In 2014 I was invited out for a fantastic weekend event at the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts teaching Beer Craft folk art projects including bird houses, fishing lures and fancy bracelets. I’ve got a full round up of the Beer Project events on my Beer Crafts blog here. It was an absolute delight to have the opportunity to come out to the museum and host the three community art events and meet new folks on the other side of the country. Over the last few years I’ve hosted workshop events at other museums and it’s really been the most fun I’ve had as a writer and artist. More an more frequently museums are including the community in programming where art isn’t just presented but interacted with and guests at the museum are encouraged to make their own art, learning a new skill or just playing around in an unfamiliar medium. I love that, I love being a part of that, sitting down one on one with someone and letting them see how ordinary things can be admired objects or talking to a room full of kids about how art no matter how far away or unfamiliar can speak to all of us.
The Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati has been an extraordinary organization to work with inviting me out to teach and speak twice after the publication of each of my books. With the Beer Crafts events we partnered with local breweries to make crafts with their surplus packaging and I spoke in their event space on craft movements, arts and crafts in the US and how it is similar to the evolution of craft beer . In the previous year I’d participated in another event there the Iron Craft Smack-down, which was part panel discussion and workshop for museum guests. One of the highlights about these trips was meeting other artists and having the opportunity to collaborate with them. In Cincinnati I made a life long friend in Pam Kravetz a fiber and performance artist who inspires me daily to find the humor and art in every thing, to go a big as possible and to share all the crazy good with my community.
Having a fired up imagination isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially as we get older. It’s one of the things I’ve loved about working with kids. Being creative is instantly accessible. The hurdle for children is to take themselves seriously as artist and arts explorers. Several years ago my friend Sean Anderson and I created a company called IndieKid Films which brought award winning shorts to independent film festivals around the country. Some of the films were made by kids, others by adults all from around the world- Cameroon, India, Japan, Russia, everywhere. Along with the films I would often host workshops and discussions for kids and families. One of my favorite presentations was at the Portland Art Museum sharing an afternoon of Estonian animation created for kids. This was a super special project because a couple of the films had only been shown one other time outside of Estonia at an international film festival in Ottawa and we worked with prints in 16mm, 35 mm and a variety of video mediums. Portland has a large eastern European population and a number of folks in the audience were native Estonian speakers. This was the first opportunity they’d had to share some of these films, made during the communist era with their families. A number of our favorite films from the IndieKid days have been archived in an app and is available for free here.
For the last three years I’ve worked closely with OMSI the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in all sorts of community events- from Zombie face painting at adult after hours nights to beer crafting and making Dr. Who inspired sonic screwdrivers. OMSI has really reached out to the community to host participatory events which highlight the creativity and ingenuity of Portland residents. The annual Maker Faire they host is a great example, visited by about eight thousand guests a weekend featuring booths in everything from girls rocketry clubs to Tesla coils, 3D printed games and Medieval sword foundries. Along with having my own craft booths at the Maker Fairs, I’ve spoken on several panels and hosted workshops. Working with the other artist an inventors in our city and sharing the experiments and projects with our families is just a delight and I can hardly wait until next year.