Q&A with Sebastian Meade – Art can make ‘huge difference’ in a town

FREEPORT – Freeport artist Sebastian Meade is a well-known figure in the Maine creative arts community. The 33-year old is the creator of “Random Acts of Art,” a blog that highlights public art, both traditional and non-traditional.

After suffering a stroke at the age of 13, Meade began to use art to demonstrate his unique and whimsical philosophy of life. He is a partner and teacher at the Maine Arts Workshop in Freeport, which offers classes, workshops and artistic guidance to people of all ages. In addition to being in several private collections, Meade’s work is currently on display at the Azure Café in downtown Freeport, PelotonLabs in Portland, and on a silver bullet recycling bin through a partnership with ecomaine.

The sculptor, filmmaker and Freeport native recently sat down with the Tri-Town Weekly to discuss his favorite artists, trash monsters and the challenges of being a young artist.

Q: As an artist, what does Freeport offer and why do you live here?

A: Freeport is a very interesting town for an artist. If anything, it gives room to work and is central to much of the rest of Maine. I feel Freeport is a great location for artists because of the potential that exists. Freeport Square Gallery brought traditional and contemporary Maine art to Freeport, which made both tourists and locals excited to see this happening in Freeport. It can be a tough town for art galleries and small local businesses. If the town had better access for local business such as galleries, I think that the arts could do very well in promoting Freeport and also the many artists hidden around town.

Q: Who are a few of your favorite artists and why?

A: Some of my favorite artists are Banksy, a well-known contemporary [London] artist; Andy Warhol and Keith Haring are two of my favorite “pop” artists, Warhol for his colors and subject matters and Keith Haring for interpreting pop as an individual design rather than reproducing pop culture outright. I also appreciate the many chalk drawings that Haring used to do in the subways of New York City. That was partly what inspired me to draw goofy monsters on the Freeport town trash cans last winter, which encouraged people to feed the monsters trash rather than putting it on the top of the cans. I always like many other artists from Tim Hawkinson, Jean-Michel Basquiat to Leonardo Da Vinci to Andy Goldsworthy and Roy Staab. There isn’t really one kind of art or artist over another.

Q: What can art do for a community?

A: I like to think that art can really bring a community pride and fun. Many people become proud when an artist in their community really uses their talent and shares it. Communities need to open up and help those artists out, too. Art in communities, from visual to performance to writing, adds a new layer to a town, which is what the Freeport organization Freeport Creative Arts – which I’m a member of – has been trying to do. The layer of the arts can bring a town toget er and also really make it stand out from other communities. Each time art engages a town, it can make a huge difference by bringing so many people together from away and more importantly the people who live in the town.

Q: Can you explain the philosophy behind “acts of random art?”

A: “Acts of Random Art” has become something larger then I originally planned. When I first started two years ago, I was only going to be taking random pictures of any form of street art/public art from sculptures that are sanctioned, to ones that are not – from graffiti to murals, yarn bombings to stickers. I found myself getting enough material to do daily pictures and writing down my thoughts, so I started adding written blog entries on actsofrandomart.blogspot.com. Then I figured, why not post on Facebook to get a wider audience? Flickr, Tumblr and Instagram followed. It’s really become my way of sharing public work with a large audience and keeping a permanent record of these occasionally temporary works.

Q: When did you realize that you were an artist?

A: I’m not sure I ever “realized” I was an artist. There really isn’t an “ah ha!” moment that comes to mind. It really just comes down to the need to create and hopefully find an audience that enjoys my work.

Q: What inspires you?

A: My personal theory and philosophy is this: After a stroke at the age of 13, I used up my angst. While at Ripon College in Wisconsin, I took all the art history and studio classes possible. This was when I figured it was important to make art that encouraged the general public to enjoy and experience, often through whimsy and humor. Although I have had some intellectuals and theorists tell me that I am not taking art seriously, I find it is more important to reach out to as many people as possible. even if I may alienate a few. For every one person who scoffs, more people find the humor that might inspire them to make something themselves. If people realize art can be fun and you don’t need to know the deepest meaning behind a visual work, they may find art easier to understand. But humor is the way for me to go, something I find harder than taking the “serious” route.

Q: As a filmmaker, what interests you?

A: Let’s see, people, things and stories. I haven’t done much film making in a while. When I do it’s more of a “mockumentary” or slice of life. I’m pretty busy on the art side of things now. I’m just not the biggest fan of being on the acting side of the camera.

Q: What are the challenges facing young artists these days?

A: Being an artist is a challenge in a society that isn’t sure how to be supportive of the arts – “what good is it?” continues to be asked. I think that the economy is probably one of the most obvious challenges. Gallery interest in art before the 2008 stock market crash was great, but post-crash, the brakes were slammed on. Art can be the first to go on people’s list, but it’s also the last to be added back on. Therefore, artists are finding that the sales and interest are slow. Artists need to learn how best to have their work handled, either working with a gallery or doing everything on their own though both have pitfalls.

Q: What are you working on?

A: Right now I have a few things in the works. One is my one art donation for the year for the Freeport Community Teen Center “Sitting Pretty Auction.” I am working on a frame for a mirror (this year’s fundraiser item; last year it was paddles from L.L. Bean and in previous years it was chairs). I am also in planning stages for some knitted and crocheted projects and working on some small sculptures in the monster category. My larger works are kind of at a hold for the moment – because my metal found objects are kind of buried in some snow!

Q: Where can our readers view your work in the area?

A: You can find some work at PelotonLabs (pelotonlabs.com), a co-workingspace in Portland. And I have one sculpture hanging out at Azure Café. I also have work at the Meg Perry Foundation in Portland, which does come down at the end of February. On top of continuously making newer works, there is always the elusive “silver bullet” I painted over the summer for ecomaine which rotates locations through participating towns in the state. If anyone sees it, I’d love for them to either email me pictures at actsofrandomart@gmail.com or post it on Acts of Random Art’s Facebook page. At some point I’d like to mark a map of the locations just to keep a record. It is a fun piece because it truly has a life of its own.

Artist Sebastian Meade with an arachnid-inspired robot in front of the Azure Café in Freeport, one of the many pieces of whimsical art the 33-year-old creates.