Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Why I’m Psyched about Awesome Foundation Seattle

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

This is Suzanne Tidwell and that fuzzy, rainbowed thing beside her is a tree.  Suzanne is a self-proclaimed yarn bomber — think Stich’n Bitch + graffiti.

Today, I watched Suzanne and her friends transform 7 or 8 of the Occidental Park maple trees into a fanciful, Christo-meets-Seuss installation (more pics below).

I had a chance to chat with Suzanne during Arts Walk.  She’s been scouring every Value Village in greater Seattle for discount yarn.  She won a grant from 4Culture.  And then came the paperwork and the permissions.  In other words, a lot of love and hard work.

The result? Complete surprise and delight from all passers-by.  People petting trees. A reason to stop for a snapshot with a friend.   Awesome.

Suzanne was happy to hear that we are launching an Awesome Foundation in Seattle.  She told me that winning traditional arts project grants can be tricky.  “Foundations won’t often fund your project until it’s nearly completed,” making the start-up process challenging, especially for new artists like herself.  A little recognition and a $1,000 grant for supplies could be a very meaningful first step for a new project.

Coming home inspired by Suzanne and her yarn bomb, I wanted to reflect on my personal motivation for launching Awesome Foundation Seattle.

  • First off, I want to see how awesome $1,000 can be.  In my professional life, it seems that if a project doesn’t cost at least $100k, it can be starved of attention and support.
  • I want to meet the people of Seattle (and beyond) who can make $1,000 awesome.  I’ve been coming and going from Seattle for study and work since 2005.  Now that I’ve returned and hope to stay, Awesome Foundation is my call out to the local dreamers and makers – let’s bring some new fun, brains and hope to the city!
  • I’m a nerd for experiments in collaboration and community coordination.  I want Awesome Foundation to be my new lab.
  • To a long-time non-profit professional, Awesome Foundation is counter-intuitive.  Is “awesome” a mission?  Can a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens really change the world, without big dollars and big institutions?  Is philanthropy the new punk?  I want to find out.
  • Finally, I want to spend more of my days inspired.  And, if I’m lucky, I want to inspire more people to spend more of their days inspired.  Inspired by people like Suzanne, by more color for trees, by new friends and new ideas.

Will you join me?

I’d love to hear from you.  If you’re already an Awesome Foundation trustee with another chapter, leave a comment about why you’re psyched.   If you live in Seattle, use the comments section to point out something local and awesome that inspires you.

And finally — Seattle-area folks — if you want to learn more about the nascent Awesome Foundation chapter, please fill out our very short interest form soon and help us spread the word.  Next week, Tommer and I will start organizing an awesome community dinner to get things kicked off.  So far, 25 people have signed up.  Don’t get left out!

To learn more about Suzanne, visit her new site:

And, better yet, come on down to Pioneer Square to check out her work.  The yarn is acrylic and the trees will stay in their current Suessy state through the summer.

Now, as promised, click on for more pics:



My First Gallery Purchase – Stacey Rozich’s Patterns of Renewal

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

While my blog is on an arts kick, I am really excited to talk about a purchase I made last weekend, which marks my first time buying artwork at a gallery show.  I’m very excited.

Long story, but last Friday, I almost accidentally stumbled into the last few minutes of the opening of Stacey Rozich’s Patterns of Renewal show at the Pun(c)tuation Gallery on Capitol Hill.  Lucky me.  I have been planning to start my own modest art collection this year, but hadn’t made any definite plans yet.

Here are two photos of what I bought.  They don’t really do the pieces justice.

This is called Mountain Goats and is the larger of the two I acquired.

This is a smaller piece (bigger than a postcard, smaller than the profile of your average first run hardcover), in her Skulls series.  I believe it is #4.



Policy Ain’t the Only Way to Change the Game

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

This piece was published as part of a weeklong online dialogue hosted by Arts Journal called “Creative Rights & Artists,” to which I was asked to contribute.  Join the conversation here.


At the risk of being accused of changing the subject, or worse, heresy, I want to offer the following:

Fighting on the policy front is not the only way for artists (or “creators” going forward) to maintain and expand their creative rights in our communications system.

I’m going to argue that there are many points of intervention when it comes to the evolution of technology in society, that artists are already taking the lead on these other fronts (in addition to policy), and that recognizing and leveraging creators’ strengths outside of policy-focused strategies will make the policy battles go much better for us.

Why am I doing this?  I have spent a few years fighting the good policy battle in the media and communications sectors.  As one of the wonkier NAMAC board members, I still do.  I can’t argue with a lot of what’s already been said…

Policy is hard. Check.
Big money tends to win in Washington. Check.
The groups working on cultural and communication policies for the public benefit need more resources. Check.
Representing and empowering “artists” in policy debates is a non-trivial proposition. Check.

However, I see at least two problematic trends in the conversation so far.  First, I don’t want us to get stuck on what I would call policy determinism.  The idea that “getting the policy right” will make the world a better place for creators doesn’t always work.  As the political is the art of compromise, no one wins 100% of what they want out of a policy debate.  Reforms come with new loopholes baked in (see campaign finance).  The result of government action are never predictable (see, ARPANET).  Regulators are captured by the industries they were meant to oversee (see, well, any regulator).

The bottom line is that policy changes are not the sole (or often the most important) mechanisms shaping the structure and impact of any technology or industry.

Second, I’m afraid we could run in endless circles trying to find the magic bullet that would strengthen the creator’s voice in the policy debate.  I hope we have some great ideas, but we’re up against several limiting factors.

Leaders in every policy change effort are trying to get everyone, including creators, involved in their thing.  As I sat down to write this piece, I got an email asking me to help involve artists in the climate change fight.  There’s only so much activism time in the day.

While I support the idea of an awesome iPhone app for creator activism, and I really like what I read about Fractured Atlas’s Bay Area Cultural Asset Map in Ian’s post, I’m always wary of Shiny Object Syndrome.  Online tools are just tools, and a hammer is only going to get you so far without a blueprint.

Worst of all, we’re limited by the fact that, when push comes to shove, policy fights just aren’t that sexy, especially when technology is at the heart of the debate.  Put as much lipstick on that pig as you want, making law has too much in common with making sausage to turn most people on.  I suppose I slaughtered that analogy.

For all these reasons, we have to understand what else creators can do and what they are already doing that can play into creating the world of boundless creative freedom that we’d like to see.  In the immortal words of President Bartlett, as he gave Sam Seaborn a priceless chess lesson (Season 3, Episode 58), before you make your next move, you need to “See the whole board.”


Sarah Silverman, TED, and the Chilling Effects of Enforced Optimism

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Admittedly, I am a johnny-come-lately to this story.  I don’t know how I missed it.  Two things in the world that I deeply appreciate: the TED talks and the edgy-cute humorous stylings of Sarah Silverman.  Upon watching a recent Real Time with Bill Maher episode (clip below), I learned that the two came, very publicly, into conflict.


TED began as an annual conference for the elite of the technology, entertainment and design worlds and has blossomed into a trend-setting media behemoth, whose speakers now include cutting-edge scientists and political leaders.  For example, Bono’s ONE campaign to end poverty received an enormous boost in its early history when Bono received the TED Prize.

At first rendered relatively obscure by design ($6,000+ entry fees for invitation-only attendees), TED began offering their talks for free via online video a couple of years ago and organizing new conferences in India and the UK.  Now, hundreds of people are franchising the TED experience through the local TEDx program.

Sarah Silverman’s comedy is known for its raunch, self-deprecation, irreverence (even sacrilege), psychedelia, and (on the surface) a juvenile approach to social commentary.  As fans know, this is the window dressing – Sarah’s work constantly exposes the juvenile hypocrisies of “serious grown ups” and celebrates imagination through sophisticated gems of free association strewn throughout her pieces.  Still, right up front in the window is juvenile raunch, self-deprecation, irreverence/sacrilege, and psychedelia.  For anyone who books her, this isn’t even a buyer-beware proposition – Sarah isn’t hiding anything.

So, when I heard TED was bringing Sarah to their conference this year, I was surprised and satisfied.  Then I promptly forgot about it.  Until I saw Sarah talking with Bill Maher…