Episode 5: Ellen Chastain
Ellen Chastain is the organizer of Art Crawl Fl, the premiere alternative art event in the state, as well as in charge of art education at Polk Museum of Art. We discuss what makes a good art event, how to present yourself to a jury, and the resources available in your local art museum. If you’re interested in applying to be an artist at Art Crawl 2023, hit the link below.
- www.ArtCrawlFl.com (#ArtCrawlFl)
- www.PolkMuseumofArt.org (#PolkMuseum)
- Music by Old Romans: https://www.instagram.com/old_romans
You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:
Welcome to episode 5 of Art for Profits Sake. I'm going to start off this episode by issuing a correction from the previous episode where I accidentally called Madness Heart Press under the name Madness Heart Publishing. I apologize for getting that mistaken, but for the rest of the episode I do correctly refer to John's company as Madness Heart Press. In this episode, we are going to talk to Ellen Chastain who runs ArtCrawl Florida as well as works with the education department at the Polk Museum of Art. Now, Ellen puts on the premiere art event from my side of the aisle, I guess as a vendor and as an artist. It's really great to see events that happen annually that I get excited about. A lot of times as a vendor you're going to start off, I guess a good rule of thumb, is to start off at. The more events you get to, the more you'll start to recognize where your tribe is, where customers will come and see things that they like. You'll learn what's working for you, what's not working for you. I have reached a place with my business where I am almost always incredibly excited about the amount of money I bring home. And that was not the case for the first few years as a vendor. Starting off early on, I would do events that made $0, $50- still paying $75 to show up and do nothing but just stare at the other vendors for five hours. Not fun. But doing those always become a learning experience and help you realize what to look out for with the events that you do like. At this point, after I've been vending for five, six years now, probably about that five or six years, I now am way more judicious and I have a much better understanding on what's going to work for me specifically.
So if you're looking to start off and start out as a vendor, don't be afraid to fail. You're going to have a lot of failures. But over time, you're going to figure out little tiny things that make you more efficient, make things easier for you, make the events more fun and definitely more than anything, make the events more profitable. And those are some of the exciting things that we bring up in this episode with Ellen. So thank you so much for listening to this intro. And now let's move on to our interview with Ellen Chastain.
A Conversation with Ellen Chastain
Chain Assembly: Today I am joined by the amazing Ellen Chastain, who is the organizer behind ArtCrawl in Lakeland, Florida, which you can find out more about at artcrawlfl.com. She also works for the Polk Museum of Art. And I met Ellen through her husband Chad, who came up to me at an event I was vending at the Etsy craft fair back in the before times of the pandemic. Hetalked to me about the disc golf discs I had, and told me he was organizing a punk rock flea market and that's how I got involved in the Chastain Clan. So Ellen, thank you so much for being a part of this podcast with me. It's amazing all the things you've put on and it's amazing all the knowledge you bring into the art field. So you're a real asset to have in the podcast. So thank you.
Ellen Chastain: Thank you. I appreciate it. I remember actually meeting you. The first time I met you was or talked to you was with your printmaking. I think we got one of your dogs maybe.
CA: Oh, yeah. That's right. Yeah, that was a while ago. Yeah.
CA: So, Ellen organizes, as I mentioned, the art crawl. And I just have to say it is the premier art event for me specifically, but also like, I feel like my genre of art, which is not Florida.
EC: I'm actually so glad that you mentioned not Florida because if you're in Florida, most of the festivals that you go to here seems to be a lot of Florida art, which is like landscapes and beautiful sunsets and swans and birds and whatever, which is all great and has its spot. But with ArtCrawl, we are definitely desiring to pull out those artists such as yourself that have something more to offer and probably a little more genuine. I hate to say it that way, a little more genuine from your heart versus just something to look cute and pretty, which again, there's a place for that, but that's not what we're looking for.
CA: To add to that, I know specifically like if, when I first started vending, I looked up art events to vend at and what you usually find are events that are kind of hard to describe, but what they'll have in common is $300 to apply. You're going to be juried to see if you even get in. You don't really know who's judging your work, and they're more than likely not going to be interested in the stuff that I make. It's going to be at a beautiful venue on a beach somewhere, and the people who are going to be buying art are probably all retired. So every step of that did not work for me, but your art crawl definitely does.
EC: Well, and this kind of plays in, I'll tell you this story, the background by it, about it. So I work at my daytime job as Polk Museum of Art, it's my career, of course. And we have Mayfair by the lake, which is one of the top art festivals in the States that we have, you know, over 175 artists that come through nationwide. Um, but the one thing that we kept noticing is that those festivals don't get our local artists in. And like you said, it's the same thing. Beautiful is on a lake. It looks awesome. Uh, but sometimes it's not affordable, uh, for even just an artist to get in, especially those that are brand new. So, uh, what we tried to do actually art crawl started at the Polk Museum of Art. So I started as a program and it grew to the point that we got to the point where we couldn't do, they didn't want to do Mayfair and art crawl kind of like counter intuitive, right?
It came to a point where some of our programming got cut and ArtCrawl was one of them. I was a little unfortunate, but our community came around and said, hey, we still really wanna do this. Can we do this outside of the museum? Is this something that we can do? And so went to my director and she goes, absolutely go for it. We would love to see that. Why don't you file as your own nonprofit? So that's what we did. We looked into it. I got a board put together that was very supportive of art education. I work in art education. So just generalized as an educator, we want to support and bring those up that people don't see. And so we got behind it. And now we are this is actually our 10th year.
EC: Yeah, 10th year, ninth year of actually having a festival. Festival or the event at the museum for three years and now we're out seven years now.
CA: Yeah, I think I've attended it Twice or three times
EC: Three yeah Because we started out in a parking lot and then you joined us When we had it as a nonprofit our own nonprofit and it was in my park Okay.
CA: Yeah, so I know I've been in Munn Park at least twice- probably just twice. And now you're moving over to the Swan Brewing.
CA: Well, why don't you tell me a bit about like the shift in locations, what kind of change, why you changed, and the history of that?
EC: So mentioning my husband, Chad. So he does the punk rock flea market, which you're also a part of, which is fantastic. I see that you had this shirt on. We noticed that financially I have to raise all the money for our- so it's just myself and my team, which is just my board. It's like four of us. It's not that many. And so therefore if I don't raise funds, like a fundraise well enough, then we can end up in the red, right? Munn Park, we love working with the city, but it's expensive, like to rent Munn Park. So to rent the park, we have to pay for personnel. We have to pay for the roads to be blocked, all that stuff. With Chad doing the punk rock flea market, Dan, one of the owners at Swann Brewing, has been generous in helping us get punk rock flea market off the, you know, off the floor. So, uh, with this last one, I told Chad, I said, if we can get 70 vendors at Swann Brewing, cause when we first started, it was only on Swann Brewing's property. Now it's expanded to the street and in front of get you guys to a lake. Um, but I told him, I was like, if we can get 70 booths there, I can move it to our lake, move Art Crawl there. That's all I need. And a lot of our patrons are people that come to art crawl. I've been asking for years for like alcohol, just what alcohol to like hang out, chill, you know, look at artwork, watch, watch performances, music, whatever. And frankly, I didn't have enough money. I couldn't afford the liquor license. I can't afford any of the police. You know, I couldn't afford that. So, uh, joining with Dan makes it all possible. So we're swan brewing makes it all possible. So we're going to make the jump this year. Additionally, since COVID happened, the farmer's market for Lakeland coincides with our, uh, art crawl because we share a similar vicinity with Mumpark. And used to, we didn't share that vicinity. And now it does. And so I don't want my artists to compete with farmer's market vendors. I don't think it's fair. So one of the reasons that we made art crawl anyway, is so that we weren't, our artists weren't contending with crafters, like making soaps and odd things. Cause you have a lot of makers, uh, markets, but not a lot of art-specific festivals or markets. So, so anyway, another reason we move over to Swan Brewing, we're like, we don't have any competition over there for our vendors or for our artists. So we're trying, we're trying to meet new stuff.
CA: So I could say from the vendor side, the fact that there's going to be alcohol in there is going to definitely increase sales.
EC: Yeah, right. I mean, you don't have gallery shows. You don't have openings without wine, right? Right. So this only makes sense.
CA: I agree. And I also feel like with that location, people are probably going to be able to park closer to the event.
CA: Then at Munn Park, where like the local street parking can pack up very quickly, even without an event. So that means people are more likely to buy something, take it to their car and go back and come back drinking.
CA: Yeah. Agreed.
EC: Yeah. Yep.
CA: How many vendors have you had at the Munn Park location? Was it always 70? Sorry. Artists. I should be saying artists. Well.
EC: I say vendors too, and I don't have vendors. It is artists, but we do have artists in our organization and supporters of course, like sponsors. In Munn park, we've had as many as 92. So that's 92 booths. That was really large. And it was probably a little too large for us. We didn't feel like the artists didn't have as many sales because I think they were competing against each other, which is, It's going to happen, of course, but we just had a lot going on and it was it was great. It was great as a program or an event for patrons, but for artists, I felt they felt I think a little lost. So we're going back down the 70. Last year was around 74. So that's just kind of like our sweet number, it seems like. So 70 was our goal. And then, of course, we have Art Wars, which is a new program. So there's two sides. Sorry, there's two sides of art crawl as far as of artists goes. You can apply same thing. We do still have the application processing. Um, so you apply your juried into the show, or you can participate in art wars, which is a live art competition. And we created that for those artists that may not have enough artwork to fill a booth. Or maybe that's not their, that's not their goal, right? You know, as artists, we all have different goals. So we did art wars and they have five hours to use surprise materials on a three by six foot panel and then they're judged and then they win awards. Right. So super fun. It's super fun for patrons to watch. And then it's awesome to get additional artists involved. And that's our whole goal is to get artists involved, tie in that community together as much as possible. Yeah. So yeah. It's fun.
CA: So are the panels going to be sold to or I guess available for sale if the artist wants it to be?
EC: Yes. So we have a sponsor, Register Construction, and they provide the panels for us and the stands for them. So they set it all up for us. And then part of the whole benefit is when the artist is done with it, they can sell it or they can take it home. The artwork remains theirs. We don't keep it or anything of that sort. So whatever they make at our crawl through art wars is their’s to keep. They just need a big truck. The first year we had so many people going I can't fit this in my you know my little car I'm like I told you you need a truck to come get it So but it's super fun and we've done that too that.
CA: That's very exciting. The last two times I've done, I mean, the times I have done art crawl, it's just been me at the booth. So I haven't been able to really see what's going on around there. But I hear all the screaming and yelling and the fun people are having. And every now and then kind of like peek around the corner from my tent and see what's going on. And yeah, for Munn Park, it definitely feels like a larger footprint than Swan Brewing. But Swan Brewing provides a higher energy. I feel like.
EC: Correct. And that's another thing. Uh, when we, here, let me, let me be a little honest with you. What has happened with punk rock flea market as far as the energy and the vibe is what I wanted art crawl to be originally, but through our growth. And of course we didn't have the, it really depends on our partnerships, right? Like, so who we have our partnerships. And like I said, the last couple of years or several years, we've had a partnership with the city of Lakeland, which we love. And Munn Park is beautiful, provides shade, which is awesome. Um, but again, we're looking for that next step in that vibe of people hanging out and actually being involved. So, um, with the punk rock flea market that has definitely been a part of that culture. Now, granted that's a very niche culture. Um, there's a little wider, but I think it's still going to provide the same energy or similar energy. Considering that again, there's booze or brews. I don't wanna say booze, brews. There's brewing, brews. And then we'll bring the food trucks back. So we used to have food trucks years ago. We're bringing the food trucks back. And then of course we will have the entire street, if not a little bit more for ArtCrawl just so that we can get those numbers in that we need for inclusion.
CA: Well, a small difference that makes a huge difference, too, is that at Swan brewing, pretty much all the tents will be facing each other.
EC: Right. Yes. Oh, yes. And it makes for so much better walking. So I don't know if you notice with Munn Park, it's a circle with an X in it, essentially. Yes. It is hard to maneuver. If you're trying to see all the artists, it is hard to maneuver. So with Swan Brewing, you literally can enter one side, go all the way down and come back and around. And you're going to be able to see all the artists fairly. Like you're not going to miss anybody, which is what we also want to to do. So much easier to walk.
CA: Yeah. I mean, it's small things like that that makes an event great.
EC: Yes. Absolutely.
CA: But I mean, one thing that always makes the event that you and Chad, the events that you and Chad organize really stand out is your kids walking around with a wagon, giving out snacks and water and bananas. Like no other event provides things like that. You guys are the best.
EC: We all love our snacks. Who doesn't like a snack, right? We're really shocked, actually. I know with and this goes back to Mayfair. Mayfair at Mayfair, we give out snacks. You know, that was just part of our hospitality for artists. So I thought it was a general like, duh. You know, this is hospitality. We want to make sure that our artists are well, you know, at least got some type of energy in them, right. Um, in case they can't get away from the booth. And so when we started doing art crawl, it was natural to do snacks and then punk rock flea market snacks, snack time. I mean, it's just, you should do snack time for your artists. It makes everyone smile, right? Who doesn't like a snack?
CA: Yeah, it's great too, because I mean, if I'm there like setting up, I'm like going 100 miles an hour. I'm still in the caffeine. But then when someone says, hey, would you like a snack? It makes me like take a little break so that I'm not exhausted when I am done setting up. So just like emotionally. It also just makes me feel appreciated to be there.
CA: It's it's a small thing, but it's amazing.
EC: Well, we appreciate you guys being there because we can't do what we do without you guys. So it doesn't really work. Right. So we appreciate you guys being there. We want to make sure that you guys are feel that as well.
CA: So talking about the evolution of the event, is there anything that you used to do at ArtCrawl that you have stopped doing?
EC: I have stopped and started. The food trucks, we stopped for a while because food trucks are hard to deal with sometimes. Let's see. I don't think so.
CA: Well, you have a lot of like, maybe accouterments isn't the right word, but like a lot of side things going on, like with judging and voting.
EC: We changed it all over time. So not necessarily. So I, but, but I am thinking of changing it up a bit because the application process is a little rough, I think, for any festivals, a lot of festivals or big festivals. The ones that you're talking about, Florida art, right? They do an application on what's called this application. It's a just, it shoots it all over the nation. And that's what most artists festival-going artists use to find their festivals. However, as you mentioned, it's, it's, you have to apply. And then there's when you're accepted or if you're accepted there's a large fee to, you know, participate. And something that I think about in these is that, you know when we go through the judging process, we're going through to curate a show, right? So curating just like a museum would for an exhibition. However, when you're dealing with something like art crawl, I'm looking for very specific type of artists. So though we may have a few like landscape people or what we would consider Florida artists just by subject matter, that's not really. Like our goal is to push, like include them too. Like I'm not saying exclusion, but we're not trying to be say Mayfair. Right. We're not trying to be that festival that's on the beach. We want to bring artists that people are not seeing as much or not being exposed to, I guess, because art also, I'm, I'm an advocate for the arts, so I don't want all the arts to look the same. And they shouldn't be. I'm a very big advocate for showcasing your voice and being who you are versus something that just sells. Right? So in addition to that, so we're looking for those type of artists, right? So I might change our judging process to more of a curation, invitational. They'll still be open to applying because I still don't know everybody, obviously. Right? We don't know all the artists here. So the only way I can get those contacts is for people to apply or to contact me directly. But artists like yourself, I know that you fit, right? So why not just go ahead and invite you and get you in? You know, that type of idea. We would still do the same processing for application, but I think we could add an invitational.
CA: I think the fact that it's an annual event definitely helps with that too. Like for example, when Chad runs the punk rock flea market, he alternates who is attending the event as a vendor.
CA: Because it happens a lot more regularly than once per year.
EC: Right. And for our community, you don't want to do the same people over and over for that specifically. But yes, yeah. So if I can curate art crawl just like he curates punk rock clean market or how we curate an exhibition on the wall, even more the mission is being met, right?
CA: So. How many applicants would you say you get every year for it?
EC: It ranges only between 80 and 100, so it's not a lot.
CA: OK, so it's not too heartbreaking.
EC: No, it's not. I mean, it is and it's not. But I do have to say, and you've probably you've never been on this end of it, but we do offer feedback. And that's something that's very different also from other festivals. You know, someone might apply two years in a row and still not make it. And they're like, what is going on? Why am I not making it in? So we do give feedback and constructional feedback. And there may be an artist that has applied and I want to see more artwork, you know, sometimes an artist will apply with three different mediums and that's not what we're looking for. We're looking for consistency and new artists specifically don't really understand that. So I might tap into some of those artists and go, Hey, I see that you're really talented in this. Is this really what your focus is? Or like, what is your focus? I would like to know what your focus is. Or we're not looking for, you know, trinkets and, you know, I don't know, small things. I don't know. And they may have huge things, huge pieces. I'll use ceramics as an example. Ceramics is one of those things. Oh, cute, a bowl or a cup. Well, what's special about that? What makes you different from the next ceramicist? I don't know. I don't see anything, but I can ask. And they may have to go, oh, I didn't even know I could actually sell that. Or I didn't know that you would be interested in that weird thing. No, I want your weird things. That's what I want. I want to see you. I don't want to see what you think will sell, you know?
CA: And to the listeners, too, who are maybe looking to do markets for the first time. Well, this may not like speaks to you as an artist, but as someone who is walking through a set of booths looking to buy something, the potential customers want to be able to understand what you are within a 30-second glance around your booth.
CA: So, again, similarly, if you're applying with tons of different things that don't really have any thematic connection to them, even if you did get into the event, it wouldn't translate to a lot of great sales. People are just gonna be confused and they'd rather, you know, have someone holding their hand as they understand what they're looking at. And I've been at a lot of events where someone specifically says to me, what am I looking at? And it's a hard thing to hear, but it's a harder thing to answer.
EC: Right. You're like, yeah. Yeah. Well, and that's the thing too, it's like buyers are also looking for a story. You know, what's your connection? What am I? Oh, because if someone puts something on the, on the wall and then someone comes in and goes, Whoa, what's that? They're going to go, Oh, I met this artist and he does this. Blah, blah, blah. You know, this is from what, you know, you, you tell about it. That's what, you know, in the museum, that's what we do in tours and interpretation gallery interpretation. We're always telling the story right behind the artwork. So that's another thing. Um, with art crawl, I do ask, we do ask for, I don't ask for an artist's statement because I don't necessarily care where you went to school or because that tends to be what, that's more like a bio, but a lot of people misunderstand the statements. But I literally put on there, please describe your artwork and then in parentheses, it's your voice. Like I want to know what you're trying to purvey. Like what are you, what's, like, do you have a mission? Do you have any, are you an advocate for something? What's your voice? Who are you speaking to? Because those that you're speaking to will be the ones that want to collect your work too, so, or share.
CA: So personally, I have like an artist statement, an artist bio, all as different Google docs. I think I have like a 250 word one, a 500 word one, and a thousand word one. And then I just update those every year. And then I also keep them on the about me section of my website. Because any time you're applying for stuff.
EC: Yeah. And that's where they go. That's where they belong. But yeah, when you're applying for art crawl, I'll speak for art call itself. I don't want your bio. But I don't want your bio. I just want to know what about your artwork. If you can't tell me about your artwork, I'll tell you this. So a couple of years ago, one of our judges, he acknowledged several artists that he thought were exemplary, or were like good honorable mentions. So we don't have honorable mention awards in art crawl. So during the festival, not only are you part of festival, but you're up for awards. You're competing. But the judge wanted to say, hey, I just want to let you know these artists, you should have merit awards. So that is something else that I need to add. We need to add. But he goes, I want to explain to you why I want to give them like explain how they're merited. But I also want to explain why they didn't win anything. And this one in particular, he said, I went up to the artist and asked them, hey, can you tell me a bit about your artwork? It's all consistent, visually consistent. But they couldn't tell him anything about it. It was just like. It was just kind of, aesthetic is fine. Like, you know, we're okay with aesthetic and you can say aesthetic. I just think it's cool looking. I love this medium, whatever. But the artist literally couldn't say anything. He's like, he couldn't explain to me why he created them. And the work is fantastic visually, but it just stopped them. So on a competition perspective of these festivals, those artist statements and those about the art descriptions are just as important if you're competing. Again, this is one of those things that at an art festival, you have artists that are purely there to sell. Then you have artists there that are purely there to network. And then you have artists there purely to compete. So those competitors in those large festivals you know, $10,000, $15,000 pieces. Because like with Mayfair, that's connected to the museum, there may be purchase awards, which means that we would purchase a piece from an artist and put it in our collection. So those are the ones that are competing as well. But all that to say, you know, there's a reason that we ask for the about your artwork, so that we know that you actually are just not throwing together a kit, for an example, and this would be the bane of my existence, but the pouring, the paint pouring. It's like, oh, how cute. That's a craft. Like, that's how I feel. Paint pouring is a craft. Now you take that paint pouring and you add to it, sure. Now you've put your own spin on it. But if you're giving me paint pouring, I just don't. I don't wanna go there.
CA: So my wife and I always kind of like joke when we're at an event and we count how many paint pouring artists are at the event.
EC: I hate to say it, but it's like I don't hate them. I feel like saying that, but I don't hate them. There are several artists actually locally that do paint pouring, but they do so much more with it. And when you're like, if I have 10 people that apply with paint pouring. I'm only going to pick one, if that. So what makes yours different, right? And again, it's just, oh my gosh, you have to do more.
CA: So based on your judging process and deciding who comes into the events, do you kind of like categorize artists by medium or like organized to try and make sure you don't have a lot of duplicates? How does that look?
EC: So no, it's just straight up. So with ours, again, we only have eight, between 80 and 100 at a time. And if we don't have, I keep saying 70 booths, but 70 means that there's probably, you know, 12 to 15 of those as art organizations. So really only 50 to 60 artists get in. So that could be quite a few people that don't get in. So we have a panel of judges. So I don't do the judging, I view them, opinions, but I know too many of the artists and it's just not fair sometimes because there can be biases. The judging process is literally we put all of the artwork up and then we go artist to artist to artist. So when I say that an artist has consistency, we will see it immediately. If they do not have consistency and they applied with ceramics, you know, acrylic and whatever. It's almost an automatic no, because it's too varied. So we look for, uh, artists voice. Of course we look for skill. Quality, you know, of course we're just looking at photos, though we can only go so much and there has been times that we've allowed or an artist has gotten in that probably wouldn't have gotten in. But that's okay. You know, we're, we're, we're going by these photos that we can only, you know, judge them by, but we don't categorize them. We just literally do a full overview of that artist and their statements.
CA: So there's an event that I've attended a few times called the Art and Coffee or Coffee and Art Festival. I don't know if you've been to it.
EC: No, I haven't.
CA: It's over in East Tampa. I'm a coffee fiend, so it's a delight. But one thing they have that I thought is really cool is they have like an event gallery where the artists who are there also have one or maybe two pieces that they set up so that everyone can just like go to this one thing and then I guess if they don't have time to look at everything or if they just want to see something in a more artsy formal fashion they can look at that one area and see individual pieces kind of compared to each other.
EC: That's really cool. I need a gallery for that. Actually that's another reason we have art crawl. We don't have galleries here. We'll do pop-ups here and there. Actually leading into that. We have our partnership with the city of Lakeland. We do have exhibitions that are now we do it three times a year called arts and rec, so the, um, we do application based on that. I let the city does the judging on that one because it's going into their facilities, but the exhibitions turn out really cool. They have cool spaces for us to like put our work in. They put QR codes in there and say that people can purchase them. Um, so that is another avenue that we're trying to help artists locally with as well. So again, if it's an artist that doesn't have enough to fill up a booth, like for a festival, they can apply with one or two pieces that might make it into an exhibition. So, yeah, I'm totally game on those these gallery and exhibition shows. Those are fantastic.
CA: Well, I think that's actually good segue into what it is you do with the Polk Museum of Art. So can you tell me about what things you do as an art educator and what type of services you have there for artists?
EC: Yeah, absolutely. For artists, well, my biggest focus at the museum is studio art. So I hire and organize all of our art classes that we host at the museum. But I also do gallery engagement and interpretation. So tours, I do tours, I do tour training, that type of stuff. And then we do, I'm one of the special events helpers as well. So if we have any special events, I'm one of the main people that do that. But we also have a student gallery. So I am working hand in hand with our school district here, the Polk County School District. And we have a student gallery that we host eight exhibitions a year in. And that covers K through 12th grade. Um, so there's a high school show, there is a K through 2 show. And then we also have an ESE show right now. We have our, it's called a heart for art and it's our ESE exhibition. Um, so those are students from K through 12 that applied, same thing. So you apply and then you get juried in. So out of 300 applications, we are not applications, but 300 uploads, well, it is application. Then we choose 60 to 80 pieces to put in the gallery. So that's something we do. Um, I also do a lot of, uh, public programming. So any, any art stuff that I can bring in or artists that I can bring in. That's a good way for artists to actually learn other skills as well, and also get connected to local artists or national artists. So I do what's called art labs. And that's when we bring in a local artist, usually one of the exhibition's artist that has an exhibition of them. I bring them in for a hands-on workshop to tell about their art and then again learning in different ways is hands-on or audio, audible.
CA: Well that's exciting. I know I'm woefully uninformed about my local museum-based art events. At least I could tell you in St. Pete it's kind of exhausting to keep up with everything.
EC: Yes, I can imagine.
CA: There's the St. Pete Artists Association, there's Creative Pinellas, there's Tampa Bay Arts Initiatives and there's so many things.
EC: You've got the Dali, the Fine Arts Museum, you've got the Imagine Museum, you've got all sorts of museums.
CA: Yeah, for sure. And then even great events happening at local libraries too.
EC: Oh yeah, of course. Yeah, we're all about the public programming.
CA: Yeah, but I mean, it's the... I've had...I've been to some incredibly amazing lectures and things at local museums. So I just I need to spend more time reviewing those calendars and signing up for things. I've seen lectures from Marina Bramovic. I've been to a lecture about the history of the TV show Dark Shadows from a guy who wrote a bunch of books about the show.
EC: And it's so many exciting things. Yeah, it's an easy way to meet people, you know, especially with touring artists or because in a museum you have, or at least in ours, we have our permanent collection, but then we have touring exhibitions. And those touring exhibitions are a great opportunity to meet the artists, of course, if they're alive.
CA: So what are some of your favorite events you've organized?
EC: I didn't organize it, but I was a part of it. And it was actually through the museum, was called Innoscate. And it was in 2014, I believe. And so the Polk Museum of Art is a Smithsonian affiliate, which means that we get tied in, we can bring any Smithsonian exhibition our way or program. And I think it was 2013, don't quote me on these dates. But 2013, I think, marked the first year of Innoscate, which is a celebration of the innovation of skateboarding and skateboard culture. Yeah.
CA: That's cool.
EC: And the Smithsonian in D.C. hosted the first event, which had Tony Hawk and all sorts of other like. Skating, you know. Yes, exactly. So the second year, it happened to be that Team Pain had just installed a skate park here in Lakeland. So they decided, the Smithsonian decided that we would be the second location for InnoSkate, for hosting InnoSkate. So we had Rodney Mullen here, which is crazy.
EC: But we focused on the Florida. I know we focused on the Florida based skaters and we did an exhibition. Like of skateboards down in one of our galleries. Um, we did bands. We did we did a large skate. Uh, we had professors, professor Smith, which is, um, he does skateboard manufacturing for like alien and all those, uh, skateboard brands. So it's just culturally, it was like all us, like it was, that was us. Right. So when it started getting organized, I remember going, wait, wait, wait, we're doing a skate event. Wait, I want involved. Like I want to be involved. I want to do this. And so they put me on the board and, um, no pun intended. And, uh, and so we had a great time. It was two days. We had lectures from, uh, people that kind of went over the history of skateboarding. We did a skateboard workshop, like skate design workshop with local teachers so that they could take it back to their, um, back to their classrooms. You know, it just spread all over the community. Uh, so it was, it was definitely my favorite. We had music, we had a, you know, I don't know. It was just fun. It was so much fun. It was just the skate culture. And I think that was part of like the drive to, for Chad to start doing the punk rock flea markets. So it was just a lot of fun. It was like right down our alley. Um, so in a skate was definitely awesome. I mean, we had skate, skate spots in our parking lot. You know, people skateboarding all over the place. I even took it. So we have what's called the Florida Arts or Florida Association of Museums here in the state of Florida. And they do like an annual conference and they have a program during that conference called the, what's it called? It's like show and tell. Oh, bring in brag. It's called bring in brag. And so I brought brags about our in a skate event. So it was it was just an awesome day. It's an awesome day. Awesome weekend. It's just great.
CA: That sounds like a lot of fun.
EC: It was a lot of fun.
CA: So I'm sure, you know, even people who are not anywhere near Polk County probably have some similar amazing museums that they're not too aware of what's going on in them. So what are some of the events or ways at the Polk Museum of Art that artists can be involved?
EC: The biggest way for us is through our classes. So we run classes for teens and adults. So we have classes that run in the summer, spring and fall. And those that want to just either be around people with like interest or brush up on some skills. The classes are fantastic for those meetups. And getting to meet people, you know. Our teachers are great and they will share a lot of knowledge and resources. They're fun to be around. That's one of the big things. I mentioned this with the museum and, um, art crawl. Uh, I don't ever hire or work with, or at least I try not to jerky people. So it's always a fun time. You know, everyone's really sweet, supportive, endearing. You know, we don't have that stuffiness or at least we don't try we try not to do that every so often we might have a person here or there but they don't last for you.
CA: What do those classes look like? I mean do they have to are they are the students paying per class or per season?
EC: So it's a session. So it's um medium. It's usually medium based Um, all of our classes are medium based. So maybe it's an oil painting class Uh, you would meet for six weeks one day a week for three hours a night. So they're usually like night classes. They're very similar to say college except for the fact that you're only six weeks and you're not being graded. So yeah that's and we do six weeks in the summer, spring and fall. We'd offer more if we could but we also in between have children programs. So like right now we're in the depth of summer art camp. So we have around 80 students a day going through 12 different classes a day.
CA: So those are all on site at the museum?
EC: Those are all on site. Yep. And same thing. They're medium based, so they're not, they're not arts and craft time. They're actually skill time. So the kids are coming out. Yeah. The kids are coming out with a skill or just a different perspective. That's also something again, goes back to that finding your voice. We want children to be able to create and then observe and respond to themselves and to others. So that's what our classes are all about at the museum. And I'll tell you, I've been at the museum now for 20 years. And that's given me time to see my little camp kids go to go to middle school and then they come back as volunteers. We help them and mentor them into local art schools. So we have here locally in Polk County, we have an art school called Harrison's School for the Arts. And so we help them create their portfolio. It's an application-based program and school too. So we help them do that. And then they go into Harrison or whatever school they're in and then they may go off to college and they come back as interns. And then, you know, I've seen the full cycle now. And actually, a lot of our interns are the ones that are getting hired by us. So that's awesome.
CA: Yeah, I can say I went to an art high school and it definitely helped shape who I was, who I am as an adult. Yeah, way more than I think my art degree in college did.
EC: Right. Right. Right. Yep. That's why I love it. Like kids get out of Harrison and then they go college and they're like, I already knew this stuff, what am I doing? You know, kind of thing. So, but great school, great community. Um, and that's what we're all about. Just creating that community.
CA: Well, is there anything else you wanted to cover? I think we kind of got it all there.
EC: We do. I do want to say that ArtCrawl's call for artists is open right now. We're open.
CA: So what is the deadline on that? And what do the artists need to apply?
EC: The deadline is August 20. And all they need to do is go to www.artcrawlfl.com. And it's right there on the front page. You just click through and read the description. Make sure you read the rules though first. There's some guidelines in there that will help kind of alleviate some questions and better equip you to applying as well. So read the rules and regulations and then apply.
CA: I also want to say that if you want to see photos of earlier events, the hashtag is #artcrawlfl also. You'll find those on Instagram, Facebook. I'm sure you'll find photos that I took at artcrawl somewhere in the past. Also, www.PolkMuseumOfArt.org and #Polkmuseum.
EC: Yep. Thank you.
CA: Thank you very much, Ellen. It was wonderful chatting with you. I'm sure we'll probably check in again after the event ends, give a little rundown on what's changed.
EC: What worked, didn't work. Yeah, those are always fun.
CA: A little debrief.
EC: Yes, debriefs are always good. Always growing.
CA: All right. Thanks again, Ellen.
EC: Alright, thank you. I appreciate you having me.
Chain Assembly: Art for Profit’s Sake is recorded through Riverside FM, edited on Adobe Audition, and distributed through Spotify for podcasters. The music is provided by Old Romans. If you found anything helpful, interesting, or useful in this podcast, please rate and review us 5 stars. If you want to learn more about Chain Assembly, head on over to ChainAssembly.com.