The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Susan Warner

We have many talented artists and creatives living and working in our Farmington/Farmington Hills community and our weekly interview series, sponsored by City Life Realty, will introduce you to some of them.

Today we feature artist Susan Warner, a member of the Farmington Area Arts Commission.

When did you first get started in the arts?

There was no “getting started”. It’s who I have always been. I have early drawings saved by family, done at five years old (they are not cave drawings). My mother, a non-artist who could not drive, took me to special art classes by bus. I was eight years old. Actually, two buses. I learned to appreciate that effort.

Did you partake in formal training in your form? If so, what did you enjoy about the experience?

Again, beginning early, I took part in classes at the DIA starting in 5th grade and through to 12th grade. These were extracurricular classes provide by the Detroit Public Schools on Saturdays.

I attended Society of Arts and Crafts, now CCS, in a two-year non-accredited fine arts program. I attended classes at Schoolcraft College, and various community-based art classes. At that time, it was not a degreed program.

I enjoyed every aspect of the experience.

I attended full time and one day a week went for a twelve-hour day. I enjoyed traveling there and back by two buses. Made some wonderful eccentric friends, “hung out” at local Wayne State coffee houses, ironically coming back into favor today. We drove to Belle Isle for lunch or sketched on the front lawn of the DIA.  Spent some afternoons drawing in Greektown before it became commercial. Heaven!

Are you a member of any local or regional arts groups?

No, I am not. However, I am a former member of several including Livonia Art Club, VAAL, Farmington Art Club, Artifacts.

I found that my type “A” side conflicted with the formats. I always wound up becoming an organizer of some type and my “business side” took over the artist group mentality required. I was always more interested in actually doing the work and being independent.

I have been happily involved as a member of the Farmington Area Arts Commission (FAAC) for the past ten years. I am a member of the Farmington Community Arts Council, more as an “observer” than actively participating.

Can you describe something you’ve created that is particularly meaningful to you?

Many actually. I will share four. One was my first BIG commission of two 6’ x 6’canvases of a simple forest, completed in the early 90s. The money made it very rewarding! Secondly, a commission in an abstract form, a diptych, each a 3’ X 4’ multi-media collage (now hanging in my son and daughter in law’s home in South Carolina.)

Third was the illustration of two children’s books which had been on my “bucket list”. AND … the large, 3’ X 4’, acrylic piece, titled “Family Ties”, hanging in the Farmington Hills City Hall as part of the public art program.

Besides the piece at City Hall, has your art appeared in other city programs or events?

My work has been accepted as part of the public art program at City Hall every year since its inception in 2009, ranging from one to four pieces. My work was exhibited at Farmington Hills City Gallery in the Costick Center in 2009 and 2012, and I designed the official Logo for the Farmington Community Arts Council (FCAC).

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

I keep a file on both subjects. Some of my favorites:

“ART is when you hear a knocking from your soul—and you answer.”  Terri Guillemets

“You can’t practice being old—You can’t imagine that your body will betray you. So, you will find that the conversation is everything—about everything. Conversation for the pure sake of it, becomes the most important, most satisfying illuminating thing to do and be.” Grace Lee Boggs, at 99 years old

“Without sorrow, the heart would never learn the meaning of joy, Without tears, our eyes would never see what we hold inside. Without darkness, we would have no reason to look to the light of heaven.” Irish Proverb  

“Strength is being willing to say things that not everyone will like.” Unknown author 

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

Follow your own path. Make some concessions along the journey, it will be necessary. Be loyal to your own truth in whatever form you choose to present it. Always try to be strong and learn to accept rejection but keep on trying. That’s part of being an Artist. Always be open to new things and continue learning … you will never know it all.

Remember that not everyone likes art … not everyone understands art either.  Your family loves YOU but that doesn’t always mean that they “get” what you do or what you make. Be unafraid of speaking the truth … of sharing your opinion … within reason. Work hard every day on what you love to do, fit it in somewhere if you have to, we have all had to do that.

Why is celebrating and promoting art healthy for a local community?

Art is a vital component of a well-rounded individual and life. Creativity enriches the fabric of the community, bringing out the most valuable qualities of all citizens, creative or not. It draws out the finer side of people, usually. Expression of inner feelings and thoughts through music, art, creative writing, etc., is a form of therapy for everyone … age, race, ethnicity are not barriers to the possibilities, but instead enhance them. Diversity aside, art is one of the ties bringing all of us together to learn from each other and thrive.

Learn more about Susan Warner and her art here.

3 thoughts on “The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Susan Warner

  1. What a wonderful article!
    She is my dear friend and this only touches the surface of her creativity and and love of art. She has been my inspiration for some 20 years now.
    Congratulations Susan on all the wonderful insights you have brought to your community!
    Succès continu mon ami!!

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