Friday night and I was walking up Main Street. A young man ran by. As in running for exercise ran by. Shorts. No shirt. Headed the same direction as me but moving quicker. I didn’t pay all that much attention. If I’d considered it more I would have guessed he was a college student, as how many athletically inclined high schoolers choose to run on Friday evening? It seems like there are other things going on. Example…HS football.
Anyway…I made a stop. Was probably at that stop for ten minutes, maybe more. I left and then arrived at my next destination, the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center. Just a ways up from where I was when he ran past. And there he was again. Stopped though. Breathing a bit heavy. Sweaty from running. And he asked me a question. I noticed he was wearing a shark tooth necklace. I wondered why he asked me. Other people were coming and going. What did he ask?
How can I get my work in here?
Now this is rather interesting, at least to me, because I was about to walk into the arts center. Meaning I don’t think I came across as anyone who worked there or had any decision making power there. I know a bit about how the arts center works but not enough to give factual information on how a young artist can have his work displayed. I knew there was a crowd inside. I knew that evening was probably not the best to inquire about information, as the powers that be might not even be present. Or if so, not approachable. So I told him this:
You should come back during the week when they’re open and ask.
His next question was a good follow up…when are they open? So I walked him to the front window and showed him the printed hours. I was friendly. Not standoffish. I wanted to help him more. And reflecting back. I wish I had. I wish I had asked what kind of work he does and where he goes to school and blah blah blah. Honestly if he hadn’t been sweaty and sans shirt I might have walked him in and assisted him in asking about his artwork. Yet I realize I have no idea of his abilities and whether this is a realistic question.
He thanked me and we parted.
I walked into the arts center and soon realized what their current display consists of. Kids art. The title is REIMAGINE and the deal is elementary students create a piece of art and are paired with local adult artists who interpret the piece in their own style. The art is auctioned and the money raised goes to provide arts-related resources to local public schools. All very nice, right? I have actually attended this in the past, as at least one kid I know has participated. One of my close friends was one of this year’s participating artists.
This evening it struck me, as I observed the little signs which tell what school the child artist attends, that the Lexington schools listed are not exactly filled with high need students. These public schools are in wealthy outlying neighborhoods. The private schools are, well private and quite expensive. My point being, I did not note any participating students from schools with certain demographics. Those in low income neighborhoods. Those with higher percentages of non-white students. Etc.
Please note I am not bashing this exhibit. I am not saying it is not a successful, important event. I don’t know enough about it or where the money raised ends up to make a distinction at this point. My point is this. I noticed an irony in the kid outside who approached me and what was being displayed inside.
And it made me consider, once again, what is important to me. I want all the valid work displayed. Not necessarily at the downtown arts center. But somewhere in the world where it can be noticed and enjoyed and celebrated.
I want to be able to answer. Clearly and concisely, how a young person can publicly display their artwork. I also want this in the figurative, maybe even more so than the literal. I want to introduce young people to opportunities and others who can get them where they want to be.
I suppose it was a non-surprising wake up. I already knew I felt this way. But for whatever reason it stood out to me on Friday. A reimagining? Unsure but perhaps.