I like art. Dali’s droopy clocks, Escher’s endless staircases, that dot picture of all those people on an old-timey day at the beach… I really, truly like art. That being said, I would rather be about 100 places other than in an art museum discussing the intricacies of every little brush stroke and mysterious Mona Lisa smile. It’s safe to say that although I like art, I don’t really enjoy looking at it (for too long). Lynch me if you must, art critics. What I’m most interested in is the process. The final product is beautiful, but the path to get there is the most exciting.
Lucky for us, we were able to get out to Racine on April 13 for their annual gET bEHIND the aRTS event. The folks over at Real Racine really know how to get me going, because this is an entire event devoted to the creation and evolution of a piece of art or performance. We had 24 locations to choose from throughout Kenosha and Racine that were teeming with people, art, snacks, and fun.
We started our day at Phil’s on Phillips Studio. The name, obviously, gives practically nothing away about the type of art inside, so I had no idea what to expect as we pulled up to a big garage-looking building. A healthy dose of friendliness and historical Americana miscellanea greeted us when we walked in. The walls and shelves of the building were covered with antiques and projects.
Plus, there was that big wooden house attached to a truck. Wait, what? Well, apparently the couple that owns Phil’s (Phil and his wife, I would assume) built an arts-and-crafts style trailer house and traveled around the country in it. They’ve been written up in magazines, in the news, and in countless blogs, I’m sure. And to add to the charm of the place, they had fun banana dolphins. See?
Later in the day, we stopped in at Hot Shop Glass, a glassblowing studio in downtown Racine. (Stay tuned for a post when we finally get to take a class!) I’d never been to a glassblowing studio and let me tell you, I was impressed. The central oven in the room is chock full of molten glass waiting to be turned into paperweights, glasses, or as they were making while we were there, decorative glass pumpkins. We watched the creation while one of the workers told us about “getting your stripes” – or in simpler terms, burning the crap out of yourself with the hot glass. Apparently it’s so hot (more than 2,000 degrees!) that it goes straight to your bone right away. He laughed, telling us “it hurts so much you don’t even feel it.” Well, let’s hope that’s true. Ouch.
We ended our art sojourn at the Racine Art Museum’s Wustum Museum of Fine Arts to take in some pottery firing. Back in the day, I was a pretty (un)skilled amateur potter, so I was looking forward to seeing some new techniques. We stumbled onto a Raku firing, where the pottery is placed into a trash can with burning newspaper to speed up the process. Normally a full day is reduced to about 20 minutes, and the process creates some beautiful iridescent glaze effects.
If you couldn’t make it this year, please head out next year to support local artists and their crafts. I was hesitant going in because I thought it would be a stodgy art exhibit at every locale – but I was more than pleasantly surprised when we hit that first studio. You will be too!