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Skepticon and The Code of The Artist

Originally posted on Skepchick as an Afternoon Inquisition or AI.

I’m spending this week frantically painting Surly-Ramics so that I will be ready to set up a table at Skepticon in Missouri this coming weekend. If you are anywhere near the midwest region of the ol’ US of A you should head on over. It is going to be a fantastic and very affordable event chock-full of of great speakers, including our very own Rebecca Watson.

There will be other note worthy speakers there too, such as Jen McCreight, Julia Galef, Greta Christina and PZ Myers.

And when I said the event is affordable, it’s because it is FREE! Doesn’t get much more affordable than that. All they ask for is your donations. Pretty sweet deal.

I really admire people who take outreach and activism seriously without asking for anything in return. I particularly admire people who give something back to the communities they are part of. People who make the their tiny little part of the world a little bit nicer than how they found it. I call this way of life the “code of the artist”.

When I was younger my friends and I would put on grassroots art shows in random locations throughout the city of Los Angeles. We would find an empty building or an empty apartment and convince the owner to rent it out to us for a night or two and then we would put on an art show. We would then take donations at the door and when the event was finished we would use that money to pay the rent on the space and we would use some of what we had left over to make sure that we left the building, or the space we borrowed a little bit nicer than how we found it.

Maybe we would paint the walls in a fresh coat of white paint or patch a hole or fix a leaky sink or plant some flowers near by. The goal was simply to leave the environment somehow nicer than when you found it because that is what artists do. Artists take what they are given and rearrange it to make it more beautiful or more interesting in some small way.

We never did it for a thank you or a pat on the back. We simply moved on after an event was over, often without ever looking back. And the next space we entered, we did the same with paintbrush and broom in hand.

This was the code of the artist and it was our way of life. My husband and I still follow this rule today. I don’t put on public art shows anymore but I still try to live by this code in small but very real ways. I do this by giving my time and art to charity whenever I can. I do it by donating my time to this blog and our events (that none of us are paid for) and I leave behind, to the best of my ability an environment that is better than how I found it. This code is often what inspires me to speak out and write and make art that promotes science and critical thinking. I hope to make the world around me a tiny bit wiser and hopefully a tad bit more beautiful than how I found it.

Imagine what the world would be like if even half of us had a goal of leaving things better than how we found them. Imagine if half of us donated our time to a few good deeds a week.

Do you have a code you live by? What people do you know who you think are helping to make the world a better place? How are they achieving this? Have you done anything recently to make the world around you a bit better? Are you going to Skepticon?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. The code you described is also the Scout’s code.
    “Always leave a place better than you found it.”
    That’s how we’re supposed to camp.

  2. I am somewhat stingy with my free time, for the most part, because I feel it is in short supply, as I travel often for work, and work a lot. However, I try to give back to the skeptical community in other ways, when and if possible.

    Plus, I adore the Skepchicks, and ruthlessly cyber-stalk each and every one of them (but mostly you, Amy, promise). That`s gotta count for something.

  3. Jacob V – Some people are more important than some things, I agree.

    For example, Ray Comfort is not more impportant than a great, or even good, bottle of wine.

  4. I wish I were going to Skepticon. I lived in Springfield from ages 5-10 and remember it fondly. My family was part of the academic crowd, and nonreligious, so it’s funny to think back on how bible-belty it really was and how oblivious I was to that. I’d love to visit again and hang out with skeptical minded folks.

    My current code is a selfish one, I’m afraid. It’s along the lines of ‘If you are going to fail, then fail honestly.’

  5. Honestly I feel like the last few years have sort of stripped me clean. In some respect that’s a good thing, but I know I used to have a code I lived by and it was great. I need a new one, this sounds good to me.

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