The Life of Stuff…

Is the story of people. Working with art and artists tells the story of their time, and because I’ve generally worked with living artists, it’s all still being written, being made. Lately I’ve been working with antique dealers and shopping at estate and garage sales and seeing a bit more of the past. Estate sales in particular are like a museum exhibit about a person or family.

When I worked at a school and collaborated with two teachers to do a special “Integrated Projects Week” class on museums, the very first thing we did was talk about items that might give someone insight into who you are as a person. Working at a vintage & antique store has given me insight into our crowd of regular customers. I might not know their names, but three months in, I do know what they like. There is the clock guy, the photos guy, the woman who shops every time we are open (which is sporadically) and buys lots of sweet little things. The young woman who I hadn’t met before but had a clear aesthetic and for whom I was able to pick out quite a few pieces of jewelry.

It’s a fascinating industry, estates and antiques. The “Appraisal and Valuation” lecturer in grad school highlighted early in the class how appraisal comes at a hard time in someone’s life, with the three D’s: Death, Debt, and Divorce.

And all of this because I decided in April, for environmental reasons, that I would not buy anything new if it is something that can safely be purchased used. So far I’ve had great success and have ended up with so many other things that were items I couldn’t pass up. Hence the new venture, Gifted, Thrifted, Bartered, and Grown. I started cultivating plants (mostly succulents) and I plant them in unusual containers that I find all around. In seeking containers, I come across fabulous or interesting things. Many of those things make me really think! Where did they come from, who donated this, what was that used for? So now I suppose I’m an entrepreneur/freelancer. I always wanted the security of a full time job with benefits but events of my last few jobs of that variety & of the last two years (pandemic and ADHD diagnosis included) have led me elsewhere. It all boils down to my love of visual culture, and of the people who create and use beautiful and functional design. Doing this on my own–with the experience I’ve already had, and the considerable experience of a few mentors–feels right, if scary. Off we go, eh?!

Also being real about what life really looks like, not just “instagram ready.

black and white photo of 5 people in age order- very elderly woman/great-great-grandmother, senior woman/great grandmother, late middle-age woman/grandmother, young adult woman/mother, child of 2 or 3 years/daughter.

How Will Art Change in the Now-Times?

Something I loved about studying art history in college was learning about history-history through it. I mostly glazed over in history classes in high school and college but art really does make events come alive. visual, music, theatre. How did art change during the Renaissance? Industrial revolution? Great depression?

How will art change in the 2020s? We’ve been through an incredible rupture in the way we approach each other, things, politics, life! I’m really, really looking forward to watching art evolve before my eyes as we experience big events in what will become history. Some day an art historian will tell a person who did not live through the Coronavirus COVID 19 pandemic about how much we touched each other before, how our concepts of cleanliness changed, and representations of groups of people took on whole new meaning for people who were very, very isolated. Let’s see what other ways art can bring us together, whether physically or spanning the internet and world.

Fun Things

While traveling last weekend, I had occasion to visit Tulsa’s Philbrook Museum. Lovely little museum in a big old house. A snazzy contemporary yarn installation in the rotunda by HOT TEA led to this great picture by my friend Gretchen:

HOT TEA at Philbrook

As I posted on Instagram, it’s always worthwhile to go to a new art museum anyplace you are. Whether you’re visiting a cultural hub like New York or DC (or Paris or Rome) or are in a smaller place, you will learn quite a few new things. I was reminded by the one John Singer Sargent painting in the museum that he really had the goods: Continue reading

Travel Goals and Food Love

My son and I once checked a book out from the library, “Matisse, King of Color” by Laurence Anholt. We both loved it instantly – though of course I had guided the selection among a few artists in the series, Matisse is a favorite of mine. It tells the back story of how Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence came to be, with beautiful illustrations inspired by the artist. (Now that I’ve most of the rest of the series, it still holds up as one of the best.) After checking it out a few times, I suggested to grandma that it would be a good Christmas present.

Last night as we read the story for the Nhundredth time, it occurred to me that we could take Cash to that place, so he knows that it’s a real story. Continue reading

Congress Ave, Independence Ave, world

I had over 100 FB friends marching in 30+ cities around the USA in 22 states on Friday and Saturday.

In Austin, the crowd was about 50,000, quite likely the biggest-ever gathering at the Texas capital. (Second to about 25K at a UT anti-Vietnam war protest 40 years prior.) My mom said the Fort Worth rally was 6000+ after only being announced on Monday and with options all around, Denton, Dallas, etc.

It is so, so cool to hear all these huge numbers, and to have been there. Continue reading

What I’m Doing (Post-Election)

This summer I joined the board of the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation as the new Vice President of Funding Programs. Last week, at our Affiliated Minister’s request, I started writing a reflection of what’s helping my (liberal, heartbroken) soul after the election of Ivanka’s Dad to the highest office in the land. I wrote more & wrapped it up yesterday for the UUWF blog “Leaping From Our Spheres.” An excerpt is below, and you can see the whole entry here on the UUWF website.

Continue reading

Open (Love) Letter to Amir Thompson

Today, I was listening to Questlove Supreme (on Pandora, for those of you who are not Amir, or familiar with his new radio-style show) with Ray Parker Jr. and it dawned on me how much better my life is because of the music you make and the work you do.


I first heard of the Roots when I was at Lollapalooza (’95ish?) in Dallas and my friend wanted to check y’all out on the second stage. It was the very early days of my hip hop love affair and I realized I’d seen y’all earlier that year opening for the Beastie Boys. I remember just about losing my mind when Rahzel really opened it up on us. Over the years, I ended up following your work more and more closely. I’ve seen the Roots crew live more times than any other national act, and I used to go see a lot of bands. I remember when y’all filled the gap for Wu-Tang when they got kicked off of a tour with Rage Against the Machine. I was excited that it was gonna be y’all if it wasn’t going to be the Wu but man, oh man, the crowd that night really wanted the Clan and they were practically mean to you from the floor.

But I digress. Last year I was at a bar in my old neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was a quiet night at a small, friendly place with great music playing. “You Got Me” came on and everybody in the place was singing.** I was up at the bar getting another round and a guy who had been up there on his own was also singing. I asked him, “Could you ever have imagined, when this song came out, that the Roots would end up being the house band on the Tonight Show?”

When I heard Fallon got the big gig, my first question was “are the Roots going too?!?!” It was wild enough to me that you’d been the first hip hop group on any nighttime talk show, and of course Jimmy didn’t leave y’all behind. Obviously, y’all would be on, because the Roots are hands-down one of the most talented groups of people in the music business. I love the theme music for the show. It’s totally you, but also totally friendly for the wide audience.

You, Amir, keep yourself so crazy busy, but you seem to love it. I feel like you are enjoying the ride as much as possible while it goes on. I hope you’re taking good care of yourself among all the different projects you do, in addition to a full-time job on TV. Because I want to keep up with your work for a long, long time.

*And I’m a little embarrassed to say that I never once made it out to Bowl Train, only a 10 minute cab ride from my home.

**The album that “You Got Me” is on is Things Fall Apart and came out about a semester after I read the namesake novel by Chinua Achebe in college English class. I was so proud to be hip to that reference.

Texas to NY to Texas to Columbus, OH

When I first knew I’d go to grad school, I wasn’t sure what for. I just knew that my brand new BA in Art History from a state school that most people outside the state have never heard of wasn’t going to get me far.

A few years after finishing undergrad working at a doctor’s office, I was feeling a little antsy and got an idea. I wanted to start a community arts center. To me museums were (and are) like church. Spiritual, contemplative places that are technically open to everyone but lots of people who may appreciate art do not feel at home there. I wanted to bridge the gap between the Art Institution and the person who could benefit from making or being around art (ahem, everyone). I started to explore graduate programs. To get into communities, to connect with people, you go through the kids. My plan was to have after school art classes, maybe in a building where there are studios behind and common areas in front. Give artists discounts or free rent for teaching art classes to the kids.

So I looked at art education programs – I would learn all about arts education, while also looking into nonprofit management on my own. Then, to my surprise & joy, The Ohio State University’s huge, excellent Art Education Department contained a program called “Arts Administration.” This is a thing! I found others and applied to 4 Art Administration programs (NYU, Ohio State, Indiana, and Oregon) and University of Texas’s Art Ed program.

I talked to friends and family about the idea, they all had input about what sorts of arts would need to be in a proper community arts center. ALL of them! Continue reading

The World We Live In

Mostly written July 8, finished and posted later

I was ruminating about doing a post on how arts fundraisers are done differently here in Waco than they are in NYC. Then, there was news of a man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana being shot and killed, on video. Discussing with a fellow board member of Cultural Arts of Waco, I said, “I don’t watch the videos.” I read about outrage, I read people’s accounts of the incidents but as much as I watch murder mysteries and action adventure movies with lots of fighting and shooting, I cannot bring myself to watch someone die in real life. And it is so unfortunate that I have a personal policy on this, because people kill people, and that we are in a place technologically to document everything. Then, Philando Castile was shot in his car in Minnesota. Now, there has been a mass shooting at a rally in Dallas. I am numb. I have a lot of things to do that have little to do with extrajudicial killings around the country, but it’s all I can think about.

Disproportionately, police officers kill black people. In numbers that don’t even close to match the numbers of white people killed by police. It is time for white people, especially white people in power  to admit that they have been conditioned to think of black people as scarier, more dangerous than white people. Or any race, if you think about it.

As Waco has recently commemorated 100 years since one of the most visible, documented lynchings in the area in history, I think about how far our society still needs to come. No, we don’t have regular hanging/burning/mutilations in public squares watched by half the city, but black people are regularly killed by police for seeming the slightest bit scary after doing a simple little thing that white people get away with all the time. Not that our justice system is exactly fair, but for fuck’s sake, give people the opportunity to go through it before just up and shooting them.

One thing I can and will do is put my body in addition to my voice out there to say that #blacklivesmatter. I will do as my friend Abbey suggests and observe any police interactions with people of color that I come across, especially men of color. I will support artists like Dread Scott who engage with issues of race and brutality, as with his “A Black Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday.”

The world we live in is one where I, a white, middle class hetero, cisgender woman, don’t have to engage in issues of prejudice very often. But I must, and I hope you will too, no matter who is reading. I have so many privileges based on where, when, how, and to whom I was born, that many others do not have based on the same factors – none of our own choosing. Right now, I am poor. My husband is in school and I am working with a wonderful organization that pays me when it can, which is not always. I am so privileged to have this luxury, to work at a place that I love as mostly a volunteer and be able to survive. Why? Because we’ve got two sets of generous, loving, middle-class parents. My in-laws have housed us for nearly a year now and are now rearranging their entire house to make room for our son to have his own room. We buy groceries sometimes, pay our own phone & insurance bills (thanks Obama for the ACA!), and have the grandparents to babysit. My parents will be paying for part-time daycare in the fall so that our young son can have some time with other kids. This is all because of our privilege, most of it unearned. We are nice, honest hardworking people, but so are many people from other socioeconomic classes and skin colors who do not get the benefit of the doubt that kept us out of serious trouble when we were young and reckless. Rather than deny my privilege, I will use it as best I can to get basic human rights for other people too.

In Memoriam

In September 2011 a young man I had known as an intern at Art in General, Nicolas Djandji, died in a bike wreck. Neither of us were working at Art in General any longer, I had been laid off before he finished there, but he had landed an excellent curatorial internship at Dia Foundation and was impressing people there. I think of Nick often because he was a big fan of coffee and once told me he had his morning coffee in the shower. I scoffed and made fun of him at the time, but soon adopted the practice, and still do it occasionally, thinking of him every time. The story about him that sticks in my head is that he would often go on coffee runs (as an excuse to smoke a cigarette or two along the way) and always checked with everyone in the office if they wanted some. He usually went later than I liked to drink coffee, and he mostly went to Starbucks, not my favorite, so I generally said no thanks. Finally, one day I did want coffee, and when I said yes and gave him my order, he was so excited that he insisted in buying it for me, though he was the 23 year-old unpaid intern and I was earning a salary there.

He was sensitive, creative, kind, enthusiastic, and is greatly missed by all that knew him. I remember thanking the colleague who had interviewed and hired him at his memorial. Nick enriched many lives in his short time, and it’s odd to have only known him a little over a year, and not really know his very close friends. The early thing that we had in common was that he spent his formative tween & teen years in Sugarland, Texas (a suburb of my hometown, Houston) though his family was Egyptian and (I think) had lived in Montreal. While we were working together his family, including one of his two younger brothers moved to Dubai. His father worked for the oil industry and an opportunity had come up. Nick was pretty concerned for his younger brother, he’d been no fan of coming of age in a Texas suburb, but he felt that Dubai would be weirder/worse. So his family had to travel from Dubai for his memorial.

My brother died about 3 years later and we traveled to the rest of our family in Texas from Brooklyn. Both were senseless deaths, could have been prevented, if only…
But those are thoughts I cannot have, as there is no more “if only” in their cases just the reality of loss. Each of these young men is a great loss.

Photo via Art in General, from a performance art work by Božena Končić
Badurina. Nick Djandji is on the left.