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Living Art-Fully

We just made a short trip to Cincinnati to see family. It essentially amounted to a playground tour. Cities all have their own feel and I'm finding playgrounds are a neat entry point into a place. Now back in Wisconsin, I'm gearing up for the hard work of working with the city to put some art in a public park. 

Art is for people and people make art. I grew up with that wisdom and feel lucky for it. I graduated from an art high school in Columbus, Ohio that people likened to Fame. It was great because I was exposed to so many professional artists, who were also high school teachers, and to so many creative teenagers. My own artistic training before highschool was mostly in pencil. My mother encouraged my artistic side and took me to classes a woman taught from her home. I learned to draw very accurately and exhibited some portraits in small shows, even won some prizes, but it wasn't a style of art that really inspired me. Also, I have freakishly sweaty hands and I was always nearly ruining my artwork with wet spots.

Fast forward through years of experimentation. These days its my kids who inspire me and I find myself working in many mediums. Crafty moms, many of whom are artists, are flooding the internet with eye candy and domestic porn that is mostly inspiring. I find it freeing to move between sewing projects, writing, photography, and whatever else I feel like having only toddlers to impress. Ideas come to life.

So I make art. Art for my family.

Do Do Do (plural) were a pair of socks made into dolls while I was pregnant with my first daughter. I fell in love with them and ended up taking pictures of them obsessively late into one night. The pictures became a book. Since they were now characters in my daydreams, I wrote a series of silly poems about the different modes of travel they encountered on a world tour. My enormous personal collection of photos and the very simple software that came on my computer let the little dudes globe trot. I named them Izquierda and Derecha, left and right in Spanish, but my daughter named them otherwise, of course: Do Do Do because I sang the little ditty as they danced around.

And now I have two hardback books that I wrote, illustrated, and dedicated to my daughter thanks to self-publishing software. My first books as a kid had covers made from old wallpaper samples. Turns out those ones are still fun to make. My daughter and I wrote one about spring where the strawberry wants to know what the season smells like, tastes like, feels like, looks like, and sounds like. It came together quickly on a sheet of computer paper. It folds into a little pocket-size book with a pink felt cover.

People make things and these projects show my kids that is true. I've taken my girls to meet authors who have kindly inscribed the inside covers of their books. The art on our walls is made by people we know and talk about. 

My point is, art is for people and people make art. Public art is important for all of us, but maybe especially for kids who don't have art on their walls, artists in their families, or an inherent respect for the role of artists in society. I am moved by the mission of this famously progressive arts organization in NY:

art matters, artists’ voices are important in shaping society, and public spaces are places for creative and free expression

Since I'm thinking so much about public parks theses days, I was interested in the editorial by John Roach in Madison Magazine about the green art sheds that were in Madison's parks during the 1950s and 1960s. It sounds so progressive, so smart, so doable. I was shocked I'd never heard of it before! And sad how little public money, and respect, goes toward art these days. 

Then I found the 2013 schedule for Art Carts sponsored by MSCR. Three times this summer I can take my kids to Tenney Park and make art with our neighbors. How progressive, how smart, how doable! 

Summer smells like chalk and tempera paint, 
looks like sand castles, 
sounds like the ice cream truck, 
tastes like brats, 
and feels like a swim in the lake.
A simple book of color and counting. I wrote this while I was pregnant, waiting to meet my first daughter.
You can buy it here.

Little poems about modes of transportation around the world. I wrote this book for my daughters.
You can buy it here.

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