Monday, May 7, 2012

Lifting All Boats

The famous 1976 New Yorker cover by Saul Steinberg depicting the U.S. as seen from NYC.

The next time I post, Spectrum Fantastic Art Live! will be history. Good or bad, success or failure: the outcome will be what it will be (though I think everyone will have a good time). People have already been asking about "next year"—including some of our committee members (who are almost certainly gluttons for punishment)—but Cathy's and my response has always been the same: let's pull the first one off, then we'll see.

The purpose of SFAL! is exactly the same as that of the Spectrum annual and the two Spectrum exhibits at the Museum of American Illustration (in 2005 and 2009 respectively, thanks to Irene Gallo for being the prime-mover behind both): to raise the public's awareness of and appreciation for fantastic art. Simple as that. Spectrum—and by extension, SFAL!—has always been an umbrella under which all are welcome, not a fort or a cell. Fantastic Art was a term we used as marketing short-hand to help describe the books when we were starting twenty years ago, but was never intended as a set-in-stone guide. The goal was never to define "fantastic art" exactly: defining any art is a way of confining it. It wraps everything up into a neat package and answers questions before they're asked. It's the end of a conversation, not the beginning.

No one can "own" this field nor can they create some sort of private club that sets artificial parameters which excludes those who don't fit this or that largely specious "criteria": much like herding cats, it's an absurd notion. Realistically, I believe that we all want people to experience fantastic art in a multitude of venues expressed in a multitude of styles and mediums—and come away with their own impressions and reactions and, yes, personal definitions and criteria. By "defining" it for themselves they're actually investing in the field's—or genre's, if you prefer— longevity.

The key to growth—to success—for artists is in outreach. To enlarge their audience and not fall into a trap of retreating into "safe" (and ultimately contracting) enclaves. To create new fans while nurturing long-term patrons. To growing our field by opening doors and inviting the curious in.

And part of that growth has to come with more opportunities for the public to experience the art and to interact with the artists who create it. More exhibits. More educational offerings and PR efforts. More conventions. More...more.

Traditionally, in order to get an "art fix" (fantastic or otherwise) the common belief is that we must journey to one coast or the other (our overseas readers, of course, have their own challenges): why?

You've got me there.

When we first announced SFAL! some Internet wag posted, "This sounds great, but who wants to go to Kansas?" Never mind that the poster was geographically challenged, it's an odd and often-repeated expression of cultural prejudice against other parts of the country that is, quite frankly, based on ignorance and false perceptions. I love California and I love New York...but I also love Chicago and Dallas and Denver and Minneapolis and all points in between. Do you want to see one of the finest collections of American Painting anywhere? Go to Bentonville, Arkansas. Yeah, Arkansas. You want to see the largest exhibit of Mucha art in the U.S.? Plan your trip this summer to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. You want to see one of the most exquisite Carravaggio paintings in the world? Come to Kansas City. (Kansas City, Missouri, that is, just so the aforementioned poster doesn't get confused...)

No region has a monopoly on art...and that includes Fantastic Art. Nor should it.

So that's why, yes, of course, I'd love for as many people as possible to come through the doors for SFAL! May 18, and talk to the artists and buy paintings and drawings and sculptures and prints—but I also enthusiastically encourage folks to attend the "At the Edge: Art of the Fantastic" exhibit that Pat and Jeanne Wilshire are sponsoring in Allentown in June, and their IlluxCon in November. I encourage people to attend the local SF and Comics conventions, big or small (there is one or more somewhere virtually every weekend of the year), and become patrons of the participating artists. I encourage people to journey to GenCon in Indianapolis or World Con in Chicago and make attending the art shows and interacting with the artists a priority. And then talk about what you see and experience. Share your enthusiasm with others. In other words, I'm encouraging everyone to pitch in and help to grow the appreciation for the art and for the people who create it.

Every drop in the ocean lifts all boats. Expanding our field is good for us all.

"Crowbot", created by & © Jon Foster—the symbol for SFAL!

21 comments:

  1. (Fixed spelling) I think Kansas City is the best possible place for a celebration of fantastic art. For one thing it's proof that fantasy belongs to everyone, not just people on the coast. Also it's an equal distance for us "coasties" to travel. We're looking forward to driving all the way there on a kind of pilgrimage, and hope to see some gryphons and trolls along the back roads.

    This is a huge leap of faith for you, Arnie and Cathy, just as the first Spectrum book was, and I'm sure it will be a great success. To those still on the fence about going, do it! You'll be able to say years later that you were at the first one.

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  2. This event will be historic in our genre. You guys have the greatest time and make this so incredible that there is no way to say no to next year. I'll be with you in spirit.

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  3. I'm a crate building machine right now. Can't wait to see you all there!

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  4. I thought you were going to be there Bill? You,d better explain....fast.

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  5. "...let's pull the first one off, then we'll see."

    Having just passed through this, my wife Kate and I, with the first Northern Light event, I really appreciate the sentiment, excitement and nervousness. We had great success, and I am sure you and Cathy will too! I only wish we could attend, because it's bound to be brilliant...

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    1. Thanks, David—and congratulations on making the first Northern Light event a success!

      I'm looking forward to seeing how your "The Nautilus and the Devilfish" is coming...

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  6. Have been set to come for months, now desperately trying to make sure it still happens. Really have been looking forward to it.

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  7. Yeah Paul, life got in the way. Family without insurance-coming to the rescue-all of that kind of stuff. I haven't cried in years. I cried. I've been looking forward to this since I juried Spectrum 17 and Arnie started filling us in. All I can say make it the best event ever so they'll do it again next year. Thanks for asking Paul. You can't imagine how much I wanted to meet you, Petar and some others that I know will be difficult to hook up with in the future. Now I'll go cry again.

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    1. I was going to say something smart-alecky about Bill having outstanding warrants from his last visit to Missouri...but I'm too disappointed that he can't make it. We'll miss you, Bill!

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  8. First of all, Arnie, this was a very nice, impassioned “speech” about SFAL, Fantastic Art and a few other related issues. Excellent!

    Second, being based in Europe, it does not matter much to me whether the show is taking place in New York or Kansas City (well, apart for the fact that Kansas City means 2 flights extra), Paul, me and all others from overseas will have to ship all our works, books, family (pets, perhaps as well) and ourselves, cross the ocean (one of them) to get there and to have a proper presentation. I am sure that all of you who have done this kind of things in the past know how much energy, time and stress, (money as well) goes into it.

    When it comes to this (and a few other things as well), I envy you, guys, from the US. Although the country is huge, from my point of view it feels like everything is “around the corner” when you are there. All the shows, galleries, publishers, collectors, the whole Fantasy Art market….( No, no, don’t ask me again “why don’t you move to the US than…?”, I am too old ( and too heavy, at the moment) to pack all my belongings and to move once again… In the next life, perhaps).

    However, what I want to say is, although I hesitated a little when I heard about SFAL for the first time, only because of the fact that I will have to organize all sorts of things and will have to fly over the ocean once again ( I am not a big fan of intercontinental flights), I must say that I am very glad that I have made the decision to attend the show. I also think that it will be a historic event, as far as the Fantastic Art and a few other related things are concerned. So, if you are from the US, and you still hesitate… don’t hesitate. Pick up your things and go there! It’s just around the corner…and it’s important!

    Bill, I know that you are not attending the show, and as you know, I find it sad as well! But, I have the feeling that the second SFAL will be even greater, and that you will be there :0)

    Safe journey, Paul, and all others! See you in Kansas City!

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    1. Thanks, Petar. One of the things that we are PAINFULLY aware of is the changes—and, thus, challenges—to traveling. It is ridiculously easy to get to NYC or L.A. or San Francisco or Atlanta or Chicago, but increasingly arduous to fly practically anywhere else without a stop. Or two. Or three, even. Factor in getting art from one place to the other and, woof, we're talking headache.

      So we greatly appreciate the efforts everyone is going through to be here, either to exhibit or to attend. We will undoubtedly screw up something along the way, but we're going to try to make sure everyone comes away feeling that it was worth it.

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  10. Arnie, while I'm not an esteemed international artist yeeeettttt, I want you to know that some people (well me at least!), are coming from as far as Australia to attend and support your event...it is so exciting for me to be amongst many of our industry's trailblazers and luminaries and experience the first SFAL. Well done on the effort and good luck to all of you contributing who are packing your wares for the trip to Kansas City.

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    1. My guess is that the Martini Loft in the Aladdin is going to be the Official Muddy Colors Watering Hole: We'll look forward to seeing you, Dean!

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    2. Love it! Look forward to meeting you Arnie if I we get the opportunity.

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  11. You know, if you were running for office, this would get you votes! Nicely done, Arnie! See you in 10.

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  12. I agree with the above, very well said. I've been getting the Spectrum annuals since the second one, and with the amazing artists that will be there I simply had to attend. I'm very nervous about it, as this is both my first professional portfolio review and my first time having a booth at a convention. But I'm also very excited, and I think it will be a fantastic experience.

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  13. Well said and really looking forward to the event.

    W

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  14. Sensory overload is how I'll be after next weekend. Not only will I be able to mark off Missouri on states visited, but I will be able to see all the amazing artists I've admired, looked up to, and learned from WHILE standing sid-by-side displaying work of my own. I'm giddy and trembling at the same time. The event is a complete success to me already! I'm glad to be a part of it. Thank you!

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