performed a song they’d written about their personal faith. We were treated to a vibrant stand up comedy routine by a very young aspiring comedian, complete with some mind bending riddles at the end ūüėČ. A young woman with autism who has been passionate about playing piano since she was 2 performed a series of pieces.

One of my personal favorite parts about participating in fairs is the fun of art trades, and I was thrilled to go home with a cozy fleece blanket perfect for the sudden descent into winter over here in Michigan, and an amazingly unique “80s Death Mask” (Check out the artist’s shop for some of their other sculpture and mixed media work).

Attendees found the fair inspiring, joyful, and uplifting with an environment of openness that encouraged sharing and connection. These events can only be as successful as the number of people who come out to support our local talent and enjoy the atmosphere of creative community! We are hoping to do another fair in the Summer, and in the more immediate future we have our Express Yourself Artshop Talent Show coming up this Monday the 18th at 6:00 inside Creative 360’s gallery.

I am also working on adding more inventory to Artshop’s online store featuring all student made fine art and crafts. Having the opportunity to get their creations out into the world provides a sense of confidence, ownership, responsibility and motivation for our students and also allows them to make income for themselves. Be sure to check back as I am going to start filling the store this week and next! For those in the area, hope to see you at our next event :).

 

Best Christmas Songs Never Played On The Radio

Once Thanksgiving hits, I am all about the Christmas music. The fact that there are multiple radio stations devoted to playing nothing but¬†Christmas music around this time makes my morning commute a whole lot cheerier, which is quite a feat as I am not what you’d call a morning person. However, like radio is apt to do, they tend to cycle the same 20 songs over and over and¬†over again. Now, you can play Sinatra every hour on the hour and won’t hear me complain, but enough Mariah Carey already! All I Want For Christmas Is You wasn’t that great the first time around, let alone by the 100th listen! Here are some of my Christmas favorites that for whatever reason don’t make the radio.

First of all, I want that Jack Skellington pillow in the background of this music video. I liked The Raveonettes quite a lot in high school, and I have to say they have some mighty fine dreamy, atmospheric Christmas tunes.

I think this next one is the most beautiful Christmas song I’ve ever heard in my life. I can never get tired of it. I still have yet to listen to any of Calexico‘s non-holiday music, mainly because all I’ve been listening to is Christmas music … need to get on that!

Classic, what can I say?

Pretty much anything Christmas by The Polyphonic Spree gives me chills. Their videos are such fun too, aren’t they?

I always hated the song Blue Christmas, mainly because I’m never a fan of whiny breakup music at any point in the year but at Christmas, man? Don’t be a downer. Also, Elvis = intense need for earplugs. However, apparently Conor Oberst is magic (like I didn’t already know that), and turned me around on the whole thing.

Another classic … punk rock Christmas forever! Give all the toys to the little rich boys.

Ok, this last one is a little cheesy but I included it because I have fond childhood memories of this song. The 60s/70s were big on family bands, and my mom loved The Partridge Family TV series growing up and had a couple of their cassette tapes. This band was my first introduction to music that wasn’t Disney. Well, them and ABBA. This was definitely a dance around in the basement in my tutu kind of song. My tutu was black with silver stars on it, however, so I was still kind of punk rock ;).

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs or covers?

Music To Create To That Isn’t Classical

I’m sure there are a couple out there, but I don’t know any artist who creates to complete silence. The music we listen to can definitely have an effect on how we create. Earlier this year I worked with a group of kids and helped them paint while listening to an orchestral score, the kids painting what they envisioned as they listened to the music. I know as a highly visual person, whenever a song comes on I automatically see flashes of images in my head while I listen, even if it is just colors or patterns that the music brings to mind.When it comes to good art-making music, most people seem to swear by classical. I certainly don’t mind classical music, but I tend to prefer songs with lyrics to solely instrumental. I have a¬†wide range that gets me going. Some days I love painting to Minor Threat and The Misfits, but I have found that for fine detail work calmer is better. I love accompanying art with coffee as well, so if the music is too energetic and I am too caffeinated, I will literally just pace and dance around and get about 1/2 as much work done. Also, when I’ve worked all day and been around lots of noise and chaos aka students (gotta love ’em) for the past 8 hours, it’s nice to listen to something tranquil.¬†For your perusal, I’ve assembled a list of calm and creative music that is my muse while working, at least for right now.

Broadcast

Aside from the fact that the lead of Broadcast had one of the most soothing voices I’ve ever heard, the title of this¬†album is called “Future Crayon” so you know it has to be good art-making-music.

San Fermin

I had the pleasure of seeing San Fermin live last fall, and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to in my life. I’ve never seen a group of people play so many instruments at once, and play them all like masters.

Michael Nyman

I’ve actually never watched the film this song is from, but a¬†yoga class I took in college used this song in a playlist that would be on repeat during every session. All of his music is equally stunning and tranquil, though this song has remained my favorite.

Elliot Smith

What can I say, I love sad songs.

The Entire Old Boy Soundtrack

Ok, so this movie is far from peaceful as you can see from the featured movie poster above – so brutal – but the soundtrack is ahhhmazing. The music varies in style, but most of it is mainly instrumental and it’s very creative and fun, a perfect backdrop for art. This song I’ve featured is my absolute favorite. The movie is pretty visually amazing as well, if you have a strong stomach (or a blanket to peek through intermittently ;)). Watch the original, do not watch the shitty American version, please and thank you.

Beach House

Again, amazingly soothing vocals and creative melodies. I feel like I’m entering a mythical dreamland when I listen to this band.

Morrissey

I may get accused of being a fangirl, but I seriously do make the best things while listening to Morrissey. Both his solo lyrics and those from his songs with The Smiths also tend to have an eerie way of stating what I’m always thinking.

80s music videos … oy.

So, what do you listen to when you need to concentrate but can’t stand the quiet?

Inspiration From The Bookshelf

The Artisan Soul, Erwin Raphael McManus

I’ve been so busy lately I am still finishing up books I received as Christmas gifts! For anyone who knows me, you know how shocking this is as I tend to devour books. I’ve really been enjoying this latest one, The Artisan Soul. What’s great about it is it can apply to any passion, not simply the arts. I suppose I should say, it also applies to everything outside of what is “traditionally” viewed as art, since one of the major themes from the very beginning is the fact that everyone is an artist! Everyone has something they do that they love, that when they are engaging with it their creativity freely flows – yes yes yes!

The journaling prompts for each chapter in the back of the book are so helpful in synthesizing what you’ve just read and allowing you to apply it to your own personal journey. This is not one of those lame self help books, or else trust me, there is no way in hell I would be reading it. I’d like to share the latest journal, in which I was asked to write about what kind of world I will create through my work, choices, and actions – a manifesto of sorts. This is not at all polished and total stream of consciousness, but I’d like to include it: I will create a world in which everyone has the confidence to see themselves as creators. People are not afraid to express themselves creatively and stop shutting themselves off from the world due to fear or anxiety. No one will feel purposeless, and no one will feel isolated. Those who were once ignored, mistreated, or shut out will shine and show others their true worth. “Sameness” and monotony will vanish and people will be free to live as they truly are without persecution. All will have the power of fearlessness. We will not need to cling to what is “standard” or precedent, but know that we are responsible for creating the society and world in which we wish to live in, and all of us have the power to make the space around us more inspiring. We will no longer live dull, unfulfilled-seeming lives simply because we are afraid to risk new things, to be strange, to have fun, to engage in childlike moments of joy: go to a park, make masks and wear costumes, invent our own board game, build a tree fort, be undignified … make a mess, laugh more – worry what others will think or say less. It is our life and no one else has to live in it but ourselves. Those who are “different” (for we all are, truly) will be valued for those characteristics that make them unique, not criticized for them. Different will never again mean broken. We will realize in this new world that each person brings something vital to the table, that single piece of the grand puzzle that we cannot complete without them.

Some other awesome books relevant to creativity I’d like to recommend are:

Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, by Hayden Herrera – An interesting, close look at the life of an iconic artist whose work was the most intimate form of self expression. After an accident that left her with severe health problems and a lot of time in and out of hospital beds throughout the rest of her life, she used art as a therapy in the purest sense. I read this before Express Yourself Artshop even existed, let alone I began working there. Still, I was always moved by the idea of art as a refuge for the wounded, and a voice for the stifled.

The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse, by Michael Gungor – The ideas for this book started with a blog Gungor wrote entitled “Zombies, Wine, and Christian Music” (I’m sure I’m not the only one dissapointed his book bared not the same title, but ah well…). Gungor, a musician whose work is faith influenced, discusses how a creator must balance all the noise coming in from the voices of critics, fans, and one’s own internal voice. He cautions against creating only to please one or the other, especially giving fans and critics precedent in what we put out into the world over our own creative soul. Given that he is a faith inspired artist, he works in a genre filled with restrictions, expectations, and plenty of red tape that usually dominated by sappy pop music for middle aged suburban folks (He does not himself enjoy making sappy pop music, for the record). Because of this struggle, his personal stories give wise counsel for navigating the treacherous terrain of making a living in a creative field while still creating work you are passionate about, and also holds all creatives in this day and age to a higher standard of being not just well liked but world changing .

The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer – Love or hate this musician (and people tend to either feel one way or the other), this book holds fantastic insight about getting your craft out into the world from the bottom up. The stories within are told like a personal conversation with your best friend, but with lessons that can apply to anyone. There is no blatant advice or “Hey, you need to do this” included in these pages, just “Hello, this is my story, take from it what you will”. This book especially meant a lot to me, because I am one of those people who, like her, wants to do everything myself – especially with art. I have time and time again experienced her fear of the imaginary “fraud police” (That anxiety bubbling up form the fear that you only think you are a competent artist/musician/actress/teacher/chemist/whatever and will soon be discovered for the talentless charlatan you truly are). I also have at times experienced guilt over my chosen path, especially when it is not going as successfully as I’d hoped (What right do I have to try and pursue a field I actually enjoy, when so many others trudge off to jobs they hate day in and day out? Why do I think I deserve to be so happy? How dare I have the audacity to attempt to live out my dreams?) Seriously, life changing stuff here. This book even inspired my starting of this blog :).

So, what kind of world do you want to create? Be honest, we all think about it – what changes, either physically or in mentality, would make the world suck a little less? And of course, have any of you read any awesome books that inspired you creatively? I’m always looking for book suggestions – as I mentioned before, total bibliophile. Chatting is fun, don’t be shy!

Music to Make Stuff To

Hello all! I’ve been super busy lately so this is not going to be one of those deep, introspective posts – sorry! However, I hope it will provide some fun artistic inspiration for some of you. I constantly get asked “What do you like to listen to when you work?” I definitely have certain types of music I enjoy in the car or while cleaning the apartment or on long walks, types of music that don’t always work while creating for whatever reason (see Finnish metal bands ^_^). My brain seems to enjoy a mix of 60s-80s oldies, and drama-infused artsy indie rock to aid in the creation process, so, here are some of my constant go-tos on any Music To Make Stuff To playlist, as I like to call it.

I was obsessed with listening to 50s and 60s music as a kid and would practically cry if my parents had any station other than the oldies on in the car. They were a kid themselves in the 60s and weren’t half as into it as I even was. My heart would always get a little happier when this particular song came on, before I even knew who The Doors were. Still love it.

Everything by the Smiths, enough said.

I think drama through song is creativity’s lifeblood.

And remember what I said about drama?

Another of my favorite oldies from childhood. My parents did actually have this tape. I included the song with clips from the film “Chungking Express” because I have hardly ever seen a song used so seamlessly as a motif throughout a film. Also, the main actress is absolutely adorable and makes the song even better.

Enter: Turkish psychedelic music. What’s that? You never knew such a thing existed? You don’t say … I have always found Middle Eastern chords to be so hauntingly beautiful, and that is especially true in this song.

Anything Michael Nyman, and I repeat, ANYTHING MICHAEL NYMAN! His pandora radio station embodies just about the most soothing art-making-friendly music known to man. If you like his piano music, check out Phillip Glass, also.

The Velvet Underground can certainly be hit and miss, but I cannot be in a bad mood when I hear this song.

First of all, this music video alone is worth a watch – it’s pretty impressive. I have found Grizzly Bear to have great calming, atmospheric music for in the background while creating.

The late 80s/early 90s had fantastic music, in quite a contrast to their clothing. I really missed out being born a bit too late. I was still listening to Disney tapes when this stuff was big.

Lastly, who doesn’t feel empowered to do great things while playing this song? I included the video from Guardians of the Galaxy because, come on, it’s Guardians of the Galaxy!

Don’t let me forget, if any of you have any particular music you love to listen to while making art feel free to share, I love suggestions! Au revoir!