I believe that art is one of the purest forms of human expression.
With that said, I haven’t always been the arts advocate that I consider myself to be today. I originally went to university to be a teacher. My educational background focused on the other humanities; history, government, economics, and geography. I always thought art was important, but I was still quick to scoff at some of the things presented and perceived as “art” in our society today. If it wasn’t pleasant to look at or it didn’t elicit positive feelings, what was the point? I simply didn’t get it. In my study of what I had perceived to be the more practical humanities, I turned my back on that which makes us most human; our ability to create and breathe life and meaning into our creations.
For me, Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center and our amazing team, were instrumental in this personal paradigm shift. Before finding this amazing organization, I worked, as a teacher, for a few years in the Lansing Public Schools. I taught world history and the history of the United States to middle and high school students. Although people rarely leave jobs that make them feel happy or fulfilled, I look back at my time as an educator with great joy and gratitude for the people I met and the experiences I had. In the months following my departure from teaching I felt lost, in that dark place and I found myself turning to art as a way to cope and make sense of the world around me.
My first real artistic endeavor came in the form of Wayward Prints, an interactive storytelling experience that doubled as a streetwear brand. I created a universe all my own, set in the distant future, animal-human hybrids built a global utopian society, or so it seemed. Themes of conspiracy, imperialism, terrorism, interpersonal relationships, and the lasting effects of human beings on this planet were central to the greater narrative. My heart was not in the right place though. I had money on the mind, rather than simply making art for art’s sake; and with that I stopped enjoying the act of storytelling and the creative process all together. For this reason, the Wayward universe and all of its interconnected plots and characters were put on hold at the end of 2019, though that hasn’t stopped me from creating.
For the majority of 2020 I have been working on a project entitled What is America? Even before COVID-19 and the shutdowns that followed I found myself extremely anxious about the 2020 presidential election. This project helped to keep me busy while also offering a platform for others to share their thoughts and feelings on where we are as a people, how we got here, and where we need to go in the United States today. Over the summer I held a series of interviews with friends, colleagues, and others, culminating in 15 conversations now available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts for all to listen and enjoy, or click here to learn more. Through this project, I heard from a wide range of individuals from all different walks of life. Their thoughts and words in response, not only gives me hope for what America can be but also inspires me to keep advocating on behalf of what I believe to be a more just, fair, and sustainable America.
I do not know what the future holds in many respects, but I do know that regardless of what happens, the Arts will continue to be a powerful force for good, and it is this understanding that continues to motivate me as an artist and in the work I do on behalf of Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center.