The first time I ever met a real, practicing visual artist was when I went to RISD as an undergraduate student. It may sound odd to say this, but when I was in high school I didn’t really think about visual artists as people who were alive in my time period. To me, visual artists were people you read about in a textbook, or whose names were on the walls in an art museum. It never occurred to me that visual artists were actual people I could interact with in my life.
Reflecting upon that now seems so ridiculous, since as a professional artist and teacher, almost everyone I interact with on a regular basis is a practicing artist. In terms of making visual arts accessible to the average person, that’s really frustrating and I have to imagine that many people have a similar perception that I had as a high school student.
When I meet people and tell them that I’m an artist, they frequently tell me that they “don’t get art” or that they don’t understand what the deal is with contemporary art. For me part of the problem is that to the general public, an artist is someone like Jeff Koons who built a gigantic steel sculpture that looks like play dough that cost well over a million dollars, and who had a retrospective at the Whitney Museum. The vast majority of working artists will never have their artwork shown at a national museum like the Met.
What has really been surprising (and fun) about Art Prof is how many artists I have met, people who you never thought were artists have this whole other side of them. I met someone at one of our portfolio review events who told me that he worked construction and landscaping jobs during the day and then went home at night to paint.
I find it ironic that as a high school student, I never really met a working artist, and yet now I am discovering that artists are in fact, everywhere.
That’s why we are building a new section of Art Prof, where we will showcase artists of all ages, middle school students, college students, working adults, lifelong learners, everyone. I have many aspirations of Art Prof, and one of the biggest ones I have is to change the public’s perception of who artists are. We don’t have create elaborate and costly installations like Christo or Yayoi Kusama to be artists. There are many ways to be an artist, and on Art Prof, I want to show the artists who live among us.