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KickstARTing Creativity: Art and the Human Connection

We highlight here some great articles we’ve read this week dealing with art, creative placemaking, and building great communities. You’re sure to find some inspiration to make your life and our community even better!

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.

Great Summer Music Kicks Off This Week!

If you want music, you’ve got it, starting this week with Lunch Beats in Riley Park on Wednesday with Mark Jewett, and Rhythms in Riley Park on Friday evening with Surf Zup!

But that’s not all. The Stars in the Park series commences next week with the Farmington Community Band onstage at the amphitheater in Heritage Park.

KickstARTing Creativity: Blissful Walking & Converting Parking into Play

We highlight here some great articles we’ve read this week dealing with art, creative placemaking, and building great communities. You’re sure to find some inspiration to make your life and our community even better!

  • Why We Walk: Norwegian explorer, lawyer, art collector and author Erling Kagge on his new book exploring the bliss of living one step at a time.
  • Can Paris get even more beautiful?: The currently car-filled bridge connecting the Eiffel Tower with the Métro subway system will be turned into a pedestrianized garden, stringing together a set of two new public squares and restored parkland that will create an unbroken spine of greenery a mile long across the city.
  • Converting parking spaces to a play area: The recent project—which cost $200,000 total, including only $14,000 for construction—included an open lawn, a dog park, a children’s play area, and a seating area.
  • What about parked cars as public seating?: Staying true to Benedetto Bufalino’s poetic style, he has imagined the parklet in the most unconventional setting, by placing it on top of the cars parked.

The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Pamela Alexander

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

Today we feature Pamela Alexander, current Farmington Area Artist in Residence.  

When did you first get started in the arts?

I first got started in the arts as a very young child. Both of my parents had art degrees. At five years of age my father was introducing me to simple perspective, shading, drawing, color theory, and more. They both encouraged me in something that I already loved doing. My dad worked in advertising and exposed me to artists in the field. Our home was filled with great art reproductions. My parents have been my greatest supporters and mentors.

Who has been a mentor to you along the way?

My training began in the home and continued from kindergarten through 12th grade where I was encouraged by my art teachers. For many reasons I was unable to complete my university training until I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree at the age of 40. Throughout this entire time, I maintained a studio in my home where I worked to create and show my art. Other jobs include advertising illustrator, hand painting blue jeans, designing men’s ties, buying and selling antiques, and teaching art for kindergarten through 9th grade. Each job taught and challenged me. I loved them for different and overlapping reasons, illustration taught me precision and patience, teaching taught me how to teach, plan and inspire. Selling antiques exposed me to art from around the world. Art can be a solitary endeavor and interacting with others enriched my life in many ways. 

Has your art appeared in any city programs or events, such as the Public Art Program at City Hall or Art on the Grand?

I have been blessed to live in a community where arts and artists are valued and supported. We are one of two cities in the state that have a city supported Arts (Division). I am showing now in the Farmington Hills City Hall, Public Arts Program and have done so for the past two terms. I had a one woman show for the month of May at the City Gallery at the Costic Center. I have had, in the past, a two person and one person show at City Hall. I am the current Artist in Residence for 2019 and it was great fun sharing in a pop-up gallery for Farmington’s “Ladies Night Out”.

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”—Thomas Merton

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

I would encourage younger artists to create, create, create.  Whether you think it is good, bad or somewhere in between you learn by doing.  Look at the art of others.  My art history classes and exposure to others work teaches more than you think and helps you to clarify who you are as an artist.  Don’t be swayed by artistic rejections when entering juried shows, it’s all subjective, learn to take it in stride and keep on keeping on.  Don’t let anyone discourage your passions. 

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

Celebrating and promoting the arts is important because it lifts the spirit. It inspires, heals and elevates our humanity. Music, dance, poetry, theater, painting, all the arts are a form of communication that touch the artist and viewer alike. For the artist the process of creating fills a deep need bringing joy, fulfillment and growth. The viewer reacts on many levels emotionally and or mentally whether they like the piece or not. Either way it reflects something within us to feel or examine if we choose.

Everyone has a need to create in one way or another, to support this within each other opens our eyes to diversity as well as our common bonds. For some people it is a lifeline that feeds a sense of purpose when nothing else does. Ultimately art elevates and enriches us all.

I often give or donate art to charity or volunteer for an art event, I am grateful for opportunities given and want to create this for others.

Learn more about Pamela Alexander and her art here

Interested in a Career in the Arts?

Last month the Farmington Area Art Commission and the Farmington Hills Cultural Arts Division hosted “The Art of the Matter,” a panel discussion and networking event for anyone interested in careers in the arts, and now you can view the discussion from the comfort of your home.

The panelists included artists Pamela Alexander, actor Mark Boyd, photographer Lesa Ferencz, singer Jill Jack, and writer/photographer Kahn Santori Davison, and was hosted by Farmington Area Arts Commissioner Celeste McDermott.