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ArtsChat Ohio

ArtsChat Ohio: OAC Staff Talks Artmaking "After Hours" (Part 2)

ArtsChat Ohio is an audio blog bringing you the latest news and updates from Ohio Arts Council staff members. These conversations are recorded to be enjoyed using the audio player below. A transcript and show notes are also included.


Transcript 
Audio transcript edited for clarity.

CAT: Hello, everyone. I'm Cat Sheridan, director of the Ohio Arts Council's Riffe Gallery, and I'm joined today by two very special guests, my colleagues Chiquita Mullins Lee and Ted Hattemer.

Chiquita is one of our amazing arts learning coordinators at the OAC, and Ted is our agency’s fantastic technology strategist. And, as you'll soon learn during today's conversation, both are phenomenal artists as well.

CHIQUITA: Hello, Cat! Hello, everybody!

TED: Thanks for having us.

CAT: So, this is the second installment in our mini ArtsChat Ohio series focusing on the Riffe Gallery’s upcoming exhibition, After Hours: Artwork from State of Ohio Employees 2021. [Listen to Part One here] After Hours showcases the artwork and creative talent of state workers from across Ohio.

So, to lead up to the exhibition's opening tomorrow, April 29, we're highlighting OAC employees’ artmaking processes and discussing how they create all kinds of art outside the office. So, I think we'll just get started.

Chiquita and Ted, both of your artmaking practices really rely on the power of well-written words. Through poems and scripts and essays in Chiquita’s case, and through lyrics in Ted’s songs. I'm curious about what you most enjoy about the mediums in which you specialize.

CHIQUITA: Okay, Ted, I’ll start. Well, I love all of those mediums, and I guess I could probably hit on each one of them a little bit.

Poetry … poetry can be deceptively simple. It goes beyond rhyming, it goes beyond rhythm. It reminds me of good songwriting, but it's different from songwriting. Poetry can tell stories and create characters, but it's more than that. There’s this undefinable quality to good poetry that I just love. I love the music, the magic, the mystery of poetry. And there are poets in this town, in Ohio, across the world, across history, who are masterful at capturing that music and that magic and that mystery.

I enjoy playwriting because it's a chance to structure a story around good dialogue. And I like writing essays. Most of the ones I write lately are sort of memoir pieces, because I like to share and enjoy writing about, you know, personal history.

I enjoy fiction writing. I enjoy developing characters and character-driven stories and kind of unleashing my imagination to create these environments that exist on the page, but have their foundation in reality.

CAT: How about you, Ted?

TED: I really enjoy playing with other people, mostly. Playing with my bandmates. I have played in numerous bands ever since I was a young kid, and I think it's the actual work of creating with other people.

And it's one of the few aspects of making music that's kind of incomparable to other forms of artwork. Where, you can do it by yourself—and I do do it by myself—but largely, it's done with other people. And it's very communal, and I think that's what my favorite aspect of making music is.

CAT: It’s profound. I love it.

So, After Hours is all about finding time to create outside the nine-to-five. You touched on it a little bit, but I'd love for you to explore it a little more. Why is it important for both of you to make art outside your roles as arts administrators?

TED: Well, I think I wrote my first song in like fourth or fifth grade. And I've been in a band since I was in the sixth grade. So, for me, except for a couple of first years in college, it's something I've done for my entire life. And it's not about finding time for me—it's just a part of me. It's a part of who I am and what makes me me. I couldn't imagine not doing it. There's just no world in which I don't do it.

CHIQUITA: Wow, that is so exciting to hear because we're so much on the same page—pardon the pun!

But the artmaking that I do is an extension of what I've always done. I started in childhood, in kindergarten, during a Christmas program, they put me on stage, and I had the assignment of telling the story of Adam and Eve.

A year or so later, when I learned how to actually make and form letters on the page, I started writing little stories. I wrote my first play in the fourth grade. I was part of the high school poetry anthology. I wrote short stories in freshman English. All those love poems throughout high school and college!

I mean, it’s always been there. And I love to read, and I love to attend author talks. It was an author talk that stimulated an idea that led to a short story, that led to a trilogy, that eventually resulted in an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Greater Columbus Arts Council.

I was working full time when I did that, and I worked on other work that led to other fellowships, including one from the Ohio Arts Council, an artist award, and more work that kind of came out of that, and then other work that came later.

So, it's just never occurred to me not to do it. And whenever writing becomes challenging—as it does—I remind myself, ‘All right, you got that fellowship, you've been affirmed, you know, through artists and other audiences,” and so, it reminds me to just keep going and keep doing it. It's just what I love to do.

CAT: You know, Chiquita, with the pandemic and related restrictions around gathering, your playwrighting and acting work is probably on hold for a little while. But I recall you shared some exciting news a few months back about some of your work being included in a few literary journals and anthologies. How has your artmaking practice changed in the past year, if at all?

CHIQUITA: Well, I was very fortunate to have some short stories and some poetry published in national anthologies. My writing practice has not changed at all.

I participated in several presentations over Zoom. And most recently, this past weekend, actually, my Wild Women Writing Group presented an hour-long program titled “Pandemonium.” We’ve had a couple of programs that we’ve presented over Zoom.

I also lead a writing group at my church, a creative writing group. And instead of gathering to present before the congregation for Easter Sunday, we went separately, each of us, to record at the church with a media expert, who assembled all the pieces together, and then those pieces were presented via livestream on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday morning.

I was invited to some performances organized by Ohio Poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour and the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. I’ve had work featured on PBS American Portrait. So, not much writers’ block going on!

CAT: So, Ted, you've been super prolific during this last year. You created a whole solo album last spring that really spoke to the experience of social distancing, staying at home, and navigating the pandemic. What was the writing and producing process like for that?

TED: Well, when the pandemic hit, I realized pretty quickly that I was going to have to endure it alone. And so, I've been, you know, social distanced in my house by myself. And I didn't even go to the store in the first couple of months, like I had all my stuff delivered. I was really paranoid about it. I took it seriously from the get-go back in mid-March.

So, that level of isolation, just to mark the time and not go crazy, I stopped reading books, I stopped watching television, all I did was free-write. I write by hand, and I free-write, you know, just automatic free-writing until something jumps off the page, and that's my leap-off point.

And so, for every song, I would just do that for hours on end until something jumped out. And it's kind of getting rid of your ego and getting access to that part of your brain that's like a little more creative and can free-associate things, a little wilder.

And I have a studio in my basement, so I would just start out on acoustic guitar and then move to bass. And then I would jump on drums and hopefully be able to keep time with myself, what I had just done. And move on to keyboards and vocals and more guitars and harmonica, sometimes. Ukulele—anything that I found would kind of mesh in there. Yeah, I did 10 songs on that record.

But my other band has also made a record during the pandemic as well, my band Moviola. It'll come out in September.

CAT: It sounds like that process was probably pretty cathartic as well.

TED: Yeah, well, it always is. I mean, it's just how I maintain my level headedness.

CAT: That's the answer! We all need to start making music now, clearly, so we can be as smooth, easy, even-keeled as Ted.

TED: Well, I'll tell you ukulele is the easiest stringed instrument to start on. That and recorder, I think, are you know, anyone can do it.

CAT: Noted. So, speaking of your work, Ted, can you tell us a little bit more about what you're going to have in the show?

TED: So, I have two solo records. One's called “Mass Amnesia,” and the other one is called “Exile Now,” and they're both going to be playing in the gallery, in the back part of the space. Thanks to Aimee for setting that up.

One came out in January 2020, which I had kind of worked on for a year prior to that, and the second one, “Exile Now,” came out in May 2020.

CAT: So, Chiquita, do you want to tell the listeners what they can expect from your creative writing workshop in July? On July 8.

CHIQUITA: July 8! Yeah, that's gonna be interesting, I think.

We are going to play with the idea of creating characters—or creating character—for fiction and nonfiction, for plays, for basically whatever they want to do. But the idea is creating character, because you start with the folks who are doing things in your work. And we're going to look at placing those characters into the environments provided by the artwork in the exhibition.

And what we hope their participants will do is they'll end up with the beginning of scenarios that lead to relatable characters. And because the best drama arises from conflict, we're going to get our characters into trouble.

CAT: We are so looking forward to it.

Alright, everybody, I think that wraps us for our ArtsChat for today. Thank you again to Ted and Chiquita for joining us. If you want to check out more of their work, we've linked to their websites in this episode’s show notes.

After Hours: Artwork by State of Ohio Employees 2021 officially opens tomorrow, April 29, and will be available for free for you to view online at riffegallery.org.

We are also hosting a juror’s tour with Ken Emerick, a former OAC employee himself, this Friday, April 30, starting at noon on the Riffe Gallery Facebook page.

The tour in all of the programming associated with this exhibition is free and online. Folks can follow us on Facebook for live and archived programs and register for upcoming programs at riffegallery.eventbrite.com.

And finally, be sure to tune in next week for the third and final episode in our ArtsChat Ohio mini-series, where two more of our colleagues will talk about their artistic passions and their work in After Hours.


Show Notes

ArtsChat Ohio Audio File: https://soundcloud.com/ohio-arts-council/artschat-ep3p2-after-hours
Ohio Arts Council's Riffe Gallery: https://oac.ohio.gov/Riffe-Gallery/On-View
ArtsChat Ohio: OAC Staff Talks Artmaking 'After Hours' Part One: https://oac.ohio.gov/News-Events/ArtsOhio-Blog/artschat-ohio-oac-staff-talks-artmaking-after-hours-part-1
Wild Women Writing: https://wildwomenwritingreadings.wordpress.com/
Ohio Poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour: https://www.karigunterseymourpoet.com/
Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative: http://www.sawconline.net/
PBS American Portrait "Remix: For My People" Crowdsourced Poem: https://www.pbs.org/american-portrait/series/clips/clip-53-remix-for-my-people
Chiquita Mullins Lee's Artist Website: https://www.chiquitamullinslee.com/
Ted Hattemer's Artist Website: https://tedhattemer.com/

ABOUT THE OHIO ARTS COUNCIL
The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at oac.ohio.gov.

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