March 16, 2008 — Conceptual artist Clay Lindol Jones believes that anyone has the potential to create art, and that almost anything can become art. "It's in how you see," Jones says.
This is not an idle concept — Jones is putting his vision to work in the creation of a unique island resource, the Alternative Art Alliance, an independent artists' cooperative.
Founded in February, the alliance is a not-for-profit organization, a working studio and gallery space which will be operated by member artists. Right now, it's a work in progress. It will enrich the community through art education and events, Jones says, with a special focus on encouraging underserved youth to explore the arts.
"Until now," Jones says, "most local artists have worked with independent art studios. They haven't enjoyed the creative synergy of working with other artists, sharing costs and ideas."
"It's four basic ideas," he says. "Exposure to different styles of art and influences, education on how to use the equipment, a space to work in, and collaboration with other artists."
Jones says, "This isn't overwhelming, we're not out to change the world. We just want to create a haven for serious artists to get away from mainstream art, to make art that's a state of mind, one which involves the whole planet.
"I think this is a big enough island that we can do something a little left of center," Jones says. "We want to keep it more alternative. The studio will be equipped for digital arts, glass blowing, metal sculpting and painting."
Applying his philosophy of recognizing art, in February Jones started an outreach project with a few Montessori upper school students. He armed them with digital cameras, then turned them loose on the school campus with no more experience under their belts than the instruction he had given them that morning. "I basically told them to look at what's around them, all objects have worth," he says. "It's allowing them the ability to go and capture beauty, and to refine it."
The students turned in simple photos — a ball on a slab of concrete, grass on a soccer field.
Savannah Kerr says, "He taught us to look at things differently. I took a ball and placed it on the cement, and I got down on my knees and took the picture. It had a sort of lonely feel."
Next, Jones is going to work with youngsters at the Sea View Nursing facility. "I'm particularly excited about that," he says. "Kids with a difficult past could really benefit from this."
He is working with a volunteer staff of two at the moment, a grant writer and a bookkeeper; they're small in number, but big in ideas.
Jones hopes to have the project under way by late summer. Meantime, he has gotten a temporary space for a 2008 Youth Digital Arts Summer program.
The group is actively raising funds and seeking a location for the studio and retail gallery, "Seven Minus Seven." Ultimately, Jones says, nominal membership fees and sales from its retail studio will support it. For now, the alliance is awaiting word from a grant application to the Lana Vento Charitable Trust.
Jones says the project has received support from Michael Johnson of Serenity Builders and George Etheridge of Tunick Insurance, who have supplied digital cameras.
He hopes the community will come forward to help with donations to fund the opportunities he wants to give back to the community. He can be contacted at 643-2260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and he anticipates a web page soon.
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