Bayou Boss Ladies Commandment #1:
Recognize the merits of an opportunity even when it is not ideal. The life experience will stretch your mind and bore its way into your work.
Introducing Fresh Arts' first Bayou Boss Lady, the wonderful Shane Allbritton. Shane is an artist and designer working across a broad spectrum of disciplines and media, including large scale murals, wayfinding, media design, suspended art, sculpture and painting. She has been a museum environmental graphic designer for two decades, creating interpretive spaces from the Buddy Holly Museum twenty years ago, to the more recent Coca-Cola Vault Museum Exhibit. Her many public art projects have won her awards such as a prestigious CoD+A award for her 2013 piece "Memory Cloud", and have seen collaborations with influential Houston-based artists such as Norman Lee. On top of this, Shane is a mother to her son Grayson, and wife to husband Peter Bernick-Allbritton (who, by the way is also an artist, so they frequently create badass installation work together). In all honesty, there is not a lot that this woman can't do.
As part of Fresh Arts' new blog series, I caught up with Shane to pick her brain about what it really means to be a Boss Lady:
What are you working on right now?
Currently my public art studio, RE:site, is in the midst of preparing for several installations this year, in multiple locations across the country. Next month we have concurrent installs at the El Paso International Airport and the Hennepin Public Library in Minnesota. As far as personal artwork, I've been short-listed to create a large-scale artwork at one of the entrances to the George R. Brown and my husband Peter and I are developing encaustic prototypes for an upcoming Art League show. In between art projects, I wear my graphic designer hat and am currently developing environmental graphics for the National WWII Museum in NOLA, with a former design firm in DC.
What inspires you to create?
Research. Researching an interest or curiosity gives me endless inspiration. Nature, introspection, everything really - finding meaning or an aesthetic interpretation of the smallest gesture to the most profound experience is like a program constantly running in the background.
How did you get to this point in your career?
Like any creative type, I become heavily involved in my projects - embracing large-scale public art works to museum design, branding for small start-ups, mixed media installations, signage, and everything in between, they all matter. The inexplicable drive to create and problem-solve is not the only reason I am at this point, a lot of it is tenacity. I’m not even sure what this “point” in my career is exactly, I just know that diversity in the type of work I do gives me the greatest satisfaction and reflects my interests and passions. Besides keeping me engaged, diverse work is literally a financial necessity - I can pick up one market when the other stumbles and keep moving forward. I am definitely a risk-taker, but I do want to sustain this lifestyle as long as I can make it work.
From L to R: Shane with Norman Lee collaboration "Radiance" while pregnant with son Grayson; Grayson giving a helping hand: Shane and Peter with their installation at the SITE exhibit and Grayson.
Public Art as an avenue is kind of mysterious to a lot of artists. How did you get involved and what resources do you use/would recommend for people trying to break into that specific career?
With about two decades working as an experiential graphic designer for museums and a background in studio arts, public art seemed a logical and fulfilling direction. When I left my full-over-time, yet secure, design job to freelance for a while, I couldn’t find another company in Houston that was a good fit. A former colleague of mine, Norman Lee, had recently been short-listed to design the San Francisco Veteran’s Memorial and invited me to team up. It wasn’t long after that encounter that we realized our interpretive backgrounds- telling stories through design, technology, media, interactives, and experiences laid a strong foundation for site-specific art. In 2012, we founded RE:site to focus on narrative-based artworks and jumped straight into artist call applications.
Starting out is not a walk in the park - competing against experienced and prolific artists is challenging when you’re lacking built work in public space. It is important not to let a lost commission, impact your enthusiasm. It is a time consuming process but the experience will help your proposal skills, and it is a great way to visualize and explore new ideas. One option might be to collaborate with other artists or professionals that have different backgrounds to contribute necessary depth for specific RFQ/RFP requirements.
Joining your local public art agency will allow you access to calls to artists, and they are there to offer support if you have any questions. Other useful online sources for finding competitions would include callforentry.org and publicartist.org.
How do you find a balance between family life and being a professional artist? What is the most rewarding aspect, and what do you find most challenging?
Balance is always the end goal - I want to be wholly immersed in creating and wholly immersed in my family, but both are demanding yet deeply rewarding and often tread on the other’s territory. I don’t have it completely figured out, but I do try to live by a few rules - Stop working by 6pm (there are exceptions here) and don’t work on the weekends (and exceptions here). I must be very mindful about scheduling business/family interactions throughout the day, if it isn’t on my calendar, then it pretty much doesn’t exist, sorry my brain is full.
Submitted by sarah_stevens on Tue, Apr 26th at 4:09 pm