Saturday, August 25, 2007
My guest will be noted street artist and arts activist Side Walk Sam. Sam will be talking about the Sept 15th celebration of Stone Soup Poets founder Jack Powers 70th birthday that he is helping to organize.
Robert Guillemin is "Sidewalk Sam," the popular artist dedicated to creating art at the feet of pedestrians to inspire, promote spirit, enrich daily life, and address social issues. Sidewalk Sam has been called the "Johnny Appleseed of Art" and a "Pavement Picasso". He has been featured on the "Today Show", "Good Morning America", "Evening Magazine" and "Real People" and in hundreds of newspaper articles from coast to coast. He takes arts to the streets with charm and expertise that has thrilled millions of people for nearly forty years.
Through a magical blend of community art initiatives, broad-based participatory events and an unfailing joyful spirit, he organizes citizens, government agencies, cultural organizations, schools and corporations to work together for a common cause.
After studying at Boston College and receiving a bachelor’s and master’s degree in painting from Boston University, Robert followed a traditional path to becoming a successful artist. He had many commissions and exhibits, including one-man shows at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University, but the structure of the art scene was not a good fit for the artist he was becoming. He believed that art’s focus on a small, elite audience caused it to turn its back on society at large. He realized that "art for art’s sake" was not the same as "art for people’s sake."
Sidewalk Sam was born when Robert stepped outside of traditional art venues and took his talents and enthusiasm to the streets. Choosing "Sidewalk Sam" as a nickname and using skills he had sharpened while a copyist at the Louvre Museum in Paris, he began to reproduce beloved masterpiece paintings on the sidewalks of Boston. "By staying in museums, galleries and the halls of academe, I felt I was missing the human experience. So I chose to bring art to the street and into daily life. I love crouching on the sidewalk, kneeling at the feet of people and having art look up to us for a change. I want art to serve people as a natural part of everyday life. I think art should bring people closer to each other and inspire people to a better vision of society."
Sidewalk Sam makes a connection with the public. They gather on street corners to watch him chalk on the ground. His art is in perfect harmony with the pedestrian experience - a polite, social event in the streets of our cities where there is often a need for civility. Using the streets as a canvas, Sidewalk Sam has rallied people around solutions to social problems, addressing issues like poverty, diversity, children and family and the environment. Now in a wheelchair, Sidewalk Sam still thinks big. He organizes large events where lots of people come together and create big artworks to show their common spirit. “I love to get people involved with each other", he says. "Art can bring society together.” He adds, “Everything in modern life is so depersonalized - I’m just trying to personalize it a little.”
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Poetry Tyrant reviews The Haitian Firefly's collection
A review by Doug Holder, the founding publisher of The Ibettson Street Press
Sparks in the Dark: Lighter Shade Of Blue. A Poetic Memoir. Jacques Fleury. “The Haitian Firefly” $12. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacques Fleury writes that he was born with a humongous head. He reflects: “When my mom was birthing me, I was told that she ran out of the hospital just as I was coming out of the darkness of her womb, valiantly striving to reach the light. So just as I was coming out she made a giant leap for ‘pain kind’ out of bed and bolted out of the door and caught a cab home.”
To this day Fleury has a dramatic head both physically and metaphorically. He often adorns it with large hats and outrageous sunglasses that he wears in the dead-of-night. He is an exotic even in Cambridge’s teeming and diverse Central Square. And so is his writing. His poetry is not sedate and understated, but much like a lush, colorful, exotic plume; at times gaudy and blinding, and for the most part joyful in spite of the pain he has suffered in his 30- something years.
Fleury was born in Haiti and is a working journalist, poet, columnist, and community TV host. His first full poetry collection: “Sparks in the Dark…” is large, ambitious, and covers a lot of ground.
It’s hard being a Blackman, much less a Haitian Blackman in a white society. Fleury rages against this inequity in his poem: “Unrequited Rage:”
“How dare you judge me/ my color does not define me/ you should be appalled for Dissing me! / unleash your dirty heart/ you will find me!... / I am only a mere man pregnant with error/ a walking Disaster!!!/ So use me like a mirror, / if you want to see the reflection of your Brother!!!/
And Fleury knows that the “womb makes the man,” and he urges mothers to treat their children well, or else it’s a short passage to a worldly hell, in his poem:
“Women! Women From Your Wombs!”
“Women! Women from your wombs/ you gonna yell to break the spell/ women! Women from your wombs/ you too one day/ face drooping dripping down in the dumps/ with creases like beaten down leather/ established breasts hardened, eager and perky/ like the buds of spring./ swollen like balloons since in your mouth men/ blow bubbles…/ since from your wombs babies are born/ bearing your sins/ and looked down as / fools for sucking in anger/and resentment seeping from/ your congested chests/ have come into this world/ entangled in your mess.”
Fleury’s work is provocative and evocative, but at times it needs pruning, because it grows like wild jungle vegetation. Of course that might be the point.