Last weekend I made the trip down from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where I currently live, to Los Angeles, where I was born and raised, for the CalArts/Chouinard Art Institute alumni reunion. I don’t often make it to these get-togethers, but they were giving special awards to my good friend, artist, Dennis Lewis, and posthumously to my illustration lab professor, Harold Kramer, so it was a must attend.
Only 4 of my actual classmates were there, the group ranged from geriatrics to students currently attending CalArts. I was sitting next to an architect, a graduate from a class many years before my own. I unexpectedly ran into, Tony, the son of artist (a Chouinard graduate) whom I’d worked with for 12 years, when I was directing animation for Kurtz & Friends. Tony and my own son used to hang out together at all the Kurtz & Friends events that included family, which were most of them.
The reunion presentations were fine, my friend, Dennis’, acceptance speech being the highlight of the program. Dennis is a great natural storyteller and can’t help but crack the room up with his cast of a thousand in character portrayals of student interactions, from his many years of teaching and his rendition of how he met his beautiful wife. But there was a rich reward, above the joy of watching my close friend of 50 years receive the recognition he deserved and that was introductions to and conversations with the alumni, most of whom I’d never met before.
Art knowledge is timeless, so when you converse with an artist that’s 90 years old or one that’s 19 years old, you share common interests and speak a common language. Age or generational differences melt away as you discuss Richard Diebenkorn and the influence Matisse had on his work (a current exhibit at SFMOMA) or the Calder retrospective at LACMA last year or the student from this class or that who’s recently gained international recognition. In the company of artists you share like interests far beyond those bound to generation and become part of a living, breathing organism with a focused passion for art.
Pick up a paintbrush, chisel or other creative tool and you’re rubbing shoulders with Leonardo, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, Hockney and all artists past and present. Welcome to the fraternity of artists, take full advantage of your membership!