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Blog — "art"

The Divisive Nature of the Arts

Heidi Shenk "Baltimore" art

I have officially been part of the Baltimore art world for the past five years. I mark the beginning of Row House 14 as the start of that timeline. In five years, I have sought out the community of others who make, love, or share art. Something about being surrounded by others that love art just as much as I do is important to me. I think it's the aspect of inspiration-- being inspired by others and having others to share your ideas with.

However, in those five years, I feel as though few gains have been made in becoming part of that community. I've written about those hopes and dreams on multiple occasions on the blog, but I've never written more deeply about it.

During this past holiday season, my frustrations came to a head as I found myself at a poorly attended arts and crafts market surrounded by other incredibly talented artists of all kinds. It was the third show in just as many weekends that didn't go quite as I had hoped, and I noticed that those same artists that I saw on that day were in attendance from the weekends before.

Meanwhile, on that same weekend, another craft fair took place that was wildly popular and very well attended. The group of artists was a familiar group. I had attempted to get into that market on multiple occasions, but despite my many, many attempts, I was denied once more. I couldn't understand why so many of the same artists were able to return to the market each year without giving a newbie like myself a chance. After a frustrating weekend, I proclaimed to Andrew that I felt like I had gotten into all of the reject markets. However, the quality of the art at each of these markets certainly were not of reject material.

For me, and many other artists that spoke to me about this, it feels as though there is a divisive line within the art community that doesn't intend to exclude, but does. Over the days following Christmas, I explained to my visiting parents how frustrating things can be for so many artist entrepreneurs in Baltimore and that many of us feel as though we're outsiders being shut out of a small group that often sees a bounty of success. My parents' continued response was, "But that's just how it always is. There's always the 'in' group, and that's just how it is."

Yes, they're right. That IS how it is, but does it have to stay that way? Can't that change? Or can't outsiders be the catalyst for change? Their continued response to my questioning was still a solid "no."

Maybe I'm an idealist, but I believe all people should be given a fair and equal opportunity. In this city, and certainly elsewhere, that simply isn't the case in the arts. In a city that is often ruled by The Maryland Institute College of Arts, it is often hard to be taken seriously if you're not an alumna. I've heard the question and response all too often at various art events. "Oh, I just love your cards! Did you go to MICA?" "No, I did not." "Ohhh." The "ohhh" is often accompanied with a tone of disapproval, a quick glance away, and an abrupt change of subject or end of conversation.

Alternatively, I get those who ask if I will be at such and such market or if my cards are sold in particular local stores. When I respond with a no, I get a "What?! Why wouldn't they want your cards to be a part of that?! I can't believe it!" And I usually respond, "I don't really know why," because I truly don't. That's not to sound arrogant or come off as if I think I'm above others-- that's just not the case. It's more along the lines of not understanding how despite any and all efforts, I still end up on what feels like the reject's side.

You may be reading this nodding in agreement with my parents' sentiments, thinking to yourself that this is just how things like this are and that I should move on and get over it. However, I just can't shake it.

Why should some opportunities be given to only just a few to enjoy? Haven't we ALL worked hard in order to get to the place that we are today? It reminded me of why I first became a teacher when I first moved to Baltimore. I hold a firm belief that everyone should be given a fair and equal opportunity, and when fair and equal doesn't seem to exist, especially in a world and field that is always touted as so open-minded, I feel disheartened, frustrated, angered.

I'm not sure what to think anymore about makers and the arts in this city. Sometimes I feel a sense of community with a few individuals that I chat with or see from time to time. Other times, I feel completely disenchanted and excluded. While I still think finding community within the arts is important to me, I also believe that maybe it's time to look for it through other avenues and be a catalyst of change.

I'm not quite sure how that will look in the future. Andrew has suggested starting our own art market. And I'd still love to have my own retail shop. Perhaps those are things to spend time working on building rather than trying to be a part of what already exists. It can be strange being on your own, by yourself, in your house, with no one else other than a dog and cat. I like the solitude most of the time, but the energy of an art community is missing. I'm not quite sure how to get there, but hopefully I'll get there somehow. And for now, I'm focusing on the small positives notes and building things one small block at a time.


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Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Heidi Shenk "travel" art

Sometimes life gets so busy that you need a break from, well, life. With the end of a deluge of commitments to craft fairs, neighborhood events, and other such city living happenings that had been on our calendar for several months, we desperately needed a reprieve before diving back into the next lineup. We happily used a gift certificate that I had won and booked a free night at a Hilton in Philadelphia for Sunday night, drove the less than two hours north, and enjoyed two days of whatever we wanted to do.

On Sunday afternoon, we spent some time on South Street at Philadelphia's Magic Gardens. This visionary art environment is a the work of many years by mosaic mural artist Isaiah Zagar. The entire museum has been turned into incredible art and expands into a courtyard and garden space. Every nook and cranny is filled with tile, glass, bottles, mirrors, bicycle frames and wheels, knick-knacks, and even a toilet. His works expand beyond the gardens and into the community where public murals can be found in alleys, wrapping around buildings, and even protruding from fences.

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Taking in the mosaic murals and gardens was the perfect way to find some much needed inspiration and helped to clear my head from the hectic bustling of the months before. The Magic Gardens was one of several happy places for us in Philadelphia during our impromptu recharging weekend.

Have you ever visited Philadelphia or the Magic Gardens? Is your city home to a lot public art?

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Friday Favorites

Heidi Shenk "art" "fashion" "friday favorites"

Yesterday for the first time in the six years that I have lived in Baltimore, I went to the basement for a tornado warning. As a Hoosier native that was born and bred in tornado alley, I decided that clearly things with the weather were not so hot when I glanced out the glass-paned door in my studio to see a sky that had turned black and green. Forget tornado warnings. Sometimes they don't predict the right thing. And sometimes they come after the fact when it is too late (like the time a tornado touched down literally three houses down from my childhood home). But when that sky is green, that's my warning. (I also often half joke that if it sounds like a freight train is about to come through your living room, then that's a good sign you should head to the basement. That sort of happened in the situation of that last little side note I made.)

This morning is a different story. Lazy, gray wisps of clouds are dissipating to show peeks of blue. It makes for a good Friday morning. Not hot enough yet that the buzz of the air conditioning units in our alley have taken over the peaceful morning. And promising of better weather for tonight's baseball game. So, what better to do than round up a few things I've been browsing upon while sipping my morning's iced coffee.

My sister has some pretty amazing recent adds to her shop, StarSeventeen. I recently favorited this hat. The colors are just fabulous! And I've commissioned her to paint a super awesome hat for me. I'll be sure to share it once it's all done!
via StarSeventeen
I'm a sucker for turquoise, and this necklace from Cat&Bot is definitely one I wouldn't mind having.
via Cat&Bot
This little bowl just makes me happy.
via up in the air somewhere
I would really love to add this scarf to my collection. Perfect for summer! Light and bright.
via LeLeni
I love this abstract painting. The colors are fabulous and I really like the triangle and geometric theme.
via Mardi & Me
And of course, I couldn't leave you without a few good things to read.

Like this mind boggling BuzzFeed article, Why No One Should Mess With the Ocean.

This recipe for spiced salmon skewers. (You may have remembered seeing these in my Instagram feed!)

And some permission to do the things you've wanted to do. I especially like that last bullet point!

Any plans for you this weekend? We're heading to the O's game tonight. For Saturday and Sunday I see some bike rides in our future, plus some painting. Yup, big basement project is underway. Will have to update you all soon!

Have a fantastic weekend!

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Gwen Frostic

Heidi Shenk "art" "Gwen Frostic" "stationery"

I love wood block prints. I was first introduced to block prints by my grandmother, a woman that loves paper goods and knows best how to write a wonderful letter. She always has a stash of note cards stowed away for the many personal notes that she always writes. One such type of note cards were those by Gwen Frostic, a wood block artist from Michigan.

As a child, on our way home from our camping trips in Canada, we would stop in Benzonia, Michigan to see Gwen's shop and pick up some stationery, calendars, and books. Gwen, who is no longer living, would sometimes be hiding amongst the printing presses as they clicked and clacked to produce her lovely prints.

Her shop, still open for business, is amazing. It is nestled in a wildlife sanctuary and uses native materials in attempt to bring the outdoors inside. Gwen's prints are nature inspired and were often created by the plants and animals that surrounded her studio. She is truly a creative inspiration.

A glimpse at some of the items available on her website.

And a glimpse from my personal stash.

One thing that I love about the stationery that gives it an even more natural feel is the deckled edge. Many of Gwen's designs are so simple, but just perfect. And some are more complex and leave me in awe of her ability to have carved that with an end result in mind. One thing remains certain. Most likely throughout my lifetime, I will always have a stash of Gwen Frostic paper, just like my grandmother.

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All in the Family with StarSeventeen

Heidi Shenk "art" "Etsy" "hats" "StarSeventeen"

I'm pretty sure that art runs in the family. My dad's art is building guitars. My mom's is baking bread and making woodblock prints. My sister's is hats. Yup. Hats. Well, that's not entirely true because she's pretty amazing with all sorts of media-- painting, drawing, knitting, collage-ing, jewelry-making, card-making, sewing, and probably a bunch of other things that I can't even remember anymore. So to say just hats would be silly when she's spent her entire life doing art of one sort or another.

Her latest focus, however, is her Etsy shop StarSeventeen. She especially loves creating geometric designs. And she paints her geometric designs on hats. I love the originality of this particular art and the fact that no two hats are alike.

And if that's not enough hats for you, I'm pretty sure she rocks at making knitted hats too.  I can fully attest to that one considering that both mine and Andrew's favorite winter hats are ones that she knitted us for Christmas a few years ago. A few of those for eye candy as well...

And we even share an obsession with Sharpie markers...

She sells her hats on Etsy in her shop StarSeventeen. And you can check her out on Facebook as well. In the future, she's hoping to focus mostly on her geometric designs, expanding to poster prints, and even clothing. Lots to look forward to in the future! Show her some love and head over to her shop and facebook page to favorite and like her!

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