Activating Art and Barn Doors

“I should like people to know that they cannot approach color as if coming into a barn door: that one must go through a severe preparation to be worthy of it.”

—Henri Matisse


I’ve been in my studio in the Cork Factory for more than six months now, enough time to figure out how—as a community-minded artist—to put it to use.

It works pretty well: I’m interested in activating my art—using it as catalyst, frame, or instigator for social engagement, exploration or experience—and nothing beats a beautiful room with natural light, open space, and a view of the city for sharing art and bringing people together.

Though I began by seeking others to play with, people are now finding me. (Or maybe my space.)

Within the next month, I have three different events taking place in my studio. I have others in the pipeline, and conversations with several individuals lined up to consider more possibilities.

The key to successful collaboration is mutual benefit: my collaborator’s interests are met, and my art is activated. This does not come about by accident—I must be mindful of the other, and honest with myself.

Why “honest with myself”?

Ego is a great deceiver. Even with many years of collaborative projects behind me, I am not above fooling myself into thinking something is a good idea just because I want to parade some new art, or get some gain from a partnership that really ought not happen. Integrity (honesty) is ongoing work.

I would argue much community-minded art falls short not in art quality, but rather in the quality of the relationship among stakeholders: the artist uses people to serve aesthetics rather than aesthetics to serve people; the social justice organization under-recognizes the role strong art might play in illuminating the subject of their passion; conscious and unconscious hidden agendas abound; and more. Simply put: too much ego, not enough honesty.

Successful art activation is not as easy as coming into a barn door.