Don’t Listen to the Experts

Don’t Listen to the Experts

by Míša Rygrová

The fact that I would never be an artist was sealed before I reached the age of six. Living in communist (at that time) Czechoslovakia meant that a committee of “experts” would come to the kindergarten, examine a child, and deliver the verdict to their parents. And so it was. Two ugly people came, observed us for a minute or two, made us do a few tasks, and after our every move or answer wrote something down in their notebooks.

Portrait of the artist as a young woman (Photo c/o Míša Rygrová)

Raised eyebrows, eye-rolling and whisper-like speak was ever present as I was standing in front of them. They were not amused. They snickered when snatching a drawing from under my little shaking hands. They were not smiling. The verdict was quite straight and harsh: no talent at all, no recommendation for any of the music or art club for kids. Useless. Done. My mum looked at me softly, caressed my hair, and we went home. The result? I couldn’t be enrolled in any State-organized after school art or music class — and in case you were wondering, no, there were not private ones. Since then art was not for me to make but to watch, and both my parents and I were wholeheartedly convinced of it.

Things started to change when I was bit older (around 6th or 8th grade). Communism was gone, the system had changed, and I would “art” at home more and more often to the point that I collected all my courage and went to art class after school and asked if I could stay for the lesson. I was older than the other kids there. I didn’t have a paper signed by my parents, as they didn’t know I was there at all. I didn’t have money to pay for it.

Míša working on an art project (Photo c/o Míša Rygrová)

The teacher said yes. I loved it. It was different. I was free and happy. I was surprised by my own creations. I never would have guessed I am capable of such things. At the end of the lesson I asked if I could come again and the teacher handed me a form for my parents to fill out and sign, and they asked me to bring money next time. I was very nervous asking my mum — after all, I was not a match for art. It was clearly said by “experts” that I should keep my hands very far from any of it. To say that my mum was surprised when I handed her the form would be an understatement, but she didn’t hesitate, and she supported me. The family budget was tight, but she made it work. How? I do not know. Art stopped being the thing to “only watch” for me and my mum still has several of my pieces hanging around the house.

I experienced my next big artistic milestone in 2010 when I first came to Black Rock City at the age of 28. Sure, I’d seen big art before. For sure I had encountered some interactive art before as well, though I could barely remember it. But I didn’t see THIS coming.

Míša on Orion Fredericks’ “Exsucatare Triectus” at Burning Man (Photo c/o Míša Rygrová)

I was mesmerized. Not only by its beauty and creativity, but what it did to people. They were coming together, strangers were becoming friends while admiring the pieces and playing (!) with them. Later I learned that also happened while people were creating them, too. The adults were playing with art like kids with no shame, with huge excited eyes and opened hearts. The art was changing people. It transported me to the time before I was condemned not to be an artist, before I met the “experts”.

Creating art for Black Rock City (Photo c/o Míša Rygrová)

Interactive art became the “new normal” for me. Over the years it integrated into my life so much that I started to share my own ideas with others, and even my own creations. (Heck, I even got a grant from the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF), which until today is one of the most insane things to happen to me.) This “new normal” enriched me not only through unforgettable experiences, but through the people who expanded my circles, many of whom became my extended family. I’ve seen adults turn into kids, kids turn into engineers, silly ideas turn into dreams, and dreams turn into reality. I’ve seen unexpected connections made despite differences in language, nationality or religion. I’ve seen the insane and impossible to turn into “Hell yes let’s do this.” Just pure joy moving mountains for art to come to life and delight others.

Míša, Larry Harvey and Marian Goodell enjoying Misa’s “Project Suitcase” project (Photo by Margo Trushina)

For me, We Are From Dust embodies all of this. It is a means to spread interactive art around the world, to put it close to people, and let it change them — to eliminate the voices of the “experts” in people’s minds which say they should stay away from art. Let people touch, feel and play with the art. Experience it. Then they can decide how far they really want to go. How far do you want to go? Will you participate?   

 

 

 



 

Welcome to We Are From Dust

Welcome to We Are From Dust

by Yomi Ayeni

There are many things that can affect or influence personal growth, and for me that’s always been art – be it music, performance, or the most impactful big art. What started out as a quest for a new experience has allowed me to grow, and without this change, I would not be the person I am today. It was as if there was someone sleeping inside my body, every once in a while I’d get excited and that person would stir, toss and turn, but fail to wake up from a dreamlike state.

Photo Credit: Arin Fishkin

Being exposed to what I would call a mind-breaking creative influence gave me the mental bandwidth to see beyond the immediate. The artists that have impacted my life are not ‘magical unicorns’, many are not entitled, most are ordinary people like myself who’ve been supported and given the space to develop their skills and craft. I am pleased to say that their work inspired me to think differently.

I first encountered participatory art in a desert event setting, which can be off-putting for many. Where some see the dust, heat, loud music, lack of creature comforts as liberating, others find the conditions harsh and hostile, and we understand the delicate balancing act required to address these concerns.

This is why we created our new non-profit We Are From Dust, in hopes it becomes a gateway to amazing art experiences hosted in public spaces.  Our team has amassed over 120 cumulative years of working for some of the most cutting edge events on the planet, and we have both a deep love of art and a clear understanding of how it has impacted so many lives.

Our task is to replicate the magic that has changed us, but to do so in places you’d least expect to find world-class art. We seek to curate spaces for you to have personal and unique art moments.

Our inaugural sculpture park in Point San Pablo Harbor in Richmond, California is the start of something new: a new mission and a new model for bringing participatory art to public spaces. We are collaborating with a great team to make Point San Pablo Harbor an activated destination through art. And with the realization of our first exhibition — a longstanding dream made real — our launch event was truly an emotional experience. I wanted to share with you the talk I created for the event.

We Are From Dust; we hope you support us.