Vita Brevis Arts Bureau

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'Ars longa, vita brevis...Life is short, art eternal.'~Hippocrates

    The Chance Occurence at the Festival…

    With breathless trepidation he determined to feel the pulse of the street for himself. Completely out of character for a such a shy sort as he, William folded two 5-ers and a 10 into his front left pocket of his dark blue Levis, slipped the brass front door key into his right then made his way down the narrow staircase from his garret to the garden stoop outside the front yellow door to see what madness this pageant held.

    Immediately, his face felt that the air bore a different texture than the morning. No longer soft and lilting with an arpeggio breeze, the density of it had changed, having become sodden from the press of bodies and their collective scent, pungent like a wrung out sponge left on the kitchen sink. His ears shuddered from the low bass timbre of the parade, coming up from the ground through his legs along the spine and into his brain, vibrating with the beat against the insides of his skull. He did not hear the music, if one could call such cacophony music at all, so much as feel it, all encompassing in each and every atom of him. The smell of meat roasting mingled with the distinct and unmistakable aroma of urine from the sidewalks behind the row of rubbish skips across the road, overloaded with aluminum cans and glass bottles emptied of their contents, the labels belying various and sundry beers, wines, and whiskeys, the remnants mingling on the concrete with the excretions of nameless bladders.

    From his lookout on the porch behind the white wooden gate he scanned the crowd blocking the entrance to the street, providing at once an insurmountable obstacle and protective stopgap so that one might wander freely on his side, but dashing any hopes of crossing beyond. With his decision made for him, William turned toward the Cock and Bottle. He could see from down the block it was too full. The tables outside were all taken, packed close, it was a beautiful day after all. He passed by on the church-side, too wary of the malingerers wobbling from drink to venture in for a pint now. Content to meander, he carried on away from the chaos, curious to explore what eccentricities the day may bring.

    There was no escaping the carnival. Each street corner was a destination, a venue for musicians and vendors with hand-scrawled signs on torn cardboard with scribbly marker selling goat stew and jerk chicken, or Red Stripe, or Guinness, or Jamaican flags, limp in the windless heat. Bands played in every square. People moved in small rivulets, flowing over curbs and around cars parked on the roadside toward the Portabello Road, a gaggle of dewey young women dawning from a cafe here from the left all twitter and frill, a tumble of rakish men spilling from a pub on the right, all joining the stream, ever widening as it made its way West.

    As the current coursed toward the market street William became again aware of an intriguing sense of his own otherness. He felt the air around him, it had a different texture on his skin, all pricklepear and ginger, a warm breeze from the East. Along the edge of the road he was taken with a peculiar scene. Amidst the bustle of passersby, a small bent man of perhaps 60 years in a black suit with white flowing hair was pulling down wooden shutters with a long shepherds crook over the glass windows of a indistinct shop front. To say ‘indistinct’ is not enough, because the façade was so nondescript in comparison to its counterparts bedecked with brass placards and flowerpots of various hues that it projected an aura unique among its neighbors despite itself, a stolid remnant of another era beside an array of eager architectural dilettantes. There was something otherworldly about that instant, as if something unseen held his attention there, causing his consciousness to acknowledge its own dislocation. William watched the gentleman from across the avenue, for he was dressed as such, a matching vest beneath the jacket with glint of gold watch chain tucked away, going about what seemed like it must have been some manner of daily routine. He might easily have been mistaken for an undertaker had it not been for the royal blue necktie fashioned in a Windsor knot. So curious a figure did the man cut, calm amidst the commotion, unbothered by the interlopers chattering and full of go, in search of their next chapter of the unfolding party, that William could not help but forget the purpose of his own peregrinations altogether. Although he could not see the details from such a distance, he imagined the man’s shoes to be handmade, the shine reflecting like glass from the polished black leather. Once the man completed his task and went inside, closing the door behind him, William felt compelled to cross the road. A small hand lettered sign in the transom window above the door of deep vermillion read ‘Vita Brevis Arts Bureau’. Black type, hand blocked, cursive script on a white wooden shingle. He didn’t dare ring the bell.

    As his mind argued against reason whether or not to impose himself upon the curious gentleman with the shepherd’s crook, he was abruptly dismayed by the distinguished scent of what he immediately understood to be the passing of a woman on the sidewalk behind him. Lavender and lemon rind atomizing the air of his inward breath, his head turned by instinct, involuntarily, red curls the color of burnished copper bouncing just below the shoulder, a lilting black dress cut expertly six inches above the knee. It appeared to be chiffon the way it rustled gently in her wake, her gait unbroken by his presence, dumbfounded on the street before the battened shop.

    As he watched her fade into the mingling crowd he felt lost at the prospect that he’d never know her name. Compelled, involuntarily as if by instinct he felt his shoes lightly shifting, lifting themselves in the same direction as the girl whose face he’d still not seen. It was inevitable that he’d soon lose sight of her, that a new gaggle of festival meanders would block his line of vision and absorb her amongst its midst. But he knew somehow that this encounter was not insignificant.

    There was something of the squirrel about him, this young man from Memphis. However sparkly a thing may enchant in the moment, he possessed a near preternatural capacity for storing away morsels of visual knowledge, be it an elegant stroke of typography seen on the street, the hem of a garment impeccably stitched, or the particular refraction of light at a certain time of day through a window of a forlorn café. These caches of aesthetic, synaesthetic, and even ecstatic, ethereal experiences he folded into the furrows of his mind for later use, inspiration for when he had the right amount of time and a suitable space to be an artist and make his paintings, he told himself. Paintings that would never materialize in pigment on canvas, but rather accrue only in their perfect form as ideas captured as hand scrawled lists in disposable ink pen script across a litany of tattered pocket notebooks, waiting in boxes and suitcases and coat pockets and satchels for an as of yet elusive magic day of creation. Even if he forgot where his acorns might be buried, or that he’d even gathered them at all, there could still be benefits from the oak they might later become. While he would revisit these on occasion when another encounter might trigger a reminisce and spur a torrent of fervent action involving intent visits to the hardware store for various viscosities of enamel or latex and brushes of all sorts various and sundry, for the most part he remained but a dreamer of ideal pictures rather than an actual creator of images anyone else would ever see. As such, he was not an artist so much as an enthusiastic yet absent-minded collector of art supplies. But this episode was different. He would remember this girl. He would return to explore the Vita Brevis Arts Bureau.

    — 3 weeks ago
    #Vita Brevis Arts Bureau  #London  #Notting Hill  #notting hill carnvial  #The Curator 
    "Art Matters: Life Lessons in Arts Leadership, A-Z" by John William Weeden →

    My first book is out on CreateSpace, coming soon to Amazon and Kindle!

    — 3 months ago with 1 note
    #arts leadership  #Arts Advocacy  #non-profit administration  #public art 
    Arts Leadership A-Z: ‘Z is for Zero-Sum Game’

    In the course of your career as an arts leader you will be subject to exuberant dreams of glorious projects that will prove powerful catalysts for changing people’s lives for the better through the power of human creativity made manifest in any number of breathtaking, awe-inspiring scenarios. You will want to make these fantasies come true in the real world, and will believe in all earnestness that you and your team can compose such a transformative production that the field will forever base its comprehension of art and beauty and cultural rigor on the magnificent work resultant of your efforts. You will dream big, and you should, because nothing amazing ever happens if we don’t let our imaginations get carried away. Before you spend too much time and enthusiasm on such ideas, however, it would be wise to consider what has to be done in order to avoid a zero-sum game situation. This occurs in game theory when gains are leveled out by losses, leaving a net sum of zero. The same principal can be applied to the efforts of arts leaders who devote so many resources to the realization of a project that any gains that production might create are essentially made null, costing only precious time, money, credibility, and the sanity of yourself and your team.

    What do you really hope to gain by coordinating this project, or supporting this effort? If it does not result in financial gain for the organization, will it provide positive and long lasting good will in the community? Could it mean greater respect for the organization that is likely to lead to future partnerships or patrons? Before you commit, examine the range of possible outcomes and give serious consideration with your team and advisors to the likelihood of your actions creating brighter days.

    — 3 months ago
    #arts leadership  #zero-sum game 
    In the studio, playing with lightning

    In the studio, playing with lightning

    — 3 months ago
    Arts Leadership A-Z: ‘X is for Xenophobia’

    Arts leaders in any discipline will inevitably encounter hostility or irrational wariness of their ideas, proposals, or activities from those already active in the space they seek to engage. Whether you are trying to stage a new production of a beloved classic with an avant garde twist, or a public art coordinator charged with installing a mural in a protective community skeptical of design alterations within its public space, you will be faced with criticism for being ‘not from around here’ or sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.  Territorialism is not exclusive to physical geography. People can be very antagonistic when it comes to outsiders engaging subjects they hold dear. New ways of doing things can even cause a stir of opposition within your own organization itself. In order to mollify concern and build partnerships it’s important to be open and transparent with your activities and to enlist the ideas and cooperation of those stakeholders who hold an investment in the production, be it tangible or emotional. This will take time and a great deal of dialogue, but it will be worth the work to move forward with a solid base of support when finally ready. Rushing into things without the necessary community behind your efforts can quickly derail your endeavors across multiple aspects of your operation and make it difficult to get much of anything done at all.

    Once your programs are a success, and your organization is being recognized for the visionary and inspiring work it has achieved, be sure to remember what you went through to get there. Don’t react in the same xenophobic manner to newcomers who bring their own ideas into the same space. Seek out opportunities to support their energy and build momentum to affect positive arts productions whenever possible. In this way, the world changes for the better, and we are all the beneficiaries of the new landscape we have all created through authentic collaboration and mutual respect.

    — 3 months ago
    #arts leadership  #xenophobia 
    Working with white lightning today.

    Working with white lightning today.

    — 3 months ago
    Arts Leadership A-Z: ‘V is for Vanity’

    V is for Vanity’

    As arts leaders, you may become accustomed to being the figurehead and spokesperson for your organization on all fronts. This is common, and to be expected especially if the operation is a small one with limited staff or Board with competent public speaking skills or media savvy. You are right to want to ensure the mission is stated clearly and that projects taking place are described with a connected relevance to the organization’s core values and overall reason for being. If your programs are successful and compelling, the press will most likely come calling for interviews and photo shoots, all great opportunities to communicate the importance of your group’s work to the broader community with the result of building further support. The increased profile of the impact your group’s work makes in the world is a good thing. However, be wary of the spotlight shining only on your self, alone. Your success is due to the team of supporters you’ve assembled and mobilized to realize the projects gaining all this attention in the first place. It is of crucial importance that you share the accolades in as much as is possible, whenever appropriate. Vanity can kill an organization if stakeholders begin to believe leaders are taking all the credit for themselves. 

    In order to keep your support base motivated, it is crucial that you share the role of ambassador, and that you educate those best equipped for the role with the necessary insights and advocacy tools to tell the organization’s story in as compelling and accurate a manner possible. Teach these ambassadors the details of how certain aspects of the organization works, and why each is important for accomplishing the mission and its projects towards that end. Ensure they know the mission verbatim and can explain what it means and how the group’s work makes a difference to the community with specific examples. Direct selected press inquiries to staff and Board members. Arrange press photo shoots to highlight team members that consistently demonstrate their commitment to delivering the best work possible. The more professional the chorus of voices sound, the greater their ability to recruit and retain support for the organization overall.

    — 3 months ago with 2 notes
    #arts leadership 
    Arts Leadership A-Z: ‘Under-promise (Over-deliver)’

    ‘U is for Under-promise (Over-deliver)’

    It is perhaps the curse of all believers in the power of art to transform the world into a space of wonder that they delude themselves in all earnestness that anything may be possible with enough work, enough passion, enough purpose. Just as timing is an invaluable knowledge set, so is the possession of self-discipline to know how much is too much to reasonably accomplish with the resources to which one has access. Arts leaders are constantly having to enthuse their support base, members, volunteers, constituents, etc. This condition depends on their ability to express the vigor of their vision in terms that can make converts and inspire action. Countless arts leaders have gotten themselves into overwhelming situations when the unforeseen realities encountered when implementing projects confront the idealistic dreams of a brighter day if only everything had worked to plan. Maintaining espirit de corps among the Board, the support base, the funders, the community, artists, and staff when obstacles arise and original outcomes projected or promised become compromised is often a difficult, embarrassing, and stressful endeavor. It also causes your stakeholders to question your judgment, your credibility, and your capacity to perform the duties of the role with which you’ve been entrusted.

    Therefore, it is imperative that after you’ve worked out the broad strokes and finer details of any ambitious project that you enjoin the collaboration of others on staff and the Board for their feedback and troubleshooting. You need the insights and questions, and challenges posed by others with the acumen and ability to provide clear and objective guidance if this magnificent world shaking program is to actually effect the change in the world you believe. What resources can you actually rely on? What about the costs, can you actually count on that funding stream remaining the same or increasing as projected? What outside factors could derail this plan, and what are your back-up strategies for dealing with such contingencies? Who can you realistically count on, what pieces of the puzzle can they reliably deliver, and when? These are just a few of the myriad questions that need to be considered.

    This is why you should always under-promise to others what you intend to produce, then work diligently to over-deliver on the results. In this way you’ve exceeded expectations, raised stakeholder trust in your abilities, and increased the likelihood of future support, and put your organization in an ever better position to create meaningful works of art that make an impact on the lives of your audiences.

    — 3 months ago
    #arts leadership 

Alighiero Boetti, Mappa, 1971-2


    Alighiero Boetti, Mappa, 1971-2

    — 4 months ago with 66 notes


    Anamorphic paintings by Felice Varini

    Felice Varini is a Swiss artist known for his geometric perspective-localized paintings in rooms and other spaces, using projector-stencil techniques.

    Felice paints on architectural and urban spaces, such as buildings, walls streets. The paintings are characterized by one vantage point from which the viewer can see the complete painting (usually a simple geometric shape such as circle, square, line), while from other view points the viewer will see ‘broken’ fragmented shapes. Varini argues that the work exists as a whole - with its complete shape as well as the fragments. “My concern,” he says “is what happens outside the vantage point of view.”

    He was born in 1952 in Locarno, Switzerland and lives in Paris.(source)

    My Amp Goes To 11Twitter | Instagram

    — 4 months ago with 1217 notes


    Street Artist Etienne Lavie Hijacks Billboards in Paris Replacing Ads with Classic Artworks | via

    For his latest project titled “OMG, Who Stole My Ads?”, French street artist Etienne Lavie imagines what the streets of Paris would look like if all the ads plastered on posters and billboards were replaced by great works of art. Sneaking around the city, Lavie has been covering advertising billboards with classic French artworks, reclaiming some of the public spaces that have been so mercilessly invaded by advertising. The project challenges the destructive impacts of the advertising industry, getting people to slow down in the midst of their daily routines and simply enjoy the beauty of art. 

    — 4 months ago with 3387 notes

Lawrence Weiner, Placed on the Tip of a Wave, (2009).


    Lawrence Weiner, Placed on the Tip of a Wave, (2009).

    — 4 months ago with 111 notes


    The Last Billboard

    A 36-foot-long billboard located at the corner of Highland and Baum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Every month, a different individual is invited to take over the billboard to broadcast personalized messages, which are spelt out using wooden letters that are changed by hand. 

    Follow it’s evolution here.

    — 4 months ago with 143308 notes