Greg Gossel and Cornbread Harris
Using a combination of screen-printing, collage and painting, Greg Gossel builds his mixed-media pieces layer by layer. An artist in her own right, Laura Zabel has become a champion for the Twin Cities artistic community in her work as Executive Director of Springboard for the Arts. Self-taught bluesman Samuel James "Cornbread" Harris Sr. reflects on a lifetime of piano gigs in the Twin Cities.
(woman) "Minnesota Original" is made possible by
The State Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund,
and the citizens of Minnesota.
[piano, bass, drums & horns play jazz-rock]
My my my, my my my.
One more time, baby.
[drums & bass play a hip hop beat]
(Greg Gossel) Spontaneity I feel like oftentimes creates
kind of the most interesting results.
Sometimes it's just a lot of experimentation,
and I like to try
and keep things spontaneous in a controlled way
and then when I see bits that are working,
kind of harness those elements
and continue to work through other parts,
um, until I'm satisfied with the piece.
I think with my work, there's kind of just an overall theme
of kind of taking all these elements from popular culture
and bringing them together in unexpected ways
and then giving the viewer an opportunity
to kind of build the story out of what's there.
I'm not necessarily trying to dictate a specific idea
with most of what I do; it's just kind of continuing through
this general theme of constant bombardment of advertising,
things we're all subject to on a daily basis
and kind of mixing that all up, presenting it in a new way,
and then kind of letting the viewer interpret.
I like to show kind of that history throughout a piece.
Oftentimes the first marks I put down,
you never exactly see it at the end, but it's still there
because those first elements are
what are informing the next thing.
It's kind of a mix of a variety of stuff.
Spray paint in different ways, whether it's spraying
directly out of the nozzle or pressing down the plunger
to get a more erratic spray, to house paint, acrylic paint,
some light washes with water
just to kind of create some depth throughout the process
and weather certain areas.
Paint markers-- I just like mixing all these mediums
and then actually trying to kind of go
as fast as I can and layer 'em while they're wet
and start to get some interesting textures.
When a piece is finished, you get that depth that you see
on an old advertisement; 15 advertisements
have been layered on, and bits and pieces
have come away over time.
It's kind of another variation of that sort of natural process.
This is an outdoor installation mural that we'll be installing
on a wall in Northeast Minneapolis.
It's gonna be little heavier than I thought.
My brother Jake is my assistant for the day
and we're just going to stack up these wood panels
and bring them over to the location
and then install the piece one panel at a time,
screwing it to the existing wall.
The process is created in a studio, hand-painted layers
kind of mimicking the screen-print process.
It was just a wall that I've had my eye on for a while
that seemed like it could use
a little, a little color down there.
So I just mocked up the idea and then brought the idea
to the owner of the building and asked if it would be
all right to install, and you know,
lucky enough, he was cool with it.
Mural work was a natural progression
with what I was doing in my studio or in gallery settings.
I like to work on a large scale, so over the years I've had
some opportunities to be able to work on even a larger scale
and install my work outdoors.
I had the opportunity to do a mural at Art Basel.
It's a unique event that happens every year in Miami.
Galleries from all over the world
come there to show their work.
So after that initial mural,
they invited me back a few years later
to install a new piece, so this past year I had the opportunity
to go and add another large- scale piece to the buildings.
One of the most rewarding things--
to be able to put in the prep work and install it
and make it happen and then see the final piece,
I mean, it was great.
I like how it-- kinda looking at
the boarded up, vacant thing, she is.
It fits perfect in that spot, and it's so bright.
(Jake) Dude, it's pretty sweet that we can just cruise by now
and see that thing all the time.
(Greg) The images in my work, I try not to overthink.
I collect a lot of materials
in old comic books and magazines and tabloids.
I just try to kind of spontaneously pull bits,
whether it's bits of romance,
comics, or celebrity tabloids or old advertising,
I kind of try to bring them together as something new.
I've always been interested in
urban decaying signs and advertisements, whether
it's actually using those elements or photographing 'em,
literally pulling textures from those photographs,
or just simply using 'em-- color palette ideas
and in a more abstract sense.
I'm creating my film to burn my silk screens,
giving a little more texture, and I can kind of
pick and choose certain elements to make pop more.
One thing I've been experimenting more with is
trying to spend more time hand-drawing my film
and separations for all my screen printing.
I guess it feels like there's more of me in the piece.
With my background in design, I was always interested
in that typography and symbol images,
and screen printing was kind of
a vehicle to be able to take that
and push it on a larger scale.
So I like to work fast
and make those quick, spontaneous decisions
and screen printing is a great vehicle for that,
to be able to quickly reproduce things, take away elements.
I don't know, there's just something about that process.
For the most part, always been a staple in my work,
something that's just been a good way
to layer and build up each piece.
I like my aesthetic to be raw, but controlled.
At times I like parts to be chaotic,
but there's always like a structure.
The main goal is to be able to come to my studio each day
and get my work out there in galleries.
And the fine artwork is, you know,
being able to show in that setting
is what interests me most, and yeah, I've been lucky enough
to be able to do that, and it's just, you know, that's,
that's what constantly drives me
to continue and keep pushing forward.
[synthesizer & drums play in bright rhythm]
I'm Laura Zabel, I'm the Executive Director
of Springboard for the Arts, which is an economic
and community development organization
run entirely by artists.
So I guess that means I'm an artist also. [laughs]
And there he was, in a powder blue tuxedo
with a white ruffled shirt
and a powder blue bow tie.
My background is as a theater maker, actor.
It's one of those things that makes sense in retrospect.
I look back as early as like high school and college
and I always was interested in sort of organizing
within the arts community and how art can be sort of
deployed or engaged in the other issues of the community,
so you know, makes sense now,
but I never could have articulated then
that this is [laughs] where I would end up!
Springboard's an organization that is about helping artists
make a living and a life and helping communities tap into
the power and the resource that artists can provide.
We really started defining the work
as economic and community development.
A lot of people would refer to Springboard
as an artists' service organization.
That's not really a term that I'm down with-- [laughs]
I feel like artists aren't victims in need of service.
They are a powerful, creative force, and it's just a matter
of sort of knitting our creative community
back into the fabric of the whole community.
[guitar & bass play in rhythmic Gypsy jazz]
So we've been doing this big project
called Irrigate, in the central corridor
during the construction of the light rail
that has been about supporting artists to do creative projects
with business owners, with neighborhood organizations,
projects that attract people and attention and dollars
to those places during this huge disruption
and that also help change the narrative about what's possible.
And then in 2010
we started this program called Community Supported Art
in partnership with mnartists.
It's based on the community supported agriculture model,
so instead of getting vegetables from a farm,
you get art from local artists.
The point of the program really is to make direct connections
between the public and the artists
who live and work in their community.
(Jehra Patrick) Today we are at Silverwood Park
in St. Anthony, Minnesota,
and this is an opportunity for shareholders
to come up and pick up the work that they've purchased,
but it's also an opportunity for them to mingle with the artists
and really have a live and interactive community
around this cool project.
(Alyssa Baguss) Being a part of the CSA project this year is really great
because sometimes you produce a lot of work
and you don't know who's going to see it
or if anyone's going to see it
or if anyone's going to like it or own it,
and working on every single little drawing
like I knew it was going to someone.
And so to actually be able to meet shareholders
and have that connection is,
is something that we don't always experience.
This is just so much fun, I can't tell you.
We're glad to hear that.
(Laura Zabel) Over the last ten years the organization has grown,
the budget has grown; I lost track at ten times over.
It's more than that now, which, you know,
I don't really measure the success
or failure of the organization based on budget size,
but it's a handy shorthand for how much we've grown. [laughs]
I think one of the early inflection points was when
we developed the Artists' Access to Healthcare program.
We did this big statewide study that showed that artists
are twice as likely to lack health insurance
as the general population in Minnesota.
That's true all across the country too.
And we went around to a lot of people and said
we are going to do something about this.
And people kind of universally said,
oh, that is really important,
you're never going to be able to do anything about that.
I mean, it's just a huge, crazy, complicated system.
And we did; we started this program
called Artists' Access to Healthcare.
It really focused on health care versus health insurance.
And we've helped over 5000 artists
go to the doctor through that program.
It's work I'm really proud of
and feels really important to the community.
I always say, you know, "I speak health care now," [laughs]
which is for someone with a theater degree,
an unusual turn of events!
Stacey we're just going to go in the costume room a little bit.
(woman) It's open, I'll turn the lights on. (Laura) All right.
Theatre In the Round is
one of the oldest theaters in the Twin Cities.
And it's just one of my favorite places in the whole community.
It's a place that's meant a lot to me as an artist
and to hundreds and thousands of other actors and performers
and stage managers and directors in the Twin Cities.
It just sort of provides this wonderful piece
of infrastructure for the community here.
There's like a whole silver shoe section, [laughs] just in case!
And gosh, like this place, I've just played, you know,
those roles that are like the roles you'd wanna play,
these sort of iconic, amazing roles as Emily in "Our Town"
and The Lady in the Scottish Play
and just really amazing roles
that, that you don't get the opportunity to do very often,
and it makes me feel like this place is just so important
to who I am as an actor and to my sort of growing up
and evolving and learning a lot about myself.
My mother went to Montreal. New York City.
And she brought me back.
(Laura) "Love Lost and What I Wore" is the first show that I've done
in a really long time, the first fully staged play.
(Shanan Custer) The minute you see Laura, you love her.
She's so good with so many different kinds of people
and brings her own style
to being this really powerful leader.
I know she's dealing with all these different artists
and their needs, and she's giving speeches
and she's out there fighting for our,
our right to do this show, I mean at the heart of it,
she's a huge leader in this community and so respected
and seems to be just growing every year.
So I feel pretty excited to have her in my show,
not only because she's a great performer, but
because of what she represents in terms of an artist.
(Laura) I went to school for theater;
I went to the University of Kansas
and have a degree in theater.
And then I moved to the Twin Cities right after that
because of the art community here,
because of the theater community, because I wanted
to be a place where that was a priority for the community
and a place where I could see myself being involved
in that part of the community for a really long time.
And that worked out pretty well. [laughs]
Even though I might not perform
in sort of traditional theatrical ways
as much as I used to, I feel like those skills
are still a huge part of my life, and they're a huge asset
in the work that I do every day at Springboard for the Arts.
In terms of public speaking
and in terms of creating collaborative projects--
the things I learned from theater
about how to come together with a group of people
and make something happen quickly and in a creative way--
that's what we do every day at Springboard.
[drums play in bright rhythm; voices make percussive sounds]
[piano plays the blues]
(Cornbread Harris) I think I like music
better than anything-- ice cream-- don't match.
Cornbread, I like cornbread, but the cornbread I like is me!
♪ Cornbread in the morning! ♪
I am James Samuel Cornbread Harris, Sr.
♪ Cornbread every night! ♪
I have been making music for 65 years!
And I'm still going.
I'm primarily a bluesman.
What I love about the blues is the feeling of the music.
♪ I feel like I ♪
♪ Could cry ♪
♪ I feel like I could cry ♪
I was born in Chicago, Illinois.
By three years old my parents died.
I was sent to foster homes from 3 until oh, 11 or 12 maybe.
So my grandparents decided to take me in,
that was in St. Paul.
So when I went to St. Bernard's, my grandparents decided
that I should have piano lessons.
Before that I had been learning from my friends.
My friends taught me a lot of stuff-- dig this, dig this.
Oh yeah, you know, I was a fantastic piano player.
[playing a melodic song]
So when I went to the service, I would play in the dayroom.
They'd get their chairs and sit around the piano
and listen to me play my little three, four songs.
One more time, one more time.
When I got out of the service, I said well, you know what?
People like the music, so I went to Schmitt's Music Company
and bought a guitar book.
So I learned to play many, many songs.
As long as I got the words,
the melody, and the chord progression,
I can play pert' near any song,
not the way it's written, you know,
but really close to the song.
[Cornbread plays the blues]
(Scott Soule) Mr. Harris is a wise and gentle soul.
Many of the musicians in town
would refer to Cornbread's outfit
as the Cornbread school of finishing musicians.
(Cornbread) I taught many people little pieces of the genre of music.
I played with so many different groups,
Tommy Francis was one of the bands,
Jaja Latif, and there were several other little,
I don't know if you could call 'em bands,
we got together three times [laughs] and then disbanded.
He was in the very first
rock-and-roll band in the Twin Cities, Augie Garcia.
(Cornbread) Augie Garcia, you know, he wears Bermuda shorts
and he dances on top of the piano
and he walks the railing playing the guitar.
Three years we packed River Road Club, Mendota, Minnesota.
Augie kept his showmanship up playing our same 20 songs,
right on the spot we were
just ad libbing this thing, "Hi Yo Silver."
That got to be the first hit record in the Twin Cities,
and it just became a big hit.
♪ Fried chicken and cornbread ♪
♪ Pig feet and cornbread ♪
♪ Dandelions and cornbread ♪
♪ Pork chops and cornbread ♪
♪ Lucky lips and cornbread baby ♪
♪ Cornbread ♪
♪ Cornbread ♪
♪ Cornbread ♪
♪ Lovin' that cornbread ♪
(Scott Soule) Mr. Harris' commitment to jazz and blues music is a lifestyle,
and he likes to spread his knowledge,
and in that way it kind of keeps growing as a genre.
♪ Bread ♪
[cheers, applause, & whistles]
[Cornbread plays the blues on the piano]
Hello pretty lady. Hello.
(Cornbread) How are you this morning? (woman) Doin' good.
(Cornbread) We are going to Camden.
We go there two times a week
and I'm gonna play and they're going to applaud for me
and say oh, that was sure good Cornbread, or whatever.
Camden Neighborhood Center, all right.
Camden Neighborhood Center focuses on adults and adults
with different degrees of disabilities and their families.
So every Tuesday and Thursday,
Mr. Cornbread is here with our senior group.
It's very lively, like when they get in, he always sits up front,
and they always reserve the front seat for him
and he's one of our only males, so he gets the royal treatment
while he's here, and the ladies really love him.
I like playing here for these ladies
'cause I got 'em fooled-- they think I'm good!
You know, that is a wonderful thing that people like you.
(woman) Oh we've got him fooled!
You got me fooled? Oh, oh.
Oh now the truth is coming out. Ah-ha!
[Cornbread plays jazz on the electronic keyboard]
(Lisa Dunlap) Mr. Cornbread here, he's been with us about 10-plus years.
And I actually did not realize who Mr. Cornbread was
for several years, and I knew who his son was.
(Cornbread) My son Jimmy, I want to throw his name out here.
Jimmy Jam, Jimmy Jam, yeah.
They were using a lot of what I taught him to make their tunes,
and so they kept on doing that until they got The Time together
and Prince heard 'em
and decided oh man, these guys can really play!
(Cornbread) Oh, I-24. (woman) I-24.
(Cornbread) ♪ I-24. ♪
(Lisa Dunlap) I think Mr. Cornbread continues to come and play music
because he enjoys the people, he enjoys the singing group,
and he likes the interaction.
(woman) N-35. Okay, N-35. (woman) N-35.
(Cornbread, in rhythm with the piano) ♪ N-35, N-35, N-35. ♪
[bass, drums, and saxophone play big-band jazz]
(woman) Welcome to the 22nd annual celebration
of the Sally Ordway Irvine Awards.
The Sally Awards are a statewide salute and celebration
of the arts in our state.
The 2013 Sally Award for Commitment is presented
to a remarkable musician who has brought us his interpretations
of the blues and jazz for more than half a century,
James Samuel Cornbread Harris, Sr.
(Patricia Mitchell) He was nominated by a number of people,
and I think the reason that Commitment seemed logical
is because at age 80-sumpin', sumpin',
he has had a very long career committed to music.
No matter what I do, I end up getting more than I gave.
If you want to be blessed, be a giver!
[loud applause] Thank you very much.
(Patricia Mitchell) His career is so long and he's such a wonderful musician
and he has taught so many people.
And I know nobody was anything but delighted
when he was selected.
(Cornbread) The blessing came when I was enlightened
that people liked music,
and I had this small talent.
And I wish that on everybody,
to be as blessed as me.
I've got it made!
[applause & cheers]
CC--Armour Captioning & TPT
(woman) "Minnesota Original" is made possible by
The State Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund
and the citizens of Minnesota.
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