I had the pleasure of speaking with renowned musician and composer Daniel Smith this month about his new organization, Artists Seeking Transcendence, and the exciting events occurring in 2021! I wanted to know the inspiration behind the organization and learn what each online event has to offer artists of all backgrounds, around the world. If you know Daniel Smith and/or have had the opportunity to listen to him speak about creativity/the arts in any capacity, you can imagine that I left the conversation feeling pumped about his new organization. I really think the workshops held by Artists Seeking Transcendence will reinvigorate emerging and seasoned artists, providing clarity regarding their creative practice in the new year.
The inspiration behind Artists Seeking Transcendence
Art and philosophy were always tied for Daniel; art was "the pursuit of a life well-lived." As young as 12, Daniel recalls philosophizing about life, wisdom, and kindness with his friends on the back of a yellow school bus on their way to a band performance. While some things about that memory feel a bit silly to Daniel now, it's where he marks the realization that "artistic expression is inextricably tied to furthering one's own humanity."
Let's fast-forward to just a few years ago. Daniel began speaking with award-winning dancer/choreographer and FSU Associate Professor of Dance, Gwen Welliver, about how arts education is incomplete. Arts education spends so much time on technique, but much like the saying 'power and money don't change you, they reveal you,' "when you are trained to have technical skills as an artist, you are learning how to communicate and express, but that's a means of revealing who you are. So, who you are is often the limiting factor toward generating profound, meaningful art." As an artist who went through an undergraduate in dance, I extremely relate to the latter statement. It took years within the institution, and growing up outside of the institution, to place less focus on my technique and more focus on the things I needed to express. My technique was always there, and my voice was as well, but I was far more skilled at calling upon my technique than my voice due to my training.
Daniel believes that "enriching one’s self is not ancillary to arts training, it is arts training," and he's on a mission seeking the betterment of art by seeking the betterment of the artist themselves. Thus, the creation of Artists Seeking Transcendence.
The 6 core character attributes explored through 6 separate workshops
Daniel acknowledges that categorizing human attributes is always a dicey task. The core character attributes were influenced by several schools of thought and picked as a means for structuring the workshops in a clear way that cultivates a sense of gratitude in individuals' art-making, providing inspiration and motivation. Each workshop will focus on one of six core character attributes, which are:
Daniel also emphasizes that all of these attributes are interrelated, that one makes little sense without another. While each workshop will focus on one attribute, it will be discussed in relation to the others. As stated on the website, the workshops will investigate "philosophical and scientific understandings of these virtues and mentor artists as they wrestle with rich, enduring questions in the pursuits of bettering themselves and expanding their capacity to make impactful art."
What skills and lessons can artists expect to leave each event with?
Artists Seeking Transcendence and its workshops provide a "platform to dig deep into these enormous questions, these enduring questions, about who we are, why we’re [making art], and how to do what we’re doing as well as we can do it." Artists can expect to receive three major things from each event:
The workshops are connected in important ways to each other; however, each is designed as a stand-alone experience, you won't miss out on the conversation by just attending one or two events. The names of prominent artists and leading experts in philosophy and science will be revealed early-on in 2021. Make sure you're following Artists Seeking Transcendence on Facebook (linked) and Instagram (@artistsseekingtranscendence) to stay in the loop! One speaker, Philosopher/Author Dr. Michael Bishop, will kick off the first workshop discussing Happiness. You can find a description of this workshop and the others at https://www.artistsseekingtranscendence.com/.
Daniel recognizes that not everyone can take a full day off to attend a workshop. He hopes to build interest in the organization in 2021 and create events spread out over a few days in the future. He also has plans to offer in-person events (yay!) once such gatherings can safely take place. Workshops are not necessarily aimed at older age groups; rather, those wishing to attend should have a certain level of maturity of thought and desire to really crack open their mind concerning art-making.
Daniel also wishes to emphasize that he doesn't want the cost to be prohibitive to anyone and asks folks to reach out if they don't have the funds. There are two financial relief schemes in place:
Artists Seeking Transcendence is blazing a path towards a future where we educate the whole artist, mind, body, and soul. The successive, monthly events beginning in February 2021 offer a wealth of knowledge to artists of all kinds, at various stages in their practice. If you're looking for a way to find curiosity and pleasure in your practice once more, give yourself some love and book a place on one or more of their events exploring happiness, wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, and temperance.