There was a lot of laughter during this interview. Guild of Scenic Artists Co-Founders Lili Payne and Angelique Powers are as funny as they are dedicated to their craft and the Guild.
P.S. – After you read this, go to our You Tube channel and binge the video series of this interview. Like I said,
There was a lot of laughter during this interview …
One of the great things about being a Scenic Artist, (and maybe also one of the worst), is transience. Your job is to realize multiple worlds, help create them, then move on to create another. For many Scenics, this transience happens in the real world as well. And as you move along you take your knowledge with you; you take your questions and your answers, your stories of success and advice against failure.
The Guild of Scenic Artists is the only online association dedicated to Scenic Artists. Its the oasis for the scenic nomad, where you can talk shop, ask questions, seek answers, teach and learn.
HOW I MET THE GUILD
I first heard about “the Guild” last year from Brigitte Bechtel, the Charge Scenic at Arizona Theatre Company. I’d gone there to do a feature on her and that magnificent theatre company. Right before we left Brigitte mentioned the Guild. Never heard of it. She offered to introduce me online and I eagerly accepted.
That was 9 months ago …
Now I was finally there, meeting Guild Co-Founders Angelique Powers Lili Payne.
There, was the cramped but well-organized paint room at the Rarig Center, home of the University of Minnesota’s theatre program. An impressive building; four theatres and all shops; scenery, props, costumes, lighting and sound, under one roof.
It’s also where Guild Co-Founder Angelique Powers is an affiliate Faculty member teaching Scenic Art. We were joined by Guild Co-Founder Lili Payne. Lili is a freelance Scenic Artist and Muralist, using her scenic training for work in museums, retail, commercial venues, and public art.
PART ONE – THE GUILD – HOW IT STARTED
“So do you say BITN or B-I-T-N”, Angelique asked as we got started. Lili and Angelique were sitting side by side, against a wall of ROSCO paint cans, leaning back on the work counter.
“I say BITN, like bitten,” I replied.
“Oh, okay, so I’ve been saying it wrong,” was her answer.
“That’s okay,” I told her. “is it GOSA or is it G-O-S-A?”
Lili answered, “We switched over to “the Guild.” Angelique continued, “Yeah, it was originally GOSA and it’s just not as fancy, (laughter). Then there’s all the other reasons, like what else GOSA could mean, and so we had a meeting and took a vote.”
“The Guild has a bit more weight to it,” Lili said.
“It implies our artistry and our talent -” Angelique began.
“And your seriousness …” I offered.
“Oh yeah,” Lili said, “We are all about being serious …”
I could tell I replied, smiling.
“The entire industry,” Lili continued, “is just filled with serious people.”
“No fun whatsoever …” Angelique chimed in.
So I had read their mission statement online. But now that I had two Founders in front of me I wanted to start by asking them how it all started? What was the catalyst that led to what the Guild is today?
“We had an extensive e-mail list,” Lili told me. “A good friend who works extensively in business and trade associations kept telling me through the years that Scenic Artists should have an association. That was a conversation she and I had for years.”
“So one day,” Lili continued, “I sent an e-mail out on the list to say, “We need to think about the future of this list and what it could be and is anyone interested?”
It was at that point that that Angelique piped up, as well as additional Guild founders Tina Yager, Rachael Claxton, and Scott Gerwitz, and a board of Committee Volunteers.
“So Anyway,” Lili finally says, “We came together with this idea that this list needed a future, and what would that look like? We had a meeting and decided that we could do a lot better with a private Forum for Scenic Artists to get together and talk and have discussions. Not just an e-mail that gets sent out, but an actual forum.”
“A place where you can show and illustrate,” I chimed in. they nodded.
“Yes,” Lili said, “upload your photos, get feedback on your work …”
What was the membership, one year in?
“610,” Lili answered, “So clearly there’s been a need in the industry for some sort of connection.”
PART TWO – THE GUILD – WHAT IT IS
Today, a little over a year into it’s launch, the Guild is going strong. It’s the real deal. Polished,( if a bit underutilized in some spots), and focused, the Guild is exactly what it sets out to be; a multi-platform forum for Scenic Artists.
“So,” I asked, “When a member joins the Guild what is it they can expect? What do they tell you they get from it?”
THE FORUM …
“First, they get access to our Forum for asking questions,” Angelique responded eagerly, “It’s this instant community …”
The Forum is the heartbeat of the Guilds network. When you log in, you’ll find discussions ranging from the latest tools for the industry to troubleshooting soft goods to safety and best practices. And as a member, you have the chance to be part of the discussion by adding your knowledge, getting advice and sharing your stories.
“But it’s really about access to the community,” Angelique explains, “That you’re no longer by yourself. So few of us actually have co-workers. Most of us are, like, one Scenic in a building, and some of us are one Scenic in a 30 mile radius. You don’t have anyone to talk to about our craft and what we do.”
Angelique continued, (She did say she like to talk, but as luck would have it, she was fun to listen to). “So when you join you get that. You get a family. We can talk shop.”
Angelique went on. “Another thing we offer, and this is open to the public, is “The Scenic Route” blog.”
THE SCENIC ROUTE …
The Scenic Route Blog is a treasure trove. Smartly designed, It’s home to a series of interesting and intelligently written posts on a wide range of subjects. For a Scenic Artist, The Scenic Route is must see. I asked her where the articles come from?
“All of the articles, with only 4 exceptions, are written exclusively for the Guild,” she said.
(Yours truly being one of those 4 …)
“Every blogpost is geared towards the Scenic Artist. Either the experienced Scenic who wants to learn something new, or an educator, who needs to teach students.”
“Rockin Rollers”, one of the Blogs most popular posts, began as class at last year’s USITT Conference, that the Guild turned into a written article. It’s those things, how can jobs be done easier, that is at the heart of the Guilds mission.
Then there’s the Wiki …
THE SCENIC WIKI …
The Scenic Wiki is one of the most intriguing parts of the network. Essentially a Guild Wikipedia page with a long list of topics and sub-topics, all directed completely towards Scenic Art. It’s set up beautifully, easy to navigate and explore and stuffed with topics for the Scenic Artist.
However, Lili and Angelique acknowledge that the Wiki hasn’t taken off like they had hoped. Angelique explains, “We are finding it hard to input. So we have this dream of what we want it to be and we’re not sure we’re using the right tool to realize the dream. We’re never going to give up on the Wiki, we’re just trying to make it more useful …”
The Guild board has been researching better ways to present the information. They’re greatest desire, after all, is to be useful.
Plus, it comes down to man hours. All Guild founders and creators are volunteers, which is a pain I can identify with. I run the BITN network, while also being a salesman, and working to expand my company’s brand. Angelique oversees the blog, and she teaches, and she’s a mom, and she’s in the middle of getting a mortgage …
PART THREE – THE GUILD – WHAT IT WILL BE
We were nearing the end of the interview portion of the visit, so naturally I wanted to find out more about the future of the Guild, what were the plans for eventual world domination?
“Well,” Lili began smiling, “We are about to launch a store, where Scenic Artists can buy things like T-Shirts!” At which point she and Angelique both stood, showing me their shirts. T-Shirts, with clever insider scenic art sayings.
Lili continued, “This is something that’s never existed, swag for Scenics! That’s what’s great about the Guild, it’s entirely for Scenic Artists. It’s not Set Designers, or Lighting Designers, no, it only about people who work in environments like this, (looking around the room), in paint, and who may want to get some swag that says something about what we do …”
NOTE – The Store is open people, have a look!
Angelique picks it up, “We’re going to be having a board meeting very soon. Since the board is nationwide, we want to meet and see how we can get out of the computer and more into the real world. How do we set up events for Scenic Artists? Is it a conference? OR do we just get a bunch of us in a bar, we need to figure these things out.”
Lili Laughed …
“Yeah, I like that last one, if we could be drinking and painting?”
There’s a lot more to cover with the Guild. BITN is going to be rolling out more, but for now, we wanted to get the introductions out of the way first. If you are a Scenic Artist, I can’t urge you enough to join, and contribute.
To join The Guild click HERE
To watch the four part video series of this article click HERE
To learn more about the Theatre Program and the Rarig Center click HERE
To see more of Lili Payne’s portfolio click HERE
To see more of Angelique’s work click HERE