Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Psychology Behind Mass Movements: It's Not A Game When Something's At Stake

"When people are ripe for a mass movement, they are usually ripe for any effective movement, and not solely for one with a particular doctrine or program." ~ Eric Hoffer

When I was really young, my brother and I used to make up games like the following, which probably a lot of kids did. For example, when we were at our grandparents house, we'd try to get all around the living room without touching the floor. The floor, we'd pretend, was molten lava or some other deadly thing. In other words, to amplify the intensity of the game, there was a heavy price to be paid if you lost. It was a life or death game and we'd really get into it.

A second game was keeping a balloon or a ball in the air, or many balloons, by tapping them upward. Gravity would bring them earthward. The stakes were high. In this game if the balloon touched the ground, the whole world would be destroyed.

These memories were triggered by a discussion between two brothers in V.S. Naipaul's Magic Seeds. The one brother's life feels empty. He has no "cause." He wishes he had something to fight for. The second brother tells him to open his eyes. "There are causes all around you."

This is the idea behind Eric Hoffer's statement above. People who feel their lives are small, who feel their lives are petty and meaningless, long for meaning. The childhood games we played as kids worked when we were kids, but as adults we know that the world will not blow up if the balloon touches the carpet.

What's especially intriguing is that both Naipaul and Hoffer seem to be saying that it hardly matters what the mass movement is. When conditions are right in peoples' hearts, there are a whole range of causes to fight, or even die, for.

Hoffer devotes a portion of his book, The True Believer, to the makeup of these people types. They are the disaffected, the poor, the misfits, the outcasts, minorities, adolescent youth, those in the grip of some vice or obsession, the bored and the sinners. They want to be free from feelings of isolation. They want to belong to something bigger than themselves. They want to give meaning to their lives. And many, if not most of us, have been in this psychological space at one time or another in our lives.

Interestingly enough, three thousand years ago King David's first army was assembled from the disenfranchised in Israel. When Saul, Israel's first king, attempted to solidify power by eliminating his potential replacement, David finally had to flee to the hills. He was joined there by others who were on the outs. In the book of Chronicles it says that, "Day after day men came to help David, until he had a great and mighty army." I used to think they followed David because he represented "right." Perhaps to some extent he was simply a galvanizing force that attracted the outcasts because many needed to belong to something. This is not to say that David was simply another mass movement, but that the Bible account corresponds with the way we'd expect people to behave based on what we know today about the sociology of mass movements.

In the world today, there are millions seeking causes, seeking meaning for their lives, and dignity. To the degree that we are unable to integrate the poor, the lower classes into society, to give them hope of a better life by contributing to the community and society at large, to this very degree they are susceptible to alternative causes. Suicide bombers don't emerge out of nowhere. They come from the disenfranchised.

This is but a starting point for a much larger discussion than there's time or space for here. Recommended reading: The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Open your eyes!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Critic As Fan -- Paul Williams' Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, Vol. 1: The Early Years

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post in which I titled A Dylan Reading List: 12 Recommended Favorites From My Bookshelf. The first two comments on this post chided me for leaving off Paul Williams' books. "How could you leave off Paul Williams?"* It became immediately apparent that I needed to read Williams and I proceeded to purchase the first two volumes of his Bob Dylan: Performing Artist series.

For those unaware, Williams was the founder of Crawdaddy, possibly the first national U.S. rock music rag, though 1966 seems rather late for the publishing world to see the value of such an assignment. Though the first issue was only ten pages and mimeographed, it became immensely influential.

Perhaps more significantly was Williams' discovery of the sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, making a significant contribution to advancing awareness for Dick's original work, bringing them to a wider public. (A dozen of his stories have become feature films including Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report.)

It didn't take long to understand why Dylan fans like Paul Williams. Williams is both informative, and accessible. And, his writing is about his own observations and impressions. That is, the unique thing Williams brings readers is a point of view, and it is the point of view of a fan. (Not that other books aren't written by fans. The Dylanologists emerged from one fan's discovery that he was part of a much larger body of fans.)

A recurring theme for Williams is his amazement at Dylan's power as a performer. Early in the book he writes, "Throughout Dylan's career we will find that although he has a reputation as a master of words, his mastery is more specifically of performed language--separated from his performance, his words can lose their power and even their meaning." (p. 33)

Performing Artist, Volume 1 is a sequential presentation of Dylan's recordings and performance from his youth through to the threshold of his Rolling Thunder Revue. It includes a section on his book Tarantula as well as films which Dylan appeared in, either as actor or performing.

"What makes the difference in his work, what in fact liberates his genius, is his sincerity. This is what burns in "Gates of Eden" and "Desolation Row and all his major work, what illumines even his minor work: he cares about what he's saying and the way he's saying it." (p. 171)

Later Williams elaborates. "Each set of circumstances creates its own artistic possibilities; Dylan's triumph is his honesty, his commitment to being himself in each situation and finding a way to speak his heart."  (p. 244)

Williams is not such a fan that he ascribes a sacred quality to everything Dylan says and does. In the paragraph above he clearly acknowledges that there are major and minor works, but the major achievements truly were major, especially this fertile and ground-breaking section of his life in which he produced Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde.

The book is available on Amazon.com where you can also read reviews by other readers, currently beginning with this one by writer Jeff Suwak titled, A Great Artist Writing about a Great Artist... Don't Miss

This is my first discovery of Paul Williams' writing. Not only is it an extremely informative work on one of the greatest artists of our age, but the writing itself is a true pleasure to read. I fell in love with Williams' voice in the first ten pages and immediately went to find more of his works. In doing so, I discovered that he passed on a few years ago. His writing was so intimate and his passion made so plain, that it actually bothered me on a personal level to find he was gone. It really did draw me in that much. Read this book is you're a Dylan fan. Even if you know it all about Dylan, it's not just the information (though that is considerable and often amazing in depth) that makes this a worthwhile read, it's the passion for the subject and for music and for LIFE in general. Come for the great musical artist being discussed, stay for the artist discussing him. Yes, I suppose this isn't so much a review as it is my personal letter to Mr. Williams. From one writer to another: Mr. Williams, you were one hell of a wordsmith, and I hope someday to reach your level. Just when I was beginning to doubt the work and sacrifice of this path, I find your book and remember that this is a goal worth striving for. Thank you for your work. I hope you're having a hell of a time up there.

* * * *
Having read Williams' book earlier this summer, acquiring it very shortly after having it recommended to me, I'd been aiming to write this review ever since, but kept delaying. Little did I know that this past week the Dylan marketing machine would release yet another "must have" sets, The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Volume 12 which covers the period at the heart of this book, 1965 and 1966. The Cutting Edge will be available the first week of November, though you can pre-order now, which means it will be pre-shipped to arrive at your door on the date of its release.

Meantime, life goes all around you.

*A third comment, later removed by its author, pointed out that one of the books listed was not a reliable information source.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Of Water and Ice

34 below zero F. Coldest reading yet on our thermometer. The sun is a muted white, beaming from the southeast. Back down below, a prism of color rises from Rocky Run, a pulsing pillar that at times is quite pronounced and at other times so indistinct as to be invisible. It springs from the earth near two pines across the way which I have never noticed before, just this side of the gravel pit. It extends quite high at times, the endpiece of a rainbow. How strange this phenomenon on a cloudless morn.

How can it be so cold out there? Where does cold come from? Absence of heat... but the sun is no further, nor nearer, than another day 50 degrees warmer.

~ Journal note, 15 January 1994

While looking through one of my journals I came across the above observations. I was attempting to describe a phenomenon that I'd never seen before coming to Minnesota, the way fog and crystal-laden moisture refracts light in the context of intense cold. Here in the Northland you can sometimes tell how cold it is by the way it squeaks when walking on the frozen snow as you go out to fetch the paper in the morning.

Water is the strangest thing. The manner in which it changes based on temperature, and not just random temps but a specific temperature, at 0 degrees Celsius. And how it vanishes (becomes vapor) when it boils. Yet it is still H20 so that when it condenses it become moisture again.

The density of water is another mystery. You would think that when water freezes, becomes a solid, it would sink, wouldn't you? Yet when icebergs break off from Greenland they float. This seems very strange. Yet we just take it all for granted.

I was just reading how water expands when it freezes. This, too, seems strange because the molecules are still H20, yet they re-form themselves somehow when they become crystals. My initial sense would be that frozen water would take less room, as if the fluid's molecules were arrange themselves tighter together when they became solid. But this is not the case. In point of fact, water expands by 9% when it freezes, hence the burst water pipes some of people have experienced in very cold weather in the Northland.

* * * *

Physics is the study of nature and natural phenomena in our world. I have fond memories of Mr. Dennison's physics class my junior year in high school. A former minor league pitcher who after 7 years finally came up for a pair of games with the Red Sox at the end of a season, he was also our Junior Varsity baseball coach. I learned a lot from Mr. Dennison about many things, but never quite got the answer to why it's so hard to hit a knuckleball.

* * * *

By the way, did you see the size of the moon last night? (Unfortunately, a sheet of clouds slid across the sky to hide the eclipse that occurred shortly after dark.) I find it intriguing that when the moon circles 'round the earth its influence causes the tides to advance and recede. Because of gravity the earth's bodies of water pull inward, or downward depending on your point of view. But when the moon passes overhead the gravitational pull of our lunar companion produces swelling seas. What's especially interesting is how the waters on the opposite side of the earth also bulge to produce a high tide there as well. (You can read how all this works here.)

* * * *

It's also interesting that water covers about two-thirds of the earth, and that when we mature our own bodies are about two-thirds water. (The ratio changes from infancy to maturity.)

* * * *

Here's another observation. Whereas water is essential for our nourishment to survive, water is also a destructive force, causing buildings to rot, dead trees to decay, and so on.

* * * *

For those who are interested in other mysteries and observations about water check out these links:

The Many Mysteries of Water

5 Weird Things About Water

Middle School Chemistry Lessons on Water and Ice

Observations on Melting and Freezing

In closing, a quote to float your boat: “Human nature is like water. It takes the shape of its container.” ― Wallace Stevens

EdNote: The journal entry that started this post was our second winter here in Duluth. Since that time I have seen 42 below on our thermometer. Welcome to the Northland.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Taking the Battle to Business: Charles Herbek on Learning Fields

One of my great memories of fourth grade was discovering, in the back of the classroom, a large American Heritage book about the Civil War. I found it completely captivating, returning to it again and again, especially to study the battlefield maps with their diagrams of troop movements and terrain. The book instilled a recurring appreciation of military history, most significantly those periods from the Mexican War to the Civil War and that similar span framed by the two World Wars of the 20th century.

In recent years, as a result of social media, I re-connected with a New Jersey high school friend who now lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia. If you know your Civil War history, you'll recall that much of this area became settings for skirmishes and numerous full-fledged battles between the North and the South.

Numerous business books have been written applying war strategies to business and marketing. Marketing Warfare by Ries & Trout comes readily to mind. Charles Herbek has taken this one step further, building a consulting business around these Virginia battlefields in which companies visit the sites themselves to more deeply experience strategic principles. I know from personal experience how visiting the Gettysburg battlefield helped me to more deeply understand what took place at Little Round Top and in Pickett's Charge. I found the program he's developed to be more than intriguing and sense it would have great value for participating companies.

EN: How did you come up with the idea for Learning Fields?

Lincoln meets with Union leaders at Antietam.
Charles Herbek: I have been intrigued by and schooled myself in military history from the first day I entered the Army in January 1975. I also formally taught Military History at the University of Richmond.

Additionally I have been conducting Battle Staff Rides for the University of Virginia Army ROTC program for the past 5 years as well as Battle Staff Rides for a company called Leadership Lessons from History for the past fifteen years.

My work at Computer Sciences Corporation required I become certified as a Project Manager.

I began to see a strong correlation between the Knowledge Areas (Scope, Time, Communications, Risk, Quality, Procurement, Human Resources and Stakeholder Management) and Process Groups of Project Management (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing) and the multitude of events that take place on the battlefields, particularly the Civil War battlefields in my region.

Watching management and mismanagement of projects cost millions of dollars of wasted funds, I decided that I could use this correlation to train leaders and executives to improve their bottom line by focusing on such business areas as Scope, Time, Risk, Communications Management. I would use the innovative method of a historical battlefield platform to focus on these identified business problem areas. And through the lessons learned from the battlefield commanders, help commercial leaders develop solutions to their own unique business challenges.

Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock River
EN: Your training is directed to leaders. What is your past experience in leadership development?

CH: I have trained both formally and informally hundreds of junior leaders while serving in the US Army. As a commander, one of my sacred trusts was to ensure that the soldiers under my command received the best training and leadership available. I was responsible for many of the leader development programs. Additionally as a Commercial Project and Program leader part of my responsibility was to ensure the development of the professional technical and leadership skills of my employees.

Fredericksburg, aftermath.
EN: Why is the actual battlefield such an effective location for teaching leadership principles?

CH: Battlefields are places of inherent chaos that require some methodplogy to manage that chaos to stay alive, survive and win. Leadership quite bluntly is getting people to do what you want them to do when they are scared of dying. Battlefields have always placed a premium on this skill to ensure survival and hopefully victory.

Battlefield events are focused, the time frame succinct, and the response window very limited.

Being on the ground where the battle event and its correlated business processes took place provides a real time, unique, emotional experience, enhancing the learning opportunity.

Importance of managing resources.
EN: Why do so many leaders fail?

CH: Leading requires practice, humility, the willingness to learn from mistakes and a constant recognition that there are human beings in all parts of the equation. Missing any of these, even the mature leader runs the risk of a failure. There also is a tendency to believe success is possible simply because you can envision it, without full consideration given to the contrary realities of the moment.

EN: What will be the big take-aways for those who attend?

CH: The major take-away is summed up in my customer value proposition:

“How will I change my day-to-day business operations based on what I learned on this battlefield today?”

The specific take aways are an increased understanding of the importance and substance of the following knowledge areas.

Risk Management: All else pivots upon your skills in this area. Organizations unable to identify risk, mitigate risk, and resolve issues… will fail.

Procurement Management: The unsynchronized control of required resources will drive a stake through the heart of your schedule and potentially your ultimate success.

Human Resources Management: The selection, assignment, and team development of the employees who will deliver the results impacts the full spectrum of business operations. They are the ultimate action agents.

Communications Management: Without clear and understandable communications up, down, left, and right, organizational dissonance will prevail and not your organization.

Scope Management: A clear, understandable and fixed vision informs and inspires all committed to its success. There must be an initial center of gravity around which all things pivot as well as a method to introduce ordered change to that initial vision.

* * * *
For more information, visit http://learningfields.co/

All B&W photos on this page courtesy the National Archives.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Local Art Seen: Terry Millikan at Lizzard's

Thursday's opening reception for Terry Millikan's much anticipated new show "Surprised by Joy" put a glow on many faces. It was nice to see the waves of friends and fans who came in to congratulate Millikan and take in her new work.

It was good to see gallery owner Jeffrey Schmidt present, as he had been ill the week leading up to this show and rumored to have been in the hospital. He stood tall and looked in good health as the music and generous warmth of the crowd filled both floors of the gallery.

Millikan's new work is quite different from the pieces I've seen at her former gallery in Superior. The work still remains fluid and laden with color. Here are some photos from the event and the work now being exhibited at Lizzard's. The gallery is open six days a week, and Sunday by appointment only.

Read more about Terry Millikan here.


Meantime, art goes on all around you. Especially at Lizzard's.

Friday, September 25, 2015

This Weekend: Lake Superior Studio Art Tour -- Places To Go, Artists To See, And More

(Photo courtesy John Heino Photography)
There is nothing quite like Lake Superior's North Shore in the fall. The autumn colors get vibrant and some of the vistas take your breath away. That's why a number of lake-inspired artists have banded together to open their North Shore studios in unison on this special weekend. Here is a brief summary of places to go and studios to see.

Lake Superior 20/20 Studio Art Tour

The shorter of the two tours, Lake Superior 20/20 Studio Tour is now in its fourth year. The self-guided tour offers visitors the opportunity to see a wide range of local artistic expression while taking in the beauty here in our region. Glass, ceramics, watercolor, woodworking, oil and acrylic paintings, printmaking, jewelry, and photography, round out the work that will be for sale during the tour.

This is the second week of a two-weekend event. The list of participating artists can be found on this page and a link to the map is up on the masthead. The Husby studio (Bob and Cheryl) is among those listed. It should be a requirement for every home to own at least one of their pieces. (We have two.)

Lake Superior 20/20 artist studios are all located between Lakeside and Two Harbors.

Crossing Borders Studio Tour

More ambitious North Shore connoisseurs will want to consider The Crossing Borders Studio Tour. This is also a two weekend tour, beginning this weekend and finishing next. The art stops stretch from Duluth to Thunder Bay, and the vistas are spectacular in between. Stops along the way include studios near Lutsen, Grand Marais, Hovland and Portage. If you can find a hotel room up north, you might want to make a two-day affair of it.

The artists in this group do miracles in ceramic, glass, stone, printmaking and other media. If you're driving up Highway 61 this weekend, be sure to download a map and print it out before you leave. This is the 19th year of the Crossing Borders tour and the forecast is looking very good.

More Lake Superior Inspiration from Holy Cow! Press

Next Thursday, October 1, there will be readings from Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior The event takes place at Peace Church, 1111 North 11th Avenue East, Duluth from 7 to 9 p.m.

Artists and tourists aren't the only ones inspired by our region's wonders. Poets and musicians have produced wonderful work under the Northland's spell. In addition to readings by twenty of the anthology poets, Peace Church congregant Wendy Durrwachter will share her original piano composition "Four Tone Poems: A Meditation on Lake Superior." There will be refreshments and books for sale. The event is free and open to the public. (For more information, please contact Holy Cow! Press, holycow@holycowpress.org, 218-724-1653.)

Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior is edited by Jim Perlman, Deborah Cooper, Mara Hart, Pamela Mittlefehldt and includes 70 poems by contemporary poets such as Heid E. Erdrich, Kimberly Blaeser, James Armstrong, and Sara Thomsen, et al. who live near and/or have been inspired by Lake Superior. A gallery of full color images of Lake Superior adds to this unique presentation of culturally rich writings.

* * * *
Last night the thought crossed my mind that NASA should have included at least one poet amongst the astronauts whom they have shuttled into space. Maybe this oversight will be rectified on their upcoming adventure to Mars.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Celebrate it.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Local Art Happenings for the End of September

If you have never been to Lizzard's Gallery and Framing in downtown Duluth, Terry Millikan's opening reception for her new show "Surprised By Joy" would be a good time to check it out. Lizzard's is just a half block west of Pizza Luce and the Tech Village on Superior Street, so it's easy to find.

Terry Milikan's new solo show features paintings that emerged from the incalculable joy she felt in moving to her new rural setting up near Knife River. The opening reception is tonight from 5-8pm. with live music to be performed by Terry's son, Sean Murphy.

Lizzard's represents quite a number of local artists and would make a worthy destination for anyone who happens to be downtown during the day.




This Saturday September 26 from 10-5 is the Lester River Rendezvous at Lester Park, Lakeside. It's a family event with food, music, crafts and from what I hear a "whole lot of family fun."

For a recap of other places to see art in public spaces check out my summary of September art events here.

* * * *

AND Next Monday, one more Group Show of works inspired by Lake Superior. Check it out.


Meantime, art goes on all around you. Be part of it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ten Minutes With The Remarkable Gaelynn Lea

I recently received a press release from Gaelynn Lea announcing an October 6 Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting to launch her solo career. Her business, Gaelynn Lea Music, will focus on teaching fiddle, performing and public speaking. Having followed Gaelynn's career since I first heard her perform, I reached out in the hopes of sharing her life and spirit with readers of this blog.

EN: When did you first take an interest in music?

Gaelynn Lea: My parents, Tim and Peggy White, are both very musical. They ran Change of Pace Dinner Theater for 20 years, so when my siblings and I were kids, we were always exposed to singing and musical theater... It was just a big part of life! When I was just a little toddler, like 2 years old, my dad would sing me strings of notes at different pitches (la-la-la-la) and I would sing them back to him. It was a game he created - he was basically doing a simplified version of ear training, without maybe even realizing it.

EN: How did you come to take up the violin?

GL: In 4th grade, the junior high orchestra came to our elementary school and I remember loving the strings - especially the cellos. Then in the first week of 5th grade, students were asked if they wanted to participate in a music listening test for orchestra. I took the test with a few of my friends, and it turns out I was the only person in the whole school who got a perfect score... As I said, my dad helped to develop my sense of pitch when I was younger, so it really came in handy that day! The orchestra teacher at Ordean Junior High, Susan Sommerfeld, talked to my parents and said, "She's got such a good ear, we have to figure out a way for her to play." You see, I have a disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, or Brittle Bones Disease. I use an electric wheelchair to get around and due to multiple fractures in utero my limbs are shortened and bent at 90 degree angles. But luckily both my teacher and my parents were open-minded about modifying the way I play. So then we started experimenting! Because my arms are so short, the cello was too big for me to bow, and my arm couldn't reach the fingerboard on my violin. But then it dawned on us that I could play the violin like a tiny cello -- in an upright position. Once we figured that out, everything else fell into place! I have been playing continuously for 21 years, since I was 10. I love the violin.

EN: What's the difference between fiddle and violin? 

GL: Fiddles and violins are technically the same instrument - the difference is really in the musical styles. Violin is associated with classical music and fiddle is associated with traditional or bluegrass music. The two different types of music involve different postures, techniques, and sounds but you can use the same instrument for the different styles.

EN: How did you come to take up performing?

GL: After high school I decided I didn't want to pursue classical music, so I joined a Celtic group at Macalester College called "Flying Fingers". I learned a lot of tunes that way and so when I transferred to UMD in 2005 I started regularly attending the Celtic jam at Sir Benedict's. It was there I met a guitar/banjo player named Andy Gabel. He asked if I could learn a tune he liked by ear - called Blackberry Blossom - and so I did. Very shortly after that we started jamming together and eventually formed an acoustic folk duo called Gabel and Gaelynn. We played at venues around town for about 3 years until he moved out West. We had a lot of fun together!

EN: Tell us about your first solo album. What kind of music can we expect to hear?

GL: My solo album is going to be all instrumental - mostly traditional fiddle tunes (Celtic, American, and Swedish), with a few recognizable standards to keep the non-fiddler engaged. The album is just me and my violin, but the sound is filled out with live loops from my Memory Man pedal layered underneath. I tried to pick a wide variety of tempos, keys, and moods for this album. As a whole, it is a tapestry of sound with the various layers weaving in and out. It is a relaxing and meditative album. If I can raise enough money I am also planning to release a 7" vinyl, with two vocal/violin tracks (one on each side). I also love to sing so I recorded an original song of mine and an old standard song... But I decided I didn't want to break up the flow of instrumentals so I am doing something a little different with these two tracks!

EN: What kind of music do you listen to yourself?

GL: I am a huge fan of Big Band music and bluegrass... I always have been, so that will probably never change. In college I was a big fan of The Decemberists, Wilco, The Eels, and Neutral Milk Hotel. I love creative lyrics. But in recent years I have kind of become local-centric about the music I listen to on a regular basis. Right now the musicians I play at home are Charlie Parr, Low, The Lowest Pair, Four Mile Portage, Woodblind, and the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank. I am also a big fan of Jim Hall, the Boomchucks, the Fontanelles, and the Black-Eyed Snakes. Jerree Small is amazing. I am a big fan of Duluth in general.

EN: For what it's worth, Duluth is a big fan of you, too. Why do you think music affects us so deeply?

GL: It has to be hardwired. I have been busking on the Lakewalk since college and one thing that always amazes me is how the tiniest of children respond to music, even if their parents aren't looking... Totally un-coaxed, a little toddler will crane her neck from her stroller to watch the violin as she rolls by. Or a little baby will bop his head to the beat, or a three year old will burst into spontaneous applause at the end of the song. Music is in our DNA, I really believe that.

EN: I heard you in a a recital at the Tweed many years ago. Was that when you were graduating from UMD?

GL: I actually never took music in college for any kind of credit. I majored in Political Science and minored in Psychology. I think the recital you might be referring to is when I sat in with Billy MacLachlan. Disability services asked the two of us to talk about disability and music, but we ended up playing together instead. You could tell at the time that he was more comfortable playing music than talking, although now he is a public speaker too! Anyway, that night I sat in with him for a song during his concert, and we have kept in touch over the years. He is a really nice person.

* * * *
This past spring Gaelynn performed in the Sacred Heart concert A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan. Her rendition of Dylan's "All the Tired Horses" totally blew us away, a song that Greil Marcus famously dissed when it opened Dylan's Self Portrait album in 1970. If Marcus had known how this song would get translated nearly a half century later, he never would have said what he did.

It's been a privilege to watch Gaelynn's career evolve. The Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting is open to the public; it will be held at 3pm on Tuesday, October 6th at 394 S Lake Ave, Suite 510G, Duluth, MN 55802.

To learn more about Gaelynn Lea and Gaelynn Lea Music, or to sign up for lessons, visit www.violinscratches.com

I'll close this blog post with a line from the close of Gaelynn's email signature line:
"Gratitude leads to joy, which fills the heart with love and peace."

Photo Credits Michael K. Anderson (top) and Jessi Anderson

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Handful of Quotes to Carry Around in Your Back Pocket This Week

Your never know when you'll need a good quote. I used to have a notebook into which I scribbled thought food and encouragement. Nowadays we look to Google, for encouragement, wisdom, answers to thorny questions. Do you keep a notebook of quotes, or files on your laptop? I have quite a few about writing and about books, and a file I keep for inspiration.

Often when I scroll through a list of inspirational quotes I find at least a few that I really connect with or that speak to me. It's especially fun when you find new ones that you'd never encountered before. A few of these may possibly be familiar, but many are new to me. The last, by Dr. Seuss, is today's favorite for me.

“When I knew nothing, I thought I could do anything.” ~ Robert Duvall

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” ~ Vince Lombardi

“If you don’t have heroes in the beginning you don’t grow.” ~ Robert Duvall

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” ~ Augustine of Hippo

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing." ~ Helen Keller

“When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” ~ Helen Keller

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” ~ Albert Einstein

“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

"Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is." ~ Will Rogers

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is in our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." ~ Viktor E. Frankl

"It always seems impossible until its done." ~ Nelson Mandela

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Step out and make it count.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Interview with Artist Daniel Botkin, Winner of the 2012 Dylan Days Art Compeition

One of the highlights of Hibbing's annual Dylan Days celebration each year was the art competition. The 2012 winning artist was Daniel Botkin, a lifelong Dylan fan from Chicago. Arrangements are currently underway to show his work during the 2016 Dylan Fest in Duluth. Here's a foretaste, of the man and his work.

EN:  How did you come to first take an interest in art?

Daniel Botkin: Ever since I was a little child, I've loved to create art. I still have a pencil-and crayon drawing I did when I was 3 years old. My mom saved it and told me that I called it "Indian Boy With Freckles." In grade school I was the kid who could draw, in high school I took as many art classes as I could, and I majored in art in college.

EN: It’s apparent that Salvador Dali has been an influence. Many of your paintings have that Daliesque surrealistic feel. How did this come about?

DB: I was first exposed to Dali's work when I was in high school. The mystical, dream-like quality of the surrealists always attracted me. Perhaps because I like the unexpected and dislike the routine. I like for some things in life to be routine and predictable, but art is not one of those things. I like art that is unique and unusual.

EN: You won the Dylan Days art competition in 2012 and it’s obvious that Dylan has been a major influence for you as well. When did this begin?

Mr. Tambourine Man
DB: I became a Dylan fan when I was about 15 or 16 years old. I heard "Like a Rolling Stone" on the radio when it first came out, and bought the 45 RPM single. If I remember correctly, I think the flip side was "Gates of Eden." When I heard the song "Gates of Eden," I was thoroughly hooked on Dylan. I bought several of Dylan's 45 RPM singles. A good buddy of mine went into the army and loaned me a few of Dylan's earlier albums while he was away serving our country. He told me if he got killed in Viet Nam, I could keep the albums. Fortunately, he survived the army, I returned his albums, and went out and bought my own copies, as well as every other Dylan album in existence at the time.

EN: Do you listen to Dylan while you paint?

DB: Yes. I occasionally listen to other musicians too, but I think over half of my entire music collection consists of Dylan CDs or CDs with other musicians doing Dylan songs.

EN: Tell us about your painting Motorcycle Black Madonna. What inspired it and what else is contained in the images that a casual observer might miss?

Motorcycle Black Madonna
DB: The inspiration for this piece was one of my favorite verses in "Gates of Eden": "The motorcycle black madonna, two-wheeled gypsy queen, and her silver-studded phantom cause the grey flannel dwarf to scream as he weeps to wicked birds of prey who pick up on his breadcrumb sins." If you only see a photo of the piece, the texture and materials and the 3-D effect are not real obvious. If you see it in person, you see that it is like a relief sculpture made of many materials. The stars around the black madonna's head are wooden stars; her boots are real leather; the horse head on the silver-studded phantom has a glass eye and goat teeth; the tread on the motorcycle's tires is achieved by rope; the breadcrumb sins are made of pieces of painted sponge; the grey flannel dwarf's robe is made of actual grey flannel. I exhibited this piece at a large invitational art show at a local church a few years ago. One of the church ladies told me they were trying to figure out which Bible verse this painting was based on. Of all the Dylan-themed art I've done, this is one of my favorite. I'd like to hang it in our living room, but my wife doesn't want it hanging above our couch. She hates it almost as much as she hates Bob Dylan's singing. So it's for sale, though I will be sad to part with it when it sells.
Motorcycle Black Madonna (detail)
EN: Dylan’s music is infused with Biblical imagery, and I see that you also deal with many Biblical themes, such as Exodus and a series of painting of prophets. How does the Bible fit in with your life’s work?

DB: I make my income primarily as a Bible teacher. I was a pastor for 17 years and turned the leadership of our congregation over to a younger man 2 years ago. Now I travel and teach Bible at Messianic congregations and conferences. I also write and publish a bimonthly magazine with my Bible teachings. Dylan's music actually stirred my interest in the Bible when I first started listening to his songs as a teenager. While my teenage peers were focused on cars and sports, I felt my spirit being stirred by Dylan's music. I found my mind being elevated to think on lofty thoughts, thoughts about God and Jesus, life and love, pleasure and pain, prophecy and Paradise, time and eternity. Even though Dylan was raised as a Jew, he had no qualms about singing about Jesus, even before his "born again" days. On his first album he sang "every link was Jesus' name" (in "Gospel Plow") and "meet me, Jesus, meet me" (in "In My Time of Dyin'"). On his second album he sang "even Jesus would never forgive what you do" (in "Masters of War"). On his third album he sang "Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss" (in "With God on Our Side"). On his album "Bringing It All Back Home" he sang about "flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark" (in "It's All Right Ma").

In my hippie days, I was once at a pot party and Dylan's song "When the Ship Comes In" was playing. I had heard the song many times before and probably could have recited the lyrics by heart. But this time I had an epiphany. As soon as the song ended, I announced to my hippie friends, "Hey everybody, I just realized what that song is about! It's about the Second Coming of Christ!" We listened to it again, and all my hippie friends agreed. I don't know if Dylan had the Second Coming in mind when he wrote that song, but it certainly expresses Messianic hopes and expectations. I don't elevate Dylan's song lyrics to the same level as the inspired Holy Scriptures. Dylan's lyrics are not inspired in that way, but they are certainly inspiring.

* * * *
It was painful for many when Zimmy's closed in Hibbing 18 months ago and with it Dylan Days, but the Bob Dylan Way committee here in Duluth had been carrying the flag for several years with events here leading up to the Hibbing culmination. But, as Dylan has many times himself expressed, "Everything changes."

To see his work in person, arrangements are currently being made to display his work in May 2016 here in Duluth. You will a chance to see his work in person when you join us for the May Dylan Fest celebration next spring.

To see more of Botkin's art online, visit http://danielbotkin.com/

Meantime, art goes on... all around you.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Unfinished Stories of Richard Allen Garston (part 4)


In the latter half of the 1990's I began sharing my stories on my website at ennyman.com. Several years earlier I'd been told that no matter how good a writer you are, the publishing houses will not seriously consider you unless you have written a novel. Up until the internet age a short story writer would spend his or her time sending manuscripts to literary magazines in the hopes of finding an audience. Overnight, the world wide web became a game changer. Writers could now connect with readers around the globe.

In 2011, when I decided to assemble my stories into eBooks, I pulled them from off my website. Recently, I returned them to the Short Stories page there, more interested in having readers than selling eBooks. This is an excerpt from a longer story that became a centerpiece in my eBook Newmanesque. It's a story about writers, a favorite theme for many a writer of one sort or another. (eg. Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham.)

* * * *
BY WAY OF INTRODUCTION

In an effort to learn more about Richard Allen Garston, our hero Joe Urban has learned that one of the two people familiar with Garston's stories has passed away. The second has taken up residence in a Trappist monastery. Joe sets about on a quest to locate the now reclusive Gary Spencer.

The Unfinished Stories of Richard Allen Garston (part 4)

Princeton Seminary Library is one of the most comprehensive in North America, if not the world. It seemed probable to me, therefore, that I would not come up empty handed were I to begin my search here and, in point of fact, this presumption was correct. With the able assistance of Linda Gallagher in their reference department, I located the names and addresses of a dozen Trappist monasteries in the United States. I learned that worldwide there are as many as ninety communities of Trappist monks and nearly sixty of Trappistine nuns.

Many of the monasteries are affiliated so that one of the original houses will assume responsibility for the monasteries that are spin-offs. Since Trappists are famed chiefly for their Vows of Silence, I was surprised to learn that while this is a spiritual discipline that is practiced, it is not a mandatory absolute for all of life. Hence they participate in councils and other rather ordinary affairs and interactions, including the conduct of business enterprises to fund their work.

If Gary Spencer had removed himself to Trappist life, he had not necessarily placed himself in permanent incommunicado. In other words, if I could find him, perhaps he could speak with me and shed further light on the mystery of Richard Allen Garston.

I wrote letters to the nearest monasteries first-- St Joseph's Abbey in New England, Genesee Abbey in New York, and Holy Cross Abbey in Virginia. Genesee Abbey replied within the week and said there was no Gary Spencer in their ranks. More than a month passed before I received answers from the other two communities. This displeased me. I wondered if my inquiries had not provided enough detail.

I followed up with letters to New Melleray Abbey, Abbey of Gethsemani, Abbey of the Holy Spirit, Mepkin Abbey, and the many other Trappist monasteries scattered across North America. Abbey of Gethsemani was the only one from which I received no reply. The other Abbeys likewise asserted that they had no knowledge of a Gary Spencer in residence.

The following spring Lynn had booked a business trip to Lousiville, Kentucky, not far from the Abbey of Gethsemani mentioned above. Being of a curious frame of mind I decided to tag along and visit the monastery while she took care of her business. It seemed a good way to get a feel for Trappist life. The trip was not likely to interfere with my work since my writing was now at a near standstill.

While preparing for the journey I discovered that Gethsemani was the community of monks to which Thomas Merton had belonged. I recalled the name only vaguely from some references made by a high school social studies teacher I respected. I immediately borrowed several books from the library and tried to get a feel for Merton and for Trappist life. The whole idea of it, turning from the world, embracing solitude, somehow began to resonate with me. I've not been particularly religious after so many years in the world of commerce, and there began to be a stirring of old memories, recognitions, recollections from my childhood when it seemed that God and nature and harmony and natural beauty all pointed to something higher and better and purer to aspire to. I have always respected people who had a strong faith, whose lives demonstrated an adherence to their convictions.

LYNN AND I FLEW INTO LOUISVILLE on Saturday evening. She had a trade show to attend from Monday through Wednesday which gave us Sunday to drive down to Bardstown to find the Abbey. I had made arrangements to stay at a retreat center there through midweek and we would fly home on Thursday.

Our rented Ford Taurus explored many a winding road as we pursued Gethsemani. The remote splendor of rolling hills provided a picturesque preface for my visit. At last we drew near, entering by the south parking lot.

Once away from the car I became immediately aware of the silence. Not the silence of the place, but the silent sublimity of the setting. In this setting, so removed from the bustle of the world, no truck or train rumbled in the distance, no dogs barked their fool heads off, no man-made sound intruded the peace and poignancy that was present there. My senses savored it.

The main building is large, and even more imposing as one draws near. We walked past a small assembly of gravestones.

"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Lynn asked. The way she said it helped me realize she didn't care for the place. I, on the other hand, found myself drawn to it.

The retreats are unstructured, though monks are available for consultation and a conference in the evenings. Seven times a day the monks assemble in choir, celebrating the salvation of God in prayer and worship. In retrospect I must tell you that my initial emotion was one of being part of a grand tradition, swallowed up in a river of history.

In making our initial entrance to the grounds I didn't know what would greet me there. Suddenly the bells rang, announcing vespers. Supper would be in half an hour.

In retrospect it seems strange that I should come to this monastery to seek another, to find Richard Garston. Thomas Merton wrote that Gethsemani was a place set apart for our own discovery, to find ourselves. "In Your light we see light," wrote the Psalmist. In the silence of the heart we listen for the voice of God.

I hugged Lynn goodbye and watched her drive cautiously from the grounds. As I carried my bags to a registration room in the guesthouse I thought of Sean Connery arriving at the monastery in Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose. Murders and intrigue followed.

* * * * 

If interested in reading the whole of this story, you can find it here at my original website where you may begin properly at the beginning

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Duluth Soup -- Creative Fundraising Helps Address Community Needs

This week I got invited to Duluth Soup, a fundraising event that took place at Clyde Iron Works this past Thursday evening. I didn't really know much about it except that five dollars would get me a bowl of soup and a salad, and a vote. The soups were being provided by the New Scenic Cafe & The Amazing Grace, so how could you go wrong. There were also salads and other delights presented by Pizza Luce, 3rd Street Bakery, Lake Superior Bakehouse and the Rambler Foodtruck. I just didn't know what the vote part was about.

A relatively long line was being patiently processed when I arrive close to the six o'clock starting time. I paid my five spot and was handed a ballot. Upon entering I saw the entire room filled with tables and chairs, a small stage set up below the big screen. Inside the door there was a table with flyers about the program along with miniature handbills describing the various groups that would be presenting, four in all. On the perimeter of the room tables had been set up for artist displays along with presentations by these same four groups.

Lake Superior Flow Art
As it turns out, Duluth Soup is modeled after a Detroit Soup fundraising system, of the people, by the people and for the people. Essentially, before we ate the four teams presented their proposals. Using the ballots that had been distributed as we entered, we cast our votes on a ranked ballot system, 1, 2, 3, 4.

What's cool is that you got to engage the various presenters both before and after. Thus the event not only raised money for these various philanthropic efforts, it also raised awareness for the same.

Proposal 1 was titled Let It Grow. The presentation by the Junior League of Duluth was quite excellent, and I wondered if the best idea would win or the best presenters. They explained that they were raising money for a deep-winter greenhouse to be built on an underutilized lot near Denfeld High School adjacent to a food-damaged lot upon which a community garden nd edible forest would grow. The floor was open for questions after the timed presentation and the presenters indeed fielded many questions.

Proposal 2 had the clever title Hart and Soul. They desired to promote an annual music festival in Lake Nebagamon in memory of Alex Hart, who took his own life. It's aim was suicide awareness.

Proposal 3 was a very cool outline of the Tragic Tale of the Timber Beast by Lincoln Park Haunted Happenings. For Halloween they are transforming the Harrison Community Center into an abandoned north woods logging camp to bring families a ghost story that deals with the issue of bullying. This proposal looked interesting as a written paragraph, but was brought to life in a very intriguing manner by the presenters. I thought, "Well, that's pretty neat."

Proposal 4 featured Lake Superior Flow Art, a collaboration of individuals whose mission is to give back to the Twin Ports by fundraising, teaching and performing. They shared how they craft and sell hula hoops and other items to raise money for the Duluth homeless.

After the presentations, everyone lined up for soup.

During the course of the evening there was musical accompaniment by Keir of Lay Low & Bender, Chase Down Blue & the Clover Street Cronies. After the meal there would be a presentation by last year's winner as well as Fair Vote MN, a group advocating a ranked choice voting system for Minnesota with the aim of raising awareness about voting systems.

Thank you to Clyde Iron for hosting this event and to all the volunteers who made it happen.


Next time you hear, "Soup's on!" check it out.

Friday, September 18, 2015

No Ordinary Life: Keith Richards' Autobiography Gives Rare Inside Account of the Stones and More

There's a reason Robin Leach's show was popular in the late eighties and nineties. He took people where they'd never been, and gave them a glimpse of a life they would never experience themselves. And this is exactly what Keith Richards' autobiography delivers, a life like no other, told straight up by a guy who epitomized the "sex, drugs and rock and roll" ethic. The book is called Life.

I am listening to the audio version of the book, co-authored by Richards and James Fox, read by Johnny Depp (first quarter) and Brit Joe Hurley.  Here are a few of the things that stood out for me or especially interested me, in no particular order.

1. The inside story of how Keith and Mick met and those early days of commitment to the Chicago blues are truly fascinating for rock historians. Keith, Mick and a fellow named Stu were so totally into learning the music their entire waking life was listening to music and practicing. They considered it a violation of their commitment to even go see girls. The shoplifted food in order to survive because they had no money and no gigs. Their biggest initial problem was how to acquire Charlie Watts as their drummer. He played real gigs that paid him and they couldn't pay him anything. This presented a serious problem, a problem they eventually resolved. And the rest, as they say, is history.

2. How Keith and Mick came to be songwriters was exceptionally interesting to me. For some reason I'd never taken the Jagger-Richards team seriously as writers. In reading Keith's account I came to appreciate far more deeply how serious he was about the craft of writing, and how the two worked together bring lyrics and riffs together.

Keith describes the process all writers go through in which they begin to see things from a more detached view, seeing every experience as an opportunity to translate life into a story or poem or, in his case, a song. Sometimes they wrote songs that didn't fit the image the Stones were crafting, and they gave those to others, such as As Tears Go By, which was initially recorded by Marianne Faithful.

3. The role Brian Jones played with the Stones was different from what I thought I knew. Initially he was added value for the boys, but when LSD washed over the scene in 1966 along with fame, Jones began a three year meltdown, never fully recovering his center. Though remarkably talented he became a liability to the group.

A year ago I picked up a copy of Anthony Scaduto's book on Mick Jagger, Everybody's Lucifer, which painted the darkest possible picture of the manner in which Jagger contributed to Brian Jones' death. Scaduto, a former crime reporter, gives the impression that Mick killed Brian Jones. Keith Richard's account of the events surrounding Brian's drowning may indeed have involved an accidental manslaughter, but nothing to do with Mick.

4.  The story of how Decca came to sign the Stones is quite hilarious. It's one of the great stories of rock history how Decca Records turned down the Beatles because, "The guitar is on the way out." By the time Andrew Loog Oldham brought the Stones to Decca, the Beatles were already a phenomenon and Decca was a laughingstock. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, these suits signed them up, no matter how much they hated what they stood for or disliked them.

5. Richard's perspective on Altamont makes the film Gimme Shelter complete.

6. How Exile on Main Street came to be is a lengthy part of the book. The British tax structure is what make them exiles. Some of the income was taxed at the 82% rate and another kind of income was being filched at a 98% tax rate. George Harrison wrote about this on Revolver: "There's one for you nineteen for me." I didn't realize Harrison wasn't kidding.

There's a lesson here. Critics of the rich want to force them to hand over their wealth through taxation. Why wouldn't they do what the Stones did? "Hey, this is bull--" That's a conundrum that will require creative thinking on the part of better minds than I.

7. Keith Richards has had more cold turkey experiences than any living human that I know of. He speaks graphically about many of these, and we understand that Dante's descriptions of hell may not have been far off. Richards experienced a life with many highs, but some pretty ugly rugged places along the way.

8. Details about drugs and women feature prominently in his life story. Of the former he says straight up, "Don't try this at home."

* * * *
Much more can be said, and you can read it all -- or hear it -- here.

The Publishers Weekly review at Amazon states:
Johnny Depp and Joe Hurley capture Richards's rock 'n' roll spirit in a wise, charming, and textured narration of the famed guitarist's memoir. Tracing Richards's trajectory from boyhood in England through the formation of the Stones to the band's rise to world domination, this audiobook is chock-full of frank revelations and enlightening stories behind the music. The three readers do superb turns—but the seemingly arbitrary switches between them can be jarring and confusing. Depp's narration is steady, well-paced, clear, and grounded. He produces a delicious range of voices for dialogue (most notably a drunk judge in Arkansas), and Richards himself sounds a bit like an elderly, bluesy Jack Sparrow. Hurley captures the voice of Richards throughout, narrating in a gritty, growl that is spot-on. And sections read by Richards are a real treat; his raspy voice is unmistakable and haunting. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

One of the other reviewers wrote this:
This memoir, written with the help of writer James Fox, is an intricately detailed account of Keith Richards life, both in and out of music-but mostly in. All the stories are here-the funny, the touching, the horrendous, and the amazing. Some are well known, some weren't even known to Richards-he only hears later, from others who were with him, what went on. And he's put it all in this book. Included are 32 pages of b&w and color photographs (including one of the band, with Jagger driving, in a vintage red convertible, across the Brooklyn Bridge) in two groups, plus photos throughout the book itself chronicling Richards' life. Also of interest is an early diary that Richards kept detailing the bands early gigs and impressions of the music the band played.

The book is called Life. There's nothing quite like it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lydia Walker and Studio 15 (Part Two)

This is a continuation of our interview yesterday with Lydia Walker of Duluth's Studio 15.

But first, a reminder that tonight is the Closing Reception for the stellar Cheng-Khee Chee retrospective which has been on display at the Tweed Museum throughout the summer.

* * * *

EN: How do you go about finding artists to feature there?
LW: We typically no longer seek out artists to feature and are booking about 6 months out now. Typically artists come to us. We do have some UWS students who were referred to us by professors whom are looking for senior exhibition space. At times we do invite artist to join us for a show and that is often because we think it would be fun to involve them, respect their work and what they do for the art community and want to show appreciation/recognition of that, are doing a theme and we feel their work represents that theme well, or we know them and that they need encouraging to show their work because left on their own they don't know how to get it out so it sits in their house. When I started this last year right before the holidays these were the artists that came to my mind. I know so many fabulous artists who make things for it to then to sit in their house and collect dust because they either aren't sure the process to get it out in the galleries and/or need encouragement to do so. I started with targeting some of these folks to get their work out in the community. I still do seek out and push for them to come out with their work. This is great for them and allows us to feature work that is not typically seen around town. Plus I get the joy of seeing artist face light up when they see their work on display and when they sell their first piece. Some folks make great things but are not sure they can be considered artist until this happens and I enjoy giving them this opportunity to help build their confidence. I know for me personally it took others referring to me as an artist before I really started to believe it and I want to share that with others.

EN: Why are the arts important in communities like ours?
LW: People need art. If one looks at any civilization over time they see and learn that art was a key factor in it. It promotes emotional and psychological well being. Aides in the brain learning to problem solve by thinking outside the box and abstractly. It builds hand eye coordination and reduces stress which can help lower people's blood pressure and have all kinds of other positive physical affects. Art helps people learn about themselves, gives them a voices for self expression, and builds confidence. Art can help people learn to work together as well.

Additionally, art has been shown to help economies in cities such as ours. It can draw in tourist and other people from outside of the community which inevitably brings in an economical boost. It also draws out and gives health things for people living in the community to do such as go to an art show or class, which also helps the economy.

It also draws a focus on the local economy and locally made. The more a community can do locally the better for the health of the community. Art can be used to bring a community together and build positive community involvement and social momentum as well. The more are the better.

EN: How did you come to take an interest in art?
LW: I remember my mom would always tell me that as soon as I could sit up and hold something in my hands she would stick me sitting on bit pieces of paper and give me materials such as marker, crayons. paints, one for each hand so I could make marks, play and experience it. In our household we were given art supplies and materials like they were toys and encouraged to make things and be as creative as we could so art has been a part of my life as long as I can remember and I don't really know how to live my life with out it in some way. I have my mom to thank for that.

EN: Are you still working three jobs?
LW: I always seem to have multiple jobs. The Exchange Bakery is sort of a family business so I cater there when they need me. I also DJ events for ProSound as a fill-in thing as well. And I have a drive to work with and help others, plus a need to have a regular income to support myself so I am now working for Life House with their Sol House program. And my friend owns the Mocha Moose up by Two Harbors so I fill in there when it's busy and they need someone or I need some money. So yes... a billion jobs. I would love to figure out how to work less and support myself more with my art but haven't quite gotten there but heading more that way. A bunch of odd jobs now instead of a full time job and odd jobs so getting closer. but for me when I say support myself with art I mean not just selling my art but teaching art, hosting art events, and doing art therapy as well.

EN: What are some lessons you have learned through your Studio 15 experience?
LW: I have unfortunately learned the importance of contracts, them being clear and enforcing them because one cannot always trust people to do the right thing or think about how their actions will affect others. I have also learned and maintained that keeping things fun must be a priority or you can easily take the thing you love and turn it into just another job. It also reminds me that anything involving art and the community essentially has a life of its own and you must feed it and direct it but also let it live so things do not always go as planned or envisioned but that is okay because beautiful things come from it. I am also learning the ropes of running a business and about things like leases and book keeping. I had some experience in this prior but there is always so much to learn.

I would also like to point out that there is a collective for Studio 15 so while this all started with my vision and I am the leading force in it all those other members in the collective have a say in things and have shaped some of what we do. Events such as open Mic and game night are creations of others in the group and the musicians in the group help steer us towards promoting music as well as visual arts as much as I do. Also, what the community asks for helps shape what Studio 15 becomes as we are an ever evolving entity.

I also want to throw out there that for November and December we will be taking in art from a variety of artist and gearing more towards helping artists take advantage of the holiday gift season by getting their work out there and for sale as we did last year.

EN: Great! Thanks for all your insights and for sharing.

Follow Studio 15 on their Facebook page.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Artist Reception at the North End Arts Gallery: Emergence

Saturday afternoon the North End Arts Gallery in Superior is hosting an artist reception for Lynn Anderson's Abstract Botanical Photography exhibition. Here are the details. 
Will we see you there?


Ten Minutes with Lydia Walker of Studio 15 (Part One)

I've been a big supporter of the Phantom Galleries Superior project in which artists utilize empty building space for short term art shows in order to keep downtown vibrant, and not full of abandoned buildings. Duluth has taken a different but similar approach to keep empty spaces from accumulating downtown. By a variation of this, Duluth through its Pop Up Spaces program has helped several arts related businesses thrive, several of them in what has now been designated a historic arts and theater district.

On Third Avenue West, an empty space half way up to First Street has been utilized as an art space by a group called Studio 15, spearheaded by Lydia Walker, formerly of the Pineapple Arts team. Two or three years ago a similar venture was undertaken, but this time it appears to have stronger roots in the community and a very active advocate in Walker.

Studio 15 opened on small business Saturday last November during Thanksgiving weekend. Lydia Walker has been active ever since in making Studio 15 a fun place to be creative. In addition to hosting art exhibitions, Studio 15 has been hosting a number of classes for kids and adults. Besides fine art and wall art they have creative original products for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas.

This is part one of my interview with Lydia.

EN: What motivated you to start Studio 15?
LW: I started with the idea to create a space for myself to make art, teach classes, and share my art with others. Upon looking further into this idea and examining it more I began to think about how much need there is in our community for spaces like I wanted to myself and decided to create a space that would not just fill this need for myself but fill this need for others as well. Before I opened it I started asking others in the art community if they also felt the need for such spaces in our community. I reached out to feel out what others in the community felt they wanted and needed. Then I began trying to create such a space.

I couldn't have done it without the help and push from my Uncle, Greg Follmer, who started seeking out spaces and pushed me to continue to look past myself to this larger view I was exploring and directed me to the Pop Up Spaces the Greater Downtown Counsel was proving to business plans they selected, which Studio 15 was one of these spaces.

EN: What are some of the activities that take place there?
LW: Studio 15 has moved beyond just my vision for the space and taken on a life of it's own as it has begun to fill with artists. There are 3 artists’ studio spaces for rent not including my own. 2 of these are filled. One by the painter Rachel Eisenmann and the other with the member of the band Gin Street, where they and other local bands they work with practice. These spaces are private spaces to create in as a person sees fit. We have one that is just going back up for rent this month. There are also all ages concerts, typically 2-4 a month, with both local and out of town bands looking to reach a crowd that goes beyond the local bar scene.

There are the two gallery rooms featuring art and hand made gifts by local artists that are available for purchase and this is open Monday through Saturday. We are often looking for new art for these rooms as they change up monthly and we typically have work from 15-25 various artists on display and for sale. The main two gallery rooms are broken up where one features work for various artists who just have a few pieces there and the other has a themed show or featured artist. We are open to working with artists that are experienced in showing their work as well as new to this, helping them learn what it takes to have work in a gallery, a place to start building their artist resume.

We don't require a resume or a finished portfolio to get into our gallery, as many places do, as that is a hurdle that many artists struggle with. Instead we require they show us some type of samples of work they want to display. We have monthly gallery openings to showcase our artists, often on the second Friday of the month but not always. Additionally, we have regular art classes that range from kids classes that can even accommodate toddlers to adult technique classes. Many of these classes are taught by myself (EdNote: Walker has a BA in studio arts and a masters in art therapy and has worked both in schools and in community settings teaching classes.) We also offer space for community artists to host their classes. Types of classes we have held and do regularly are drawing techniques, dying paper, life casting, painting, kids sensory arts, and the list goes on. Additionally, as an art therapist I go to art therapy classes both in groups and one on one where one learns how to do an art activity or about an art technique and they also learn how to use that to relax and benefit their mental health. We also do a monthly all ages open Mic, game night, and art potluck brunch. Wow... as I type this all up I see we do a lot!


TO BE CONTINUED