Using a Passion to Benefit the Greater Good by @TheBlogsmaid #livesplendid

Friday, March 07, 2014

Today's guest expert is Xochitl Gonzalez

Art for Cocktails is an art appreciation project created to make art more accessible, engaging and fun to talk about. Beginning with a website which presents famous artworks and artists in a provocative way, Art for Cocktails will expand to offer Museum Tours Without Pretension, and a foundation to fund museum trips for New York City Public School children. I'm calling it a "project" because it's evolved to something much bigger than I had ever imagined, and so I am tackling it in phases, bit by bit, until I get it to where I envision it being. This is a bit about what my vision is, how it evolved, and why it's important.

Mayra and I have been in business for a decade and, while it's always quite busy and there is never enough time to get everything done, my attitude towards the business has evolved recently. I realized last year that it was important to not have work be your life, even if the work is completely of your own invention. When you own your own business (and Mayra and I own two: AaB Creates and Just About Married), it's very easy to forget your other passions. Walking into our tenth year of business, Mayra and I decided that we needed to make time to explore those passions.

I had the idea for Art for Cocktails years ago -- primarily as a blog. Art is unfortunately one of those things that even the most creative and educated people can feel intimidated or frustrated by. The goal was to write about art in a way that would make it more relatable -- either to motivate people to get to a museum or gallery to see a show or simply to have something to talk about at a party besides what they do for a living (snoozy!). I had been sitting on a Tumblr account that I rarely updated and never promoted, so my first goal was to revamp it as a means of getting myself to more museums and galleries.

Serendipitously, around this same time I read an article about David Zwirner, the gallerist, just as we were coming back from a trip to Paris filled with amazing museum adventures. I had interviewed with David's team fifteen years earlier for an unpaid position at his front desk but couldn't afford to do it because of student loans. I began thinking about the road untravelled and, being high off of all these museum tours I had just given to our friends in Paris, realized that it wasn't too late to do something with this passion.

I decided that Art for Cocktails: Art without Pretension would also be an amazing excuse to offer up the museum tours my friends have been privy to for years (they are less about brush strokes and technique and much more about gossip and affairs and double crossing art dealers and childhood issues). I've been in business long enough to realize I would need to charge for these tours in order to make people value them. Realistically, this was a hobby and perhaps I would make money to buy some designer shoes or a new bag on occasion . . . but that felt a bit silly.

Literally the next day I read the Invisible Child series from the New York Times following a homeless girl named Dasani who lives in a shelter about five blocks away from my rather bougie brownstone apartment. In one segment of the series Dasani goes on a Field Trip to Gracie Mansion where she is in awe of the magnificence of the decor. I realized how much of a difference those field trips can make for a child like her and did make for a child like me: mere exposure to beauty expands your notion of what's possible, particularly when lack of money can make your world feel so small. What would be petty cash for me to buy a disposable fashion item could actually fund a class trip to MoMa or the Brooklyn Museum and be an experience that changed a life. (Again, another article in the Times recently reported a study that exposure to art for underprivileged children can actually make them more receptive to education). I researched and found (and am still finding) organizations that fund these kinds of trips for families and am planning on granting money to teachers and schools to either charter a bus or cover transportation, etc.

There is something sort of magical about it -- if I could use my passion to enhance the lives of adults through art appreciation and use the funds from that to enhance the lives of children through art appreciation . . . well, it's worth the paperwork of filing the 501(c)(3). Too often I set something up with a deadline to make it happen and then beat myself up when things take longer than they do. So, in this case, I am working in phases. Currently it's building content and a following on social media. Next, it's scheduling, launching and promoting the tours and, of course, establishing the foundation.

I had read (and Liene included it in her 35 Lessons Learned) that often the books you loved as a child can trace to your passions as an adult. I wasn't one for fairy tales, but I practically slept with my copy of From the Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler. Funny to think about now.

XOCHITL GONZALEZ is an entrepreneur, writer and amateur art historian. She has a dual degree in Sculpture and Art History from Brown University. A native of Brooklyn, Xochitl was first exposed to Art History in an A.P. European History Course at Edward R. Murrow Public High School. She entered college convinced that if you understand a culture's art, you can understand its history and its people. At Brown -- fueled by her love of gossip, biography and history -- she quickly discovered her talent for presenting artists as humans and their work as byproduct of their lives. You can follow Art for Cocktails on Twitter.
Think Splendid will be offering insights and perspectives from Splendid Guests for the months of February and March while I am working in Africa

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