Project: Art Expert – Everyone is an expert when it comes to Art ©
This project follows artist Ashley Bennett-Stoddard as she tours across America’s small and high-end artists’ communities. While touring her own work, Ashley will be stopping along the way to visit up and coming artists, small town co-ops, galleries that feature only the masters, galleries that feature installments, street art, sand carvings in beach walls, and cornfields. While traveling, Ashley will be asking the questions; how and why does art talk to each person? and What makes art, art?
There is energy between the artist and the viewer; art has its own language that speaks to people on a level so deep that not even the viewer can explain why they feel the way they do. What is hoped for is that these impromptu interviews may spark a dialogue that will encourage the average person to become less intimidated by the art that surrounds them. Furthermore, there is an additional dynamic in the art world that consists of the gallery, the art, and the sales people; the energy of which can kill or magnify the energy of the artwork. To demonstrate this, Ashley and company will be visiting towns where she will show her work, and while prepping for the show, Ashley will travel to random and willing galleries to invite individuals off the street into a gallery to candidly give their opinion of the work on display. On top of this, Ashley will talk with the gallery owner or director regarding the sales and marketing side of the art world, and, if possible, talk with the artists showing their work to complete the circle of creation. Ultimately, the beauty is in creating and the love of the creative.
Often, the word art is used in lofty terms and people feel uncomfortable broaching the subject, claiming that they don’t know anything about art or that they are not artists. However, everyone feels something about the art that they see. This project is about the education of art in a very unintimidating way, to bring exposure of great art across the states in a very spontaneous and giving way. This filming project is meant to be organic, unscripted, and spontaneous. The dialog with participants is honest and real, and the message given is that there is no bad art. Each person’s feelings toward art is right, and a fun dialogue about the art world will be had. Gallery gems that may have been overlooked before will be given the opportunity to be seen: a voice other than the cliché of the tortured artist and the arrogant art dealer will be heard even though a few of the cliché will probably be ran into along the way!
In order to understand the project it’s important to understand the artist behind it. Ashley Bennett Stoddard does not have a piece of paper to prove that she is an expert in art, what she has is experience. Ashley grew up in the art world and will never leave it. She is the daughter of the world famous sculptor, Bob Bennett, and the niece of his twin brother who is also world renowned. Ashley was raised surrounded by her father’s artwork. He had a bronze foundry in their basement in Tahoe City during the 70’s, providing work to Sunnyside in Tahoe City, CA, the Hiatt Regency in San Francisco and a gallery outside of Carmel. During her youth her father’s small business grew into 12 galleries across the country – the family would travel to check on each gallery. Each gallery sold only Bennett Sculptures. Bob Bennett also took his daughter to private collector shows and art festivals across the U.S. that showed his art. The journeys installed in Ashley a sense of adventure along with an idea that artists can step out of their comfort zone and increase their creative force. Bob Bennett also raised Ashley with a strong work ethic, she worked in the foundry starting at a young age and was taught all aspects of the business. Ashley’s father was magic to her. He taught her to draw every day, to observe and take in her environment and that there is beauty and inspiration everywhere.
When Ashley was old enough to go out into the world on her own, she went to San Francisco to attend the Academy of Art. She found that a formal education was surrounded by arrogance, and ego. Art was supposed to be a challenge, enriching and enjoyed. Ashley had already learned so much, that she found the drama and tortured artist idea to be a waste of her time and energy. At this point Ashley left school and headed to Carmel to run the family gallery. She was then surrounded by her contemporaries and learning the art of sales. Her evenings were spent in the courtyard painting with artists from neighboring galleries and her mornings were spent at the beach being inspired by her surroundings. The community was quiet, rich with color, great people and great food. This was the perfect place to nurture the creative.
At the age of twenty-three Ashley opened her own gallery in Placerville, CA. She renovated the upstairs of an old theatre into twenty-three working studios and a gallery. Ashley started the 3rd Saturday Art Walk and hosted a new show every month, with a new theme. The artists taught classes and consisted of every type of medium. Although Ashley gave the gallery to the artists and moved on, she is happy to be able to say that the gallery is still running and going strong!
After Ashley’s father passed away she once again became a part of the family gallery. She has organized shows and run the gallery in the past, but at this time helps from a distance as she lives in Utah. Since her move to Utah, Ashley has taught herself to design and create jewelry and continues to sculpt and paint. Her creations have been produced for different charities and she has had showings in Park City, UT, Eden, UT, Ogden, UT and Salt Lake City, UT. Last summer, however, Ashley packed up a trailer and hit the road with her family. She created her own tour by having 10 shows in 11 weeks and the proceeds of the shows were donated to chosen charities. Ashley is hoping to put this documentary together with the tour that she has planned for this summer, so that she is able to share what she loves so much about Art, Artists, and this beautiful country that we live in.
Ashley plans on bringing a traveling companion with her- what’s a road trip without a friend? Her companion for this trip is Mickell Smith. Mickell was not raised in the rich art world that Ashley was, but still found art surrounded her. Her grandfather, Neil Mellor, is a painter and wood carver. His artwork is his hobby and he has won many awards for his work. Mickell was also inundated with the performing arts – an aunt, Julie Maughan, was a professional ice skater that traveled the world, then a costume designer and now a fashion designer. Mickell spent many nights drawing her own fashion designs with her aunt and learning how the pieces were put together.
The moments she spent behind the stage and under the bright lights with her aunt were the ones that stuck with her the most. Mickell spent most of her childhood on the stage (albeit a small one), either dancing or acting. She was accepted in the SF Academy of Art for Film and AMDA in NY for acting. However, life had different plans for her. Mickell ended up traveling and living in multiple National Parks. She then moved to the same town of Eden, that Ashley now lives in. Mickell became an Event Director for a Ski Resort - organizing small and large events, hiring bands and eventually working with the film industry. She then left the ski resort to work primarily on a large motion picture, write her own movie script and is still working in the film industry as a location representative. Mickell’s creativity comes out in multiple mediums and finds that she is drawn to the artist circle; friends with painters, wood carvers, dancers, photographers and musicians. Mickell brings her camera and location savvy, her ability to organize and coordinate a multiple state tour and general good sense of humor to the project. Mickell is excited to help her amazingly talented friend on this endeavor.