My Life in Art
My Life in Art
March 28th, 2011
Let me say right off the bat that I am the bookkeeper here and not a designer. But I have been around the arts all my life.
My Uncle Ben was the creator of a Submarine Man comic in the late ‘30’s. He later became the art director for Procter and Gamble products in New York – ah, the time of the three martini lunches! Really! At the Stork Club in the ‘60’s, nonetheless! I was working at a POP ad agency on Madison Ave (office management and production, receptionist, etc.) at the time and we would go out on long lunches when my bosses were away – sometimes the 21 Club, too… Yes, Mad Men to the max! I was there! And it’s all true! My two aunts were art teachers and gave me encouragement in seeing – I not being at ALL talented in the direct application of pen, pencil or paint to any kind of surface...
NYC in the sixties was a hotbed of artistic goings-on. I OD’d on museums, art openings – free booze and good looking guys, and ART! Wonderful! In the mid sixties I got a job at the very new NYS Council on the Arts – as the office manager and the contract and budget person. Still we were a very small group and the process of nonprofit public arts funding was a new and exciting time. Happenings – it was kind of hard to explain to the budget people in Albany that our contracts for happenings were bonafide arts expenditures. They were skeptical - not surprisingly – Brussels brooms mechanically running around by themselves in a warehouse with a sort of bouncy castle of artifacts didn’t make much sense to them. (Most of you don’t remember a Brussels broom – it was a sort of carpet sweeper with a large floor head and a long stick handle with roller brushes that picked up the dirt better than straight brooms on carpets. The Brussels part refers to carpets that were called Brussels carpets.) Also it was exciting to work on the Harlem On My Mind exhibit at the Met – the first photographic and multi-media exhibit put on there under the auspices of Tom Hoving, then director. (See under Google – Harlem On My Mind – www.time.com for contemporary commentary!) Heady times! The Council grew from $660,000 under Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to $22,000,000 in four years. It was grand!
The Arts Councils of America lured me away from the State of New York – tired of civil service, tired of fighting bureaucracy every day for arts money and explaining and explaining. My boss had moved on to become director of MOMA and it was time for me to go too. ACA was the national organization that supported the nacent community and state arts council movement with advice and money. It was really a trade association for arts councils. We had an annual convention, of course, and the first one was in San Francisco with the very young new band called Jefferson Airplane! The next stop on my arts trail was The NYS Council on Architecture – sadly not up to much – but we did learn how to use Community Development money for arts activities – then came a stint with the City of Louisville KY where I was the Mayor’s assistant for community participation – we set up a couple of local arts councils, got a couple of grants for making alleys into play areas, stuff like that. Did some good historic preservation activities.
Then to LA where the Santa Monica city government allowed me to set up a charette for redesigning the look and street furniture of Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica. We had a competition for an entrance art piece which actually got put up – it is a very high slender archway over Wilshire at the beginning of Santa Monica. It was supposed to have neon in a channel under the arch but that didn’t last long. It is still there, I believe, but hard to notice without its neon. Also we got some public art on the beach – a couple of giant rollers that make patterns if they are pushed and some “singing” chairs.
There’s more, but a bore – I designed, manufactured and sold my own table linens for 5 years and got design awards every year in the home furnishing field. And after ten years in the film business too I am glad to be back in an arts arena even if it is just doing the books!