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  • Kate Lentz

{Finding the Art Kids}

One of the things I miss most about being in school is the small group of art kids...otherwise known as The Misfits. We had almost nothing in common...mostly because I was ten years older than all of them, but we shared the dream of becoming artists even though that meant being poor forever. We were insomniacs covered in oil paint and charcoal that left fingerprints all over the bathrooms of the art wing. We knew nothing about what we were in for, but damn it, we pretended that we did. That community was so important. It cultivated our techniques because we were feeding off of each other’s creativity. It also strengthened our art language, and it just made us less alone.

I feel lucky that I had lived a pretty long life before deciding to go back to school. I had already been through plenty of college classes and received an associates degree, I had a career for a long time, I experienced several existential crises and meltdowns, I was married, I had a house, I had done the three-jobs-just-to-afford-rent thing and survived. Through it all, I found art. In the eyes of the art world, I started late. WAY late. But I eventually figured it out. And because of that journey, I feel like it prepared me for what happens after graduation. I knew what was coming: Life. Life hits you hard after you graduate, I don’t care how old you are. Even if you still have to raise a family, work multiple jobs and still balance student life, there is still that “college bubble” that makes you feel safe, supported. So when you’re done, that bubble bursts. For many, that means ditching everything you studied in college and just finding a job as soon as possible. It happened to me, but like I said. I knew it was coming. I was still able to create art despite the lack of required homework to push me into making something. I was used to art PLUS life. But what I wasn’t anticipating? Missing my art community. I had it for three amazing years, then suddenly it was gone. They were young, full of life. Looking for work, but still being kids. No one wanted to hang out with an old lady anymore...and I definitely understood that. So...I kept doing what I had always been doing before I went to school. I made art. But I worked alone. No one saw it. And I had no one to talk to about the successes, doubts, and failures.

Pre-This Year’s Shit Show, I had a few places I could go to at least be around art. That was my favorite art museum, and my city’s monthly First Friday event that featured all the local artists. My favorite place that participated every month was called Art Bar. Every month, those who were in the group created work around a theme. The pieces were displayed in a really cool bar until about midnight. Live music, good food and BEER. Lots and lots of beer. It was a great time.

When I was still a student, I decided to submit my work in the hopes that I would be accepted into the group. At the time, I was making a ton of art and I felt like I had seen a huge improvement. Every month I was meeting more and more of the artists and I could picture myself and my art in this collective. Sadly, I was not accepted though. They saw “potential,” which quite honestly felt worse than a flat out, “NO YOU SUCK.” I was pretty upset about that for a long time. I was getting closer to graduating and I really wanted to find a home in an art community. If my own city didn’t want me, then...why was I even trying so hard?

Eventually, my bitter feelings were pushed aside. I was still thrilled that I could celebrate other artists, even if it meant I was just a spectator. Several of my friends were a part of the Art Bar, so I truly treasured every month when I could be around paintings and artists.

Cut to 2020, a few months ago. Out of the blue, one of the board members emailed and invited me to be part of Art Bar Season 9! After the shock wore away, I said, “HELL YES!” But I will admit, I was nervous. It had been a little while since I’ve actually had art deadlines (ones that I didn’t make for myself, anyway) and having to follow a theme felt suspiciously like a homework assignment. But I was up for the challenge.

And a challenge it was. The season opened with “Art as Protest.” After about a week of mulling this over, I went for probably the most obvious choice, Trump. I ended up creating two pieces:

I decided to submit the more colorful option because I felt like it blended with the other artists’ styles.

The first show I would say was a success! I was so proud to see my name included in the Art Bar Squad. It was the first time since I graduated that I felt like I was with my “people” again. I think it’s more important than ever this year to stay involved in what you’re passionate about. It took me a very long time to find the motivation to create art this year...Not only because of a full time job, but because of the obvious “End of the World” thing. But having a group or club, even if it’s all online, I think it’s a wonderful way to stay accountable and involved in that world, whatever it may be.

Since the first show, we have already had one more: This is Halloween. Here is what I did:

I had a million ideas, but I procrastinated a bit too much. In the end, I love this tribute. I even sold it! But next to the other pieces, I can definitely see the benefit to digital art. Mine looks a little...flat in comparison to the others. Which is why I’m SO excited for November’s theme. I will be talking more about it in the next blog, but I will be hopefully getting it started this weekend. Since Halloween is next Saturday, I kind of have to finish it as soon as I can.

Now that I typed that, I’m only slightly panicking about the approaching deadline……….

Anyway the point is, when it comes to art, it’s okay to stay up until 4am in your basement and work on projects alone. But eventually, the art AND the artist needs to see the light of day. It helps to have a strong community to have your back. Whether it’s to buy your art, tear it apart, critique it, or next to it, that’s an important gravitational pull. You can feed off of each other’s ideas and passions. The more I work on art, the more I understand the need for other artists to be in my life. Find the art kids. It makes all the difference in the world.

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