on writing and giving speeches about art

A Creative Life, animals in art, art exhibit, art gallery, fine art, writing

During my art exhibit opening Oct 1st I’m giving a 5 minute talk about my artwork. If you had told me when I was 9 years old that one day I would, fairly regularly, give short public speeches about my artwork during gallery openings I would not have believed you. At the time I was in speech therapy daily and the thought of talking in class terrified me. I had only worn hearing aids for a year or so and had been deaf for far longer. Hearing sounds was still new and scary.

I spent lots of school and recess time sitting with my speech therapist in a tiny area partitioned off by a curtain from the school’s boiler/heater/janitor’s office, wearing my new hearing aids, trying to understand in that noisy space what the therapist was saying and then accurately repeat out loud what she’d said… well, let’s just say it was a stressful time.

After a year or so of that my therapist and I were good friends – and I’m now 10- but still when it came to answering a teacher aloud during class I’d sweat and my heart would pound and my voice would shake. So my therapist suggested that I take acting classes. I did! And over a long time, and lots of acting classes, I became a regular ham, okay, a ham and cheese on wry, and talking in class or anywhere else became relatively easy.

Eventually the only people who said anything about the quality of my speech, like “you talk funny”, were under the age of 6. The kid’s parents usually gasp in embarrassment and try to un-do their kids comment. I typically ignore the grown-ups and talk directly with the kid, explaining that “I don’t hear like you do” and pull off one of my hearing-aids to show the kid and answer questions. After such a conversation I usually have a friend-for-life in the kid (and profoundly relieved grown-ups).

Fast forward lots of writing classes, lots of practice writing and speaking, lots of reading books on writing, books on giving speeches etc. – and here’s what I’ve learned about writing talking about ones artwork:

When writing a speech: write like you talk, avoid jargon (it is usually hard to say anyway), in simple brief terms describe what kind of art you do, how you do it, a short bit about why you do it – ideally revealing a bit of who you are in the process – then sum up with “what people enjoy about your work”/ “how they benefit” from your work.

When delivering the speech: remember to breathe, talk slowly enough so as to pronounce everything, and keep going even if you mangle a word (most people over the age of 6 are not likely to point out the error). Practice your speech out loud. Practice speaking confidently. Practice smiling at your audience. Practice thanking everyone for listening.

It helps to have a sympathetic supporter listening to you while you do all this practice.

Here is a photo of my speech practice partner – Rusty – who has kindly listened – for days now – as I have practiced the short talk I’m to give Oct 1st.  If only my 9 year old self could see me now! Oh wait…

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Sue Clancy’s dachshund Rusty listening as Sue practices her speech for the Oct 1st wine dinner opening for her fine art exhibit via Caplan Art Designs

 

 

public art comforts

A Creative Life, public art, visual story

On Wednesday I had a meeting with the executive director of the Curtis Children’s Justice Center (CJC) to discuss the logistics regarding the Feb. 8 unveiling of the artwork I did for them. As we talked the director said something that I’ve been thinking about ever since. She said, and I wish I could remember her exact words, that a local arts association had offered to list the artwork at the CJC and that the director hadn’t thought a whole lot about a connection between an organization dealing with child abuse and the local arts scene. She went on to say we do have to learn to “see the helpers that are all around us”.

My predominate thought has been “Of course there’s a connection between organizations that work with children, especially abused or ill children, and the local arts! How could there not be?” In my mind a children’s center has original art on their walls for the exact same reason they’d employ a therapy dog; for the care and comfort it may provide.

Children’s centers with multiple works of fine art for therapeutic purposes can end up with public art collections almost without trying. Any collection of public art that serves a community function, whether to reflect a communities history (like the Vancouver Land Bridge), to visually represent a city (like the Salmon Run Bell Tower and Glockenspiel in Vancouver’s Esther Short Park) or to comfort a segment of a community’s population (like the artwork in the CJC) is a part of the “local arts scene” by virtue of its existence in a particular place. Whether an organization like the CJC, because of its kind of work, allows their collection to be listed in an art association’s public announcement is separate issue.

Art for the purposes of therapeutic comfort – or for relaxation, which is a form of comfort – is nothing new. In fact it is one of the “helpers all around us” that most of us don’t notice. Did you have a rough day at the office? Celebrating a birthday? You might seek comfort or relaxation in any of the following; listening to music, watching a movie, reading a novel, attending a play at the theater, seeing art work in a gallery or museum, going to a comedy/storytelling event, or going dancing. Chances are good that most of us have done these things, gotten comfort/relaxation from them without thinking “I’m doing this for therapeutic reasons” or even noticing that it elevated a mood. And you probably didn’t think “I’m participating in the local arts scene” while you were tapping your toe in tune with the jazz band.

Public art and even the local arts scene can easily become part of the background of our lives, an unsung part of our ability to go on and live well.

Yes indeed there are helpers all around us and isn’t it nice that sometimes they are noticed?

Here are some sketchbook pages I did as I thought about all of this. (The ‘feed the good wolves’ note written on the bottom of one of the sketchbook pages refers to this post)

Papillon172 Papillon272