Sunday, February 20, 2011

Artist INC in Wichita, Kansas: connecting, enriching, and empowering

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of sitting in on Artist INC’s 5th session of their wonderful eight-part seminar series that empowers artists with business skills and connects them with their fellow community of talented artisans in Wichita, Kansas. This is the first Artist INC session for Wichita. Kansas City alumni will be happy to know more of their brothers and sisters are drinking from this delicious well of information and camaraderie.

The theme of Saturday’s session was “copyright, contracts, and business formation” (or Zen and the Law of Art) which sounded like dry stuff on the syllabus sheet. But thanks to Kansas City guest speaker, attorney David Rein, Jr., it was good fun and really informative for the artists. David collected our impressions of the law as we think we know it, the rules of the road for copyrighting creations, our street knowledge of business and contracts or lack thereof. Using current cases, from the case involving the famous Obama Hope poster to DJs who create danceable mash-ups using other musicians recordings, he gave us great guidance about the “what is” and what we should do to protect our property, I mean our art. After all most of us want to sell this that we create, right?

Elaine McMilian facilitated with an ease that soon made it feel homey. I like how she took the collective pulse of the attendees by asking for one-word mood feelings…tired, anxious, clueless, curious, hungover, and hungry at the outset…relieved, smarter, chatty, confused, blurry and hungry at the conclusion of the three-hour gathering…we happily traveled to downtown Wichita to Playa Azul at 111 Washington for some great Mexican cuisine and a fun after-seminar summit. That took care of the hungry mood.

It was at the restaurant where I caught the spirit of the Artist INC sweetness while consuming a humungous salad, mixed with fellow artists, talking about Wichita, the art scene, their art, the galleries and trading perspectives and pictures on phones. Earlier in the seminar room, I felt this great indescribable vibe being in the room with over twenty artists. Even David Rein spices his life with a passion for photography. But here, sharing a meal with new friends, it became more real. Art here is indeed real as everyone has real creations with which they can declare copyright, real dreams that have become reality, real boxes of magic. The magic box refers to Collin Allen’s box of creations which he was soon to deliver to a gallery after lunch.

Outside, during a farewell for the week, very long chat, Collin shared the contents of his magic box with us…buckles made from license plates, a leather bound journal with salvaged stock from the 1940s, wallets…this but the tip of his creative iceberg that includes welding things. Sculptor and Artist INC facilitator Connie Ernatt had shown me her public art pieces on her iPhone earlier and I wanted to get to see them on our drive back home to Kansas City. I want to go back to find her (now not so) secret bronze troll in the Arkansas River Corridor Park.

There’s a scene in Wichita, downtown and in the outskirts. There’s a new tribe of artists, whom I’ll name and write about in the coming weeks, meeting every Saturday at Wichita State University right next door to where the Shockers shock. There are twenty Wichita area artists and five Wichita-based artists, facilitating, who are connecting with one another and, thanks to Artist INC, their connection now runs strongly north on I35 to Kansas City.

To keep me out of litigation trouble with Connie and her new attorney friend David, the photo above, by Tim Roberts of the Wichita Examiner, is Connie Ernatt's Troll... :-)

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