Sunday, December 16, 2012

American Artists MANUFACTURE American product

Arts on Union in Middletown, PA

Recent news articles lament the loss of American manufacturers and indicate the will of Americans to buy American. We are all for this because our workers, our little factory in Central   Pennsylvania, honors, preserves and advances an American tradition - MANUFACTURING.
Our artists and artisans make product with their own hands. When those artists are held to rigorous standards, such as those under which Christine Goldbeck and Elaine Brady-Smith work as members of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, buyers are assured of quality and, along with quality, a product that is one-of-a-kind or in small number. We DO NOT mass produce stuff with shoddy materials. Often, we buy our materials regionally, too, knowing that when we support our suppliers, we are helping the local, regional, state and national economy.

The Mixed Media Art Group and the Daily Painters of Pennsylvania are two other little factories whose members work with their hands, heads and heart to make top-quality, original work.
Christine Goldbeck, MFA-IA, works in her studio. 
Please support them. Shop local. Buy American. Buy Pennsylvanian.
Stop by Arts on Union in Middletown for open studio on Saturdasy and Sundays through January 26th, 2013. Mixed Media Art Group members are at our place making and selling their work.  Saturday Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday's the door is open from noon to five.
For a private viewing the Mixed Media Art Group exhibition, please contact us.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Don't Forget to PLAY!

Friends often remark that they don't know how I get it all done, yet I don't see myself doing anything extraordinary. I'm living. I love life. Even the crappy days are good because I always learn something about the world or my little microcosm. Yes, I get tired and I sleep. Yes, I get frustrated BUT I keep on keeping on. Usually, the good things happen after the initial few steps of "keeping on." Okay, some times, it might be a half mile or so into the matter until things start to look and feel a little better. Henry Rollins recently did a great -- and funny --video about being the master of your own destiny. Check it out.
Rollins got me thinking about whether there is anything important that I give up in life to do what I do. In other words, what are common things that I DON'T do and that I don't miss doing? They are:
  • watch television. The rare exception is the news.
  • hang out. I am not a hanger-outer or a chit-chatter and, for as much as I love people, I relish solitude.
  • talk on the phone endlessly. It's like hanging out to me.
  • Manicures, pedicures, body wax, hair waves, weaves, perms, color jobs, etc ... My stylist wants to color my hair. I tell him I cannot sit long enough for this process. Besides, I want to see how I look with my naturally-occurring, ever-increasing salt and pepper highlights.
For folks who like any or all of the above, go for it! Live YOUR life the way you want. Do what makes you happy.That's the point. It just so happens that I am one of those production-oriented types who likes to learn stuff, likes to make stuff and likes to be busy all the time. Even when I am cleaning house, my head is working on paintings or photographs or writing or processing something I read. Rollins also talks about saying "yes to everything," meaning opportunities, which often give you the benefit of new experiences with folks who you would not have had the chance to meet. A while back, when I was feeling particularly tired, I thought that I should say "no thanks" a lot more than I do, which is almost never. I've just never been good at saying "no" to doing something, even things I don't necessarily like because there is always something good that comes out of saying "yes."
I rise early (5:30ish on weekdays; sixish on weekends) and go to bed at a decent time (usually between 10 and 11 p.m.) Sometimes, I even get in a 20-minute nap. Early morning is when I do my first round of exercising and a lot of my outdoor photography. Evenings are for art administrative tasks and play. Using "playtime," I made this digital art, which is based in a photograph I shot several weeks ago in our garden. Playtime for me is also a learning experience, wherein anything goes and, if it does not go, then nothing is lost. Nothing. I still learned SOMETHING about what works and what does not, about process, about ME.

Don't forget to Play, photo art by Christine Goldbeck
Don't Forget to Play

 I am convinced that play leads to production. I am a better person, partner and professional for giving myself permission to play. Whatever you do, whatever changes you make toward living a full life -- PLEASE remember to PLAY!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The fine art of giving a damn

One way AND another, blight and vacancy are YOUR problem.

Riding the streetcar toward Canal Street in New Orleans Friday afternoon, I met a young African-American boy who was on his way to basketball practice. The basketball in his lap was so battered that I wondered whether it still had bounce. I watched the boy from the corner of my eye while I was talking with two guys who were heading to Bourbon Street, where they work as wait staff. When a seat came open next to the boy, I sat beside him. He looked toward me and and answered a question I had posed to the guys about folks and life in New Orleans. And, there was my opening to show him that a total stranger can give a damn about him and his city. It was also my opening to show others on that crowded car how to have an old-fashioned chat in the digital age, and listen, they did.

I was in New Orleans for The Reclaming Vacant Properties Conference. The old journalist in me knows that if you want to know something about a place you are visiting, you avoid the packaged tours and head into the neighborhoods where the locals live, work and play. I learned as much via shoe leather express into several distinct neighborhoods that are off the beaten path as I did at the conference.

Neighborhood in the French Quarter
Neighborhood in the French Quarter
Vacant and blighted in the moneyed district
Vacancy and blight are everywhere
Vacant property - whether in Philadelphia or the Ninth Ward of New Orleans or the borough of Shenandoah in Schuylkill County or the heart of Kansas - is a problem caused by a complex web of cultural, economic, political, and sociological issues that our society has handled poorly and in old, hierarchical ways that don't lend themselves to contemporary problem solving.

Only when we sit down as Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, college grads, housewives, retirees - in other words - without the boxes that bind our thinking - will we begin to recover from the catastrophes we have caused. When we begin to think and work in ways that innovation has enabled, we will begin to resolve blight and its related socioeconomic problems.

WE have caused - all of us, everywhere - due to our lack of attention to the many things money cannot buy and to our early industrial age ways of thinking wherein if you made Widget A for white, male Republicans or owned the Widget A factory you DID NOT have discourse with the multi-cultural liberal-minded owners of Widget B factories and the lower classes who made Widget B. 

Those days are gone, thankfully!

We are consumeristic and voyeuristic. We view old buildings as liabilities instead of the assets they can be. We are selfish and shortsighted and we are paying for it. We're throwing taxpayer money at problems we don't solve because the solutions requires new ways of action, new ways of thinking that require a blend of good, old-fashioned discourse and work ethic with innovation. Change is uncomfortable, sure, but, really, how much more discomfort do we need with the way we are doing things now?

Vacant and blighted
Vacant and blighted
As I ponder the theoretical and practical work I got done in New Orleans, I wish I had had cash on me to buy that boy a basketball. Perhaps, though, the friendly exchange of dialogue with him and with the two guys on their way to work was an investment whose dividends will provide riches beyond what money will buy. I know the smile I got from that kid was one of the best things I experienced while in New Orleans.

(Note: In the interest of disclosure, I am a Republican who was born to Democrats. My personal and professional lives  are married in that I research and write urban policy for a state legislature and I am a visual artist/author/small business owner. I was raised Catholic, but gave it up for open-minded spirituality. I was born into a comfortable family, but that did not last long as I was a product of divorce -- when divorce was taboo. For decades,  I had nothing but a stubborn will to survive and to grow. All odds, every stinking one of them, were against me succeeding. For anyone who plays the victim, I say "Pick yourself up and pursue your dreams." For anyone who advocates lifelong victim status through action or inaction, I say "Lead by example. True help is a hand up not a hand out."

 (Invitation to YOU: I have a lot more to say on the issue of community re-development, but I would also like to use this post and posts yet-to-come as a place to talk about ideas, strategies, etc ... I very much would like to know how you feel about your place and why you feel that way. Please feel free to join in the discussion through comments or by sending me an email.)