Thursday, July 24, 2014


I am 100% serious. I want opinions. I especially want the viewpoints of artists. I have this art concept idea. I have been thinking about it for months. I have already titled it. It will be called "9-22 Project". It has to do with finding out what my neighbors think about art. I live in a low/middlish class neighborhood in my city. Nobody really knows I am an artist. In fact, my next door neighbor was shocked to find me in my studio recently. She didn't know what to think. The weirdest part is I could see on her face she had no clue why I would do the stuff I do. Nobody talks to anybody around here. We all just live on this street.

Months ago, a mayoral candidate came to my door and we talked. ART is a hot topic in the downtown area of the city. However, the general populous is not very well informed about the arts or culture. One thing I said to him was "People in this area of the city have no idea about art. I doubt they have any art in their homes!". He listened and then left. After he was gone, I started thinking. I have no idea what my neighbors do or think about art. I just said that on a hunch. That got me thinking.

What do my neighbors really think about art?
What is their perspective or thoughts?

I decided to create the "9-22 PROJECT". I would like to send a snail mail letter to everyone in the 1.5 mile stretch of my street and ask them about ART. My current idea is to ask them to take a photo of the most artistic thing in their homes. They don't have to tell me their name. They don't have to tell me their address. I just want them to email me a photo of any "art" in their home. From this, I want to create new art in response to their art "inspirations".

After that, who knows. I haven't gotten that far yet. An exhibition? What if I actually met the people who sent me photos of their concept of art? That right there blows my mind.

This is why I have my hand out to artists.
What is positive and the drawbacks to this kind of art project.
I want your opinions.


Yevgenia Watts said...

The drawback is that you run the risk of people just not responding. But you won't lose anything and your project sounds like it could be amazing and lead to some publicity for you, possibly an exhibition, and definitely something of interest to the community. Approach a local newspaper when you are ready and I bet they would love to see what you're up to once you get going. Just today, I read about a local artist who was featured every week in The Sacramento Bee with her watercolor journal sketches of beautiful stuff in the area.

Go for it!

Sheree Rensel said...

Yevgenia, I almost expect no response. LOL However, I just want to try this and go with the flow. It could be a miserable failure of a project. I realize this. Yet, there is a part of me that thinks those that do respond will come up with things I never dreamed would be ART in the general sense of the word. My imagination goes wild, but I am not so naive to realize things might get very generic and conventional. That is the part that excites me. What will happen??? Thank you SO MUCH for giving me feedback!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Sheree!

Discovered your blog via the Divine Ms. Corrinne (aka 'Jafabrit.')

I live in a pretty 'rigid'nouveau 'burb with a similar but different your neighbor/s, mine actually DO know (but don't necessarily believe) that I'm an artist. Like your neighbor/s, mine also 'don't get' what I do. My family doesn't always, either! :-) But I feel like I contribute to both their amusement and irritation (free spirits not welcome) and that's ok. I mean, it maybe opens their worlds a bit.
And if I'm feeling the need for a 'lift,' I settle in and watch one of these
gals. Whoo!

Anyway, good luck with your survey. Hope you're both surprised and delighted.



Danny Olda said...

Like was mentioned, the only risk is a possible waste of time. But people's responses could possibly really be mind blowing. I would really love to see how the responses turn out. It could be some very fascinating material. If you don't mind spending the time/effort w/ the possibility of not hearing back from anyone I would go for it. It could possibly bring some awesome returns...

Sheree Rensel said...

Thanks Treena!

Sheree Rensel said...

Danny Olda, "Waste of Time". OMG!! If I look back at all the things I have done, wasting time seems like a big issue in my art life. I think you might understand. You are like me. You have all these grand ideas and then, they succeed or fall flat. You just have to keep going with your heart. I suppose this is exactly why I asked for other opinions. I know for sure this might be another one of my dead ends. Still, the concept is one of intrigue. I already know that my result will be filled with bunches of "OMG" moments. I know I would love for my neighbors to know what art is and have it in their homes. I already know this isn't the case by sheer intuition. However, how are we ever going to change minds if we don't try to rock this art boat? That is the crux of my idea here. Thanks for commenting!

Yolanda Sharpe said...

Sheree, you said that neighbor-to-neighbor dialogue is missing in your community, and you realized that many people there are not aware that you are an artist. It’s a very interesting experiment that you are embarking on: discussing art with your neighbors, and learning what they think about art.

Have any of them ever gone to an art opening before? Does the city provide 1% projects that artists can develop public art commissions for others to see?

Why is it that no one talks to each other in your area? Is the crime rate high? Is this non-communication based on mutual distrust, disinterest, apathy, fear? If any of these issues is present, you may find that there is a healing presence that can accompany you as you begin the journey into your new found project, “9-22”.

I know from my work and travel in 2011 as a Fulbright scholar that many Russians are aware of the arts, and respect and appreciate artists from their communities. It was refreshing to exist in this kind of environment! Americans from lower economic classes struggle to survive, oftentimes working a few jobs to piece things together. This kind of economic reality, mixed with our rotten education system, does not lend itself to helping many learn about, and appreciate art.

I remember growing up in the school system in Detroit, and realizing that the education system was rigged towards mediocrity (at best). Having any kind of art class exposure was non-existent. My peers and I were punished every Friday when the teachers refused to allow our Friday art classes to be open.

Reading your questions that you posed, I thought of some myself. Instead of asking your community what they think about art, why not show them what art is, and find some kind of way to get them involved in making art? Then, afterwards, they may come to appreciate art. I don’t envision your neighbors having much of anything positive to say about something they know nothing about. People usually dislike what they don’t know, or understand.

However, I do like the idea of asking them to photograph whatever object(s) they think have the most artistic merit within their own homes. That approach will yield better results of information, thus providing potential for positive interaction, than looking for generalized conversations about art from folks who don’t talk to begin with.

Were you thinking about introducing yourself to them initially before embarking on this project? I would recommend setting up some kind of visual narrative of what you do around the neighborhood: hanging or installing artwork in the restaurants, shops, grocery stores, inside display windows. Also, if there is an abandoned building that the city will let you redecorate in your neighborhood -- that will get the neighbors talking too.

You could also arrange an exhibit of these images that your neighbors send you. They could come to the art opening in some space (library, store front, restaurant, somebody’s garage). You could turn the whole thing into a neighborhood event. People love to see validation of their ideas (even if it’s quirky, and unskilled). Who knows? You might find that you have a ready-made opportunity to teach art appreciation workshops to your new-found friends.

Sheree Rensel said...

Yolanda, Yolanda, Yolanda! I knew it! I knew when I read your comment I could write a thesis. I knew this because we have similar art backgrounds. I will take it one step at a time.
You wrote: "Have any of them ever gone to an art opening before? Does the city provide 1% projects that artists can develop public art commissions for others to see?"
I doubt any of my neighbors have ever visited any gallery. I don't know for sure, but I bet my guess is correct. We have public art here. In fact, it is prevalent. dolphins and Florida related flora fit the bill. It is wallpaper. I doubt my neighbors notice.
You continued: "Instead of asking your community what they think about art, why not show them what art is, and find some kind of way to get them involved in making art?"
I really like this part of your comment. I remember long ago, I had a project sponsored by the Pontiac Art Center in which I stood on a street corner and asked people to paint with me. I am not sure I ever want to do that again, I still think it was a viable project. In fact after thinking for a few days, I am trying to figure out how to do this again in the least painful way. That is the whole point of the project ideaa. Our downtown area is all into becoming an "Arts City". Yet, I live just 3 miles from the city center and realize the people I live near have no clue about art. I doubt they even care about art. This is just my subjective opinion. I don't know for sure. That is why I want to do something that can help me find out the truth.
I am so fragile right now. I have had so many ideas fall flat in the last two years. I kind of agree with Danny Olda. It might be a true WASTE OF TIME. I have already wasted so much time on bad ideas. This is why I hesitate. Still, there is something to this idea. I still have to think how I can do it without stabbing myself in the heart.
Thank you so much Yolanda. I respect your opinion so much.

Sheree Rensel said...

You know, another issue is I totally understand the possible dismissal of art from lay people. Years ago when I was younger and stupider, I thought art was the most important thing in the world. Now, I look out my window and realize people are trying to pay their rent/mortgage or childcare. Art isn't even in their vocabulary and I get it. This is a sad realization, but it is true.