Art Force 5 Imagines A Place Between Subjective vs Structured

As the assistant dean of an art school, parents of potential students always try to identify a definitive (and structured) career path in the art field for their child. The most reassuring answer is a career in education, either as a school teacher or a college professor. For some worrisome parents, the career of a practicing / studio artist appears too unstructured and financially unstable - where success is subjective and not easily measured by their standards. Many fail to recognize that it is art’s subjectivity which allows it the freedom to NOT conform, finding strength, ambition and passion to move in non-traditional directions.

The Art Force 5 program hopes to embrace both the subjective and the structured. As a baseball fan, I am drawn to the structure of a “farm system” for talent but more interested in stories of how young players give back to their host communities OFF the field. I often describe my vision of the Art Force 5 as a farm system for young artists but with an emphasis on running outside the base path.

Imagine a college student named Michael Blick (yes, I just merged the name of two art supply stores). Michael graduates with his BFA, having a penchant for service and seeks to produce art that makes an impact. He declares himself eligible for the Art Force 5 Draft with aspirations of landing a rookie contract in one of the one-hundred Art Force 5 chapters across the country (again, imagine). Art Force 5 chapters in Houston, New Orleans, Detroit, and Memphis all conduct pre-draft interviews with him but ultimately he is taken at #8 in the draft by Art Force Baltimore – his home town. Most Art Force chapters like to draft students from their home city, especially when they contribute to scholarships for home-grown artists.

In Baltimore, Michael works most often in the Art Force’s Heroes Within youth empowerment program but also finds time to hone his own craft during less busy hours. He illustrates the monthly Art Force 5 comic book, designs publications for other non-profits, and does some ceramic work on the weekends. Once a week, the team leave their headquarters and travels to a nearby community struggling to address an issue; violence, poverty, racism, loss. The Art Force 5 design community-based projects which allow differently-minded people to come together in a shared-purpose of making art. This community outreach helps Michael identify future professions after his stint on the 5.

He is mentored by four other artists, each joining this farm system one year at a time before him, until Michael is now the senior artist with four mentees joining annually behind him. His community relations experience, paired with a master’s degree which he completed part-time, have prepared him to consider careers in education, social work, community organizing, public policy, law enforcement, or becoming a self-sustainable studio artist using the business skills he developed co-managing the Art Force 5 operation.

But he always dreamt of going to the show.

The show is just that. A television show about the service of the Art force 5’s international team – five heroes who travel the globe helping communities through art. PBS or another reputable network broadcast these adventures and shine the light on communities struggling to communicate or persevere through adversity. Creativity over Conflict is their motto, as well as the name of the hit theme song sung by Beyoncé.

Michael can only dare to dream. And so will we….(to be continued in the next blog). 

-Dan Napolitano

Dan NapolitanoComment