Guest Blogger Tina Aguilar teaches Humanities and Cultural Studies at Brookhaven College School of the Arts.
A few weeks ago my Q&A started a conversation between arts advocates in the Dallas arts and music communities to learn about the International House of Blues Foundation (IHOFB) Action for the Arts Visual Arts Project: “Music and Imagination.” The project brings together students, teachers and area artists to create a visual prism that celebrates music and imagination as they interpret it. The Action for the Arts fosters awareness and value of the arts, generates ideas for young people to showcase their artistic works in public locales, and provides musical instruments and art supplies for school arts programs. This Dallas initiative brings together five different panels under the leadership of artist Emmanuel Gillespie and local art teachers and students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, T. J. Rusk Middle School, Greenhill School and IHOFB Foundation members under the direction of artist Mande Baysinger. The five-piece composition joins together into one artwork that will be added to the House of Blues permanent art collection. It will be unveiled tonight in celebration of these creative minds.
This week, Dallas glass artist Mande Baysinger talks about her work and the cadre of art ambassadors guiding the fifth panel (I call them the Lucky 13). These community artists are Foundation Members of the IHOBF who work with the Creative Arts Center (CAC) and the Texas Sculpture Association (TSA).
Tina Aguilar: When I walk inside your studio, color and form capture my attention. I am fascinated by the density of your creations as well as the vibrancy of color, movement and texture. Tell me about your process and teachers?
Mande Baysinger: About three years ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to do some new things for myself. You know, I used to burn macaroni, and now I am a gourmet chef thanks to cooking classes at Central Market. It was the same for my art. I learned about the CAC through friends and decided to check it out. Through the generosity and inspiration of my glass/metal teachers – Rebecca Romanek Johnson, Rosanne Taylor, Rene Lowery and Daniel Sellers – I am able to create a wide range of work. I like movement in my pieces, and they imparted their wisdom to me. Glass is very feisty … it reaches a certain point, and it will let you know when it is done. This happens with the kiln work, and you also learn not to touch orange liquid. Cold working can take up to five days when you fire it to start the creative process. You treat glass with kid gloves, and you can vary grinding methods. Other pieces, like the vitrographs, are instant and you can play with the liquid and tools to achieve different colors and strands. The fun you have is amazing, because the liquid is all over the place. At the CAC, the instructors are great, and they all work in so many mediums and give such great feedback to all of us.
T.A.: How did you get involved with the House of Blues (HOB) and this arts collaboration?
M.B.: Every three months, the HOB has a Foundation Member event, and I was invited to a few as well as enjoying the venue, and I made friends. Genesis McGoo is on the staff, and her father is an artist in the area, so we could talk about art. Around this time, I was working on my art and took a few pieces to show her what I was doing. She encouraged me to think about doing a gallery event at the HOB, and one thing led to another and it went very well. I sold some of my work, and the event brought in new faces to learn about the Foundation. When I was approached to be the lead artist for the adult panel, I decided it needed to be open to the community, too. This made sense to invite my CAC classmates, some of whom were also TSA members. Jessica Burnham-Hinton and I worked on a CAC Fall event, and we had metal sculpting under our belts. She was on board, as were Sissy Bingham and her sister, Lynn Reagan, both area mosaic artists, and they attended the early meetings at the HOB. We also have Paul and Heather Pennington, who worked on the jacket and guitar.
T.A.: What did it take to organize the group?
M.B.: We had support from our community organizations, and the art initiative was sent out to the CAC and TSA newsletters. We had a pretty good showing at the first meeting in December, and at that meeting I really planted the seed for the commitment and encouragement to stay our course with this project. I knew we would use glass, since that was my medium. But we also asked everyone to bring whatever materials they wanted to work with, and together we were going to make three designs to consider. This would allow each person to use their medium of choice or offer ideas. It was the most diplomatic way, and I thought it important for all involved. After we made our choice and decided the other materials to incorporate, we then met together and donated time and materials to make it happen.
T.A.: How would you describe the panel? What about your group of 13?
M.B.: We have a combination of fused glass, découpage, leather, silk, guitar picks, mosaic and metal sculpture. We didn’t know what the other panels looked like, and when we finally brought them together for a progress check we said, “Whoa, this flows really nicely.” We were all on the same artistic page … the same cohesiveness in many ways. Not knowing about the other groups and panels gave us a creative curiosity, but we went with what we thought would work with the original sketches from Emmanuel. He gave us the chance to do what we know best. Even though some of us did not have an artistic medium, everybody was lending a hand and offered total participation. We had HOB Foundation members Bo Mikolajczyk, Melissa Wackerle, Abby Elstad and Lisa Linehan, as well as support from Ron and Lindsay Sexton. All of these individuals along with the other artists made the whole project possible and a success.
T.A.: This leads me to my next conversation with members of Mande’s team, sisters Sissy Bingham and Lynn Reagan, and leather artist Deana Hinchcliff. Can you each tell me what it was like working with this group?
Sissy Bingham: With all of us came multiple mediums, and we never had ruffled feathers. It worked so well for us because we had many ideas to share and we could judiciously agree or not agree as we designed. The fused glass, textiles, metal, leather and mosaic parts made sense. We pretty much slam dunked it.
Lynn Reagan: I like to work with mosaics and metal, and to be a part of the team opened my eyes. We both worked with Karen Gilboux, our teacher, and have participated in the arts for a little over seven years. As sisters, we influence each other, and we have been able to open up our home studio to our partners as we completed the process. I saved an old box of text and papers from an old client, and when I suggested it to our group they liked it. I knew I had saved it for something. This seemed like the right project.
Deana Hinchcliff: I was asked to do a certain part with my leather process, and it was great to be a part of this group. I have worked in leather and the pyrographic illustration for over 20 years. As a member of the TSA and now board member, I have been able to meet more artists. This project was more of the same, and I was happy to help. There is a level of trust you learn, and to work with each other allowed us to grow. … Creating and being around others who create points you in new directions. This makes the creative process meaningful and inspiring.
The International House of Blues Foundation Action for the Arts Visual Arts Project: “Music and Imagination” artwork will be unveiled Thursday evening with a presentation and reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for students and parents in the Cambridge Room at the House of Blues. The Creative Arts Center will host a series of spring lectures in April and May that focus on ideas to help artists market and sustain their businesses. In late summer, the Texas Sculpture Association will hold its annual member show.