Wanna be president?

Ariel Plantz thinks of herself as a “community artist”…a creative brand I hadn’t heard of before.  A community artist is different than, say, a community organizer.  We all know he became President.  A community artist, if he or she is lucky, may land an exhibition at a museum or alternatively get another gig and then get a museum show.  A community artist is sort of an organizer…one who coordinates a work of art in a community, mostly with a hands-on component that involves a group of participating students, seniors or maybe just residents.  Usually, the goal is not just to create an art work, but also to have a lasting impact on the participants and the community.

This Saturday, the Port Chester Park and Recreation Department will unveil decorative benches in Lyon Park in Port Chester, the results of a community art project made possible with a grant from ArtsWestchester.  But more about that later.  Plantz, a ceramicist, works in large scale. In other words, she doesn’t do pots.  She is also the Director of Community Arts at the Clay Arts Center, and can’t seem to pass a blank wall without wanting to fill it with a mosaic, or for that matter, she can’t pass a wooden park bench with broken slats without wanting to replace it with something more permanent.  This of course is all based on the theory that if residents participate in the project, their ownership will protect it from vandalism.  “Helping design it makes a difference,” says Ariel, who hails from Kansas and, like Dorothy, has the same irrepressible faith in the Good Fairy. At the very least, Ariel hopes to protect the benches from the same ill-fated destiny that befell a sculpture of a boy playing soccer.  Both the boy’s head and the soccer ball are gone.

ArtsWestchester tries to be the good fairy by sponsoring projects like this through its Arts Alive Grants (www.artsw.org/artsalive), funded by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA, www.nysca.org).  There are two categories of grants, one for organizations, the other for artists.  Applications are due September 23, 2011.  Projects for funding are selected by a panel of community arts professionals.  Like ceramics, the Arts Alive Grants  are a “pot” (so to speak)  of money, not too large and always welcoming matching donations.  What’s so cool about this picture is that Ariel Plantz got her start as a sculptor because a high school in Gardner, Kansas, had an unheard of ceramics program, and now she’s impacting communities.  Perhaps someday community artists can rival community organizers for President.

Read more about Ariel Plantz via her page on Port Chester Patch: http://portchester.patch.com/articles/clay-lady-art-center-names-its-first-ever-community-arts-director

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