Art, Creativity

And the arts bring life to your city

“Creative centers provide the integrated ecosystem or habitat where all forms of creativity–artistic and cultural, technological and economic–can take root and flourish.” Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited.

Approximately $300,000 will be cut from the Public Arts budget in Fort Worth, a 25% reduction from 2012. That 25% reduction will multiply into other areas of the Fort Worth economy as the people who will receive those cuts create tremendous value for the city–value the city will lose.

The arts are a tricky thing to value. Painting, photographing, performing, pirouetting, playing with ideas that reflect a culture, mean different things to different people. Through asking a lot of questions and doing math, we can get get a sense of their nominal value. The Arts Council of Fort Worth commissioned a study regarding the impact of the arts to Tarrant County. $200 million dollars coalesce, swirl and reverberate through the economy across industry expenditures, income, taxes and money spent on events.

To echo the point of how amazing that is, consider that Fort Worth contributes $.94 per capita towards the arts. Our Dallas neighbors to the near east–$3.10. Our El Paso (EL PASO!) friends to the far west–$1.95. Per capita measurements are how we make cities equal. And for a city that prides itself in Cowboys and Culture, the per capita measurement of arts investments ought to be an embarrassing shred in the in the back of our jeans.

The study also touched on those that put their painters’ jeans on. 3,000 jobs thread in multiple directions due to the arts. Those are people. Creative people. Creative people who know people. Creative people who attract people who know people who know people.

There’s the rub. There’s the collective tumbleweed blowing through our prarie. There’s the boot in our cowboy rear end.

The arts attract creative people, to create things or events. They bring skills that we can’t send to India or China, and instead apply them to our community. When creative people combine and share ideas, innovation happens. Also, they spend money, they attract night life, they attract more culture and value.

A prime example is the Magnolia corridor. A mix of bars, restaurants, shops, galleries and housing that feels uniquely creative. Property values between 2004 and 2011 increased 137%. Some would say that a vegan restaurant kicked it all off. A vegan restaurant in a steak town attracted so much more.

Much more, innovation, like fortune, favors the bold, the prepared and those who nurture it.

Fort Worth has a choice, one that isn’t zero sum–public policy is rarely zero sum–but one that is nuanced. The city manager stated in the proposed 2013 budget that this budget is a maintenance budget. Yet, they city wishes to grow revenues and increase economic development.

Taking money away in the short term will cause longer term impacts for numerous organizations, and consequently, the city.

If Fort Worth nurtures its arts and creative citizens, makes the policy choice of supporting the arts, it will bring in much more than it invests.

I grew up in surburban Houston, a place without zoning and seemingly any forthought to growth and development. A trip to the museums encompassed a day trip downtown. Nightlife was the movie theater. Street festivals were neighborhood affairs of a lone street with a couple of pies and a few coolers of cold drinks.

In staying here after TCU, I live in a city that astutely manages its land for development. I have five world class museums within a half mile of each other and can visit them all before lunch. Rooftops, live bands, speak easy cocktails and amazing food are a ticket to any night of the week. Street festivals in this city bring in those across state lines.

All of this is possible because we have creative people within City Hall who beleive in what our tax dollars do. These creative people live here for some reason or another. And maybe they stayed because they liked it here. Because it’s a city that supports the arts and creativity. Cowboys that rustle the resources to a diverse Culture that is Fort Worth.

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Art, Books, Creativity

Book review: The Passionate Photographer by Steve Simon

The Passionate Photographer by Steve Simon

Steve Simon’s book, The Passionate Photographer, covers photography as more than a hobby.  Broken into 10 chapters, he goes from identifying one’s desire to take photographs to using that desire to share a vision. In between, basic technical issues are discussed related to gear, f-stops, shutter speed and ISO as well as elementary composition techniques.

Throughout, he intersperses stories and quotes from other photographers, both historical and contemporary. While some photo books only use the authors images, Simon uses others’ images to illustrate points. Each chapter has an assignment for the reader to attempt and how to assess their ability.  Also, Simon uses personal stories to cap each chapter in a “lesson learned”.

For beginners, Chapter 2, about practice and persistence, and Chapter 3, about ways to keep seeing the world anew will offer the best value. Chapter 6, about how to see light, really shows how to “see” an image–light and contrast creating interesting shapes and forms that are engaging and pleasing to the eye. Chapter 9, details how to go about creating a photo project and executing it, may help all those with ideas of “this would be a cool thing to do…”

The Passionate Photographer is a well sourced and well written book.  Colorful, practical and engaging.

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Art, Books, Creativity

Review: Old Masters and Young Geniuses by David W. Galenson

What happens when an economist becomes an art critic? That’s the premise David Galenson writes in Old Masters and Young Geniuses with as he examines numerous artists, primarily from mid 1800s impressionists through mid 1900s modernists. The thesis is that two life cycles of an artist: old masters and young geniuses. Old masters are those that reached their peak later in life, and Galenson believes, due largely to a life of artistic experimentation.  Young geniuses succeed due to conceptual innovation, simplifying previous complexities.  His two metrics to quantify and distinguish artists into either category are the price of an artist’s work from a certain point in their career, or the number of prints, or citations, of their work from a time in their life.

Galenson also applies his framework for analysis to the Renaissance painters of Michelangelo and Carravagio, 19th century and early 20th century American writers, directors, poets and sculptors. (Photographers are noticeably absent.) The book is dry and reads like a mixture of art criticism and art history.  The depth of research provides an overwhelming, yet comprehensive analysis of creating art, and the citations are provided at the end of the book.  My criticism of the book is probably one of scope.  The artist compared were clumped at particular time periods in history.  What would be interesting would be to see if more contemporary artists fit the same framework for analysis.

I’d recommend this book as a Kindle read.  I found myself wanting to mark and highlight the book and look up words or research an artist, particularly the poets.  The analysis of poets alone should make someone somewhat informed of Frost, Plath, Eliot and Pound.

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Art, Thoughts

Art begets art

Art begets art.  One creative act should be free to inspire another creative act.  To say that one creation, once delivered to the world, remains tethered to its creator, unable to inspire, evolve or grow into something new, restricts the life of the original creation.  As much as one may try to control the perception of the work they created, it’s impossible.  Once you let the light, the art, the work, whatever, out—it’s no longer yours.  Maybe for a time it’s your’s.  But at some point it belongs to someone else. And that person may be inspired by your work to let loose another creative work.

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Art, Creativity

A biplane on a rooftop

For things that aren’t what they seem, a biplane on a Manhattan rooftop is one of them.

Though Kaufman delights in onlookers wondering if a plane did indeed fly in and land on 77 Water Street, the aircraft is actually just an artistic re-imagining of a 1916 British Sopwith Camel, designed by Rudolph de Harak and constructed by sculptor William Tarr. It was hoisted into place by crane in 1969 and hasn’t moved since.

Art installations on a rooftop seem better than a helipad or air conditioning units.

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Art, Creativity, Personal Projects

Photo proof you don’t get it right the first time

Below shows that the best shot isn’t the first one you take. Iteratively and progressively, you build on what worked, and use your knowledge to make it better. Also, stuff happens in post-processing of images. As an aside, I prefer to shoot in aperture priority mode to control my depth of field, and I’ll comment on settings for folks, if they’re into that sort of thing.

This is with a bare flash (Vivitar 285HV wide zoom, 1/16th power and camera at f 8, aperture priority). The flash is too bright, nuking the army dude with light. Need to soften the light a bit.

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A few shots later, I put a Wescott mini-Apollo softbox over the flash. The softbox is about 10″x6″ and fits on the head of the flash well. The light is softer and direct, but the image needs something more than an army guy on a table.

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They defend stuff, right? So I grabbed the salt and pepper shakers, letting the title of “defending the shakers” float in my mind. Ok, it’s somewhat interesting, but white light seems a bit much.

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I took the softbox off the flash and added a warming gel and reattached the softbox. I really like this…

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…and let’s punch it up a bit in post-processing, changing the levels, tweaking the curves and upping the saturation.

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Continuing on, I added a machine gunner buddy. Cool, but what if I added some light behind them?

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I placed a LumoPro 160 (1/8th power, zoomed to 85mm, placed a foot from the army guys). I should have known it would have been too hard (it’s like a flash grenade went off).

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I moved the LumoPro to a counter top, so now that flash is about 6 feet away with the Vivitar still sitting pretty. Like earlier, the white light isn’t doing it for me.

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I placed a warming gel on the LumoPro, took a few shots, and this is the one I like. Sharp and warm and with a good angle.

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…and now punched up in post-processing like above.

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Art, Pop Culture

To cull or to surrender

In an insightful piece of enjoying and consuming art (of all kinds), Linda Holmes discusses the sad, beautiful fact that we’re all going to miss almost everything.

Culling is easy; it implies a huge amount of control and mastery. Surrender, on the other hand, is a little sad. That’s the moment you realize you’re separated from so much. That’s your moment of understanding that you’ll miss most of the music and the dancing and the art and the books and the films that there have ever been and ever will be, and right now, there’s something being performed somewhere in the world that you’re not seeing that you would love.

I’ve learned to stop reading books that I don’t like, skip songs on cds that aren’t interesting me, to stop watching tv shows that aren’t engaging. I’ve also learned to take risks with movies and music and books in order to discover something wonderful.

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