Q&A at a Local Art Gallery
It was an honor to be invited to speak at the Walters Community Art Center, in downtown Hillsboro, OR (my hometown!). I had a drawing in a reunion show for my former high school art teacher, someone at the gallery saw the trailer for original Foxhunt and decided I should give a talk on their next monthly ArtWalk event. It was their first time showing something "new media" at their gallery, and they were as excited and nervous as I was...
It went well. My talk, which was improvised, gave way naturally to a longer Q & A. I handed out lots of little business cards which my wife and I came up with 5 minutes before leaving for the event. People were interested, asked lots of questions, and came to talk to me after. And, as you might expect, any kids dragged along by their parents were immediately enamored of the monitor and asking me to play. So I guess I hit that target demo!
I've spent the night and day since the talk going over what I could have done differently, been more professional, hit my audience more squarely... especially after seeing the next two much more practiced speakers (a kinetic sculptor and an architect, thanks Loren and Amy) take the podium and make it look easy!
- I decided that this was an art crowd and I am unaccustomed to talking about my work as ART. I had mostly crafty little details and interesting bugs and a post-processing stack demo, but they were here for the artist... inspiration, stories, statement, philosophy, mentors, process... y'know, artsy stuff!
- I worked right up to the wire on crafting the demo, making a few completed puzzles that could stand in for the full game. I spent all my time making the thing and almost none thinking about why I made the thing. That would have been helpful!
- Of course I wanted actual people to play it, not just watch me do it. But a very short canned walk-through experience with me at the wheel would actually have been engaging and handy to have. Just so people "get it" who are not into video games... who don't know what I mean when I say "this is a first-person puzzle like Myst or The Witness."
What went right:
- Open with a personal story, to bring them in. I started with making real life foxhunts on paper in our living room for my sisters at Christmas time.
- My wife assures me that everyone was paying rapt attention, even holding up phones for video. I was too nervous to see the audience as made of people.
- Even so, my former high school art teacher (the one who got me the show) Judy, assures me I made good eye contact and projected my voice well... two things I am not generally known for!
- I made a good connection with the two other presenters, and with the gallery itself. I think they will be eager to have me back when the game is done!
- Gave away all my business cards!
- I crammed so hard for this show in the past month that I really made a lot of progress instead of faffing about with overly-fancy code. Good to have a deadline!
- I got wind that some high school students were coming into the gallery next day and would be getting a taste of art as career. Unfortunately, my video game was slated to come down when I took home my laptop ...that evening. I advocated for myself and kept Foxhunt playing on the gallery laptop for them. Judy's watchwords lately have been "giving back to the community that molded you as an artist"... in her honor, I asked the gallery to encourage these kids to contact me if there is a spark in anyone's eyes... we'll see!
- I learned as much myself as anyone I was trying to educate about video games last night. Thanks for the opportunity, Bridie and Lindsey. Thanks to my second art-mom, Judy Vogland. Thanks to my wife, Erin for being just so darn proud of me that I almost believe it myself!
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