Smile Politely

WorkSpace: Maya Bauer

Welcome back to WorkSpace, a series featuring an inside look at the places where local artists roll up their sleeves and take care of business. For each installment, I’ll bring an interview with a local C-U artist, complete with photographs of their work, to showcase his or her craft and expertise.

Maya Bauer, is a townie who has been involved in the community and the arts for most of her life. She is an avid dancer, activist, and is passionate about our community. This (below) specific mural is a collaboration with the Independent Media Center (IMC) and is located on the south wall of the old post office building in downtown Urbana. She and the IMC are hoping to communicate some of the work being done inside of IMC and add to the exciting budding street art in the CU area. She focuses on bright colors and approachable, fun, narrative imagery. ” Working in collaboration with an organization to make a piece is an exciting challenge for any artist and I have really appreciated working in tandem with the IMC.”

Art form: Painter.

Influences: Kara Walker, Swoon, Climbing Poetry, and protest art from Black Lives Matter and the Arab Spring Movements.

Workspace: A wall located on the south wall of the old post office building in downtown Urbana.

Dream collaboration: Anyone passionate who would challenge and engage with my process.

Recommended movie: Pina.

Favorite spot in C-U: dancing at Cowboy Monkey, The Iron Post, Flying M, Douglass Community Center, our community garden spot, and lecture locations on campus as The Y and Allen.

Where to see her work: This wall at he south side of the IMC (old post office building).

Smile Politely: When and how did you decide to become an artist?

Maya Bauer: I am not sure I ever decided to be an artist, and I am still not 100% sure that I am one. Growing up I never wanted to stop drawing or caving or creating. I credit a lot of this to my family and community who always applauded my creativity (regardless of quality) and encouraged me to allow myself that exploration. I completed a thesis in oil painting at Hampshire College in Western MA as part of a liberal arts education. I also, more recently, conceptualized and built the Common Ground Food Co-op Art Gallery which was an opportunity for me to be involved in the administrative and facilitation of creating Arts infrastructure. I have always been interested in the ways that communities engage with the Arts and ways of creating, promoting, and celebrating academic and non-academic Art practices.

SP: What or who are your influences?

Bauer: I’ve always been obsessed with the human figure, so I have spent a lot of time with figurative drawings and paintings both contemporary and historical. I am influenced/inspired by activism and creative minds of all kinds. Folks who are creating poetry with their bodies through dance, or on a picket line, folks who are undaunted by convention or prescription–these days I look at artists like Kara Walker, Swoon, Climbing Poetry, and protest art from Black Lives Matter and the Arab Spring Movements, street art, and I have really loved having local artists to follow and become inspired by.

SP: Who would you like to collaborate with and why?

Bauer: I am not big into fame…so who would I collaborate with? Anyone passionate who would challenge and engage with my process. I am interested in more collaborations.

SP: Tell us about your workspace.

Bauer: For this mural my workspace has been the great public outdoors. This is a very exciting, challenging, and different kind of workspace from more normative studios, etc. It is 100% weather dependent and daylight is key (I painted at night with lights one time, but daylight is really the best). It is also a very public activity and a lot of people wander by, strike up a conversation, ask questions, offer advice…which makes the creative experience more performative. On the best days, I would put on some good music, crank it up, and have some food around in case folks wanted to drop by and stay for a while, even put them to work when I got the chance. I got started on this mural in the fall and will start again when it is warm enough and finish this spring.

SP: Choose a piece of your artwork and explain it in detail.

Bauer: This piece has been a collaboration with the IMC for almost a year. I was approached by the IMC and asked to create a proposal for the piece. I then created an input process for the Board of Directors (a very active and engaged group of community members) and created a lot of sketches.  I presented the sketches as well as a more formal timeline and proposal and, after some debate and edits and re-sketching, I was able to prep the surface and get painting. It’s an 85ft x 6ft space along the old post office building. The mural focuses on telling the story of the working groups of the IMC and bringing more life to the alley between the old post office building and Lincoln Square Mall. The IMC hopes to shift a lot of the foot traffic through this more accessible (and now more vibrant) entry point to the building.

SP: What movie would you recommend to watch and why?

Bauer: Movies are not my strongest suit. If you want your socks knocked off I really like Pina. I’m also a sucker for a “rom-com”. I like movies, just mot much of a buff.

SP: Where, when and how can we see your work?

Bauer: Well, this mural, you can see it anytime though I recommend daylight or be sure to have a flashlight. It’s on the south side of the IMC (old post office building).

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