Art-A-Whirl 2015: Come For the Art, Stay For the Art

My husband has a sticker on his guitar that says, "Art can't hurt you." I always thought it was kind of a weird slogan. Who is that afraid of art? Me, as it turns out.

This weekend is Art-A-Whirl in Northeast Minneapolis and we are celebrating the 20th anniversary this year. Personally I have been going since 2007. I pretty much just went to visit my cousin. Lauren had graduated with a degree in visual art and was working a day job and doing art on the side. We have a lot in common and have a great time getting together, but I was hesitant when it came to her art. I'm sure I said the same old, tired jokes that everyone says and laughed nervously. Why do we all think we need to KNOW SOMETHING about art to participate, to enjoy ourselves? Actually I'd say I know a fair amount about art, at least as much as the average bear. I've even been to a couple of famous museums in my lifetime so what the heck was I afraid of?

Maybe people feel more comfortable in a museum because they understand the rules.

  • Be quiet
  • Don't touch
  • Admire from afar

Getting into a noisy, joyful environment like Art-A-Whirl is a whole different animal. We invite you to come right in and enjoy. Talk to the artists and buy something right off the wall, right on the spot. I completely understand that it takes some getting used to. 

What I would say to someone that is new to an art crawl or gallery show is: GO. Hang out with some art. It is OK to admire from afar if you're not quite ready to jump in, but definitely go. I found that just being around the art changed how I felt about it. I developed strong feelings about what I like and appreciate. Find some art that appeals to you and use that as a jumping off point to discover more things you like, because that's all it's about. 

Lucky you! If you come to my studio this weekend and take part in this monumental art crawl you'll even get to see the artist that has made me so happy over the years. Lauren Strom (www.laurenstrom.com) is still making art. Things have changed and evolved since 2007 when we first sat around the Grain Belt Bottling House, but it's a happy evolution. Lauren paints abstracts on wood and canvas. She also has prints, framed art and cards. There is some very special art for little people so if you have a small artist of your own definitely bring them along! We are going to be a small part of a big huge art community for the best weekend of the year in Northeast and we couldn't be more excited.

Managing Expectations and Managing Myself

I remember an assigned essay in 10th grade. We were given the topic, "What I Expected and What I Got" and asked to write about whatever that brought to mind. Being a 15-year-old girl with what I thought was a difficult love life I started writing about how I met my first boyfriend. In the end I had a story all about being in my first high school musical and the boy was a secondary character to the overall experience.

My life is almost NEVER what I think it's going to be even when I set out to write my own story.

The present day is no exception. I have set out on the great journey of becoming a full time artist thinking that I knew, pretty much, what that would mean. Of course I did! I've been screen printing things for over 20 years. I started printing my own designs 5 years ago. I've been in business as Geekiana for almost 4 years. I've been to craft shows and conventions and special events. I've done great, I've tanked and I've just barely broken even. I've had people scream with joy, sing, laugh, almost cry, nod, wink, frown and even yell at me when I've taken my designs out on the road. Wherever I go I take it all in stride. Just be a good sport like my parents always taught me. Be helpful and kind and show your appreciation to the organizers for all their hard work. If it doesn't go that well you can always complain to the cats later.

So I took the greatest leap I could imagine at this stage of my life. I quit the corporate job. I may not have left my cubicle in a literal "little flaming pile" but in my mind that whole office was ablaze. I wanted it burned from my memory. It wasn't easy. Believe it or not I actually worried about my co-workers and whether or not I had left everything in order. I did care a great deal about my cubicle job while I worked it even though there were some long days and a lot of pressure to get everything done. More than that, though, was the pressure to support my family. At that time I was the only one in the house with a steady paycheck. My husband and I worked very hard to keep things afloat both personally and professionally. It was very difficult sometimes to keep the little shop open when there were so many other worries to contend with. 

Finally the day came and he got a great job. A couple of months later we found the perfect studio space so I leapt and quit my job.

Here come the setbacks.

While moving things over to the studio we started to have car trouble with our only vehicle. Through the kindness of friends and family we were able to borrow vehicles to get to our major craft shows of the season. That was a good thing too because the repairs turned out to be so extensive it ate up a lot of what we made there.

Secondly I had to close up shop with the major online marketplace I had been selling on since 2011. I don't want to go into the details here because I'd hate to sound bitter, but it really was like getting kicked when you're down. Lucky for me I already had my own website and could continue online there, but it's a tougher row to hoe. It really knocked the wind out of my sails. I really needed that holiday revenue to invest in my new business venture and to keep my rent paid through the lean winter times. The song tells us that you don't know what you have 'til it's gone, but I did know what I had and I was grateful for it. I really miss it now that it's gone and I know that company doesn't care about me, but it still hurts.

What I expected and what I got?

I expected a lot of hard work over the holiday season. I expected to ear enough to pay a couple of months rent and to invest in some new equipment so I could expand my offerings and grow as an artist.

I got pushed backwards and now I am creeping forward with some uncertainty. What does it mean? Beats me. I'm going to try and continue doing what I think is right. If I fail I suppose I was meant to fail for a bit. If I can have a tiny bit of success again that would be OK too.