Help a Starving Artist and Help Yourself

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   Posted by: BJ Johnson in art, glass, sculpture
This entry is part of a series: Kickstarter #1 - Blown Glass Space Art Exhibit »

Our first Kickstarter Project has just launched. What's Kickstarter? It's a new and innovative way for individuals across the globe who are interested in what an artist does, or wants to do, to fund creative projects by pledging various levels of support according to what they each can afford. Doesn't have to be a lot. Each pledge level has rewards that the project's backers will receive when the project is fully funded.

Our project is a Glass Space Art Exhibit that we want to mount at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. We already have our booth space and the furniture but the expense of shipping large glass sculptures, and ourselves, is significant. Preparations for the trip consume a month preceding and, even though the conference itself lasts only four days, the trip spans more than a week—and it's a complex, work filled one. Come on along for the ride.

The General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award Master SculptureWe arrive two days early in order to de-stack our huge 7.5' tall, 345 lb. glass sculpture, The General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award that lives at Space Foundation Headquarters, and transport it to the Broadmoor Hotel West Lobby, where it is on display during the conference for all to see. Before transport, we etch the award recipient's name onto the tall glass plates and then place them onto our specially designed transport cart, along with the cobalt blue engine bell base, and secure it in the back of a lift gate truck. It's a big truck and doesn't ride easy, so I ride in there with him, making sure that nothing goes wrong. My being there has saved him from disaster more than once . The two blast cloud bubble assemblies, with their embedded spaceflight artifacts, ride on foam pads in the car that we rent for the transport.

Next day, we begin setting up our booth. We have no Roadies; it's just the two of us. Everything has to be ready for the first opening of the exhibit hall that night. We usually don't quite make it but are in good enough shape, so as to be presentable to attendees when they begin streaming in after the conclusion of the opening ceremonies; which I don't think we've ever been able to attend. Once that is over, we trek back to our room and fall into bed.

Education is what it's all about. Tuesday is the first full day with the exhibit hall open, and it lasts into the night. We run our booth all day, handing out small giveaways while educating visitors about art, how we produce these wonderful things and why art is essential in their lives. We have learned that most people think of art as inessential; when it really is extremely important to our well being, our imagination and inspiration. We've even had people who work at the Big Space Corporations come up and tell us that "they don't use art". Visionaries throughout history have blazed the trail for those who will come after to go and do. Circa: 1970 I coined this, because I realized just how true it really is:

"Throughout all of human exploration,
  Art, in one form or another,
  Has always been our first vehicle."

That has never been truer than it is today. They don't realize that a sketch on a napkin or an engineering drawing are forms of art—as, of course, are their promotional materials.

Wednesday is a mixed bag. We arise extra early to de-stack the big sculpture and transport it into the Rocky Mountain Ballroom, where the Lifetime Achievement Award Luncheon will take place that day. The sculpture is re-stacked on a raised platform adjacent to the stage. It is a tricky operation lifting the engine bell base from the cart up onto it and then carrying the vertical plates up there and gently lowering them securely into their socket and carefully re-tightening the clamps. Once fully assembled, we give him a final cleaning under the bright lights and then go to the exhibit hall for a few short hours before returning to our room to dress for the luncheon.

Dr. Charles Elachi Lifetime Space Achievement Individual Award

In addition to caring for the master sculpture, we also bring an individual sculpture that is presented to the recipient for them to keep. This year's award will be presented to Dr. Charles Elachi, Director of Jet Propulsion Laboratory; a wonderful campus upon which I have enjoyed many working hours. The orb on this one is Mars, for obvious reasons. It is our honor to have made and present this award, as we have to so many great pioneers over these years. Following the luncheon and photo session, we de-stack, transport and re-stack in the lobby once more and return to our booth. Counting the first move in the morning, all told, this operation consumes about four hours.

While this is decidedly cool, and we obviously wouldn't miss it, the unfortunate thing for us is that this is the time that the student field trips come through the exhibit halls to visit selected booths on Career Day. We're never there and we know from talking with many young people who are able to slip away and come over when they see that we have returned, that we are their dead-on favorite. They're enthusiastic and wide-eyed at our presentation; asking all sorts of questions before they're busted and have to go. Wish we could spend more time with them.

Thursday is much the same as Tuesday, running the booth all day, except that the Space Technology Hall of Fame and Closing Ceremonies Dinner follows on the heels of exhibit hall closing. We rush to our room and change, attend the dinner and, when it's all over, 3D Design Model of This Year's Booth drag ourselves back to our booth to strike it and pack it all for shipping back to the studio; usually doing this in our dress clothes. In this short period of time, the entire exhibit hall, except for our booth, has been dismantled, crated and is being loaded into trucks. Nearly nothing is left but debris. It's amazing. Took them two to three days to set it up; two hours to pack it up. Really wish we could have some help in this area, but we need a different kind of help even more.

Friday we de-stack the master sculpture, load him onto his cart and transport him back to headquarters, where he stands until next year. It is always an emotional time when we leave. It took almost a year to design and build him. He's one of our kids and we hate to say goodbye.

Here is where you can help us
  and receive some great art
    and a warm, fuzzy feeling, too!

This is important to us and important to you, on so many levels. With the banks having tanked the economy, and the incorrect perception that art is not essential to the human existence, our ability to mount these exhibits is in jeopardy, as is our studio. IF we can get to the conference and cover our hotel room, we will be able to secure some much needed commissions and keep the spirit of art alive.

If enough of you pledge small amounts, it adds up. We get funded. You get Art. The catch is, if we do not reach our Kickstarter Project goal within the allotted time, we do not get anything. It is an all-or-nothing scenario and, as of this writing, we only have 17 days left to get this wrapped up. You can check the thermometer bar in the Kickstarter widget here on this blog and on Joy's to see how we're progressing. The whole process is monitored by Kickstarter and Amazon.

This isn't just a handout! You can help yourself to some wonderful art that you can keep or give as gifts. Everybody wins. Please do take a few moments to check out the levels and rewards that we have. They're pretty cool and made especially for you. You'll help a newly starving artist to stay in the business of creating; while inspiring minds to reach for the stars.

Life would surely be barren and drab
  if we had no beautiful things.
Entries in this series:
  1. Help a Starving Artist and Help Yourself
  2. 45 Backers Helped Themselves to Some Great Art
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