Archive for February, 2009

Kresge Art Grants

February 26, 2009

I’ve never really applied for an artist grant.  The whole money question’s a bit strange for me.  Luck to those who applied.  I’m sure I’ll know some of those chosen.  Some, I’ll know their work better than I know them.  Some, I’ll know the artist as well.


Painted pin (3 inches)

Painted pin (3 inches)




Meanwhile, I just wrote this:




Re the 2009 Kresge Arts Grants:


The Kresge Foundation is offering 18 grants to Detroit area artists at $25,000 each!


I think this is a very good thing.  I’m looking forward to see who gets chosen.  I can think of 20 or 30 artists who really deserve it and would be great choices.


I was very happy, of course, that they gave a special “Eminent Artist” grant to Charles McGee.  He’s been one of the best of the best in this city for a great many years.


As for myself, I decided not to apply.  I did make a (half-hearted) attempt.  Yet now, the day before the deadline, I’ve decided to give it up.  If I could think of at least 25,000 reasons to apply, I could think of at least 1000 not to.  A partial list:


1. My initial impulse was not to apply.  By the time I had a “what the heck” change of heart, it was probably already too late.  This is tied to my conception of myself as a rebel,  a surrealist, an outsider (always something of a renegade or “pirate” in my way) ha!  In the end, I returned to this initial impulse, full circle.  Part of it’s the tendency to spend more time making work and less time promoting it.  It’s complicated.


2. The fact that I don’t have a working computer hooked up at home is another factor.  I could have stayed late after work and used my work computer.  Yet this isn’t always as easy as it sounds.  It was tricky figuring out the j-pegs: trying to scratch out my signature or crop it out of the frame.  I’m a writer though, so the writing part would have been easy.


3. Then there’s the fact that I’ve had some “good luck” both off and on and in the past few years.  Thus there’s a real impulse to give someone else a chance, to step back.  This isn’t to say I’d have won, but I’d have been competitive, maybe in the running.


All that said, it is a real struggle to make art while working a full time job.  Sometimes, trying to find time to paint, is like being “at war” or something. It can be a real fight.


I finance my “career” through my day job (as many do).  I’ve never had a studio.  I work out of my home.  I’ve never had an assistant.  That said, I’ll give myself a challenge to work extra hard that year.  Even without much money I can get a lot done.


Whatever support I get, it comes back to supporting myself, keeping that “work ethic” going at full pitch.  Then someday, eventually, I may well get it together to apply for grants.  We will see.

Believe It!

February 17, 2009


this will puzzle the sky (from July 4 to 9, 1987 at 5 by 7 inches) watercolor

    I just wrote this, February 12 to 14.  It was a first version of a belief statement for NPR’s “This I Believe” series. 

    I ended up writing an entirely different piece instead.  Thus, I post this first version here:

I believe in art and in artists. 

I’ve lived my life in a web of unfettered art-making.  One of my mottos is “ABC: always being creative.”  It’s important to work hard and to keep going, not to give up. 

I’ve explored writing, the visual arts and the performing arts.  All are important.  Working in all three areas has helped me to acquire a few hard-won insights. 

Some art forms are more frequently misunderstood or disrespected. The true artist often feels they’re in a “minority” that hasn’t really started to struggle for their rights yet.  They work and sacrifice and may never find any success in their lifetime.

There’s a real divide between fine art and entertainment between the popular and unpopular arts.  They’re like siblings who sometimes get along and sometimes don’t.

But plenty of people from both sides are “in the trenches” so to speak.  It’s always a struggle and a labor of love.  We create because we want to or because we have to.

I believe in art.  A work of art, successfully achieved, enriches the world.  Whether it is known in a small circle, or gets out to everyone, if it’s good that’s great.

It’s important to have a strong sense of quality.  You need to know when things aren’t working and respond in good measure.  You need to be able to critique and edit yourself, to be able to erase, delete or paint over. 

The artist tries to do strong work and limit the amount of failed and mediocre work.  If something doesn’t really work, we try to notice this and act accordingly.

Art can enlarge one’s idea of what it means to be a human being, alive in this world.  It can change one’s perspectives about the ways in which we relate to the world and to our follow people.

Art can wake people up.  It can enliven and re-energize them.

It can help people turn their lives to good and surprising directions.  It’s good for children to be exposed to the arts, both as spectator and participant.

Making art can help convicts, making the time served less painful, and sometimes leading to positive possibilities upon release.

It can help lift the spirits of those who are “down and out” or who otherwise have a surplus of troubles and woe

I believe that art is an under-utilized resource.  If there was a real Renaissance throughout all art-forms at once, that would lead to art playing its truer, better part in society.  Quantity is everywhere.  It can drown out or overwhelm many of the works of quality.  Yet, excellence, originality, magic, beauty and mystery will be noticed eventually.  Quality usually wins in the end.

I believe in artists.

I try to support and encourage my fellow artists as best I can.  Sometimes a little interest, a little dialogue or response, can be very important.

Much art is created is solitude.  People, write, draw, compose, sculpt, paint in their homes or studios.  Others collaborate on films, plays, dances or music.  In either or both directions, it’s important to balance playfulness/play and hard work.

I believe that many artists are experts at solving problems.  It’s often very difficult, getting everything to work in a work of art.  You need to find ways to make things work even with the problems, or to get rid of them as best you can.

I believe that the imagination is like a muscle.  Artists give it constant exercise.

An over-active imagination can become a way of life.  Don’t let your dreams run away from you!  Sometimes you keep running toward them or with them.

Sometimes we can use methods related to art-making to help solve the problems in our own lives.  We can be creative about how we live our lives.

Perhaps we could take yet another leap.  Artists could apply themselves to help come up with some creative solutions to approach some of the problems faces us in real life, in the world.  


They reviewed my essay and decided not to record it for national airplay.  There’s a chance I could do something else with it in the future.  Perhaps, I’ll end up reading it for WDET, our local NPR station.

I did a radio essay for them once, about my drawing all over Detroit’s late, great “Hudson’s Building” (an abandoned department store).  I drew on it mostly in 1996 and 1997.   It was imploded in 1998.

They did post my second essay on the website “This I believe” website.  Their website:

My essay: