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I'm on the road on the first leg of my trip and it's already a wild and wonderful ride. 1100 miles. 4 states. 2 time zones. I got off to a rough start with being sick the whole first week but soldiering on. Even though I've done a sabbatical like this twice before in 1986 (South Pacific) and 2000 (Western US) this still feels like nothing I've ever done before. The last two were pre-cell phone, email, GPS, bluetooth, iTunes, phone apps, airbnb etc. I had paper maps, an FM radio, and pay phone booths and I stayed in youth hostels and cheap hotels. Now I've got voice activated GPS (Samantha), Google Maps, screens full of iPhone apps, Siri DJing virtually unlimited music and streaming it to my car stereo, video Facetime calls, and constant connection with text and email. Generous friends and strangers are putting me up and taking me under their wings. Figuring out exactly how to "disconnect" is an interesting conundrum but my stress level is down markedly and my anti-Trump shield has been deployed.
Charleston, SC and my friends Mark Sloan and Michelle Van Parys welcomed me for the first 4 days of my journey and put me up in a wonderful apartment at the College of Charleston as a visiting "scholar."
I did a bit of walking around the city but mostly just needed to unwind and unpack my car and my mind to figure out what the next few months might look like. Mark directs the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and has been a mentor to me for some time. Everything he does at the Halsey is at a world class level and he has much to teach. I listened and took a lot of notes. I also got a detailed advance look at the artists and work in the amazing new Southbound photography exhibit that he and co-curator Mark Long have spent the last few years putting together and that will debut at the Halsey and travel widely afterwards. What a treat-SO MUCH incredible work and many artists that I was not previously familiar with.
Meetings had to be held over food. It's a pretty giant mix of topics running around in my brain for this trip. Everything from the nitty gritty details of best practices for running an arts organization and artist residency to bigger and longer range topics like governance, engaging your community, defining your audience, and thinking about legacy issues. I am figuring out the questions as I go.
One of the challenges I anticipated was finding a way to keep up my exercise routine on the road. My wonderful cousins Sean (an Olympic swimmer) and Renee connected me to an amazing website to locate public swimming pools worldwide and it has been amazing. I have already swum at 4 different pools!
On the 9th I headed to Augusta GA to see an exhibition called The Female Lens at the Morris Museum with work from the Do Good Fund collection of Southern Photography. There was a panel discussion and Q&A with the Director Alan Rothschild and two of the represented artists, Jill Frank and Tamara Reynolds.
Alan has been a friend since our Do Good show at Cassilhaus and I was thrilled to meet and share an evening with Jill and Tamara whose work I knew but had never met. I discovered at the last moment that I had a long lost cousin Jill Uhler in Aiken, SC, very close to Augusta, who hosted me for the evening and was able to join me for the talk and dinner afterwards.
Word on the street had it that the Possum Trot in Seale, AL was not to be missed on Friday night so I headed there next.
Seale is also the home of The Museum of Wonder and my artist friend Butch Anthony. I met Butch about 20 years ago at an artist retreat and purchased a table from him that we have on our deck. He is a lovable character and an amazing artist.
The land where the museum sits has been in his family for generations and he has been working on it since he was a child.
I couldn't resist taking this one home and adding it to our collection. We are definitely not in Kansas anymore.
Another of Butch's recent initiatives is the world's first drive-thru art gallery.
The drive-thru is just up the road from Butch's house and he drove 6! of us there in a huge white Cadillac that he recently bought from Leon Russell. Butch of course has added quite a bit of adornment.
Columbus GA, home of Alan Rothschild and the Do Good Fund, is right across the Chattahoochee River from Seale and was one of the first points of interest I put on my sabbatical map. I spent the weekend picking Alan's brain about a score of topics and he was amazingly generous. I love his model of getting his collection out to the people in often non traditional venues. His collection is always working and not gathering dust in storage! As an attorney he was also a wealth of information about governance and legacy issues. One of the highlights of my weekend that Alan arranged was a private tour of Pasaquan, a visionary art environment in Buena Vista GA by its director Mike McFall. My pictures will not do it justice. Check out a basic video here and a detailed video on the complete restoration of the site by the Kohler Foundation here.
Alan, Caretaker Charles, and Mike
It has been an extraordinary first week. My head is spinning with ideas and questions. This doesn't feel like a vacation and it doesn't feel like work but I am not exactly sure what it is. I do know that it is an extraordinary opportunity and that I am blessed to have a wife, a family, a business partner, an amazing circle of friends, and a community that supports my doing it. I have always been lucky with pretty special travel karma and this trip has already proven that it is not waning. Each door I open leads to several more and I have been met with nothing but generosity of spirit and sharing of experiences. Thank you. I need to check the batteries in the Trump shield. I will report on week two in Atlanta and points north in my next post.
TAKE A RISK
NEVER GIVE UP
T-shirt spotted in New Zealand on my first sabbatical trip that has become my travel mantra.