I was recently honored to be part of a panel discussion put on by North Austin Influencers. I was there in my capacity as a stay-at-home dad who is an artist and community organizer for the arts.
Below are the questions for which I prepared. Hope to do it again sometime!
- As an artist you really get involved in your community (for example first starting at home by being a stay-at-home-dad, founder of North Austin Creatives and now Georgetown Art Center) in your local community. Why is this so important?
Most of my adult life has been teaching abroad. Working at international private schools gives you an automatic group of friends with the other teachers. Being a SAHD, I really have to make an effort to get myself out there or else I’d just be home and not using all parts of my brain. Selfishly speaking, participating in AND creating community gets my art out there too, which is good for my development as an artist. Brian Eno talks about ‘scenius’ as opposed to genius. Scenius is the intelligence of a group or a particular scene like the art scene, music scene, etc. I want to set a good example for my daughter by showing the importance of being engaged in your community and raising the scenius. You’ve got the build the community you want.
A creative household and community are the priorities you work toward for yourself, your daughter, and neighbors. You do this by being a stay-at-home dad, an artist, and now a board member of the Georgetown Art Center. You’ve stepped out of the usual mold by some of the life choices you’ve made. What are some of the obstacles you have come across when creating a life that is out of the norm?
I’m used to being a foreigner, so the idea that my life is out of the norm isn’t so much an issue for me. Balance is a difficulty I’m always working on. No matter how passionate I am about my art and my community, my number one priority is my family and raising my daughter. I have one painting that’s 5 feet by 6 feet that I did exclusively during my baby’s naps. I was so energized to finish it but I had to temper that passion in a way that fits my number one role as a dad. For my own mental and physical health, I read from 9-10pm before bed. While I could make art then, that would energize me, ruin my sleep and therefore sabotage my bigger priority of being an alert dad.
- Stuart, you are an accomplished artist. You state that the 7 years abroad (in Spain, and then moved to rural Nagasaki, urban China, Hong Kong, Okinawa, Tokyo, Panama, and Turkey) were transformative in your art as it expresses foreignness, identity, and place. Can you tell us a little of this transformation? How has the knowledge you picked up in your travels helped with perspective on all that you are involved?
I’m a first-generation American and I always felt foreign growing up in Texas. Being a foreigner in Asia and Turkey was an easy identity in my experience; you’re automatically special, people are interested in you, and you’re given a lot of grace. When I moved back to America in 2013, being just another guy with a beard in Austin was tough and drives me to create community. Communities make us feel special and they’re ultimately what save us when we feel like sinking. I’ll add that one of the reasons I’m attracted to ball moss in my art right now is that they’re epiphytes- foreign objects living in a ‘normal’ space and adding visual interest. I kinda identify with them.
- How do you know you are creating your own success story?
I like to think that I’m a few years into a 60 year career and that I’m doing just fine. In the year 2077, I’ll be able to look back on a solid career as a visual artist, as an arts administrator in my community, and as a successful father. Considering that I started all this arts and community business in 2013 when I moved back to America, I think I’ve accomplished a lot and set the tone for the future. Viewing my career in the long-term makes me feel confident in the success that I’m creating.
- Please share anything we should be on the lookout from you this year?
Watch North Austin Creatives– they continue to grow and amaze me. I’m planning the 2018 exhibition season up at the Georgetown Art Center and we’ll have a lot of great talent up there you won’t want to miss. For my personal art, watch for more elaborate work involving ball moss and wasp nests. I engage with the community and help out neighbors to get these objects and they, in turn, come out to see my art. It’s a beautiful way for me to get out there and for people to get engaged with local art. And you can always be on the lookout for me and my daughter making trouble in Georgetown, Texas.