Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Michael McCall of YVARTS Center

Michael McCall is the Executive Curator at Yucca Valley Visual & Performing Arts Center in Yucca Valley, CA.

When did you first realize your passion for the arts?
I was always the kid drawing at his desk, not paying attention to the teacher… when the 1st Grade teacher one day took me to the 6th Grade class to show them how I could cut designs into folded paper, I knew this was the start of something I would do, I didn’t know what an artist was, but it was fun to stand up in front of those bullies and show ‘em who was boss.

How did you come into being a curator?
I was always doing the bulletin boards at school, designing the imagery my classmates would see.  During my MFA schooling, I was involved in an invitational exhibition that continued for ten years afterwards, from Key West to DC to Duke University, even to a commercial gallery which was a stretch because nothing was for sale in the show. I’ve always been putting other artists’ work in front of viewers, trying to help my artist friends and expand the public’s perceptions of contemporary artworks. The position I hold now as Executive Curator at YVarts allows me the venue to develop scholarship and back those thoughts and ideas by selecting the imagery to present artwork to the public, and that is very rewarding.

Does your current work with the Yucca Valley Visual & Performing Arts Center align with or differ from what you originally envisioned it to be?
I didn’t come into this blindly, I understood what was expected of me. The position is political at times. I was told by my friends to make this work I would have to become more diplomatic. I was a little na├»ve to believe I could navigate between artists, the greater arts community, and the people who pay my salary without a few setbacks.  My goal is to support all the artists - a utopian concept, but pretty impossible. Choices have to be made. What I want to do in this position is motivate and inspire all artists to get better, to expand their own ideas and go beyond their limitations in developing their work. They are individuals, communicators of concepts and ideas. At the same time, I want this Arts Center to expand and support the arts community, to present the incredible talented artists I find in this area and beyond the boundaries of the hi-desert.

Aside from being a busy gallerist, you are also an artist. Do you find that you have enough opportunity to express your own creativity?
As far as spending enough time in my studio, from the time I got out of art school, there was always the challenge of finding a way to pay for that time. To stay focused in that studio, you have to block out a lot of the daily demands. Having a more-than-full-time job doesn’t allow the concentrated amounts of time needed to move the studio work forward like I did before becoming a gallerist.  It becomes frustrating and challenging to do both.
My primary goal is to be a creative person. I have developed ways to use many mediums, sometimes in and on the public stage, while using social media to promote my creativity, not by just isolating in the studio and hoping someone is going to see those creations.  As a multi-disciplined individual, I can be creative anywhere, anytime. One of my strengths is my ability to organize my time, to organize the demanding variables of everyday activities.

What do you find most rewarding about gallery directing/curating?
Meeting the artists, visiting their studios, and trying to help them in ways I can.

What are some of the challenges that you face?
My biggest challenge is to stay patient with the artists who are not professional with the nuts and bolts of being an artist. All of our jobs are hard enough. If an artist can come to the table prepared, give me what I need to promote their work, to include them in my programming and in the manner that doesn’t create more work for me, I am very appreciative.

Are there certain qualities that you look for in artists in deciding whether they will be pleasurable to work with? And on the contrary, any areas for improvement artists should be aware of?
We all have to understand we are in this thing together, and that egos have to be checked at the door. When an artist can show a sense of humbleness in the light of being a fantastic talent, I am usually impressed and feel they will be a pleasure to work with. When an artist thinks they are the cat’s meow and I sense they are not a sharing person, I tend to back off, no matter how good they are.

Do you have any specific do’s and don’ts for artists looking to submit their work to you?
Here’s a few do’s and the don’ts:
With the demands of the administrative responsibilities to do my job, I generally don’t have time to ‘google’ it or look at artists’ websites. What I ask for is a very simple email inquiry with a few jpegs of a couple artworks that are indicative of their body of work they want me to be aware of. That way I can build files for future reference when I am designing an exhibition.  That’s how I do it.
As far as the don’ts… when I have failed to get back in touch after you have made your inquiry, have patience -  understand that my time is limited in answering, and that sometimes I cannot answer. Secondly, when I’m in the public arena or at an opening, don’t pull out your cell phone and try to show me what you are doing. Email me or make an appointment during gallery business hours. Try to understand I can’t be receptive 24/7.

Are there any misconceptions about your position as gallerist in which you face from the public?
The main misconception is that we are well-staffed at YVarts. I am the only staff member of a very ambitious project called the Yucca Valley Visual & Performing Arts Center. We are a newly developed non-profit art space in the hi-desert. In the past two years, countless people come to me with ‘suggestions’ on how to make this place better. We are a volunteer organization, and I need you to help by volunteering time to make this the place what it can be. Don’t tell me how, show me how, pitch in with more than words and your suggestions.

Do you have any plans for the gallery curation, and your own work, beyond what is happening today?
As for the curatorial duties, we just opened our biggest exhibition thus far, MOJAVE MADNESS. I am very proud of this effort, I made over 3 dozen studio visits to the artists of the Mojave Desert to find and exhibit their passions. But, as always, I’m working on the next show, on next years’ ideas for shows. That keeps my mind open and ready to look at more, allowing me to find new artists, challenging me to overturn the next stone and find what’s underneath.
As for my own work, my memoir, Captain Squid & the Tentacle Room has just been published by Fabrik Media.  For the moment, I have the opportunity to promote my own artworks in conjunction with this memoir. I spent 15 years writing the story, attempting to relay what it is like to be a practicing artist for 50 years, living through the incredible ups and downs of a profession that is both demanding and unrewarding at times. The reward comes when my creative soul is connected to the Devine spiritual entity that helps me make positive decisions in living a life of fullness. I get up every day with enthusiasm and aliveness to explore, to live in happiness and contentment. 
Visit http://yvarts.com



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