Art in Non-Art Settings

As I sat waiting to begin a study for one of my courses, I began to look all around me. I had never been in this area of the building before, and I was taken aback by how full of art the walls were. It wasn’t a building dedicated to any artistic profession, but it captured this aura of serenity and culture through its snapshot images placed vertically along the wall. I’ve always been fascinated by how businesses choose to decorate their offices, eating areas, and hallways. Is the art supposed to match the theme of the business? Who chooses what art should go up? Will the artist get their deserved recognition if their pieces are well-received by the customers?

Wynwood Kitchen and Bar

Sometimes what makes a cafe or a restaurant so yummy is the atmosphere that is created by the decor. While we wait for our food, we are drawn to the setting around us, and it becomes our entertainment during our time of hunger. I find it very beneficial for an artist to display their work within restaurant settings because for many people, the desire to eat out is not solely based on the food, but also on the intrigue that the setting brings. An artist’s piece may be so eye-catching and original, like the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar backdrop above, that many people may inquire about who did this piece, and how they can contact them for more work.


New York College of Health Professions

I often see art within an educational or professional setting, and to be honest, I’m usually not impressed. I’m not sure if it is the fact that I’m in a dentist’s office or waiting to take an exam, but I rarely connect with the pieces because my thoughts are elsewhere. Some educational institutions may realize this and opt for the still life of a bowl of fruit or flowers, opposed to something more stimulating.

Chicago Dental and Dentist Services

With this in mind, I wonder what the relationship with art that colleges and businesses truly have. Is it for the love of the field or is it more about filling space with simplistic pieces?

The Art of Art

The Art of Art

I have to find the time. When do I not have class? When am I not working? When do I not have any exams, essays, study groups, major events, panel discussions, semester project meetings, homework assignments, Pilates sessions, ballet classes, Italian lessons, bar nights, errands, parties, things to do, places to be, and people to meet? When will I be alone so that no eavesdropper can hear me speaking to my canvas and watch as it learns to speak to me? When will I be strong enough to lift a paintbrush and when will I be weak enough?

I have to find the thing. What will compel me to pick up a pencil, paintbrush, knife, marker, chalk, charcoal, pastels, spraypaint? What shall it be, the ephemeral gossamer that lands on my canvas, plucked from time and shaped and sculpted and suspended forevermore in mine own image? A glass of water, a bowl of fruit, a leaf, a vase, a ball? A kiss, a nightmare, a dream, a promise, a heartbreak?

I have to find the soul. What do I feel? What do I want to feel? Do I want the earnestness that permeates my very being to bleed onto the canvas, weigh it down with my Brobdingnagian sorrow? Or shall I buoy it instead and teach it how to fly? Will I set fire to it with rage or with equanimity? What shall I douse it with? Tenderness? Shall I caress it after?

I have to find the will. Do I have the motivation, inspiration, perspiration, dedication to make something? What do I make? How do I do it? Can I do it?

What is ‘it’?


Don’t get me wrong: I love art. But I don’t want to seek out art somedays. Currently it’s rainy and drab and nasty outside.

I prefer to become art.
Now this isn’t some pseudo (or real) hipster montage of postmodern thought about how all of us are performing our identities and subjectivity at all times, even though we are (ba-zing!), but rather “becoming-art” is a lifestyle choice that I’m very conscious about. I’m very aware about how my body can be positioned as, wear, or become art itself.
For example, at no time do I walk around without performing. I am either:
1) Singing/”Rapping”/Humming/Whistling to music. Which isn’t, hopefully, me as a white man taking up more space than I need to, but me as a bored white queer man who is sick of listening to the buzz and hum of cars and cookie cutter robot-peers. I’d rather be listening to Azealia Banks. Music and sound and noise is beautiful and, especially, when I’m mid-travel I need a little extra inspiration to get where I’m heading (and to forget about the looming drones).
2) Wearing ridiculous clothing. I am a huge fan of monochromatic aesthetics and gray as a way of being; however, there comes a point when the seasons shift, or die, and the sun seems to fade away into a palate of only white/gray/black. THIS MAKES ME SAD. So I cope by wearing neon prints with other stripes with other fabrics with leather with hats and scarves and giant earrings, and rainbow umbrellas. Becoming the overwhelming stimulus I try to avoid or cling to is comforting. When I know that it is myself that is obnoxious–I can handle that. The trees no longer lay claim to being that beautiful shade of emerald, the sky can’t brag that its really that sky-blue, fire can’t embody all that is red, but I can: all in one outfit.
3) Reciting quotes from my favorite books. At no point are there not lines from books circulating in the vast cavernous hole that is my mind. Because I read for the majority of the time that I’m awake, I find it nice to recite lines and share literature with the world! From Toni Morrison to Jesus to James Joyce to bell hooks to Vladimir Nabokov to you name it (or rather I’m a snob so I’ll stick to the people that I know). People always get confused when I tell them that I study English and Philosophy, so it’s nice when I can actually share how cool these areas are. How beautiful they are. How “AHHHHH” they are.
Now I’m not trying to say that everyone needs to be art all the time but I find it’s the way I cope best with being in Ann Arbor. It gets boring looking at the same white, hetero, temporarily able-bodied men in their polos, boat shoes, and pastel shorts–so I say, “liven it up!”

While it can be overwhelming being the art for the designated spaces I’m in, it is more comfortable to seek solace in groups.
Have nail painting parties–there is nothing more I enjoy than having sparkly middle fingers.

Have team shopping events or days where you swap clothing with your friends.

Have days where you and others can annoyingly match in terrifying ways.
Although I’m a broken record and constantly talking about how I’m art itself (. . .) I find it important to reemphasize that I’m glaringly semi-offensive to everyone’s eyes. The sensory overload that is myself is so important to who I am these days. I actively want to be a bit too much because being just enough is so banal.
As I come into senior year I realize more and more about how much I don’t care about most things in my day to day life. I care when and where and how I need and want to care. But other than that . . . I’m a canvas full of life ready to explode.

Le Dénouement

This was my first semester at U of M, and I got the amazing opportunity to write for Arts Ink. Going back to my first post I talked of my inexperience in the artistic world (basically I was a wannabe who adored the arts, yet I didn’t know the right way to convey how I felt). I think I’ve grown a little from my experience writing, and I am grateful for that little leap of knowledge that I’ve gained. My idea of art wasn’t fully molded when I started out, but I have begun to understand its mission of enacting thought and change, something that I truly appreciate.

I learned of influential artists that I wouldn’t have otherwise researched if it wasn’t for Arts Ink.

From Left: Nikkey Finney, Christophe Jacrot Photography, Validation/Short Film by Kurt Kuenne

I developed concepts that I wouldn’t have otherwise contemplated on a regular day.

Fashion’s Evolution/ Now & Then/WTF happened

Some weeks I was completely sucked dry of where I could take the readers of Arts Ink that Sunday. I asked myself what would you like read about? What would I feel passionate writing about? And some weeks I felt like a complete flop inspiration-wise, and others I was overcome with intrigue at what I came up with in discussion of the artistic world. It was never easy, not one week of writing; however, it’s a learning experience on both sides.

To end this semester with a challenge (let’s shake it up a bit), I challenge you readers out there to do something positive for the enduring arts movement every single day this summer. Take a class, support a band, create a collection of poems, develop a completely biased and opinionated blog about your thoughts of the intricacy of abandoned buildings, and rant about it to your uncle Larry at the next family function. I’ll do the same, and we’ll reconvene in the fall. Good luck!

Missing Noah’s Ark: an ekphrastic poem adapted from the painting “The Flood”

I go under.

Water rushing into my ears,

bubbling out of my nose,

eye sockets overflowing with its saltiness

my body sinks


As the black dye pinned to my skin

for the past 43 years

seeps off

dissipating into


creating a dark, hazy atmosphere

above my heavy head

My body, feather-light, floats lower,


I become the black

clunky dye,

drifting higher,


to the surface then


I am lies

contorted truths of passion and empathy for our family’s downfall.

I am greed

thirsting, devouring, licking clean all the wealth of my life.

I am anger

slapping, spitting, singeing, done to those I know best.

Tunneling down

ricocheting against the green waters,

I become numb to my senses.

I see cloaked darkness,

hearing the grain of dust fall in,

tasting the liquid that consumes my molecular structure.

I hit a wall.

I think my back feels

the splintered wood of a boat.

-Erika Bell

Debriefing (In)Justice.

(In)Justice. I read this as, “all justice is unjust because the system in which we have justice is flawed. It even perpetuates what we would call ‘injustice’; in fact, justice means nothing now because our society has corrupted the very linguistic notion of ‘justice’.”

But I think that was just me.

I went to the Word of Mouth Story Slam event on Thursday and was met with differing opinions on what this theme meant. I contributed anonymously via ‘my story in a sentence’: “Hither and thither: to revolt learn read become more, but less unbe burn unlearn–Thither and hither.” It was supposed to be a Joycean commentary on how concepts are cyclical and that we take, for example, injustice to incite revolution and learning and helping “progress” society by working through mistakes. To do so we must unlearn all that we’ve been taught, burn all that we’ve loved, and keep on pacing back and forth.

Because what we fight for today might not be what we fight for tomorrow.

All the people that presented were white, arguably heterosexual, of (at least now) upper middle class standing, arguably cisgendered. I’m not trying to say that injustice can’t happen to people of privilege, since that is whom the system was made by and working for, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting. The emcee framed the event by placing it within the context of MLK day and Black History Month. What came as a result were talks of upcharges on meals, inner greediness, and sharing stories that weren’t their own. At one point people made fun of the prison system, criminals, religious identities, and intersectionality.

The space was unjust for those that were there. The space got unsafe for potential stories and potential learning. The space had so much potential.

Having the event at Work Gallery was the best decision. This was an aesthete’s version of heaven. The band, The Good Plenty, played by the entrance and welcomed you into a space that was filled with white, blank walls and a few pieces of artwork. The light reflected off the white tin ceiling into a spectrum of color. Upon moving to the heart of the space, cheese and crackers and punch and dessert lined the aisle way. My mouth was greeted with red pepper spread and goat cheese. Doubling back to view the entrance, my face saw the beauty of the band playing and the people mingling.

What was beautiful: the sense of community. In one story someone shared that what they needed most in their moment being unjustly treated was love, family, support, and community.

In this terrible world what else can we strive for?

It’s now that I realize that one thing I can do in my life is to strengthen my relationships. I can work harder at being there for my friends, to provide a stronger support network. I can try harder to not hate love and all the trouble and mess it causes. I can seek out new relations that will help fill the void that I feel as a (cough cough) modern subject. So even when the last story was shared, the last cracker eaten, the last note played, the last coat grabbed, I could feel that even if I didn’t enjoy the stories (or their messages) I could still come away with a new goal. I could change myself into someone who loves more. Who is positive more often. Who shares and listens to stories, with open ears, everyday.