JoAnn Houle, Shirt Kong, and MySLArt.org At "33January"

Shirt Kong for Art: MYSLART.org’s “33January” Art Exhibition

Shirt Kong, MYSLART, art, life, Den Smith

“Art Elevates Life” – St. Louis Artist, Den Smith

You wouldn’t know it, but working in a screen printing shop can change the way you look at the world.

After just a week of catching the dryer, you discover the importance of details; how the addition or subtraction of a simple line here or cluster of dots there has the power to amplify or dilute the influence of a design. Your intuition for placement and purpose is refined; suddenly you’re finding significance in highway billboards based on the location of its featured text, or you notice the impact that negative space creates on a business card. Undesired thoughts regarding pointless concepts, such as the number of drafts and sleepless man-hours it took to produce the strategically placed arrow inside the FedEx logo, will fill your head at the most inconvenient times (like 4 AM, when you know you have to be back at the shop in four hours). You begin to appreciate the absolute energy and brainpower it takes to tackle a concept and produce a high-quality visual interpretation that captures the essence of a brand, of an organization, of a cause. You then apply this perspective to your shop, to your coworkers, who day in and day out wrack their brains and bust their butts to create logos and designs that represent not only who, what and where, but why.

Once you’ve worked in a shop long enough, a T-shirt is no longer just a T-shirt; it’s a freaking work of art.

It’s no wonder that every person working for Shirt Kong has creative hobbies outside the walls of this place. Audrey, our head of shipping and receiving, draws. JoAnn, our company’s vice president, paints. Cassie, one of our expert embroiderers, designs and sews her own clothes. Creativity and a solid respect for production are ingrained in every single one of us. It’s part of why we get up and come to work everyday. With all of this in mind, we got to thinking: how can we illustrate just how important art is to Shirt Kong? To St. Louis? To the human race?

Shirt Kong, MYSLART, JoAnn Houle, nerd, robot, painting, Old Orchard Gallery, 33January

JoAnn sold her “Lil’ Nerdbot” on the right at MySLART’s “33January” show at the Old Orchard Gallery!

And BAM! Thanks to JoAnn, the answer fell right into our laps: let’s cover one of her art shows.

Since December 2012, JoAnn has routinely submitted her newest works of art for consideration to be featured in MySLART.org’s monthly “33” art exhibitions at the Old Orchard Gallery in Webster Groves. MySLART, short for My St. Louis Art, is a social networking website dedicated to providing St. Louis artists with ample opportunities for self-promotion, inspiration and collaboration through its free social network and sponsored public events. Serving as an online community bulletin board while bearing a vague, comforting resemblance to old school MySpace, MySLART.org offers local artists the chance to upload images of their work, the ability to connect with other creatives in the area, and most importantly, the invitations to open art calls all over St. Louis.

The fact that there exists a local organization committed to empowering artists, providing inspirational tools and translating exactly how important art really is through a free open online community is genius. We recognized right from the start that MySLART.org shares the same sound dedication to the creative industry as we do, so why not shine some spotlight on an institution that cares about the same things as us?

Two days before the event, Mick and I ventured over to the Old Orchard Gallery for the show’s setup to catch a couple pre-event interviews and check out the gallery itself. Local artists of all disciplines bustled around the small room, frantically searching for ideal spots to hang their prized pieces. The setup, which we found out is also referred to as a “hanging”, is “first come, first serve” for all of MySLART’s “33″ shows; this might not sound significant, but when there’s a limited amount of space and no shortage of artists, the competition for prime real estate is very high.

Shirt Kong, Artmart, Dina Right, JoAnn Houle, art

I was fortunate enough to snag an interview with BOTH Artmart Creative Director Dina Right and JoAnn Houle right after we found out Dina had purchased JoAnn’s art!

MySLART’s Executive Director Jenny Churchill explained to us that the numbers in the show’s title are not arbitrary; much like the context of the artwork in the gallery, the usage of the number “3″ conveys more than just one idea. For example, every artist featured in the show is allowed to display 3 works of art. The “33″ reflects the number of artists chosen to appear in the show. It became apparent on the show’s opening night that “33″ is also the number of minutes it takes for patrons to completely pack the Old Orchard Gallery. I’m talking literally wall to wall, people packed in like little sardines. Passionate, art-loving sardines. The air was full of chatter as supporters and featured artists alike talked about technique, process and interpretation. We were fortunate enough to push our way into these lively conversations and ask our own questions, the bulk of which inquired about how MySLART has changed the way St. Louis artists put themselves out there. It didn’t matter who we asked, as everyone’s answer was consistent: MySLART provides easy access to open art calls, as well as unconditional support and positive inspiration from like-minded individuals. The intimidation of submitting one’s soul for consideration in a show is a lot less overwhelming if there is a rallying community behind you.

Shirt Kong, MYSLART, JoAnn Houle, Jenny Churchill, Old Orchard Gallery

JoAnn posing with MySLART.org Executive Director Jenny Churchill.

The French painter Edgar Degas said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” I know “33January” made me see a lot of things. I saw a hard-working mother rush in late after ensuring her child was in the safe hands of a babysitter, only to ecstatically find out one of her paintings had been sold minutes before. I saw a seemingly quiet young girl suddenly find her voice as she enthusiastically explained how a book of science fiction short stories moved her to translate the author’s motives on canvas in her own style. I saw a proud grandmother gush to anyone within earshot that this was not only the first time her granddaughter had been featured in a show, but this night led to the girl’s first official sale as an artist. I saw a dedicated team of directors dashing through the masses in efforts to keep the night on schedule, every one of them smiling as they kept the conversations turning and the drinks flowing, all for the sake of keeping art alive.

For me, this is art; a room full of passionate individuals from all walks of life, all coming together one night a month to tell stories, provide support and celebrate the process of creation.

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Comment by Jenny Churchill on February 5, 2014 at 7:28pm

You are so welcome! Thank YOU all so much for coming out and making "33January" such a success! I look forward to working with you, Megan, and you, Chelsea along with Shirt Kong's entire crew!

Comment by Megan Fitts on February 5, 2014 at 5:08pm

Agreed with Chelsea. This was a great time, and I really appreciate all the work that went into it. Awesome.

Comment by Andy Rudman on February 5, 2014 at 3:58pm

Yay! Thanks again Jenny! You guys are awesome. Just awesome.

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