Monday, March 13, 2017

My NAEA convention experience 2017

I've been home from the NAEA convention in NYC for a week, and it has given me some time to evaluate my experience, and the highs and lows.  There's some self-assessing to do, for sure.  I thought I had my time so well-planned, but in the end, I feel like I missed so much.  I need to figure out how to better manage my time, within the limits of my own capabilities.  And I need to figure out how to get through four days without losing something!
Anyhow.... The convention opened with keynote speaker Jeff Koons.  I am not a fan of Koons' work, but attended his talk because I wanted to learn what he was about.  It was interesting; I suppose his work makes a lot more sense if you know the stories and concepts behind the pieces.  But generally, when you see his work, you don't see the story, the concept.  His work is basically conceptual, and without the story behind the piece, viewing it feels meaningless to me.  I'm discovering there's a universe of difference between "traditional" visual art and conceptual art, and I've realized I'm more of a fan of traditional art that moves me in some way when I view it, whether it's the vibrant colors of a Matisse, or the light quality of a Vermeer, and so on.  I want to look at the artwork because it touches me in some way.  Not so with Koons' work, though there are some contemporary artists with conceptual work that excites me. 

The workshop rooms were often very crowded, and it made the convention experience frustrating at times.  I missed one workshop, about the brain and creativity, I had planned to attend because the crowd to get in was so large.  Other crowd scenes and over-capacity workshops were common; I heard some people complaining.  Has the convention gotten so big that we aren't managing it well any more?  I did get to a few workshops, but not nearly what I'd planned, and my choices weren't always what they said they'd be in their write-ups. I attended a terrific workshop by fellow blogger Don Masse, who blogs at Shine Brite Zamorano.  This paper quilt on the floor (below) was a quickie collaborative hands-on activity by those of us in the workshop.  My quilt square is on the bottom row, third from the right. 

One of the most important parts of a convention, to me, is the connections you make with other people, especially people you've looked forward to meeting for a long time.  To me, it was a real treat to meet some of the people I've followed for a very long time, but who aren't necessarily the social media rock stars.  For example, I was absolutely tickled to meet a sweet gal named Becca Ruth, whose blog "The Little Art Teacher" used to be a quirky little favorite of mine.  She hasn't blogged in a while, because of a job change, but hopefully she'll get back to it some day!    And I met the lovely Renee Collins, who blogs at My Adventures in Positive Space.  I've wanted to meet her for a long time. 

I especially was surprised and delighted to meet "Kim and Karen: 2 Soul Sisters", as I've been following their blog on and off for several years.  I was in line at the hotel registration desk, checking in, when I heard a voice calling out what sounded like "Fay-ill!!  It took me a moment to realize the voice was calling my name, "Phyl!"  Quite the southern accent!  Thank you Karen for taking the photos at my workshop!!

Over the past year or so, I've become friendly on Facebook with blogger Rachel Wintemberg, but I'd never met her personally until now.  I think we have a lot in common, and I'd like to have more time to talk in person some day, not just standing in a hallway outside of a crowded and noisy party!  Her blog is The Helpful Art Teacher.  And I finally did get to spend some time (Yah!) with Lee Darter, one of my Facebook Project Runway buddies, who blogs at Art Room Blog.  Lee is great!!

Why am I taking the time to tell you about these people?  Two reasons.  First, because they all have blogs that are worth your reading, if you haven't seen them before.  But the bigger reason is because there's a certain level of frustration meeting people in the midst of a crowded convention.  There's time for a hug, and exchanging a few words, but not necessarily much more.  These are all people I feel a certain kindred with, yet we meet for a moment at an event like this, and then promptly take off in opposite directions.  I like these people.  I would like to time to sit down with them and hold real conversations, rather than just a hug in a lobby, or in the midst of an overcrowded and very noisy party, or a crazy congested workshop.  Having real in-person time with online friends is one of the things I look forward to most in a national convention, so I guess I feel a real sense of disappointment that our meetups were mostly so fleeting.  (And sometimes, with the crazy crowd and diverse scheduling of  convention activities, you simply don't see someone at all!  Such is the case with long-time blogger friend Artful Artsy Amy!  Amy is hard to miss, 6' tall with a dramatic fashion flair and an outgoing personality.  Yet after 4 days in NYC, I never saw her even once.)

I do understand how it happens.  We all have so much we want to see and do at a convention, each with our  own needs.  And teaching workshops, which many of us do, seriously impacts your schedule and your time.  It's pretty much impossible to attend a workshop directly before or after the one you are teaching! 

And this time,  the convention was in NYC!  For lots of the attendees, a trip to NYC was their first, or at least a rare opportunity.  I live 200 miles from NYC, so while I always love a trip there, I had no "need to see" list.  But still - next year the convention is across the country in Seattle.  I want to go.  But I have to figure out how to do it better.  I want to make each minute count, and I'd love it if time and scheduling could be planned so that we have some real time to spend with our online friends!
It was very cold in NYC, but still I took a little time for some fresh air.  Lee and I walked part of the High Line, and then I took a nice little walk through the southern end of Central Park before I got on the train to go home.  Here's a few High Line views.
Yes, things were starting to bloom on the High Line.  Unfortunately, I'm guessing they didn't fare will in this week's cold. 
This poor guy looked so cold.  Thankfully he is a sculpture.  I would have liked to have an extra scarf or hat or sweater for him! 
 And here's a view of Central Park

I also had enough time for a couple of small museum visits.  It was my first visit to the Neue Gallery, where there are a number of magnificent Klimt paintings on exhibit, as well as some other German expressionists, and also a special exhibit of work by Alexei Jawlensky.  No photos are allowed in the Neue, but the Klimts are breathtaking, and I was also really wowed by the Jawlensky exhibit.  I was not familiar with his work, which sometimes looked like Kandinsky, Matisse, and several other artists!  I highly recommend a visit to the Neue Gallery! 

I also visited MAD, the Museum of Art and Design.  
This museum is a sweet little treasure!  

Thanks for listening to my convention rambles!  Do you have a good method of making sure you get everything you want out of a national convention?  If so, I'd love to hear it!  All of my advance planning, and still, I feel like I could have done it better.   


  1. It was great meeting you too and I agree there wasn't time to see everything! It all went by in a magical whirlwind.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences in NYC. I agree about Koons! Not an artist I am gaga for, but after seeing Chuck Close a few years back I always want to take the opportunity to hear a successful contemporary artist speak. I also agree about the crowds—it was tough at times, but at least exciting that so many of our colleagues are making the time to participate in the conventions. And lastly, YES about not getting to have a little art teacher blogger social time! Maybe a lounge, or ticketed time slot? Maybe a proposal for a bloggers only workshop/round table. I haven't had a proposal accepted by NAEA yet. Have any advice? Want to write one up together? :)

    Thanks for the shout out!
    Renée Collins at My Adventures in Positive Space

    1. Ooh, let's talk! I'll message you! A workshop together is an intriguing idea!

  3. So frustrating when sessions are too full to get into and then you spend a whole session period wandering around looking for a good one to get into. I don't remember ever getting it just right!! Not sure there is a right way of organizing time to see everything. I would often end up in the exhibit hall visiting vendors gathering "stuff", which is also fun.

    1. Ironically, I didn't even do a lot of that this year! It's just all so overwhelming, every year!

  4. Even though I almost froze to death I loved spending time with you on the High Line and at dinner!

    1. Yes! You definitely don't have cold weather clothing!!