Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wayne T. Wright, Musician, Tells His Story

The arts world holds much truth for all people and can be extremely intriguing for the human mind. These characteristics apply to all living creatures, especially those who live in another “dimension,” outside of the normal 3-D world. 

For example, if a person has lost some typical attributes like motion -- and the ability to control movement through the interplay with gravity, they may become disabled, with their motor memories frozen and atrophied in their brain. And yet, when they’re given a chance to experience music and the arts, another neuropath may be created in the brain which can open up new experiences, memories, and enjoyment.

My music career began with my brother and I lip-syncing R&B hits when I was 12 years old. We went to parties and gained some local recognition. Then we formed a band and started playing at sock hops and at community events. 

G.L. Cole & The Shades

During this time, my sister was interested in and talented in music, sound, and the beat. She was born with a disorder called Down’s Syndrome. When Down’s people focus, they go all the way, especially in an “I love you” way. My brothers and I did things around the home with our little sister, and a school dance gave us an opportunity to play for her and her friends. We played, and they treated us as if we were the “Beatles” (asking for autographs, etc.!).  And so began my love of working with differently abled audiences. My father always told me when we met a person living with a disability, ”They are just like you and me inside!”

Wayne & Family

Twenty years ago, the mother of one of my friends asked if I wanted to play music for the lady friends she was supervising. When I arrived, it turned out that the ladies were in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. I thought they looked “rough,” but my friend suggested that I go ahead and play and let’s see what happens. I started with “Ain’t She Sweet,” and these women became animated and started talking. And they looked better, in terms of their energy and facial expressions. I was astounded, and thoroughly enjoyed the occasion. I kept the experience in my mind, but it was a number of years before I had a chance to play in a similar venue again.

Five or six years ago, I was given the opportunity to play at a therapeutic summer camp for teens with physical and emotional disabilities. I found the use of rhythm instruments helped some enjoy playing with the beat. Shortly after that, VSA asked if I would be interested in setting up some performances for disabled adults, and I was excited for the chance.

My first gigs -- now called “workshops” -- were learning experiences, and the percussion and rhythm instruments were a plus. I started conducting music workshops through the Arc of the Piedmont at three different locations.

Wayne at the Arc of the Piedmont
Then I was asked to go to Worksource, an organization where differently-abled individuals are given ways to feel independent through meaningful, real-world tasks.

Wayne with Steven at Worksource

Later, through VSA, two area high school Special Ed groups were added, and I played guitar and supported two young singers in the VSA Music Recital.

Wayne & Girls at the VSA Music Recital

During this same period, a group of Bluegrass musicians I play with started doing music programs at various senior centers and nursing homes. (There is a link to us playing at a nursing home at the end of this blog post if you’re interested in seeing and hearing us play.) Time and time again, we noticed how people with Alzheimer's just “wake up” and enjoy the music while we are playing. The power of music is profound, and I want to set up more projects for people living with Alzheimer’s.

As I became aware of more senior citizen groups in the area, I set up a music workshop at the Golden Living center. I have enjoyed great times with these folks! VSA also made songwriter workshops available, and this gave me the opportunity to work with other musicians to encourage an inclusive song writing experience for young people.

There are large groups of challenged youth and adults in group homes during the day, and I had a dream of doing a music television program that would allow them to receive the relaxing gift of music wherever they were. So, I called Charlottesville Public Television and spoke to the director, Calvin Tate.  When I told Calvin my dream, he said, “We can do that!” 

As a result, my program Soundaffects is now a monthly, 30-minute TV show on Comcast cable Channel 13. Through CPA-TV, the 30th episode of this program aired in March 2017. CPA-TV allows me to copy DVDs of the program so that I can give them to venues and individuals who request them. I also have each episode posted on my website.

Wayne on CPA-TV's Soundaffects

The music workshops and the TV program have been a blessing for me, and I will continue to seek ways to bring the gift of music to those who need it.

In the future, I would love to coordinate a concert series for differently abled individuals and include their caregivers. transportation assistants and family members. Dream big, and be willing to use your talents for the best benefit of all!

This is Week 12 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Wayne’s story today. To connect with him and see (and hear) more of his work, please visit the following links:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Alan Binstock, Sculptor, Tells His Story

My sculptor’s career was informed by a career as architect at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. I had continued exposure to near and deep space images as well as a bit of quantum physics, which are all powerful influences on my work.  My fascination with glass, resin, and degrees of transparency is sparked by observations of apparent/outer forms and inner/subtle forms that are revealed by the telescope and microscope. As a layperson, I can both celebrate the frontiers of science and take poetic license with scientific theory in the creation of sculptural experience.

Pilgrim’s Quandary, Glass & Stainless Steel, 210 x 120 x 48”

I was born and raised in the Bronx. My formal fine arts education began in New York's High School of Music and Art, followed by undergraduate studies in Fine Arts at Hunter College. After teaching Fine Arts in a South Bronx Junior High School, and a year of travel, I settled in Boulder, Colorado, developing sculpture and jewelry of wood, stone, silver and deer antler. While working at a local foundry, I was exposed to all phases of wax modeling, bronze casting and finishing. I worked as a carpenter, building homes, and later as a cabinetmaker for a sailboat manufacturer, learning about finely crafted details.

Totem, Resin, Glass & Stainless Steel, 3 x 3 x 108”

At this time (1972) I became a student of Yoga, and later a teacher and Director of the Boulder Integral Yoga Institute. This pursuit was continued at the Satchidananda Ashram in Connecticut. I made conceptual models for an ecumenical shrine, which focused activities on architecture in later years.

Ribbon of Life, Resin, Glass & Stainless Steel, 180 x 36 x 36"

A four-year graduate program at the University Of Maryland School Of Architecture gave me a new perspective in three-dimensional design. Before Master Planning at NASA, I worked for many years as a Registered Architect and Project Manager in several area firms. This ongoing education in construction methods and materials, and my exposure to quantum physics and Eastern metaphysics are a continuous source of rich subject matter over these past fifteen years of exhibiting sculpture, and large public art. 

Terra-M, Resin, Glass & Painted Steel, 24 x 48 x 96”

There is a moment in the film, Powers of Ten*, when the camera, as observer, zooms out to reveal the depths of the universe, and zooms back in to the smallest sub-atomic stratum where, like the deep space image a vast emptiness prevails with the most minimal suggestion of light and movement. These notions that life on the most grand and smallest scale may be as much about energy as matter and an overwhelming sense of awe are the very underpinnings of my sculptural endeavors. My fascination with macro and micro visualizations of our universe and the oneness of our living planet as a self-contained universe are expressed in my glass and steel sculptures, which range from 9” to 19’ high. 

Wayfinder, Resin, Glass & Carbon Steel, 228 x 120 x 96”

Light is captured, bent, magnified. Radiance becomes a part of my palette, engaging the changing qualities of daylight to inform and enrich these sculptures.  I investigate forms that express the nature of the seeker’s inner passage while capturing the wonder of the explorer’s outward search to find meaning in the universe.

My goal is to catalyze a sense of excited inquiry and quietude, and hopefully, a moment of self-reflection.

The Dance, Resin, Glass & Carbon Steel, 228 x 120 x 96”

This is Week 11 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Alan’s story today. To connect with Alan and see more of his work, please visit the following links:


*A Note from Alan: The “Powers of Ten” 1968, is a film by Charles and Ray Eames which illustrates the scale of the universe by factors of ten. The film begins with an overhead one square meter view of a couple lying on a picnic blanket. The camera then zooms out to encompass the entire observable universe; then reverses course, zooming back into microscopic scale down to atom, proton, and finally quark.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Jennifer Thomson, Painter & Poet, Tells Her Story

Growing up in rural Tennessee, I spent most of my time in nature, wandering through woods and fields. At home I loved helping to care for our family’s chickens, geese, ducks, goats, pigs, dogs and cats.

I often played under a huge willow tree in our back yard. Perhaps  my first art experience was marveling at the sunlight filtered through the leaves and the colors dancing before my eyes. I wrote little poems under that tree.

I knew at a young age that art was my path. I studyed at various art schools, and took up painting. One of my teachers introduced his students to anthroposophy and awakened us to sense the living, breathing inwardness and depth in all true art. To see and experience life and art spiritually became my path from then on. It eventually led me to Switzerland to study with master artist, Beppe Assenza. His school was grounded in anthroposophy, Goethe’s Color theory, Rudolf Steiner’s color indications and the art of painting.  

After 4 years, I came back to the United States near Hudson, New York to lead a painting training for the next 11 years! However, life changes led me to Crestone, Colorado, a town filled with a wide spectrum of spiritual seekers. This year I will give two Art Retreats: the first is August 11th to 15th and the second is August 25th to August 28th (details are on my website if you're interested).

Finally, I have written a book for artists called An Artist’s Workbook. This book consists of 45 painting exercises distilled from my many years of experience pursuing and teaching art. The book’s intent is to encourage everyone to try different approaches in order to stimulate your artistic imagination and creativity.

Two years ago, Crestone, Colorado had the most beautiful fall ever. People stopped in ‘awe’ at the glorious colors on the mountain sides and commented on it’s beauty. For a while I did that too, when suddenly I realized "why am I merely gazing?  Where are my brushes?" I decided on a 10-day block of study and ventured into the nearby National Forest to paint.  

It was an amazing journey! I choose a place deep in the forest, a embankment overlooking the stream. Each day I would begin by quieting myself:  observing the light changes, color intensities, sounds of the forest and earthy smells. As my journey progressed, my attention to subtleties awoke. It was similar to meditation in that my inner life was finding quiet.  

Listening with my whole body, I became an ear of the forest. A soul connection happened. My art moved faster with more consciousness, with pure clarity. To experience moments when work is flowing is a gift! One piece after another filled my folder. Each day I would continue work on the art pieces in my studio, sometimes destroying and other times developing them further.  

I was inspired. The tenth day in the forest, I looked up and saw the last of the leaves falling. I smelled winter in the air as a cold icy wind touched my face. I picked up my art gear and headed home.

I displayed this work for 10 days in my studio and spent a full day studying it all.  The ending of this color journey was a winter canvas. I had taken dead leaves and sticks from my perch in the woods. Glued them on the canvas and painted over them.  No, I didn’t decide on a composition first! Instead the art piece evolved organically.  After the painting was completed, my inspiration ebbed with this poem:

Blue...the infinite.  
Ice Crystals, Snow, Cold & deep waters.
Fall has passed and winter encroaches.  
Blue sky...vast, protecting.
Moon shines over the mountain peaks, playful like a melody.
Lifeless remains of summer's plants.  
Chirp, Slosh, Sigh, Swish, Cries of nature.
Earth's deep silence.  

This is Week 10 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Jennifer's story today. To connect with Jennifer and see more of her work, please visit the following links: