Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Can you start an artist's salon in a ranch-style house?

Would the Ramones, Patty Smith, or the Talking Heads ever existed if CBGBs had been a bar in a Howard Johnson's in Newnan, GA?  This is of course provided the likes of those folks would have ever lived in a town like Newnan.  Or if CBGBs had been a bar in Howard Johnson's somewhere in New York City?

Could the Surrealists have convened at a Wafflehouse and still have made the impact they did? 

Is part of the allure and the mechanism for creativity and intense philosophical debates reliant upon where they take place?

When I had my art gallery, I had grand designs of it being a place where people could meet and exchange ideas, where people could come and be inspired, awed, disturbed, and happy.  I wanted to have classes, host multi-art events - in short, I wanted to be able to engage people in art and artful conversation.

But the gallery was not an old warehouse, or a brownstone, or a former Victorian apothecary.  It wasn't located in a particularly artsy part of town.  Part of a strip mall, it was off of the main street that runs through the middle of Savannah clear out to I-95.  Devoid of any noteworthy architecture, it had formerly been the site of a gas station which had simply been added to over time with a large expansive showroom emanating from the center, once home to a piano store and a lamp shop.  

For a gallery space, it was more than adequate, lacking only in a higher ceiling which would have been more spatially appealing.  While it was mostly three walls of plate glass windows, which cut down on hanging space, it gave a sense of openness and allowed the people whizzing by glimpses of art if they happened to look in a westerly direction.  

Formerly OC Welch dealership sign
Photo credit esywlkr

The gallery was nestled in between a popular breakfast chain and a used car lot.  While the car lot might have been a total downer, it did have a really huge, neon sign circa the 1960s.  

If the restaurant had been hipper - we might have had something worthwhile going on.  But alas - we just weren't able to garner interest. No amount of  press, events, or networking could get people to come on a regular basis.  So there was no envisioned salon.  No birth of an art  movement.   No  lasting impression on the Savannah art scene. Now, it's a pawn shop.

I have very romantic notions of the salons of old, of the Salon Dada, the Pre-Rafaelite Brotherhood, or the Algonquin Round Table.

Algonquin Round Table by  Natalie Ascencios
I will be hosting bi-monthly meetings of artists structured around the book, "Walking in This World" by Julia Cameron, a follow up to her successful "The Artist's Way".  

None of us are ground-breakers in the art world.  Only a few of us have had formal art training.  A couple of us are teachers.  There are no men among us - though we welcome anyone who shares our way of thinking and creating.  I live in a ranch house - the sort of structure from which you could make a fairly accurate 3-D model using only a shoe box and some strips of cardboard to section off the rooms.

I don't know if it's the sort of space that would inspire or infuse a sense of creativity.  Our meetings will be in the breakfast nook which overlooks my very unkempt backyard.  I hope something lasting and meaningful comes from our bi-monthly meetings; I'm sure our discussions will be very lively if nothing else, a handful of 40-somethings re-embarking on a quest to put art and creativity back at the center of our lives.  I should think of it in less grandiose terms, less of a salon, more of a play date.  

And looking at the big picture, there's nothing wrong with that.


May said...

I wish I could stop by for those bi-monthly meetings- it sure sounds like an awesome idea!

Melissa M (Lagaz) said...

I really like the play date idea :) If you got the space in your home, I would totally go for it. I love the idea of having something like that, especially in my own home. However, I would need a bigger house for that. :D

Todd Hanson said...

A play date is fine. I'm sure the Dada crowd were having a blast - with wine glass in hand!
Good essay. Thanks!

Thorn said...

I wish I could come to you play date, too!

(Also, I'm now got the idea of the "Surrealists of the Wafflehouse" nesting in my brain...)