Al Phillips and Open Studios

I don't normally post on Saturdays but its been an exhausting day of socializing and mourning. Heat sick. Tired. I find that about the only thing I am suited for right now is writing and watching TV.

Today Arcadia was a part of CAMSTL's open studio. Cam and I spent the morning rushing to complete last minute preparations as our friends trickled in to our space.

I always toy in my mind with what is the best manner to approach the open studio. In past years I have held a Yart Sale, had artwork for display, and built elaborate installations with CAM. Bottom line a lot of people tend to come out for the event as long as there are a gathering of multiple artists. Its not an event where I have ever sold much work. The weather fluctuates but tends to be on the hot side (why not an open studio in September just after schools are back in session?). As an artist I'd say the greatest benefit to the opens studios is for connecting with fellow artists and networking with general public. In cleaning up the space and hanging out with my other studio mates for the duration of the day, we seem to have done a nice bit of community building. I loved catching up with old teachers, friends, and fellow art geeks. The only drawback is that I miss visiting artists studios that are open the same day as my own.

Truth be told I've been teaching quite a bit this summer and my own practice has slowed down to drawing and video editing. Shoot, my blogging has been nilch. But I don't want to make excuses----> Chris Baker this old high school friend has an entire project about blog excuses.

A few art highlights this summer include:
Doug Aiken video at SLAM
Chantal Akerman at CAMSTL, it's worth it to sit through one of her entire films.
Sonic Youth on Riverfront.

I haven't got to see everything this summer because of my busyness that I am trying to slow down. Regrets. Regrets.

I am regretting that my friend/acquitance Al Phillips passed away and I only knew him through a handful of experience. Every time I saw Al he greeted me with absolute joy. He had a way of making each person feel unique and special. He was a regular supporter of Cindy Tower's participatory projects. That's him on the far right in the photo below.
I first met him through SCOSAG at the Potter's Workshop. He shared with me his passion for helping kids through the Katherine Dunham foundation. He mentored a young man, Antwoine, for the past four years, who just opened his own car wash on Vandeventer with the support of Al.
Al was an interior designer, art supporter, and people organizer. He managed to overcome a difficult childhood and later proudly define himself as a gay african american male. I have been struck by Al's belief that if you try to start something it will happen. I hear in retrospect that despite his hard work he went unrecognized for his contribution to various local projects. Cindy wonders if this might have broken his heart.
Part of Al remains a mystery, he died of a heart attack surprising most of his close friends and a few months before his death he sent a text message to close friends asking them to tell his story, not let it be told by someone else or be forgotten.
Did he have a premonition of his death? We'll never know.

After his wake, friends gathered at a space to share his favorite foods: fried chicken, doritos and ranch, potato salad, chicken salad, and cookies. I was trying to think about what I wanted to take from his death.
I thought a few things.
First-Who am I not to be and to try to do all the things I dare to dream.

and second- It seems like a good day to start recognizing all the little accomplishments of my friends around me.


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