2016 Recipient Douglas Kleinsmith
I've always harbored a fear that choosing to dedicate my life to art was a waste. Political,
environmental and ethical crises continue to devastate the world, a world that I love and am obligated to help heal. However, a single passing remark changed this. “You artists will save us all.” A fellow student browsing through my art at the annual campus print sale, she told me that my role was to show the world of its beauty. To take that intense euphoria and inspiration I feel, and pass that onto others. Without art in its many forms, what world would we be so desperately trying to save? “The things you create, make me want to help keep this world alive.”
Douglas Keliiheleua Kleinsmith, I hope one day, will be a familiar name. For now, I am 24, currently an Art Studio Major at UC Davis. I’ve always had a desire to create positive change, and it was not until recently that I was able to integrate that with my passion for art. Born with a supportive family, an extremely likeable personality, and an almost healthy body, my curse ended up being my greatest gift. I was born with a rare penile disorder called epispadias. Born without normal sexual function, I cursed fate for not sparing me of my sexuality too. My desperate need for acceptance and the crippling confusion this disorder brought me, lead me to where I am today. Art became my outlet and my desire for acceptance fueled me to help others accept and grow themselves.
After many years of personal exploration with art, I became involved with several non-profit organizations such as Kids First and Hip-Hop Congress. I teach Art to children, using methods reminiscent of Art Therapy. For example with Hip-Hop Congress, I am an active advocate of promoting graffiti as an art form, and often teach children about its aesthetics, techniques and origins. An example is the mural Moonraker included in my application, one that I often break down in my lessons to help instruct on the process. I also am an active and reputable artist in the blooming Transformational Festival community, traveling the West Coast showing my work, doing live painting performances, and teaching workshops. The methods I share most are the ones that I now understand serve the greatest purpose. Explore anything enough, and you are lead on a journey of self-discovery, which can be an incredibly therapeutic experience. Currently, my personal work explores this idea, catalyzed by something I stumbled upon on accident. It all started with a mark I find fascinating: the scribble. An elusive and underappreciated action, scribbling is an almost paradoxical act. A scribble is meant to mean nothing, a consciously unconscious mark. No two people would scribble the same, which makes this process completely unique for every individual. Integrating both tools and references to technology, cryptic symbols and allusions to my human experience, the scribbles provide a keystone on which I build upon eventually translating their raw creative potential into a space the viewer can understand. The best example of this is the painting OutInsideOut included with my application. Void of all representational imagery, the scribbles develop into forms and visual space, a raw creative journey focused more on the process, than a planned result. Reminiscent of Abstract Expressionism and Surrealist games, I use my creative process as a tool of self-discovery and healing, and hope to help others do the same.
The Urban Arts Scholarship would help me to continue teaching, and painting. Despite my growing success, living in an overpriced college town while attending a UC without the financial support of my parents is incredibly challenging. My art has brought my so much clarity and excitement, which is something that I desperately wish to continue to share with others!