Guest Blogger Tina Aguilar teaches Humanities and Cultural Studies at Brookhaven College School of the Arts.
ArtCentre of Plano offers enchantment and an arrangement of art styles for visitors to sample in its current exhibit “The Naturalists” by Dallas artists Sussan Afrasiabian, Shari Hornish, Sunny Jacquet and Brenda McKinney. Downtown Plano along 15th Street boasts historical markers, Eisenbergs Skate Palace, funky eateries and shopping, as well as pockets of greenscape for community enjoyment before you approach Avenue K.
As several bicyclists whiz past me, the light changes and I cross the street and spy the brilliance of colors and forms. At once they invite me inside to meet with Suzy S. Jones, Executive Director of ArtCentre of Plano, and to learn about this partnership between an arts organization and local artists.
Suzy S. Jones: “The Naturalists” came to me as an organized group – Brenda McKinney being their “spokesperson.” And I do love to pick exhibitions that appeal to a greater audience, knowing that everyone who walks in the door has different interests or things that appeal to them and the timing. Spring is a good fit for the gallery. There are four different styles our viewers can see. Sunny Jacquet, from Korea, brings a surrealist touch. Her paintings are about love, travel and study. The method here is trompe l’oeil (fool the eye) and she wants us, the viewer, to peek into her imagination. Brenda McKinney expresses an O’Keefe aura, and her work is about the cycles of life and of the imagination. The process begins with a photo, then a sketch where she focuses on shape, color and pattern. With Sussan Afrasabian, born in Iran, we relate to her Cubism. And as a painter, photographer and sculptor, she deals with the plight of human kind and a belief that people are inherently good. For Shari Hornish, nature is a center, and her best advice is to: “paint what you love.” She does not attempt to paint nature just as it appears … nor does she simplify it to total abstraction. She finds a place where nature and abstraction intersect and paints what she is surrounded by.
T.A.: Is there a particular method you use to plan your exhibition schedule? In this economic climate, what are some changes or creative shifts you have felt or see happening in the North Texas arts landscape? Being a hop, skip and a jump from the DART Downtown Plano Station must provide easy access for the community.
S.S.J.: I try to give as much diversity as possible: age, cultural diversity and the medium/process of artists. I feel that these days, people are often looking for free or inexpensive things to do with their time, and the ArtCentre is always free and open to the public (donation box available for those who are so moved). It is important that art is accessible to all people. And, yes, DART makes the ArtCentre that much more accessible!
T.A.: You mentioned a point that resonates for any community and gives context for our collective art experiences. How would you describe what you offer the public? Can you elaborate about this philosophy?
S.S.J.: Trust is important. Arts groups, galleries and museums have a dilemma in trying to please everyone, so developing a sense of trust, or excellence is important. Although it might not be art you would purchase or hang in your home, it is important to consider and to take the time to consider what the artists want us to take away from spending time with their work. This means from how it was made to understanding or learning something new from the exhibition. Or at the end of the day, simply enjoying or finding inspiration in the work.
T.A.: Tell me about your corner here in Plano on 15th Street at Avenue K.
S.S.J.: 15th and K has been described as the corner of Main and Main. Downtown Plano is an exciting and ever-changing place! It has gone through many re-births and continues to be a destination for many people.
T.A.: Quite often the public doesn’t get to see the “behind-the-scenes” of our art organizations. Tell me what a day in the life of a director/arts advocate is like?
S.S.J.: The best thing is that no two days are the same! I typically talk to at least one artist a day, usually many! Often artists are looking for exhibition space or telling me about something they saw or experienced. There is the fundraising side that involves building relationships with community donors, corporate execs, etc. Then there are the educators in the community who I stay in touch with. And there are budgets to keep in order, a building to keep standing and all the while trying to stay fresh, new, and interesting as a gallery that people will want to visit.
T.A.: Do you remember your first art memory that hooked you?
S.S.J.: The very first slide that I was shown in Art History at East Texas State University was Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait. The lecture was on symbolism and learning how to see. We had to write what we saw, and then we were told what we were actually looking at. It was amazing to hear Dr. Wadley dissect the painting, explain what the fruit meant, that the dog represented fidelity, and the colors were purposely chosen to represent love and fertility – amazing. I knew in that one-hour lecture that I wanted to study art, make art, know people who made art, and that if I could figure out a way to do this that my life would be complete!
S.S.J.: We offer seven weeks of JumpStart for Arts camps (hosting 80 kids a week) for ages 8 to 15 with choices for them to dance, act, make music and art for four hours each afternoon. It is a pretty great program. I always say it is the best thing we do – and for them. In June, we will install art made by children in response to their concern for ecology. This is organized by the Artist Boat in Galveston, and the whole theme of camp is “going green” by making art out of recycled objects, etc.
Suzy S. Jones invites the community to visit the ArtCentre of Plano’s eclectic corner of 15th Street and Avenue K to view “The Naturalists” through June 12.