Bad Art Nights

Jon Spayde
Excerpted from: Utne Reader
Every Tuesday night is Bad Art Night at our house. My wife, Laurie, and I haul up the old metal folding table, set it up alongside our dining room table, and pull four or five chairs around. She gets the art supplies out of our crammed coat closet, makes some tea, and puts some energizing music on the CD player. When the doorbell rings, it could be any of a half-dozen regulars, or maybe a newbie drawn by the allure of Bad Art.

Eventually, a chatty group is seated around the table, digging into oil pastels, modeling clay, chalk, colored pencils, watercolors and – a wonderful discovery of Laurie’s – fluorescent cattle markers, from a farm-goods megastore. The Bad Art Nighters are doing loopy abstractions saturated with color; they’re making strange, three-dimensional paper-sculpture thingamajigs and neosurrealist collages. Laurie is working on a drawing of an enormous cat whose body is intersecting with a toucan and a map of Belize. To inspire the group, I am reading from a manifesto by the great and bizarre gay filmmaker and performance pioneer Jack Smith: "If you make perfect art you will be admired; but if you make imperfect art you will be loved!"

Ah, yes, this is Bad Art at its best – which is to say, its worst. One of our faithful attenders once asked Laurie why we use the b-word. Doesn’t it imply low standards, low expectations, low self-esteem? No, Laurie explained. It implies no standards, no expectations, and very high self-esteem. Bad Art is all about conscious, dedicated badness – in community – as a tool of liberation.

The Tuesday gatherings are much more than art fests; they’re mini-salons in which the Bad Art Nighters talk about politics, love, spirituality, and their next moves in life. (Nothing gets talk flowing like having something to do with your hands.) We inspire one another; if you’re stuck on a prissy little drawing (as I often am) and afraid to make it wild, you can glance at your neighbor’s piece, a riot of tropical color slathered over a cereal box, and immediately feel a dizzying sense of freedom. Professional artists, crafts types, dabblers, and doodlers, all are welcome at the double table. Only boldness counts – and, we say, if you can’t be bold, at least be bad.

Sidebar: Making Art Around the Cities

Rebecca Wienbar

There’s no place like the comforts of your own home to make art. But for those who would like to create art in an atmosphere that’s instructive, encouraging and inspiring, there are plenty of places to go. The Twin Cities artistic community is alive and well, and many members of this community are reaching out to the community at large to pass along their creative knowledge. The list below outlines some of the places where this is happening, and where you – regardless of your previous experience or current artistic talent – can learn to do a variety of artforms. And once you’ve learned something about how to make art, you can share it with the people you know and make your own artistic community: leave your inhibitions about making ‘good’ art behind, invite some friends over for bad art night and let your creative impulses flow.

Read Up
Act Locally

Art Centers in the Twin Cities:

Center for Independent Artists
4137 Bloomington Ave. S.

Minneapolis, MN 55407

612-724-8392 Email:

Center for Independent Artists nurtures independent artistic vision and
fosters diverse cultural perspectives by providing resources and
services to independent artists.

Intermedia Arts

2822 Lyndale Avenue South

Minneapolis, MN 55408

Phone: 612-871-4444 Email:

Intermedia Arts is a community arts organization that aims to create
cultural change through arts, and that works with communities who do
not traditionally have access to the arts. They have $2 workshops,
youth programs such as school art camps for children in the Whittier
neighborhood, and teen programs that include arts activism.

Juxtaposition Arts

280 2nd Avenue North #201

Minneapolis, MN 55401

Phone: 612-374-1418 Email:

Juxtaposition Arts, a youth visual arts organization, works
primarily with kids ages 8-18 in North Minneapolis, fostering creative
development by providing a community place to do and share art. They
teach free drawing, sculpting, painting and more. The levels range from
basic skills to professional, and after each class they hold an art
show for the community.

Media Artists Resource Center (The MARC)

2388 University Avenue

St Paul, MN 55114

Phone: 651-644-1912 Email:

The MARC aims to "promote the production of media works by
independent artists from all communities, and to provide low-cost
access to media equipment and facilities for these artists in a
supportive and educational environment." They offer film and
photography classes. Volunteers receive a 50% discount on classes and
equipment and members have access to film, video, editing facilities
and a photography darkroom.

Metal Heart Jewelry

4775 Banning Avenue

White Bear Lake, MN 55110

Metal Heart Jewelry is a classroom studio dedicated to providing a
friendly atmosphere for learning to make jewelry in metal. Students
will gain skills and knowledge that will enable them to create rings,
earrings, pendants, bracelets, chains and other items.

Minnesota Center for Book Arts

B1011 Washington Avenue South, Suite 100

Minneapolis,MN 55415

Phone: 612-215-2520 Email:

Minnesota Center for Book Arts offers classes for professionals,
youth and families in bookbinding/bookmaking, papermaking/decoration,
typography/design, printing/printmaking and calligraphy. Their goal is
to "advance the book as a vital contemporary art form, preserving the
traditional crafts of bookmaking and engaging people in learning,
production, interpretive and collaborative experiences."

Minneapolis Community Education

Lehmann Center

1006 West Lake Street

Minneapolis, MN 55408

Phone: 612-668-1100 Email:

Two goals of community education are to promote lifelong learning,
and to build community and make connections. There are many art classes
among the wide variety of class offerings, including drawing, jewelry,
knitting, pottery, candle making, origami and photography. Prices are
reasonable, and adults over 62 qualify for a fee reduction.

Minneapolis Parks and Recreation

400 South 4th Street Suite 200

Minneapolis, MN 55415

Phone: 612-661-4800

Minneapolis Parks and Recreation offers various classes, held at
recreation centers throughout the metro area, such as children’s
classes in Art and Park Adventures, "Environ-Art" and Creative Art;
teen classes in Arts and Crafts; and Family Craft nights. Most classes
are free.

Open U Inc.

706 North 1st Street

Minneapolis, MN 55401

Phone: 612-349-9273 Email:

Open U Inc. is "committed to empowering adults to realize their
potential and to share that potential with others through teaching,
learning and community action." Art classes such as studio painting,
pottery, calligraphy, greeting card design and photography are among
the multitude of classes offered. Prices are slightly higher than
community education classes, but "Frequent Learners" receive discounts.

pARTs Photographic Arts

711 West Lake Street

Minneapolis, MN 55408

Phone: 612-824-5500 Email:

pARTs Photographic Arts is a photography gallery and resource
center. They offer photography workshops for adults, a teen mentor
program, and youth programs, where they work with local elementary
schools, recreation programs and social service agencies.

Science Museum of Minnesota

120 West Kellogg Boulevard

St Paul, MN 55102

Phone: 651-221-9444 Email:

The Science Museum of Minnesota offers adult classes on science and
the arts, as well as classes for kids and families. Many of the classes
for children combine learning about science with making art, and
there’s even a class on how to make your own art supplies. There is a
cost for classes, but scholarships for 85% of the fee are available for
families who receive public assistance, and for 50% of the fee for
other families who need assistance.

Walker Art Center

725 Vineland Place

Minneapolis, MN 55403

Phone: 612-375-7622 Email:

The Walker Art Center has a strong emphasis on community involvement
and outreach. They often partner with community-based organizations to
create workshops and other programs; there are too many to list here.
Many of their programs have an emphasis on youth, teens and family.

Compiled by Rob O’Brien, Object Magazine

Bad Art

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