Art, community, and keeping a project going

Make art happen

Last summer, I volunteered to coordinate a tile project for a local ceramics hui (club). It was a good way to show our artistic skills and do a trial-run for a larger community project. We used artwork designed by one of our members, painstakingly carved the design onto clay tiles, and painted the tiles with glaze. Then the muscle work began with wood framing, mortar, and grout. We presented the finished mural in January.

This art project was a great way for us to gain experience and give something back to the club. I’m inspired and excited to do even more. But first, I thought I’d share a few things I learned about coordinating a community art project:

* Plan ahead. From planning to completion, it took about 10 months for this small project. I made sure we had a lot of time to get the project done, and allowed for holidays, vacations, and do-overs. I diagramed the artwork and text carefully, made templates, set up art days, had all the supplies we needed on hand, and shared tips to help volunteers.

* Get as many people involved as possible, even in small ways. Talk to everyone you can and get people interested, whether or not they actually participate. Keep track of everyone’s ideas and suggestions, but realize that you won’t be able to say “yes” to everyone.

* Expect that not everyone will see the entire project though. People will join in or fall away during different parts of the project, and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection on you or their rejection of the project.

* Remember that art is not perfect. Parts of the project may not turn out exactly as you envisioned it. Tiles may be slightly bigger or smaller. Colors may not be exact. But those small imperfections make your art project unique and remind you of the people who were involved.

* Finish on-time and under-budget. Just don’t sacrifice quality.

If you want to add some ceramic art to your life and do good at the same time, please mark your calendar for Empty Bowl Hawaii on April 10, 2015. You can choose a soup bowl hand-crafted by a local artisan, taste specialty soups created by local restaurants, and help Hawaii Meals on Wheels.

If you want to learn more about public art in Hawaii, here are a few resources:
* The Hawaii State Art Museum showcases public art. Admission is free and there is a free family event on Second Saturdays of each month.
* The Honolulu Museum of Art and Spalding House, sponsored by Bank of Hawaii, host a free Family Sunday every month. In addition to browsing the galleries, there are art activities, entertainment, and film screenings.
* The Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts promotes the arts throughout Honolulu. There is a searchable database of public art.
* The Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts sponsors in the Art in Public Places Collection, with a searchable database of relocatable public art.

How have you added more art to your life? Have you ever volunteered to lead a group project? What surprised you and what did you learn from the experience?

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