So this happened: an unexpected attaboy came from waaayyy out in left field, whereupon I was bestowed with the honor of being an official recipient of an Interior Alaska Mayors’ Award for the Arts, for "Arts Advocacy." More below the fold...
Fairbanks Arts Association and the Mayors of Interior Alaska will honor the winners of the 2015 Interior Alaska Mayors’ Awards for the Arts on Friday, May 23, at the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts Theater in Fairbanks. The Mayors of Interior Alaska will be in attendance and present the awards, which recognize outstanding contributions in the arts.
Just goes to show ya how far reposting, linking and "liking" other folks art on Facebook and this ol' blog gets ya I guess. That... and just showing up, like at openings and exhibitions, and even casual conversations at a cafe or saloon. So in all seriousness it's a humbling gesture that ranks many, many really outstanding citizens and awesome practitioners in our creative community. And that includes not only artists but everyone else who, again, shows up: to help, to buy, to show support in so many ways. It happens in studio, the classroom, the gallery. It happens every time somebody walks by and stops to see what you're drawing.
Presenting the awards were mayors from Interior Alaska boroughs and cities: the city of Fairbanks; the Fairbanks North Star Borough; North Pole; the Denali Borough; and the president of the Ester Community Association. "The award winners are selected by nominations from community members, which requires a letter describing the winner’s contributions to the arts. Then, the nominees are reviewed and vetted by the board of directors for the Fairbanks Arts Association. Once the nominees are selected as winners by the board, the list of nominees is given to the mayors to ratify."
June Rogers, Executive Director, and Jess Peña, Associate Director Fairbanks Arts Association, and City of Fairbanks Mayor John Eberhart
Big congrats to the winners: Jaunelle Celaire (Arts & Leadership Award); Doris Callaway (Volunteer Award); Vanessa Jackson (Arts Advocacy Award); Susan Perry Jordan and Alayah Brunty (Youth Arts Award); and Theresa Reed (Lifetime Achievement Award).
Here's an outline for the brief speech I intended to give, but wound up ad-libbing on account of not being able to read my own damn handwriting while up on stage:
I’m always reminded at public speaking events like this of my girlfriend’s admonition to “don’t try to be funny.”
So in the spirit of recent legislative efforts to gut education here in our own district – and as usual the arts are laid out for the first fillet - I’ll stick with irony.
One irony here is that things have gotten really bad
when I shave and put on a tieif I’m a poster child for advocacy for the arts, especially arts education. That’s because I’m the last person you’d expect to step up and say “this is wrong,” as #1) I might not seem to have a vested interest as I never had any kids of my own to attend our schools, and #2) I’m a highschool dropout, and so I can certainly relate to criticism of the educational system. None of that matters in light of what's happening in our district. It's pretty easy to say "I support the arts" - it's a whole other thing to actually mean it enough to act on it.
Another irony in that in highschool, one of my art teachers said comics didn’t count, and so that’s why there’s extra satisfaction behind presenting workshops on comics in the classroom like to the recent Alaska Art Educator Association statewide conference, an Artist InSchools residency doing comic at Ben Eielson, stints volunteering for the GuysRead literacy program, teaching cartooning at the VisualArt Academy, last week’s Career Day at North Pole High school, and right before that another show & tell doing demos at Lathrop High school.
But there's a final irony in that several of the art teachers from those very same events are now facing unemployment. I was joking about how at this event there would be free beer, but due to recent budget cuts that has been revised to "bier." Again and again I meet so many folks who say that if it weren’t for art classes, they never would have made it through school. It's of vital importance to not just keep arts in education, but to continually improve the opportunity for students to experiment and explore their creativity.
There’s nothing more inspiring to me personally than being on the other side of the drawing board and watching somebody draw a panel that’s a window into their world, and to start to tell their own story. So a big thank you to all the art teachers in our district, their awesome students and the excellent faculty + staff of our public schools, my own students, my friends, fans & family.
Update: Excerpted video from the event here.Lastly, speaking of the other side: here’s a toy – excuse me, visual aide - (Jacob’sLadder) that I think perfectly illustrates what we're doing here, and the principle of connections: it won't work without a connected community. An idea starts up here, in someone's head and in their hands, and then they turn it cover. I’m somewhere in the middle maybe, down here, who’s just a part, a link in the chain, someone like you, who just shows up to help, and be part of it. Thank you all for showing up.