ArtoberRVA | Art for the Journey | Michael Birch (Ep. 2)

ArtoberRVA | Art for the Journey | Michael Birch (Ep. 2)


(upbeat music)>>On “”The Art Scene””, brightening up dark
places with art.>>It’s the combination of art
making and personal engagement that creates what
I call the magic. As their comfort level grows,
the art making begins to touch other areas of their life.>>Art uses another part of
the brain that we don’t use when we’re going
through our routine. We think about light and
shadow and perspective and where we’re gonna
put things on a canvas and the colors that
we’re gonna use.>>I love to paint it
gives me a peace of mind. It takes me out of these
walls into a peaceful place.>>Creating portraits,
stitch by stitch.>>A big part of my practice
which is so much bigger than I ever thought it would
be is my embroidered portraits. And so what I do is I
draw portraits of people with my sewing machine. So, I’ll look at you
and sit in front of me. And while you’re sitting
there and just move the fabric or the sewing machine and
about three to five minutes I draw a portrait of you
in one continuous line. It’s really intense
and really immediate. And it kind of
happens without me really thinking about it a lot. But the hand
embroidery is just me, alone with the fabric
and the needle, and the rhinestones and
beads and all that stuff.>>And digging into
the art community in our region.>>It’s one thing to watch
“Dancing with the Stars”. It’s one thing to go to
a museum and see the art. But Artober gives you the
opportunity to engage in it and actually participate in it. So you’re not just a spectator.>>There’s dance, there’s
music, there’s theater, there’s painting or
sculpture, there’s history and exhibits in museums and
there’s something for everyone.>>So just take this month to
really expand your artistic horizon and just get out to
know something a little bit different that you haven’t
really normally seen before.>>I think Artober VA is
a really wonderful way to showcase all the arts
opportunities in our region and shine a light on
the important work that arts organizations
are doing in the community.>>Join us as we celebrate
the people and places that create art in
Central Virginia. Next, on “The Art Scene”. Welcome to “The Art Scene”. I’m Haliya Roberts. We believe in celebrating our
art community all year long, but especially during Artober
VA in the Richmond region. And if you haven’t had
the opportunity to dig into the local art
scene recently, there’s still time to
experience a performance, take in a class or see
an exhibit around town. We’ll tell you more
about Artober VA and the organizations
that participate in it later in the show. But first, sharing the
joy of celebrating art is something a Richmond
nonprofit does best. Even in the darkest and
harshest environments, volunteers us art to restore
health, make meaningful human connections and
empower the creative spirit. (gentle music)>>Hi, how are you?>>How are you?>>I’m all right, you? (people mumbling)>>Life inside is very dark. It’s a very negative
and hard environment because we’re trapped. It’s very hard to, I
think, rehabilitate without any outside programs. I’ve been in this class for
approximately two years. For the 90 minutes
that I’m in the class, I really forget
that I’m locked up.>>I tattooed for about 10 years, and I didn’t know I could
paint but I started art class and I started painting and I
didn’t even know I could paint. I think I’m pretty good.>>Well, I was teaching a class in impressionist oil painting, which is the kind of
painting that I do and the conversation often
turned to how this experience could be taken to other
people who didn’t have access to these kinds of things. If you look at the formal
mission of Art for the Journey, the mission is to
overcome obstacles and transform lives
through creating art. It’s the combination of art
making and personal engagement that creates what
I call the magic. As their comfort level
grows, the art making begins to touch other
areas of their life. It’s been said that art making
will seek out inside a person those areas that need
attention or that are in pain. And eventually, those areas
are in one way or another either healed or made better,
through the art making.>>They come into the
class pretty guarded. pretty quiet, not
knowing what to expect, but by the time we’ve
been there several times they start to open up. And once they realize that
these people are friendly, and I’m gonna get to
make choices here, choices I might not make
in the rest of my day. Somebody’s telling me
where I’ve got to be what I’ve got to eat,
what I’ve got to wear. But in here, I can choose
whether I want to use acrylic paint or oil paint, I get
to get my own supplies and put them on a pallet, I
even get to clean them up, which seems like not
much to me and you but just giving them
those privileges and by having awesome
conversations with them, they let down and I think it
makes their art better too.>>The first day I
came to this class, I felt so out of my
element, and I was like, Oh my god, I think I
made a big mistake. I couldn’t even draw
a stick figure so. But then she just took me in
and I fell in love with it. I love to paint, it
gives me a peace of mind. It takes me out of these
walls into a peaceful place.>>I can go places here. Unbelievable places.>>It’s a way to
express yourself. Getting to see the
colors blend together and work with each other,
the highlighting the dark, you know, against the light.>>The apple and you put the
dewdrop on after (mumbles).>>Well, art uses another
part of the brain that we don’t use when we’re
going through our routine. We think about light and
shadow and perspective and where we’re gonna
put things on a canvas and the colors that
we’re going to use. And it just allows us to
disconnect from all the mundane or the things that
are weighing us down.>>When I start
painting, I’m not here, so it puts me in
a different place.>>If I’m having a bad
day, I can come here and totally get absorbed
in what I’m working on.>>I think it helped with
behavior and self esteem. A lot of them don’t
open up very well. It’s really hard to get them
to speak about their life. But I think a lot of them
express it through the canvas that they can actually
paint what they feel and being allowed to write
their testimonies this year to match up with the
artwork, I just thought that was a chance for them
to express their journey and kind of gives
them a relief too. So we actually recently
expanded the program just a few months ago to
give them additional space. So they have increased
the program too.>>By inviting volunteers in,
it gives them an opportunity to connect in a special
way and to do something that improves the
lives of other people which improves their lives.>>When these ladies come, they help us so much
in so many areas. They don’t even know that
they are actually enriching our spirits or enriching
us and giving us things that we can
actually use besides paint. Just by being here
and caring about us as people, and not inmates.>>For some women, the
skill is having learned how to make art as an
alternative to drinking alcohol or taking drugs to
try to meet the stress or some other need,
that they have. I’ve not only learned this
through working with the women in prison, but other students that people have, everybody
has their own gift. And the way I would go
about creating something, is not necessarily the
way that’s comfortable for somebody else. So I think what I’ve learned
in working with women in prison, is that I can provide
them with some suggestions, or I can provide them
with some guidelines. But once they get engaged,
they’re gonna take that and create something that’s
very original to them, and that’s meaningful to them,
in a way that works for them. And being willing to back off and just let somebody
else’s creative process, fuel what they’re doing and not get in their way, is something that I’ve learned.>>I learned that
through painting you
can always start over. So if I make a mistake,
all I have to do is admit that I made a mistake, stop, and I can always
change the canvas.>>It’s a really good hobby. For me t’s therapeutic, so I’m gonna continue
doing it when I leave.>>To volunteer or learn more
about Art through the Journey and the programs they
offer in the community, visit their website.>>Finding your own unique
styles as an artist can be really difficult. Over a decade ago,
Michael Birch Pierce a Richmond-based artist
discovered that they enjoyed working with embroidery
and embellishment, and that technique has taken
them all over the world.>>My name is Michael
Birch Pierce. I don’t really know if I
could say how art has changed my life because it’s
like always been my life. I have always wanted
to be an artist. I think it was my first idea
of a job that I wanted to do. And then I decided I
want to be a rock star. And then I wanted to be a vet. And I went back to rock star, and then it became
fashion designer and then the fashion designer
kind of like was my career and then morphed into artist
in the last six years. I’m trained in couture
embroidery and sequins and rhinestones
and fashion design. So all the arts is pretty
sparkly and hand stitched. I was at Savannah College
of Art and Design, getting a degree in fibers. And I was really
focused on going back into the fashion industry
and working in New York and designing embellishment
for big designers. And at some point in
my thesis research, I got really interested
in embellishment. I got really interested
in the idea of artifice, and the idea of the
surfaces that we create to embellish ourselves
and identify ourselves and started making a lot of
garments that were very sparkly and that sort of morphed
into a fine art practice. I realized that the work
still spoke for itself and told the same stories
without having to be on a body. Being able to reference fashion, being able to have it
connected to that world. It didn’t necessarily
need to be on a dress. And it’s morphed and changed
and every few months, it turns into something
completely different. I think I’m probably most
inspired by David Bowie and the Spice Girls and
Dolly Parton and RuPaul. I’m really interested in the
idea of constructing identity in the ways that
all those people do and so I look at them and
I look at fashion designers like Elsa Schiaparelli, I
look at Mary Katrantzou. Artists like Nick Cave and
Liza Lou and Mickalene Thomas. Just lots of very queer things. Lots of very sparkly things. And I kind of pull
from everywhere. And I tried to make
my embellishments something that’s like very,
very much like Michael Birch that it’s something
that like only I do so you can like recognize these explosions of rhinestones
when you see them. In 2010, I got to embroider
the Christmas tree skirt for the Blue Room at the
White House for the Obama’s. And that was completely nuts. And it’s changed my
trajectory of everything else. And so now I’ve done portraits, of John Malkovich
and Shaquille O’Neal. So a big part of my practice
which is so much bigger than I ever thought it would
be is my embroidered portraits and so what I do is I
draw portraits of people with my sewing machine. So, I’ll look at you and
you’ll sit in front of me. And while you’re sitting
there I just move the fabric under the sewing machine, in
about three to five minutes I draw a portrait of you
in one continuous line. I get to connect with people
in this really intimate way, just like one on one
for three minutes and just study your
face really intensely and have this conversation
while I’m doing it. And then I finish the
portrait and hand it to you, and it’s just gone and
I never see it again. With the machine embroidery,
it’s really intense and really immediate and it
kind of happens without me really thinking about it a lot. And I’m usually
kind of more focused on whatever conversation
I’m having with the person and what’s going on around me. But the hand
embroidery is just me alone with the
fabric and the needle and the rhinestones and the
beads and all that stuff. And it’s meditative
and it’s calming, and I just get in a zone and
I just lose all track of time. Sometimes I think about
what the work is about and I think about all of
these heady art theory, gender theories sort
of things about it. Each piece is very
much about my identity and my gender and my sexuality. And so I try to
meditate on those topics and try to think about what
I’m trying to say with a piece. But for large portions of
the time for these hours that I spend working
on it, I just zone out. It’s something that I need, if I don’t do it,
my brain goes crazy. Being connected to all
of these other painters and sculptors and music
scene and theater scene, it’s really vibrant
and exciting. And I feel like I
belong here in a way that it was very hard to feel like one really
belongs in New York, that everybody’s fighting each
other there for attention. Everybody is trying to climb
up some invisible ladder. But here everybody
is really supportive, and it’s such a cool community. And I think that that’s
one of the big reasons why I chose to stay here. To see my work people could
probably most easily find me on Instagram @MichaelBirch on my website,
MichaelBirchPearce.com. Otherwise my work
is in shows in Miami and Savannah and I think there’s
one in Norfolk coming up. It’s everywhere. The internet’s, Instagram’s
the best place to see it.>>If you want to see more
of Michael Birch’s art, check it out at the
Cork Hotel in Richmond. And in the future, at the
Cork Hotel in Charlottesville.>>Have you been noticing
this sign around town? Well, there’s still
time to experience all the arts events
in your area. We sat down with CultureWorks to learn more about Artober VA.>>I think Artober VA is
a really wonderful way to showcase all the arts
opportunities in our region and shine a light on
the important work that arts organizations
are doing in the community.>>It’s one thing to watch
“Dancing with the Stars”. It’s one thing to go to
a museum and see the art. But Artober gives you the
opportunity to engage in it and actually participate in it. So you’re not just a spectator.>>There’s dance, there’s
music, there’s theater, there’s painting,
there’s sculpture, there’s history and
exhibits in museums. There’s something for everyone. CultureWorks was started
almost 10 years ago as a result of a regional
cultural action plan. At the time, it was concluded
that we needed a champion for arts and culture to maximize
the impact of what was then an emerging arts and
culture scene in Richmond. So today, our mission is to
drive a vibrant community by inspiring, enabling
and cultivating world class arts and culture. But that means we want
to support the ecosystem that enables someone to
go from drawing in school to becoming a
world class artist, and helping all the
organizations that
we have worked toward becoming the best
that they can be. We support over 200 nonprofit
arts and culture organizations and countless
individual artists. And we want to see from time
to time it makes sense for us to come together and work on
something to move the needle on issues or take
advantage of opportunities. So we started Artober VA. We’re in our fourth year
now and we started it because I was on an inner city
visit to Nashville, actually, I met with colleagues at
another local arts agency there. And they were telling me
about an Artober celebration that they have. And I thought it
would be a good fit. So I went down there
to check it out. And I met people who were
planning their year around, taking part in
Artober, Nashville. And they said that Artober
there created this momentum, this buzz, that they felt like
they had to be a part of it because all these arts
organizations were creating these unique,
compelling experiences. And for somebody to be
looking forward to that for months ahead of time, I
thought that that’s exactly what we should be able
to do here in Richmond. We started at four years ago, and we are already having
a tremendous momentum. It’s a movement in
arts and culture that’s growing across the
Richmond and tri-cities region. So here at Studio Two Three
our mission is to give people the space, tools and
education to find that thing they
love and make it. So we’re an accessible,
affordable 24 seven home to over 100 artists
in the community. We provide printmaking
resources, a dark room, a community of support
that you don’t see often for artists outside of the
university environment. And we also do classes,
workshops, events
for the community. So five to 6000 people a
month walk through these doors to make artwork
with their hands. We are super excited because
we are turning 10 this year at Studio Two Three, and
we’re actually having our community wide open house
on Monday, October 21st, from five to 9pm. And we’re expecting
hundreds of people to come for hands on printing
activities for a celebration of 10 years of this
organization, Studio Two Three providing artists
a home in Richmond and hopefully launching
the decade to come for you know what we’re
going to do into the future. (dance music)>>My name is Deandra Clarke. I am the artistic
director and owner of Studio4Dance agency
here in Richmond, Virginia. Last year we were
with Capital One cafe. They had this block party
where they just wanted to have performers there in
the restaurant just dancing. But also we taught
them “Thriller” just because it was
so close to Halloween. So we taught the
crowd “Thriller”, there were families there, there was a lot of kids, the
kids participated the most. There was face painting, so
a lot of ghouls and goblins eventually transformed
and danced with us. It was really fun. This year, it’s very
similar to the same thing. We’ll be back in Capital
One cafe, doing something very similar, we’ll be
doing the “Thriller” piece. But our performance this
year inside the cafe will be more interactive. So we won’t just be planted in
the middle of the restaurant doing a routine, there’s a
crowd participation piece where it’s like a
call and response. This is in Carytown we’ll
be able to get those people who are just out for a
Sunday stroll with their pets or what have you, or
just doing some shopping we’ll be able to
incorporate them as well. So it won’t just be us. It’ll be everyone
participating in it this year.>>One of the reasons people
don’t get engaged in the arts is sometimes they feel like oh, that’s gonna cost too much. Well we actually looked at
the calendar at several points last year and found
over 50 events on the arts and culture
calendar that were free. I believe arts and culture
can be enjoyed by somebody wearing a tuxedo or wearing
shorts and flip flops. And I want to see as
many people out there in their shorts and flip flops
maybe jeans and tennis shoes in Artober to really learn,
get exposed to something new and fall in love with it
for the rest of their life.>>Come one come all to
October VA at Studio Two Three for our open house. Completely open,
free to the public. We’ll have kids activities, so bring your kids,
come after work. There’s gonna be a food truck,
drinks, hands on printmaking. So you can make a poster,
a T shirt, a tote bag, and really kind of engage
with Studio Two Three and with the resources we
have here and meet hundreds of other people in the Richmond
community that love art.>>The Richmond region is
growing at an exponential rate and so fast and so diverse. There’s so many opportunities where you can just expand
your artistic horizons if you will. And just see different
artistic spaces and varieties and who knows like it’s all art. So just take this
month to really expand your artistic horizon and
just get out to know something a little bit different
that you haven’t really normally seen before.>>Artober, VA last year had
over 1500 arts and culture experiences going
on in the month. So if you ever feel like
there’s nothing going on, check out the ArtoberVA.com
to check out the calendar and see all the things
that are going on. There are likely dozens of
events happening every day, try out that thing that
you’ve never done before. And the calendar has
the ability to search by type of arts and culture. So you can say, “I’ve
never done this before”. And then find five
events for that and find, you’re likely to find something
else that you might love for the rest of your life. And so it’s a really
powerful time to try that.>>If you have an event or
story idea you’d like to see on “The Art Scene”, connect
with us on social media or send us an email. Thanks for digging into the
local art community with us. Join us next time for more
stories about the amazing art in your area, and remember,
whether you see it or hear it or make it, it’s
a part of “The Art Scene”.

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