Edited by Megan Schmidt
Long before the written word, images were fundamental to the human experience. Our ancestors used tools to engrave, carve and paint images that had deep significance to their communities. Our world today is still very much a visual one. Perhaps that is why the arts are an ideal way to connect a community.
40 West Arts brings together artists, neighbors, business owners and students who are committed to making art education and experiences accessible. In partnership with 40 West Arts, Metro West Housing Solutions (MWHS) provides a free live/work space at our Lamar Station Crossing community for a year to one artist who wants to share their passion and knowledge with Lakewood residents and beyond through public art workshops and other events.
Recently, MWHS sat down with the fourth artist in residence James Overstreet to reflect on art, community service and what inspires him. The born-in-Colorado, raised-in-Wyoming 29-year-old Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) graduate says that if he instills an interest in art in at least one person, he will feel as though he accomplished something during his tenure as artist-in-residence, which will be coming to a close later this month.
I think it was the culmination of hard work and dedication. In college, I was always doing volunteer work—that’s what brought me to RMCAD and doing projects with 40 West Arts. I continued to do volunteer work as a student ambassador for RMCAD.
Where does your interest in volunteerism come from?
I realized I needed to do more with my life than just skateboard, so I went to college and ended up getting some scholarships. I figured if I am getting something, then I should give something back.
Why do you think the artist in residence program is important?
I think programs like these motivate you to go above and beyond in your practice and to reach out to your community. It’s a way you can benefit and help the community while achieving your goals as an artist by having a place to live. I think it’s a really awesome circle.
What’s your first memory of being artistic?
It was just me and mom for the first six years. We would do a lot of arts and crafts together—like, going to the store to buy premade ceramics that we’d paint. That’s really what sparked my interest. I also love cartoons, movies and pop culture, so even at an early age I was drawing cartoons and silly stuff on every single piece of homework I turned in. I guess it’s always been a part of me.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
It’s all very personal—a lot of it is inspired by the people in my life. My work is everything I’ve experienced in my life up until this juncture—that’s how it comes out. A lot of my paintings are about my experiences with people—them coming in or out of my life. And probably cartoons, Star Trek and video games all play a part, too.
James Overstreet's Studio:
What do you think the public might not know about your art by looking at it?
I am really interested in paint itself. How it came about, how it comes together, what it’s made of, the different minerals. All of my paintings are interconnected because each canvas starts out as a palate.
Looking back, what have you hoped to accomplish as the artist in residence?
I’ve hoped to get people interested in art. I’ve hoped to create a sense of community around art. Even if I just inspire one person to get excited about or interested in art, I feel like I will have accomplished something.
Why do you think art is such a great way to create community?
Anyone can enjoy art—you don’t have to go to school to be able to appreciate art.
How would you describe the arts scene in Lakewood?
It has really picked up over the last couple of years and it’s awesome. 40 West Arts has done an amazing job in getting the community involved in art projects. I think in another five years, it will be an even more awesome place for the arts.
Who are your favorite artists?
I really love Mondrian, Diego Velazquez, Alyssa Monks, and Jenny Morgan.
What advice would you give to a young artist just starting out?
That this isn’t easy—I think it’s one of the hardest professions to break into. If they’re a studio artist like myself, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully I’ll have a master’s degree and not working several jobs. I want to teach and focus on my career. I also hope to be a good father to my two kids.
Visit James Overstreet's portfolio to learn more about the artist and to see more of his work.
Scenes From the Pinch Pots Workshop Taught by James Overstreet:
Scenes From the Abstract Landscape Painting Workshop Taught by James Overstreet:
Megan Schmidt is a staff writer at Metro West Housing Solutions.
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