“Aren’t you like… Mr. Theatre though?”
That’s what my friend immediately replied when I told him of my summer plans- getting away from the yellow cabs and Halal food carts for a 4-month sabbatical to the Memphis home I love so dearly. I will take Huey’s cheese fries over some trendy vegan four-star juice bar any day. New York’s cool and all, but a boy needs a little Southern lovin’ sometimes to keep him in check.
“Yeah, but it’s all the arts. If I’m going to run my own theatre one day, won’t some hands on museum experience be helpful?”
I was, at this point, referring to the real “meat” of my summer plans- a public relations internship at the Brooks Museum in Memphis. When I first decided that I needed to venture on a New York-detox for the summer, I knew that I would have to secure something at least mildly “cool” for myself to do in Memphis. I wanted something that sounded swanky but also could somehow be beneficial to my career as a (fingers crossed!) future successful playwright. I knew the Brooks Museum was one of the area’s most well-rounded and respected art institutions, so I did a little research and applied for an internship position. I went in for an interview while home in Tennessee for spring break, and I (obviously…) got it!
The title character of Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Sunday in the Park with George turns to the audience early in act two, singing words that seem so obvious- “Art isn’t easy.” That’s a hard lesson for someone like me to fully understand. I’ve been writing since I can remember- dreaming up full-blown musicals that I’d write and have produced on Broadway by way of magic. I got to New York to begin my studies at New York University and, almost immediately, reality set in. Art isn’t easy. Aside from the obvious difficulties- “I have writer’s block,” “I can’t be creative today,” “My head hurts,” “I’m sick of typing,” etc.- art takes a lot of clout.
There’s a fact about the creation of art that most artists or dreamers so often don’t like to accept- art is, in essence, a business. I can write the greatest play or paint the most breathtaking mural or even compose the most catchy song, but my art will touch no one unless I have one of two things: a fat dose of incredible luck or the drive to get it out there. I have found that institutions such as the Brooks Museum are some of the best examples one can find of art operating on both of these levels- as both a business and a springboard for thought. It’s like clockwork; in this world of art, one cannot function without the other.
I spend my time at school on a constant quest for creativity; I’m writing all the time. Some of it’s good, and most of it’s terrible. But the level of quality isn’t really the point. I’m flexing my muscles the whole time and getting a pretty good little workout. This summer, I wanted to train another part of my artistic body- the more serious muscles. “Let me learn about how art happens,” I thought to myself. “Not how it gets made, how it happens.”
So here I am- surrounded by some of the most renowned art in the tri-state area. And I get to sit in an office all day; I get to type things and call people and learn about public relations. And I’m loving it. It’s like yoga almost. This is a part of my artist body that never really gets paid any attention. I’ve spent all year working through the cardio of my own creativity, and now it’s time to stretch out in a class on the business behind art itself. It’s a joke to actually refer to myself as “Mr. Theatre,” but let’s just say that Mr. Theatre doesn’t need to be painting scenery in a theater to learn a thing or two about the business of art.
“Art isn’t easy,” sings George, while surrounded by his hopeful donors at a swanky museum art opening. George is right, but George knows. From the idea to the creation to the handing over of one’s art to the world, it’s not easy. But, as I’ve learned and keep on learning, it sure is fun.
This blog is written by Anderson Heinz, Public Relations/Public Programs Intern at the Brooks!