George Summers
BAC Faculty
2020 Berliner Award Honoree

How did you arrive at the Brookline Arts Center?
I came to the BAC in 1990 via Beth Gerstein, who was the director then. I had known Beth for awhile. She and I had both taught at Buck’s Rock, a creative arts camp for teenagers, in Connecticut. At the time, Beth was looking to expand programming at the BAC and she called me up one day and asked if I’d be interested in adding batik to the offerings. So that was the beginning. Who would have guessed that I’d still be here 30 years later!?

Tell us about your background. How did you become interested in art?
I’ve been interested in art as far back as I can remember, or at least as far back as I could hold a crayon upright. I was very lucky in that I had a very intuitive mother who made sure that I had art supplies and art lessons at a very young age. I was also blessed with some wonderful art teachers, most notably Marjorie Weed, who first taught me how to batik in the 8th grade. I must admit the first time doing batik I hated it! Too messy, too time consuming. I was 13 and I hated everything, especially if I couldn’t get instant gratification! Luckily, Marjorie saved my first batik pieces, and when I returned to school as a freshman she reintroduced me to the medium. Not sure what happened in the interim year, maybe my attitude change, maybe I became more patient, but, from that moment on I was hooked.

What passions do you bring to the BAC community?
I am passionate about all of the arts and especially the journey that one undertakes to create and make art. Not too long ago someone asked me what my vocation was and I responded, “I live an artistic life!” I wasn’t being flippant. It really is all consuming! I’m either looking at it, teaching it, making it, selling it, acquiring it, talking about it, etcetera. This is what I bring to the table. This is what I bring to my class, an art filled life and a passion for making!

What do you enjoy most about the BAC?
Community! For the past 20 years  I have had, on and off, the same core group of students. We’ve all become friends and we’ve all shared in those special moments and highlights that make up a “life,” the highs, the lows, births, deaths, joys, disappointments, good news, bad news, etcetera. This is what I miss the most right now during the COVID-19 quarantine. I miss our weekly interactions, not only in our batik making, but also in our catching up with our day-to-day lives. I truly cannot wait to get back into this. Social media, phone calls, and emails are not the same.

What was your favorite childhood art project?
My earliest childhood art projects involved making up stories, illustrating them, and then stapling them together into little books. You could say that my fondness for children’s books probably was informed by this. Much later, after I had learned how to batik, my next favorite project was making life-sized dolls, which actually won several prizes in the local amateur art contests.

Who are some of your art heroes?
Oh, that’s a loaded question. You mean other than all of my friends?! There really are too many, but I suppose the ones that I keep coming back to are: Francesco Clemente, Alex Katz, Alice Neel, Sylvia Sleigh, Paul Cadmus and anyone from the PAJAMA Group, Kiki Smith, Faith Ringold, Kathy Ruttenberg, and Beatrice Wood. More recently, I’ve been looking at some younger artists like Jordan Casteel, Stephen Towns, Kevin Snipes, Brian Kenny, and Gio Black Peter.

Do you have anything exciting coming up?
Just before the COVID-19 quarantine, I started doing life drawing again after many years. I was fortunate enough to work with one particular model over a two month period and this produced 56 drawings and 120 photos. Of course now with social distancing this is not possible, but I do look forward to getting back into this way of working again in the hopefully not so distant future. The other ongoing project that I’ve been working on is a series of 60 batik portraits. It was originally supposed to be 60 portraits by my sixtieth birthday. Unfortunately, life got in the way, and so now I’m hoping to show the series next year. I’m going to call it “60 by 60 + 3”!

The BAC is thrilled to present George with the Berliner Award at our sixth annual ART Off the Wall Exhibition & Fundraiser on May 16. Due to COVID-19, this year’s event will be held virtually. The Berliner Award, named after BAC founders Mim and Barney Berliner, serves to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to art and our community and their embodiment of our founders’ vision. Learn more and get tickets today!

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