What can a community do to make art part of its daily life?
Transcript for the Take an Art Break Podcast Episode
Okay, we’re here.
Hey, everybody. We’re back. It’s been, oh my gosh, a couple months. Yeah, we took a nice vacation in July and now we’re back live to talk with the wonderful
Diana Ryan. How are you? <Laugh>?
Good. Good, good. So we’d love you to tell the world a little about yourself, your art practice, and who you are.
Sure. so I’m Diana Ryan, and I live in Corvallis, Oregon. And I am an artist first and foremost, so I work in lots of different mediums fibers, ceramics painting. You can see I have some of my work, but in my office right over there, these little skeleton mugs. And I also teach art classes. So I taught for many years at the Corvallis Arts Center doing summer camps and a whole huge wide variety of classes there. I’ve taught at the Oregon State Craft Center. So adult and kid classes, basically all ages. And then I kind of morphed into my own private practice. My husband and I built a studio adjacent to our house in South Corvallis, in a na nice little neighborhood <laugh>. And I’ve just been teaching classes here for the last, I think three years now. It’s been in this space. And I just started my first, this today was my day, one of my summer clay camps. Oh. So that was super fun this morning. That’s cool to get that started. So,
Yeah. Yeah. I mean full disclosure, I know Diana, she’s one of my buddies, <laugh> <laugh>. My kids have taken her classes and they’re so much fun. And we have just like Lisa and I chat all the time about art. Diana and I chat all the time about art and sort of what our viewpoints about it, what the job of an artist in a society is. And I just in conversation was like, oh my gosh, you have to come and say all this stuff again, <laugh>. Cause it’s so what people need to hear mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And I am in love with the fact that Diana took the time to basically turn her neighborhood into and her home into an heartbreak making place, and sort of encourage that, that idea that art can be part of your home and it can be part of your neighborhood, and it can be this place.
You know, like her studio is this place that the neighbors come together and they make art together. It’s it’s just everything that I love about art and the power of art. And so, with all of that, and just like the continuing conversation that we’ve been having through our podcast, the question we thought of asking ourselves and Diana today is what can a community do to make art part of like, art making part of its daily life? So where do you start if you’re this community that wants people to take an art break on a daily basis, Diana?
Well, so the way that I interpreted the question, so a community is a group of individuals, right? So the way, the way that I think about it is leading by example. So I <laugh> am basically finding ways to create all the time. Just like, that’s just what my mind is always doing anyway. So it comes really naturally to me to do that. Like in my house, all of my doors are painted on like mural style. Like I, there’s nothing is sacred. I will just paint anything I can <laugh> and find little like niches to do mosaic or I don’t know, when a creative I idea comes, I just like go with it. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. And so it’s kind of like that, it kind of like spreads that way for, for me personally. So I, I took this the question I interpreted it as how can I share with my community and encourage and inspire others?
And so honestly what came to me, I’ve done a lot of like, larger scale things like helped facilitate and keep, basically kept going. The Corvallis Art Walk where mm-hmm. <Affirmative> I just basically like get a bunch of artists organized and we share art as we do like a big holiday sale where community members walk around. That’s like a big thing. I’ve been a part of like street murals where we literally paint the street a bunch of neighbors and friends will come and like, it’s this big community group project. So those are like large scale things. But what came to my mind first was like little things, so mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, you know, I have kids. Okay. So we go out to eat, like bringing some sketch paper and some crayons to a restaurant. That’s one thing, right? Yeah. we recently had a neighborhood block party organize, you know, the, like McGruff the crime dog and like, it’s like a neighborhood watch thing.
I don’t even know. It’s a, it’s a big potluck. It’s really fun. Okay. And I, every year will bring art supplies to that mm-hmm. <Affirmative> for kids or whoever wants to. I, so I kind of tried to like, make it an art break now. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> getting to know Lauren better and like so trying to encourage like adults mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and kids and everybody to do it. So we, we just, it was really easy. We literally, I just put like a, a clothes line and some clothes pins and had art making supplies and it was the clothes line art show, community art show. And I didn’t even really have to give any direct, like, I just kind of put stuff out and people just made art. So, so I see it as you know, so you can bring art making, so to facilitate so one way instead of, so lead by example, by making your own art and showing kind of what you do mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And sometimes it’s just easy to do that cuz it comes very naturally and you’re doing it anyway. But then also be willing to facilitate, like, be like, okay, like I’m going to this thing and let me just set up this paint painting stuff and help facilitate so that if people are kind of interested, they can participate.
I love it. What comes up for me is like, how have you seen like your community like blossom and Grow? Do you know what I mean? From, from your inspiration and from your having art supplies available, if you could tell us a story or some kind of interesting thing about that.
So I guess not specifically from the smaller scale projects, but definitely the larger scale. Like even the act of like building this studio and of course I was inspired. I would’ve never thought to build kind of like an addition next to my house and have that be an option. So I was inspired by a woman down the street that did yoga Oh. Adjacent to her house. And so, and I recently learned that I have another friend down the street that is building an addition and I don’t, I don’t actually know what they’re gonna use it for. I don’t even know if it’s art related, but, but I know that these things do tend to spread. And so, and then a lot of like the murals that I’ve done around the neighborhood and like on the side of my house and on my doors, <laugh> other people I’ve noticed other people are like painting their garage doors or like, cool doing sidewalk chalk art or one lady did like a flower mural like on her driveway, like, or her car parks. I don’t know. So mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, I think even just by seeing something, you know, you get inspired by like walking past like a nice garden or something and Oh, like, it’d be fun to, to create something. So I think art is the same way.
Yeah. I, I definitely like, so I’m hearing you say that, you know, sometimes you have to be that per that person in your community that takes that step and sort of shows your community that it’s okay to paint a mural on your garage door if you feel like it kind of thing. And it’s okay to make art anywhere. Like even at a, at a crime, McDuff, <laugh>,
Community neighborhood party. Right. It’s, it’s okay to do it there too. I think permission, we talk about that a lot, our podcast is that we, we, you know, cuz cuz like for folks like us that have to create that, like have this thing where like, like I wish I could kind of stop myself from like, that part of me turning sometimes, but it’s, it’s basically impossible. Like, it, it, we forget that some people don’t have that al almost like, for me it’s a nagging thing. I have this like nagging like, you, you know, thing <laugh> more joyous and things like that. But other people need that. It’s okay to do this, you know? And I think that that’s what we’re here for. That’s what artists moving exists for, is to remind people that well, I mean, if you’re gonna view taking an heartbreak as sort of selfish, which I think people categorize that as then I’m gonna tell you it’s okay to be selfish because the world will thank you cuz you’ll be a lot healthier and you’ll be a lot nicer. So you know, kind of, and I think people need that permission to do that, you know, and I think that’s sort of what you’re getting at, right? When you see someone else that has done it, you something your’re your, you kind of, your perspective shifts a little bit. And you’re also inspired, you’re talking about inspiration, right? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>.
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, sometimes you don’t even know that it’s a possibility until you see it and then you’re like, oh, like that’s the thing. Okay. Cool. And then, yeah, I, I, I agree with the permission thing for sure. And I think it kind of almost falls under, I mean, it could fall like self-care, but like allowing yourself to get, to get out of your comfort zone, because art is, is kind of a like, hard thing to approach for people that, especially for people that have a, like, stigma against, or like, don’t feel like they consider themselves an artist. Like artist is a very tricky term. And a lot of people are really hesitant to or it’s very uncomfortable to they don’t identify with that, that label or even the practice of art making. They maybe it’s like imposter syndrome or they don’t feel like they’re good enough to even try, or they’re embarrassed of what it’s gonna, you know. So I love the because what, the way that I, the way that I teach is very just breaking down those mm-hmm. <Affirmative> like ideas and boundaries and pushing, like pushing out of your comfort zone and trying something different and hard. A lot of times people always ha like, also not always, people also have sometimes a misconception about like art being this thing that some people are just good at mm-hmm. <Affirmative>
Which I have some ideas about because <laugh>, yes, there are people like, like me that it comes easier because I have the motivation mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, but I’m not good at it because I, I don’t know, I’m good at it because I practice a lot, right? Like, I’ve made like thousands of this shape. So I’m really good at making that specific shape. If you ask me to make like a, I don’t know, something totally different or like a really large planter, I’m, I’m outta my comfort zone. Like I’m not used to that. Like I have a little growing to do. So, so it’s the practice and the motivation to practice. And it doesn’t mean that everybody needs to be like, love drawing or, and the other thing is, there’s so many different kinds of art, right? That where Lauren and I have had conversations about, like, everything is art in a way.
I mean, there’s very, there’s different ways to think about art, but there’s so many different, like, fine art mediums, even that just because you struggle with one or don’t enjoy it, that’s okay. You don’t have to, you don’t have to love everything you, you try. But the point is, it’s like you have to think of it like learning any kind of a new skill, like playing an instrument, learning a new language, like you’re, you’re learning something new, it’s not going to be easy and you’re not going to be good at it yet. You know, it’s like that growth mindset. You’re, you have to have the motivation and the drive and the determination to stick with it. Even when one of my favorite quotes, and I don’t even know who says it, but it’s like oh, what is it? It’s you have to make a lot of really bad art to get the good art. You know what I mean? Like, artists aren’t just like, oh, my masterpiece <laugh>. Like, there’s a lot of stuff you’re not seeing <laugh>. Like, I have a lot of like, cracked and broken and like deformed pottery that like, I just smoosh and use again. Or I, or it, I don’t know, I put it in my garden. I don’t know. I have a lot of like failed attempts at art making that just didn’t turn out the way i I wanted it to. Right? It’s like less about what other people think. It’s just my own expectation.
Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. But it’s part of the process, right? Like that’s, it’s not always. So I, so I love the idea of art is moving is process based, right? You’re not, you’re not focused on the end result. This is not going in like a museum somewhere, you know? Like this is literally just for your, for the moment. It’s like you’re in the moment, you’re making this art. You’re not, it’s, it’s like a meditation kind of like Yeah. In the present moment.
I think it, I like what you’re saying. It’s, it’s a mind shift, right? Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. And when you were talking about, you know, I make a a thousand potteries and you know, a lot of ’em are more up, that’s also like writing, right? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, the person doesn’t go out and write the novel, you know, and channel it down from <laugh>, you know, somewhere. It’s really, it’s you know, it takes work and but you really, I think you have to have the mindset that you have the courage to do it right? And that you have the courage to fail as well. And then you have the courage not to fail. I think there has to be kind of like this yeah. This makes
Me think of a conversation I was having with someone the other day about that we don’t necessarily encourage mistake making in that part. The reason that people are sort of terrified of those things in their life where they only see the final draft, which visual art and, and novel writing, right? Or theater or mm-hmm. <Affirmative> movies, music, you’re not seeing the broken <laugh> <laugh> mugs in the corner. Right. You’re not seeing those. You are only seeing the one that they decided to put on the pedestal. And so, and, and we’re so obsessed with perfection and not messing up and nobody is encouraging you to the, to, to, to mess up and telling you that that is actually how you learn. Right? Right. Just like saying, Diana, you, you have to actually, you know, practice equals progress. It’s not this, it’s not this like lightning thing that happens and then all of a sudden you’re good at making a skull shape. Right. Right. And I just think that, that just makes me think of a whole nother notion of our society where we just, I really, really hope that we get into this notion of like, failing is a good thing. Like, don’t be afraid of feeling because you, it’s so important to be willing to mess up. You just, you don’t, I don’t, you just don’t innovate as an individual. You don’t learn, you don’t grow if you are afraid of trying because you’re so afraid of failing. Right.
Right. Right. Mm-hmm. <Affirmative>.
So that’s just a, that’s just sort of another thought that popped in my head because of this conversation. And I do think it has to do with it, right? Because that when I’m like, Hey, you wanna take an art break? Someone’s just like, oh yeah. Cause I just, I just can’t. I like, and it’s like, you don’t wanna see what I do, and they, they don’t feel ready, right? And they’re, well, it’s not gonna look like the thing that I want it to look like. And so that’s failure. And so I’m not even gonna,
That is every artist like that is literally like the best artist that have their work up, that whatever is there, did not look like what they want. Like, very few artists actually produce whatever was in their original plan. Like those, you have to pivot. Those plans definitely change. And that’s,
Yeah. Know, I know people, I remember someone asking me once, how do you know that your artwork’s done? And I’m like, I’m tired of looking at it. Like, I can’t <laugh>, I can’t even, I can’t even look at it. Like you’re seeing, like, I can’t even be in this room right now because it, it just makes me so uncomfortable because I’m just so done with it. <Laugh> just
Like, so, oh, I have, I have, I’m gonna share like this little nugget of wisdom that I share with my, usually my adult students, sometimes in any of my students, but mainly in my adult classes because the adults shockingly are so much harder on themselves. Yeah. when it comes to art than the kids. And so, you know, w with pottery, you don’t always know how it’s gonna turn out. Like the glazes, it’s like a, you know, chemistry process. Like sometimes they don’t look like they do in the sample <laugh>. And so some things turn out differently than you would expect after their glaze. So when they come out of the final firing, I say, okay, look like you’re gonna get things back that didn’t turn out the way you expected. So here’s what happens. You get something and you’re like, oh my God, I hate this.
This doesn’t look the way that I wanted. I just wanna smash it. Okay. <Laugh>, I’ll say, whoa, whoa. Okay, hold on. Don’t smash that <laugh> here, let’s take it. I want you to bring it home. I want you to put it in a drawer. And I, I want you to not look at it for like three months. Okay? Oh, until all of your ideas about what you expected it to turn out like until you’ve totally forgotten what your original idea was. Uhhuh <affirmative>. So then after a few months, they take it out and they have this whole new perspective because now they, they no longer remember what it was supposed to be. They’re looking at it for what it is and how it actually exists in the world. Which sometimes find, sometimes they still don’t like it great. Right? But sometimes they really, that really shifts it for them. Like I had, I just remember I had a set of bowls that I gave my mom. I was like, Ugh, these <laugh> like your mom, you take this, you love everything that I make <laugh> <laugh>. And then I remember going to her house to eat later and I was like, oh, oh, these are cute. Hey mom, can I have these back? And she’s like, no, you gave them to me. Go make more. Like, you can just make more. I was like, oh, okay. <Laugh>. But they weren’t as bad as I reme, you know, like, I’m like, oh, I’m seeing these and remembering that, or like seeing them for what they are and not what I wanted them to be at the time. Right. Like, I don’t even remember what that
What they look like now.
I love that. I love that. That’s a great exercise. Yeah.
Then, and you know, we’re talking Lauren, that we’re afraid to make mistakes. And then you’re, you’re Diana, you’re saying that, you know, you have this notion about what am I gonna create? And if I don’t create it, then you still, you know, you feel like what you created was a mistake, right? Because it’s not what you thought was in your brain,
But you’re the one calling it a mistake. Like Exactly. Somebody else from another perspective. There’s no, so I, I also tell my students there’s no mistakes in art. Like, there’s no right or wrong way to make art. Like this is a form of self-expression and somebody may love it, somebody may hate it. It’s all it’s personal opinion. Right. All of it is very, very personal. Like, it’s not everybody loves the same art that is a very, like <laugh>. Yeah. So it, I don’t know. Yeah. It’s just a really interesting
Yeah. I mean you’re, you know, you’re your worst critic, right? And the, you know, a lot of times the thing that’s standing in your way the most is yourself. Right. And your own viewpoints and your own sort of lack of just like giving yourself a little bit of a break, you know? Yeah. and I guess that’s what I mean. I really appreciate, cuz I, I mean I definitely when, when I make my own like work, right? Like I was just saying, it’s n it’s never, it’s never gonna be good enough. Right. And I, and I think that a lot of artists can relate to that. And I, that’s why I like taking an heartbreak. You know, I have to take an heartbreak from my own work because it reminds me, it, it actually serves a totally different pur purpose to be completely honest.
Like, my, my artwork is different than my take heartbreak breaks. Mm-Hmm. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, they feed me in different ways. And I think that that’s what I would like to separate for people, for them to understand, is that you don’t even have to be an artist to benefit from taking an art break. Because in my mind I’m talking about something entirely different. You know, and I, and I’m talking more about self care and just getting to know yourself in a way that kind of only art can, can help you understand yourself and the world around you sort of open your mind to a different perspective. And, and you know, making art is, is a really fabulous way of doing that. Any,
Any time that you allow yourself to really focus on something mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and, and just you’re not thinking about to-do lists. You’re not thinking about laundry, you’re not, you know, you don’t have all these other things going on. You’re really just focusing in on something. It really is just like mindfulness, like being in that present moment and honing in on this art piece and not, not being in the future. What are people gonna think? What’s it gonna turn out? Like? You’re not in the future. You’re not in the past, you’re in the present. And that’s where the magic is happening. That’s, that’s where the really good, like mindfulness, like, I don’t know. Good things are happening in your brain. I’m not, I don’t, not a scientist. I dunno. Exactly.
They’re, that’s good thing there
You go’s back that up. I don’t have it, but it’s out there.
<Laugh> Yeah. The new neurotransmitters
Or whatever connecting in your brain.
I love it. So, okay, so this is what we’ve covered so far about what, what can you do to help your community make art part of their daily life? And it’s like, be that person that takes that step. You know, so that other people can find in inspiration in, in what you do. Obviously you can do what Diana does and just build a studio and invite people, people in, which is pretty amazing. And then find, I hear you, you know, you heard some, you said like, find those other people that are interested in doing that. Right? That’s the art walk and then the murals that you create and things like that. And and then do it yourself because when people see you do it, they’re more inclined to feel like they have permission to do it or get inspired. Okay. So I have one more question. What, what can like a city do? Like if if someone works for like a works for a city or just even if you just wanna think of like this imaginary city, how could a how could a city or a town like make itself more, I don’t, I don’t know the right words, like make itself more prone to encourage daily art making? I don’t have the answers. This is just a question I just Yeah.
I’m wondering, I think emphasis like a lot of times in terms of like community organizations, so like local art centers are a really good resource and have reach and can help facilitate community events or creating a presence, a kind of an art presence at different events that are happening. Dedicated like maker spaces. So kind of like what I’m doing, but like on a larger scale mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, like I can’t fit that many people in here. <Laugh> and I’m only one person, so like a, a a bigger organization hosting. So I know like we have community colleges that have our but I think, I don’t know. Yeah. I often get overwhelmed because there’s so many big overwhelming things to think about. I mean, for environmental activism, art. And so I think what, what I’ve come, so doing things on a smaller scale that I can kind of go rogue and do mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and just involve my immediate community is a way that I can break it down to like, individual action, I guess. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. But I think, so
I, yeah, but I’m hear, I’m hearing like a, a, a city enabling a person to do that, right? Like
Yeah, there are grant yeah, there, I mean it breaks down to like funding and it breaks down to like resources and, but, but I think that before we can allocate resources to to the arts, we, so people, I think what you are doing with art is moving and just shifting people’s perspective about art and, and really shining a light on the benefits of art that has to happen first. Because I think as a society it’s something that has gone kind of undervalued and hasn’t been prioritized. I mean, I, even in, in schools mm-hmm. <Affirmative> is one example how so many arts programs have been eliminated and are kind of slowly working their way back. But there still could be more resources, there could be more art teachers, there could be a, a greater breadth. Even the way that art is being taught in school still is very, like, you’re still telling students to like, follow, it’s like paint by numbers. Like we are all gonna make the same thing. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, it’s not, it’s not like a creative expression. Right. It’s not, it’s not allowing them to play. It’s not allowing them to fail. Uhhuh,
And that is where I think the shift needs to happen first before at larger communities are going to put funding into larger scale. I, I think it’s,
Yeah. But I, I think, I think it is happening and I like, I like that notion of like, if you’re in a city right now and you’re like, man, I want my city and my town my whatever to start making art part of its daily life. Like let’s start with a conversation. I like that cuz I mean, I think that that is so important and probably not where a lot of people think you should start or start with yourself. Cuz this is, you did Diane. I’m like, well, I mean I’m gonna do this anyway, so I’m, well just kind of share it, share it with, with my community. And I think that, you know, you, you think it’s small Diana, but it’s actually very, very large, you know, so good on,
I love, I love the idea of, you know, the mental health aspect. If you highlight, if you put the light right on the mental health, you know, we’re, you know, we’re just coming off of Covid and still in Covid, so a lot of people are, there’s some issues out there, so they need to kind of go to art and, you know, be able to fail <laugh> and and learn from it. And grow from it. And when I’ve heard throughout its process, practice and progress,
<Laugh>. Ooh. Love it. Yeah. Thanks Diana. Oh, this is like a refreshing conversation to come back to after taking a little break, so thank you.
Well, thank you for having me. Yeah, you’re
Welcome. Any final words to our audience? Any final wisdom nuggets?
No, you gave us a lot of wisdom. Nugget
I may have blown my wisdom nugget, like
<Laugh>. But yeah, it’s just, it’s something that I’m passionate about so it’s, it’s easy to, to talk about and and think about. It’s really, yeah. It’s interesting.
I like it. Yeah. You’re like passion. Practice progress. <Laugh>. There you go. I like it
Gosh, that’s everybody.