The train from Hong Kong to Beijing is a special one – and not just because it is filled with more stale smoke than any other enclosed location (including cigar bars – those places have good ventilation systems). It is special because trains provide the prolonged transition period that travel used to inherently imply. Unlike flying, you feel the distance between these two places. You feel that these places will be culturally distinct. And if that transitional day wasn’t enough to convince you that Beijing is different from Hong Kong, someone will be sure to hawk a phlegmatic “Welcome Back!” loogie directly onto your boot. Oh, Beijing, you charmer.
The best (and worst) part about a 24-hour train ride is that it gives you plenty of time to think. Luckily on this journey, my meandering thoughts ended up time and time again on the beautiful friendships I have developed with artists all over the globe.
These amazing artists have supported me and so many other people. These artistic relationships challenge both of us — and even anyone else in close proximity to the conversations being had. These artists have forced me to look inward and analyze my internal self as often as they have forced me to question the motivations for and manner in which I interact with the world.
We have shared advice on how to support ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and financially. We hold each other accountable to the ideals we espouse. We pick each other up after being knocked down by harsh bureaucratic procedures, by grant rejections, by horrid election results, by relentless poverty, by the insecurities that lurk within our brains.
We carry on because we have each other.
These artists all have such inspirational stories. Check them out! Connect, support, and collaborate! If you want to be in touch with someone but can’t figure out how, just send me an email, and I’ll connect you.
- Teemu Räsänen, a self-proclaimed “existentialist with two university degrees in arts,” is as passionate a devotee to facilitating projects for others at the ARTELES residency in rural Finland as he is for his own.
- Susan E. Evans is a conceptual artist and photographer who bounces between Detroit and Finland, exploring how we define and describe the world around us. If you meet Suski, be sure to ask for one of her stellar rib-crunching hugs.
- Marianne Danling, a stunningly gorgeous Dane who lives in Berlin, runs People+People, a consulting firm that counsels corporate employees about the importance of creating bridges for cross-cultural communication.
- Hayleigh Evans, the Brand Manager for Propertuity, has been on the front lines of developing several blocks in downtown Johannesburg into The Maboneng Precinct, a thriving creative enclave. Hayleigh is a fount of information about how to encourage economic revitalization through the arts without alienating people living in the area prior to the development.
- Andrzej Urbanski is a German visual artist of Polish ancestry, who currently lives in Cape Town. With a background in graffiti, his main artistic focus is on human social behaviour and learned or innate reactions to varying shapes and colors. Andrzej’s collaborative exhibition with Paul Seynol – “A Vacant Passage” – is on display until October 12 at Salon91 in Cape Town.
- Willard Kambeva, a Zimbabwean artist who spearheads Jullard Creations in Cape Town, is dedicated to empowering people from marginalized communities to generate their own income by producing hand-made art & craft using traditional African techniques.
- Gina Maxim and Misheck Masamvu created the studio/gallery space Village Unhu to give young artists near Harare, Zimbabwe a warm and welcoming space to create their artwork as well as to provide a central location for school children to attend free art-making workshops.
- Fundai Chamba is an inspirationally passionate youth leader in Highfield, Zimbabwe, who coordinates and mentors youth devoted to strengthening their country. If you’d like to meet Mr. Chamba or discuss helping the Zimbabwean youth, I will connect you to each other.
- The artists involved in Grupo Garabato all incorporate the local community in the creation of their artwork. Alberto Caraballo, as president of the group, talks openly with community leaders and politicians about the importance of art and organizes opportunities for the group to exhibit publicly. Danilo Peña Taveras teaches drawing classes for local kids of all ages at the community technology center. Federico Velasquez mentors young painters and encourages them to share their perspectives on his paintings and murals. Carlos Baret talks passionately to anyone who will listen about the impact that high quality art and poetry can have on an audience. Raul Geraldino is leading the charge to cover his neighborhood in uplifting murals. These artist-activists include community members in the planning and painting of murals in the Moca area and often refer to themselves as facilitators or mediators rather than isolated studio artists.
- Maximo Ceballo is an eloquent and expressive painter and sculptor in Santo Domingo who will whisk away for hours to work on a sculpture with him.
- Amanda Ruppert, the Program Manager at Laser Eagles Art Guild and Co-founder at Mindful Arts in Toronto, pours her seemingly endless energy into facilitating equal access to the arts, regardless of physical or mental ability. Plus, her smile will make anyone’s heart flutter.
- Michael Holt is a warm-spirited traveling musician loosely based in Toronto. He has seriously insightful observations about creativity and community building, and we shared deep discussions about building sustainable communities through vulnerability and celebration. Michael will be performing an intimate house concert in Raleigh in October. If you’d like to join, send me an email.
- Jessi & Boris are constantly feeding and nurturing children at their little restaurant La Cocina in San Miguel de Allende. Their open hearts and sincere dedication to be a port of safety and childhood creativity reminded me that, no matter our means, we can all make a difference by welcoming others to our table. They are shining examples of how doing something small with the right intentions can make a massive difference.
- Elsmaire Norby is a photographer, poet, and the endlessly energetic founder of Ojalá Niños. If you think that you have too much on your plate, Elsmarie is the perfect reminder of how to get sh*t done. Elsmarie bored into me the concept of “observe and respond,” which means you first observe what is actually going on and then act accordingly and immediately rather than foisting responsibility onto someone else.
- Miguel Angel is a talented sculptor who balances his own creativity with coordinating groups that are focusing on training kids to become self-sufficient, including Meaningful Mexico and Ojalá Niños. His theories about transitioning education to focus on useful trades and forming economically sustainable collectives has widespread applications in developing countries across the world. Y’all need to learn more, and if you are interested in launching a pilot program about “Inverse Education” in your community, email me.
- Tanya Hart is a thoughtful installation artist and English teacher in Hong Kong. Tanya and I originally connected through the Artistically Irrational exhibitions I curate with Dan Ariely, but her generous spirit stunned me when she invited me to stay with her family for this project. Tanya considers love and connection from an astonishing variety of angles in her artwork, which has inspired me to plot a group exhibition surrounding the subject.
- Keon Woong Lee is the General Manager of Faust International, a theatre and performing arts group in Hong Kong that works with kids to do after school drama workshops and professional level productions, but just as importantly, he is an incredibly talented cartoonist. His warm heart surrounds and softens frustrated parents and tyrannical toddlers alike.
- Anna Gleeson is an artist and illustrator based in Hong Kong. Anna also curates the publication han wan pao, a monthly paper about people who make beautiful things. Her subtle aesthetic inspired me to reconsider the relationship between image and text in my own sketchbooks.
- Steven Case is a poet and passionate soul who has unfailingly reminded me to keep at it. Although he keeps his creation to himself most of the time, his writing has inspired me to continue honing my phrasing to become more lyrical and melodic.
- Amber Crews, my best friend since high school, has the rare talent of calling people out for their bullsh*t with the utmost love. Without her raw honesty, I would still be working at Barnes & Noble and fearful of taking any risks. She doesn’t share her writing with many people, but she is destined to become the iconic voice of lesbian young adult literature. Mark my words.
- Ricky Nelson is a songwriter who weaves tinges of heavy metal and pop into folksy storytelling with a rooted bluegrass sensibility. As an exploration in becoming more and more vulnerable, he will be embarking on an international tour in 2014, so stay tuned for opportunities to experience his music in person!
- Akira Morita and Dipika Kohli, a powerhouse duo who run Design Kompany and Orangutan Swing, have crafted their design and consulting businesses on the foundation of play. Keep up with their eloquently written explorations of trust and risk and play by subscribing to their mailing list.
- Rodney Derrick has collected art for over 20 years, with what started as a hobby and has led to a lifetime passion for art. This passion has led to a collection of over 200 paintings of international artists of all sorts, with a particular emphasis on artists living in totalitarian regimes. Rodney is a highly-respected fixture in the Durham arts community.
- Michelle Gonzales-Green, a photographer, videographer, and passion arts advocate in Durham, creates stunningly wide variety of artwork that reflects upon the paths we must all consider and the dusty storybook that we eventually leave behind.
- Aaron Mandel, writer, community organizer, and editor extraordinaire over at the Clarion Content, is one of those special individuals who just makes sh*t happen. Read the 13/13/13 interview with this lovely creative economy leader here.
- Damian Oleksiuk, who blogs about love and awakening to truth, is breaking the social stigma of mental disorder. Check out his blog for his guideline to developing a 15 minute meditation practice in 30 days.
- Abby Esterly, the amazing animator responsible for the adorable animation gif for this site, can bring any story to life.
- Sheri Skeahan has been my artistic mentor since I was eight years old when she brought me into her studio to watch her work on massive oil paintings. I cannot thank her enough for being such a stalwart supporter of this project.
- Bonnie Cohen, coordinator of the Molly’s Minstrels column on the Clarion Content, also guides a life and relationship coaching business called Transition Works to support people in their dives into self-discovery, awareness, creative expression and life intention.
- Carter Hubbard, a vulnerability-devotee like myself, doesn’t like to call herself an artist, as it’s only one thing she does. Instead, she calls herself a visual linguist, as art is a way of communicating things differently. Check out the creations by the visual linguist here.
- Lisa Creech Bledsoe is the ultimate badass who will punch you in the face and then immediately give you a hug. And then you’ll have a girl crush on her afterwards… She inspires complex emotions. Get her Badass Manifesto (it’s free, so no excuses) and devour it. I promise you’ll have a girl crush on her too.
- Roy Howard, my father, is a poignantly sincere poet and recently accepted the role of “Can you read this right quick, pleasepleaseplease?” copyeditor. He sparked my artistic career by coloring and reading with me.
- And of course, my mom, Missy Renuart, is an unparalleled healer with her gentle hands and giving heart. She taught me how to love fiercely.
This list is certainly not complete, and if you have not been listed, please don’t take offense! Send me a quick note, and I will add you post-haste!