The Working Artist’s Rag

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My name is Timothy P. Dingman.

I am a working artist and this is a “rag.”  Think of it as a “Raga”: a story, a lesson, an explanation, a riff, an apology (in the philosophical Thomistic/Aristotelian sense). This is a blog about what a working artist in Newark, New Jersey does. It is an explanation of what one does to be and must do to be an artist. It is an explanation of how one gets to be an artist.  Everyone wants to get to be an artist…until they get to be one.……

I came to Newark in 2011.  I had my kids out of or into stable positions at school or work. Their mother had migrated to California some years before.  I was looking to live in a city, as I had always lived on the edge of cities and found the vibrancy, diversity, access to unique culture and basic arrogance of proclaiming oneself a “city dweller” worth the risk.

The risk is considerable.  In 2011, I participated in 6 shows in New York City and suburban New York and northern New Jersey.  In November of 2011, I got mugged pretty brutally in the courtyard of St. Lucy’s Church on 7th Avenue.  It took me the better part of 18 months to get out of the hospital and out of my apartment.  I still can’t quite see out of my left eye.  The last three years have reaffirmed my faith in and dedication to art.…

Thus began my real connection with both the arts and “civilian” communities in Newark, and my admiration and fascination with that relationship.   The real breakthrough came when someone on Clifton Ave walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to buy drugs.  It felt like acceptance. Just then, for a moment, I was in the community. Poor guy. I might be the only person my age on the East Coast who doesn’t smoke pot.  Don’t get me wrong: I would try it if not for my asthma. If he knew what kind of prescription psych meds I take, he might have asked to buy from me.…

I had a mentor in Bergen/Rockland counties named Paula Mattawick.  Her mantra to me was “85/15”. If you want to be a working artist, allocate 85% of your time promoting and selling your art and yourself…and your ass if you have any left over. Allocate 15 % of your time to eating, sleeping, and making art.  A lot gets left behind.

I had a mentor in New York City named Jeanine Alfieri: intelligent, generous, talented, driven.  She taught me that it isn’t so much the individual mentors or friends that are important to an artist, but involvement with the community that counts.  It isn’t that every one depends on everyone else; it’s that everyone in or out of the arts community in Newark is prepared to give anyone else a little step up. A little word of encouragement. An introduction.…

The city of Newark…

I came here for the cheap rents. I came here because my oldest son was and architecture student at NJIT, and we developed a symbiotic/parasitic relationship that revolved around rent and mutual exchange of information, new and old.

I stayed here for the community.  I can’t have any interaction with an artist or a community member here that does not include a concern for the community at large. That would not happen in Rockland or Bergen Counties, or Chelsea.



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