Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lydia Walker and Studio 15 (Part Two)

This is a continuation of our interview yesterday with Lydia Walker of Duluth's Studio 15.

But first, a reminder that tonight is the Closing Reception for the stellar Cheng-Khee Chee retrospective which has been on display at the Tweed Museum throughout the summer.

* * * *

EN: How do you go about finding artists to feature there?
LW: We typically no longer seek out artists to feature and are booking about 6 months out now. Typically artists come to us. We do have some UWS students who were referred to us by professors whom are looking for senior exhibition space. At times we do invite artist to join us for a show and that is often because we think it would be fun to involve them, respect their work and what they do for the art community and want to show appreciation/recognition of that, are doing a theme and we feel their work represents that theme well, or we know them and that they need encouraging to show their work because left on their own they don't know how to get it out so it sits in their house. When I started this last year right before the holidays these were the artists that came to my mind. I know so many fabulous artists who make things for it to then to sit in their house and collect dust because they either aren't sure the process to get it out in the galleries and/or need encouragement to do so. I started with targeting some of these folks to get their work out in the community. I still do seek out and push for them to come out with their work. This is great for them and allows us to feature work that is not typically seen around town. Plus I get the joy of seeing artist face light up when they see their work on display and when they sell their first piece. Some folks make great things but are not sure they can be considered artist until this happens and I enjoy giving them this opportunity to help build their confidence. I know for me personally it took others referring to me as an artist before I really started to believe it and I want to share that with others.

EN: Why are the arts important in communities like ours?
LW: People need art. If one looks at any civilization over time they see and learn that art was a key factor in it. It promotes emotional and psychological well being. Aides in the brain learning to problem solve by thinking outside the box and abstractly. It builds hand eye coordination and reduces stress which can help lower people's blood pressure and have all kinds of other positive physical affects. Art helps people learn about themselves, gives them a voices for self expression, and builds confidence. Art can help people learn to work together as well.

Additionally, art has been shown to help economies in cities such as ours. It can draw in tourist and other people from outside of the community which inevitably brings in an economical boost. It also draws out and gives health things for people living in the community to do such as go to an art show or class, which also helps the economy.

It also draws a focus on the local economy and locally made. The more a community can do locally the better for the health of the community. Art can be used to bring a community together and build positive community involvement and social momentum as well. The more are the better.

EN: How did you come to take an interest in art?
LW: I remember my mom would always tell me that as soon as I could sit up and hold something in my hands she would stick me sitting on bit pieces of paper and give me materials such as marker, crayons. paints, one for each hand so I could make marks, play and experience it. In our household we were given art supplies and materials like they were toys and encouraged to make things and be as creative as we could so art has been a part of my life as long as I can remember and I don't really know how to live my life with out it in some way. I have my mom to thank for that.

EN: Are you still working three jobs?
LW: I always seem to have multiple jobs. The Exchange Bakery is sort of a family business so I cater there when they need me. I also DJ events for ProSound as a fill-in thing as well. And I have a drive to work with and help others, plus a need to have a regular income to support myself so I am now working for Life House with their Sol House program. And my friend owns the Mocha Moose up by Two Harbors so I fill in there when it's busy and they need someone or I need some money. So yes... a billion jobs. I would love to figure out how to work less and support myself more with my art but haven't quite gotten there but heading more that way. A bunch of odd jobs now instead of a full time job and odd jobs so getting closer. but for me when I say support myself with art I mean not just selling my art but teaching art, hosting art events, and doing art therapy as well.

EN: What are some lessons you have learned through your Studio 15 experience?
LW: I have unfortunately learned the importance of contracts, them being clear and enforcing them because one cannot always trust people to do the right thing or think about how their actions will affect others. I have also learned and maintained that keeping things fun must be a priority or you can easily take the thing you love and turn it into just another job. It also reminds me that anything involving art and the community essentially has a life of its own and you must feed it and direct it but also let it live so things do not always go as planned or envisioned but that is okay because beautiful things come from it. I am also learning the ropes of running a business and about things like leases and book keeping. I had some experience in this prior but there is always so much to learn.

I would also like to point out that there is a collective for Studio 15 so while this all started with my vision and I am the leading force in it all those other members in the collective have a say in things and have shaped some of what we do. Events such as open Mic and game night are creations of others in the group and the musicians in the group help steer us towards promoting music as well as visual arts as much as I do. Also, what the community asks for helps shape what Studio 15 becomes as we are an ever evolving entity.

I also want to throw out there that for November and December we will be taking in art from a variety of artist and gearing more towards helping artists take advantage of the holiday gift season by getting their work out there and for sale as we did last year.

EN: Great! Thanks for all your insights and for sharing.

Follow Studio 15 on their Facebook page.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Get into it.

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