There is an inherent, if unasked, question posed by the Fresno Art Museum’s “When Art Meets Jazz” performance fundraiser.
What will happen ... ?
“I don’t know,” says Jim Page, the project director for the Milestones Youth Jazz Workshop, which partnered with the museum for the Saturday, May 23, event.
He knows the logistics. There will be two stages — one in the museum’s Bonner Auditorium and another outside in the Sculpture Garden. The Milestones’ five youth ensemble groups will perform during the day, along with a collection of local jazz pros like Tim Shaghoian, Eva Scow, Brian Hamada, John Ayala and Joe Lewis. There will be no-host cocktails, food trucks and a silent auction — this is a fundraiser after all.
The twist is that the musicians will be joined by several visual artists — painters, sculptures and drawers. All will be creating work spontaneously, in the moment. How that all plays out, exactly, is anybody’s guess.
“I’ll leave that up to them,” Page says.
The idea for the event came to Page while reading a history of jazz music. He began thinking about the creative process and the immense amount of preparation it takes jazz musicians to improvise their art.
“They’re creating something new every time they perform,” Page says.
He started drawing parallels and saw that the process isn’t much different for visual artists. Only, audiences seldom get front-row seats to see the creation. They only see the finished product.
What if visual artists created work in front of an audience, with live jazz serving as the inspiration?
The idea was enough to convince friend and Fresno Art Museum board member Michael Parola, who saw the event as an opportunity to bring a new, untapped audience to the museum. He called on local artists Leslie Batty, Bill Bruce, Yuliya Gasio, Chris Janzen, Garrett Masterson, Will Portis and Ann Scheid.
His first question to each was, do you like jazz?
Scheid isn’t a huge jazz fan, admittedly, but she is interested in anything that makes art and artists more transparent and visible to the public. She has been exposed to enough jazz music (and musicians) as an artist and teacher at Fresno City College to know there are similarities in the way she approaches her drawings.
Scheid remembers a conversation with Mike Dana, the school’s director of Jazz Studies. They were in her studio, looking at her work. As she explained her artistic process, he stopped her and said: “You do what we do.”
She’s not entirely sure what is going to happen at the event, either, but she is excited by the prospects. She even is planning some “surrealistic games,” like passing her work among the other artists for collaborations. She does wonder whether she will be able to interact with the musicians before the concert, or as they are playing, and if those interactions will influence and inspire the musicians’ work, as well as her own.
“It’s going to be boundary changing for everyone,” she says.
That includes the artists, musicians and the audience, too.
When Art Meets Jazz