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For the Love of Art Member Profile: Ben Bryson and Gary Monday

BEN BRYSON & GARY MONDAY
Dual members since 2014

You both presumably like art. Why?

G: Where do we start? Why do you like art? My experience with art is that it’s always a moment for me to step out of busy life and focus. I can make it my own through the experience—that’s really interesting and fun for me. That’s why I like art.

B: I search for inspiration all the time. I am inspired by art, inspired by people, inspired by writing, and inspired by design. I think art is all part of that universe of inspiration. That’s what keeps me going and keeps me near creative solutions—whether it’s for work or with each other. I like seeing people who are inspired to create something and I like getting into the psychology behind the art; that’s how I connect to it—not just visually.

What do you do for work, Ben? What are you seeking inspiration for?

B: I work for a nonprofit and we are always looking for new and innovative ways to get more donors and more money or more connection with our mission. I think in this day and age creative solutions are important. How do you communicate with people and talk with people? I think when you manage people it’s a creative process, too.

Gary, what do you do? What is your job or your passion?

G: The part of my life that I consider what I do is—I’m a square dance caller and I have been for over 30 years. It’s the only real artistic outlet that I have. What I do working with people and calling square dancing allows me to express myself. The result of that is that people have a lot fun and so that’s what I do. I enjoy the square dance element of my life and being a caller and producing that for people.

B: Together, we like to travel. Wherever we travel to we always go to the museums. So wherever we go, we go to art. Always, no matter what city.

For the Love of Art: Ben and Gary

Is that just because you like art and you’re there?

G: Until three years ago, I lived in a very rural setting and didn’t have access to a lot. When I go to a city one of the things I do is seek out art wherever it was available, because it wasn’t that available where I used to live. We both like modern art the most as far as going to museums. If we go to NYC, it’s always going to be a visit to MOMA.

B: Where are the gay bars, where are the museums? I like architecture as well. The experience of the Guggenheim—even if the art isn’t very good, the experience of Frank Lloyd Wright’s dizzying structure is really cool. I think you have been to the Pompidou, too, right? That was the very first one that really blew my mind in Paris.

Is art something you do together? You enter into a museum together . . . but then what happens?

B: We go into a museum together and go very fast and we absorb as much as we can and let ourselves be drawn to something. I don’t know if it is our attention span but that was one of the things we clicked on as a couple early on.

G: I think we have an equal awareness of what is at a particular museum, so we already have a little bit of knowledge of why we are drawn there.

Why did you join SAM?

B: I remember when they first built the building here downtown. It was great to have a nice art museum here. I am at a stage of my life where I want to integrate more with my city. In the ’90s it wasn’t cool to integrate with establishments. It was just the ’90s. The city has changed, it’s ok to support them and also I aged a little bit from the 20-something that I was. I think integrating into this is really good for us right now. We’ve been together for a long time. There are things we do together and things we do apart. This is something we do together.

It’s a relationship thing you can integrate into your life as a couple. It gives you a date night with an event.

G: Something we definitely enjoy together.

B: I am really excited about the extended hours on Thursdays. We love to do a late night event at SAM and then bop around downtown.

Be like SAM members Ben and Gary and get excited about the upcoming season of Art of Jazz, taking place at SAM every second Thursday of the month. Presented in collaboration with Earshot Jazz 88.5 KNKX, next up is an Art of Jazz favorite, the Kareem Kandi Band on October 13. These events are free and funded in part by SAM Members. Consider supporting SAM by becoming a member today and make it a late night on the town with SAM next Thursday!

Photos: Scott Areman.

 

For the Love of Art Member Profile: Brian Nova

BRIAN NOVA
Jazz musician
Friend member since 2004

Brian Nova has been a member of SAM for over a decade. His membership—like all memberships—supports programs at the museum, including tours and workshops for students, talks by visiting artists from across the world, and the preservation of more than 24,000 objects in our collection.

When we sat down to talk on a sunny day at the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, Brian had just flown in from Napa Valley. He’s a jazz musician, and travels all over the country playing music. His enthusiasm for the arts was catching, and we all felt lucky when he picked up his guitar and played for a little bit as his picture was being taken.

What role does art play in society?
As a touring jazz artist, for me art plays one of the most important roles in society. It unites people of all races, religions, and cultures by giving us a deeper, more meaningful connection. Art forces all who look, feel, or listen, to look, feel, or listen a little deeper. Art helps us to look within ourselves as well as each other.

Art is the fiber that allows connections between those who dwell there. When we look back upon past cultures, past societies, it is the art of that culture, the art of that society, that is remembered, admired, and built upon.

You’re a jazz musician! What do you play?
I play guitar and sing.

You do this professionally?
I do. I tour all over the world doing this. It’s my job. I tour with a lot of different people. I just moved back to Seattle; I was living in the South for a while. I grew up in Seattle. I spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill and in Volunteer Park.

The Asian Art Museum was always a place I would hang out, write music, and just become one with the place.

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Do you have memories of the Seattle Art Museum?
Oh, absolutely. I remember coming in the ’60s and early ’70s when I was a kid. My parents dragged us through—as kids we didn’t want to come.

Since then I have brought my niece and nephew both to the Seattle Art Museum and the Asian Art Museum—twice this past year. Getting them used to the world of museums and world of history and getting a bit of art and culture in their lives. It’s getting harder and harder to find and I travel all over the world. So when we have a place like SAM here, I say, “You kids are coming with me.”

Why do you think that’s so important for them?
Well, I am an artist. This is my world. So without art…you know, it’s the lack of art in our culture that has given us no back-up. For me, when I travel around the world, what stands out from all the old civilizations is their culture and that’s all it is. No one cares about their commerce; no one cares about anything else. Maybe a little bit of architecture and science, which is still art. That is what holds true in every society. We are looking for: “What is your culture?”

To be able to look back at other cultures and get an eye into what they were thinking and going through—I think that’s invaluable. I think the arts, coming from the music side—they’re essential for growth in kids.

I think that at any age you are never too old to pick up an instrument; you are never too old or young to come into the museum and learn about the world, art, and culture. To me that’s why places like SAM are so important.

How long have you been a member of SAM?
Since the late ’90s. I have belonged to the de Young Museum in San Francisco from about the same time.

Do you remember what prompted you to join?
Yes, actually, it was through jazz. They had just started doing the Art of Jazz program at SAM. I got called to do it. I was blown away at how gorgeous it was.

Also, I lived in a building not too far away and my neighbor worked at SAM. She said if I wanted to go she could get me a pass. I went with a friend and I couldn’t believe Seattle has a place like this. With the Hammering Man and all…

I thought wow, this is really different than I remember. SAM was around when I was young but not as prolific as it is today—and with the park…! It’s pretty cool with all the events they are doing and everything.

SAM has really grown up and I am just so happy to be here.

Join Brian as a SAM member today.