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As summer ends, I begin a concentrated search for sources that will prompt new ideas and invigorate my passion for art. With the another academic year approaching, I must invent a year’s worth of art curricula, thoughtfully designed to launch hundreds of my students, ages 4 to 50+, on their own inspired journey into artmaking. Of course, inspiration can be elusive. Looking for it is like thrift store shopping: you have to hunt through ungodly piles of dull and not-quite-right before something magnificent lands in your hand. And like thrift store shopping, the true treasures reveal themselves just when you’re kinda sick of looking.

Thankfully, there are those places that supply inspiration as regularly as my kids leave dirty dishes in their rooms. There’s the beloved Adobe Bookstore in SF’s Mission District where I can spend hours engrossed by their unmatched book collection or by the conversations that await anyone willing to sink into a shabby sofa and join in. (Sadly, the Adobe is hanging on by a thread and is threatening to close in a couple months.) Our own Berkeley Art Museum consistently presents exciting, out-of-the ordinary exhibits, and their book store is full of gems. (I've had so many euphoric moments in Mario Ciampi’s landmark building I can’t overstate my disappointment with BAM’s plans to relocate soon.) Then there’s SCRAP, which stands for Scrounger’s Center for Reusable Art Parts. I have never left SCRAP without a car load of awesome “art parts” and a head full of project ideas. I mention these depots of inspiration because they deserve to be openly appreciated for all they’ve given me over the years. If creativity can only be fed and never controlled, then these places have served up whole meals to satisfy my hunger for artistic sustenance. 


Rummaging around for inspiration has helped me recognize how a scrapper’s sensibility is essential in artmaking. Artists must see the overlooked potential in things considered too junky, tacky, or common to keep around. Case in point is Mission School artist Barry McGee who infuses his paintings, drawings, and mixed media installations with fabulous elements of funky and forgotten. Using a slew of nontraditional art materials he may well have picked up at SCRAP, McGee explores the artistic capacity of ball point pens, old office supplies, leftover house paint, vintage logos, lanyard cord, drugstore frames, used liquor bottles, old T.V.s, and found photos. Recently, I attended the opening of his current exhibition at BAM, where I was touched to discover that McGee, also an Adobe devotee, had recreated the bookstore as a part of this exhibition. By memorializing the vitality of street art and the artistic soul found in places like the Adobe, McGee’s work celebrates and preserves their inspirational affect.

My wish for the 2012/13 YAWS and Westside Studio art season is that every student be stirred by sudden and unmistakable moments of artistic clarity, moments when inspiration is wildly apparent.

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