As an artist I keep coming across the advice to find a mentor. Someone whose career I can look to in order to see which path they took to get where they are. I’ve been looking for someone who has ideas and an art style similar enough to mine so that how they create and how they go after opportunities can guide me. I can see how they have grown and developed. The problem is the internet and the art world are really big places and it’s difficult to find someone’s art work and career that feels relatable.
I’ve also been thinking lately about art that makes people take notice and feel inspired. As someone who has dedicated my adult life to the arts, I was really wondering what my friends and acquaintances prefer artistically or what stands out in their memories. Also, as an art educator, I’d like to get more insight into what people love about art and what experiences have meant the most to them.
Thinking I could kill two birds with one stone and both learn about new artists that may be potential mentors while also learning about what my friends and acquaintances like, I proposed the following question on my facebook page:
I have a question. What art do you like? Not necessarily a favorite artist (that’s an incredibly difficult question for me to answer) but a favorite art experience you’ve had. Have you been to an exhibit you particularly liked? Have you learned about an art idea that someone has done that was inspiring to you and really made a lot of sense? Have you gone to a museum and spent some time looking at a particular work of art? Have you had a fascinating discussion with someone about art? What art or artist really inspired/inspires you?
(And just in case you’re feeling self-conscious, there are no wrong answers to this question, you know if you like something)
I really got an amazing mix of thoughtful responses ranging from classical, contemporary, interactive, installation, performance, opera, art festivals, and art activities from childhood.
It made me start to think about my own formative art experiences and what has inspired me the most.
One of the artistic experiences I’ve had that was the most inspirational to me was the TASK party at the 2012 NAEA (National Art Education Association) conference in New York. A TASK party is an improvisational event with a simple structure and very few rules.
There is a designated area covered in construction paper, a variety of materials (cardboard, paint, plastic bags, pencils, tables cling wrap, tape, markers…)
Participants follow two simple rules: 1.) Write down a task on a piece of paper and add it to the “new task” box. 2.) Pull a task from the box and interpret it in any way, using whatever is available. 3.) When a task is completed put the task in the “completed tasks” box, write a new task, pull a new task, and then complete the new task. And it keeps going.
TASK’s open-ended structure in which people can come and go, creates almost unlimited opportunities for a group of people to interact with one another and build their own environment. The continuous creation and interpretation of tasks is both chaotic and focused. There is a mad structure that finds its own way. It is a complex, ever shifting environment of people who connect with one another through what is around them. People’s tasks become absorbed into other people’s tasks, objects generated from one task are recycled into someone else’s task without issues of ownership or permanence.
For instance, this task was build a giant fairy shrimp. Over the course of 5 hours the fairy shrimp was used in other tasks and eventually she lost her head and was sitting in a cardboard car with a flower on it.
I saw all sorts of tasks completed including installation, sculpture, drawing, painting, singing, physical challenges, and performance art. Walking into the conference room where this party was held was an amazing experience. The exhaustion that I was feeling from being in an intense learning environment immediately dissipated as I walked into a giant room where so many people were playing, feeling creative, and connecting.