Juan Alonso Studio is hosting a birthday fundraising event on April 28th and 29th benefiting ACLU, Lambda Legal & Planned Parenthood on. A hundred local artists were supplied with 6” x 6” pieces of Masonite and asked to create an original work for attendees to choose from once they donate a minimum of $100. All works are signed on the back so guests are choosing the work and not the artist by name, and find out afterwards whose piece they bought. I spoke with birthday boy and art space owner, Juan Alonso-Rodríguez.
Craig: Happy early b’day Juan! I see that you’ve been celebrating your birthday for the past ten years by raising money for non-profits. This year, though, you’ve gone public; tell us how you bumped it up a notch.
Juan: Thank you! My birthday was on the 2nd but I claim the whole month to celebrate. One day, once a year, all about me is just not enough. As far as the format change for my annual fundraiser, I wanted to make this year a little bit more of a community project. I think the anti-intellectual, anti-arts attitude and tone of the current administration has sparked more of a need to unite people that tend to be seen as on the fringe, like artists, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, people of color and women. In other words, if you’re not a rich, white, heterosexual male, you’re going to need support from your tribe.
Craig: You were born in Cuba, and went to high school in Florida. Do they inform your work equally? Did you notice a different attitude towards artists?
Juan: Miami and Cuba may sometimes seem similar in flavor due to the quantity of Cubans living in both, but they are two very different places. My time in each place is still shorter than the time I’ve spent here in Seattle which is really where I started my art career. I left Cuba when I was almost ten and lived in Miami until I was twenty-three. Although I had been making visual art as a kid and later as a young adult in Florida, it was music that I was doing professionally while living in Miami. Now as visual artist, it is my childhood in Havana that most influences what I create but I loved growing up in Miami as well.
Craig: What is having your own gallery like?
Juan: I don’t really have a gallery in the traditional sense. I am fortunate to have a decent size studio that I can tidy up for 1st Thursdays and 2nd Saturdays and hang work on the walls. At the end of last year I started showing other people’s work in the small room at the entrance to the studio and I’m calling it the Front Room Gallery at JAS (Juan Alonso Studio), as not to be confused with the Front Room Gallery in Brooklyn.
It’s a way for me to focus some attention on less-established or less-known, unrepresented artists whose work I want to encourage and support.
Craig: I really like your salad bowls, wine carrying bags, mugs and coasters. Do you think it’s a good idea for artists to go on sites like Society6, Etsy and Redbubble and try to sell some of their designs?
Juan: I’ll take credit for the wine bags, coasters and mugs but the salad bowls you saw are by one of my 2nd Saturday guest artists and beautiful friend, Mary Lamery. As far as options for artists, different ones work for different people. I think it’s great to explore the possibilities of what is out there. The whole gallery/artist system has changed a lot since the Internet came along and everyone began to have their own website. The art world is constantly changing and we need to adapt to it. If it works for you, I say go for it.
Craig: I may have developed carpal tunnel from scrolling through your resume! It’s full of awards, grants, public commissions, and exhibits. Is there anything you haven’t done that you still want to do?
Juan: There are things I still fantasize about, like writing and recording music. I’ve always wanted to just put one album out there for posterity. I wouldn’t mind doing a bit more acting. I recently had a blast making a video with Dina Martina for her last show. Ironically, what I’d like to do most is what I’m already doing, just more of it. I really want to spend more and more time painting in the studio. It’s where I find the most peace.
Craig: Recently, a photographer at an art space said to me that artists seem lonely and have a hard time finding each other. How have you found other artists to collaborate with?
Juan: Some artists do tend to be solitary, especially since we mostly tend to work alone but I also know plenty who are social animals. I have directly collaborated with artist and long time friend Marita Dingus and of course, whenever I make public projects, I am, in a way, collaborating with the fabricator and sometimes even the builder or architect. I think more important than collaborating, which has its pros and cons, is finding the artist friends that will support you, cheer you on, criticize you and defend you at the same time. Friends that are true and with you even when you are competing for the same tiny slice of art pie. It doesn’t happen if you don’t put yourself out there and develop a thick skin from all the ones you have to “swipe” to wherever the “no thanks” side is.
Craig: I mostly had public school art teachers who seemed burnt out and said things like “you can’t just draw things from inside your head, you have to draw a chair so I can tell you what’s wrong with it!” What do you think would make for a better art instructor?
Juan: Sadly, it’s usually the bureaucrats and not art teachers that make it difficult for creatives to thrive. When I have taught, my approach is to emphasize process and not product. Often people feel pressure to come up with some masterpiece after a week long workshop. Parents of kids want to see instant results and so school principals and other officials tend to pressure the art teachers to behave more like assembly-line foremen than the sparks for creativity they were meant to be. People need to realize that the best part of creating something is the time you spend problem solving, arranging, applying your knowledge and common sense to your project and that over time those skills keep getting better and better until you find your own voice. The reward is the experience, not the shiny object due at the end.
Craig: Scenario: I’m an artist who has been single for twenty years and don’t have pets or even plants. Oh, and I basically stopped making art about a decade ago. What kind of show should I put together? I’m asking for a “friend”!
Juan: Don’t put a show together. Start making art and don’t worry about it being good or bad. Experiment. Pick up the brush or the pencil or whatever you feel will inspire you most. Make a lot of work and then step back and see where you are and what appeals to you. Make a cohesive body of work and then put it out there. Find peers that will be honest with you if you need feedback. Make your statement. You’ll know when you are ready.
Craig: Scenario: You are putting on a show at your gallery and for some reason you can only pick one of these three artists to show: Yayoi Kusama, Cindy Sherman and Banksy. Oh, and the two you don’t pick say they’ll never talk to you again!
Juan: Yayoi Kusama. Those other two bitches don’t talk to me anyway.
Craig: I had a birthday roast once where I sat on a blow-up Hello Kitty chair and drunkenly laughed with my friends as they made fun of me and my drag character. Would you ever sign up for a birthday roast and what do you think your friends would rib you about?
Juan: No. I don’t really enjoy being the focus of attention. I want my art to be but not me personally. I’m a bit private and yes, shy.
Craig: Last question: what music will you rock out to while you dress for your birthday party?
Juan: I’d probably listen to my running play-list which is a huge mix of upbeat stuff. Once I get to my studio, I’ll turn on some jazz. Miles Davis. Yes.
About 100 artists have created artworks as personal gifts to encourage donations to three organizations. Sound good? Here are the details (and go here to SEE all the works!):
Friday, April 28, 5-8 pm, $100 minimum donation required
Saturday, April 29, 11 am. – 3 pm. – $5 donation
Juan Alonso Studio & Project 106 at the TK Building are hosting a fundraising event benefiting ACLU, Lambda Legal & Planned Parenthood.
We have supplied about 100 local artists with 6” x 6” pieces of Masonite and asked them to create an original work for you to choose from once you donate a minimum of $100.
1. We will have iPads and laptops set up at the entrance to my space, ready for you to make your donation to one of these three organizations on line. You may also bring a check made out to one of the three.
2. You get a receipt which you take into Juan Alonso Studio and select an original work of art to take home as a gift from the artist.
3. All works are signed on the back so guests are choosing the work and not the artist by name. Once you choose the work, you can see who created it. Yes, there is a mix of emerging and very well-known artists contributing.
Reception – 21 & over:
Friday, April 28, 5-8 pm
$100 minimum donation required at the door guarantees you get to select an original artwork to take home. You do not have to pay if you’re a donating artist unless you want to take another artist’s work home.
Juan Alonso Studio – 306 S Washington St, Seattle, WA 98104
Refreshments will be served
2nd Chance – all ages
Saturday, April 29, 11 am. – 3 pm. – $5 donation requested at the door
Donate a minimum of $100 and you get to take an original artwork home.
Juan Alonso Studio will also donate 25% of sales of original works by Juan Alonso-Rodriguez’s to whichever one of the three organizations you choose.
Please bring your friends!
Can’t make it but see something you must have?
Want to reserve an artwork ahead of the event?
Send a check made out to one of the three organizations my studio (306 S Washington St, Studio 104, Seattle, WA 98104) or show proof of donation between 4/18 and 4/28 for $150 (or higher) to ACLU, Lambda Legal or Planned Parenthood, select an artwork and pick it up at your leisure or have it sent to you for $10 shipping fee.
For the last 10 years, I have celebrated by birthday by raising funds for a non-profit organization. In order to make this a more community-engaging event, I joined forces with Paul D McKee of Project 106 and invited interested PNW artists to contribute if they wanted to. I am deeply touched by the generosity of my fellow artist. I hope you will come and show your support for all of us and for the organizations that could use it as well.
DONATING ARTIST: No “admission charge” for you but if you’re coming to the reception on Friday and would like to contribute to the refreshments, it would certainly be appreciated.
Please consult with your tax professional or CPA about tax exempt donations.
Hope to see you Friday the 28th or Saturday the 29th
Craig Trolli is colorblind and drew the comic strip The Adventures of Em’ma Gawd! & Anna Rexia for three years. He had art shows at Café Ladro, Toys in Babeland and Starbucks, most of which were just to advertise a play he was in. He has a WACOM tablet that collects dust quite nicely, thank you.