“To me the coolest thing about Urth Arts is not just making art, but turning other people on to making art—how fun it is. You don’t have to be a great artist to make art…I love when people go ‘Oh, it’s ok?’ Yeah, it’s ok. Or ‘This is a guilty pleasure.’ No, it’s just a pleasure,” says Susan Perrin of Urth Arts in Samsonville, a homegrown, backyard barn art-tank.
|Susan and Bryan take Urth Arts on the road to local festivals.|
Bryan chimes in, “Art is a thing humans are supposed to do. People are really programmed with this idea of worth and value, particularly as it relates to the self. ‘Am I good enough?’ And it is not healthy. We are not just number crunchers…Art is one of the last clean, healthy activities. Who is getting hurt? You’re not accidentally supporting some terrible industry.”
The belief behind Urth Arts workshops is that everyone is an artist. Bryan and Susan bring together groups of people in long-form art making extravaganzas, where the energy of the group is transformed into a creative alchemy. For anywhere from two to six hours, participants make and make and make—painting, sculpting, building, drawing.
Bryan explains, “Yes, there is an instructional element, but a lot of what we do is more facilitating a process of people feeling comfortable coming together and making art. We’re saying everybody of all ages, shape and form should feel comfortable coming together.”
Nature is elemental in the process; nature is the material and the inspiration. “A bit in the tradition of barnyard beatniks, we are creating a little scene. Ours is based around nature. It’s all about finding what is beautiful, and seeing the strangeness that is very close by. If you want to take back a stick, you really start looking. ‘That stick is too small, that stick is too wide.’ You are using critical thinking. It tones your brain and your heart.”
“We are more like an art workout than an art spa,” Bryan says with a chuckle. “A lot of [art instructors] are trying to make people comfortable, maybe pandering to flatter their egos. I’m around to help and facilitate, but we try to make our personal breakthroughs through our work.”
Urth Arts also hits the road from time to time, setting up shop at festivals like Clearwater and the Rosendale Street Fest, bringing their open-arms artistic approach to the masses. They have also secured grants to work with children in local public schools, from Delhi and Margaretville to Marbletown and Kingston.
Susan says, “When we work with kids we teach them that there are no mistakes in art; you can always reuse it. We can look at things with a critical eye, but not a self-deprecating eye. If you can look at art like that, maybe you can look at life like that. And if you’re not satisfied, how can you improve upon it—or use it for something else. I like that questioning—how can I improve?”
Susan and Bryan have day jobs (as a bookkeeper and an educator, respectively), but the dream is to one day do away with these bill-payers and do “All art all the time!” Susan says. “In a perfect world we would get to be teaching on a regular basis. I’d also be interested in bringing Urth Arts on the road to hospitals and places that could really use some healing energy.”
In the meantime, they will continue shifting people’s attitudes toward art, one workshop, one personal revelation at time.
For more information about Urth Arts offerings, visit urtharts.com.