Afternoon InquisitionEvents

AI: Skepticon and The Code of The Artist

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. Don’t miss any opportunity to extend kindness to anyone be they friend, acquaintance or stranger.

    A well placed kind word or simple gesture can profoundly impact someone’s life. Say it. Do it. Every time. If I’m not seeing those opportunities then I’m not paying enough attention to those around me; I need to listen better.

    If I’m not doing something about it – then shut the fuck up and at least TRY to fix it.

    I will be a better person today than I was yesterday.

    > What people do you know who you think are helping to make the world a better place?

    Jen =) Pretty sure people already know her deal…

  2. Blame my Karate school from when I was a child, but the virtues of Bushido:


  3. > Do you have a code you live by?

    Not really. I like to take things as they come. To me codes smack too much of religion. I hear in military fiction all the time “we don’t leave our men behind”. It’s good as a guideline, but once it becomes a code you have to do it no matter how many lives you risk in the process. That’s just stupid. Even simpler codes like “don’t be a dick”. I don’t know how to accomplish this without becoming a doormat for the world. A more reasonable approach is “rarely be a dick”, but this doesn’t make for a very pithy code.

    > What people do you know who you think are helping to make the world a better place? How are they achieving this?

    I hang out a lot on Treehugger and they are the people I suppose I most look up to. They publish many good ideas for sustainable living. I admire folks who go out of their way to do the right thing even though it’s unpopular, inconvenient, and a little quixotic.

    > Have you done anything recently to make the world around you a bit better?

    Twice in the last week I’ve directly sponsored artists: Hal Hartley’s Kickstarter campaign for his new movie and Robert Llewellyn’s Unbound book. Not only is this an opportunity to directly help talented people share their work, but is also a direct answer to the question “Why aren’t there any good movies or books any more?”.

    > Are you going to Skepticon?

    I wish I could, but I can’t.

  4. When I was a kid, I decided I was going to save the world.

    This was after I realized that being a ballerina-veterinarian-astronaut-princess would never work out because I can’t dance and there’s no castles on the moon.

    Now I do what I can… or as much as I can without putting on pants and am able to squeeze in when my family isn’t pooing all over my apartment.

    So I promote vaccines by going up against companies like CBS, AMC and Delta.

    And I climb buildings… not so much in single bounds, but more like thousands of bounds in a row to get to the top.

  5. Oh, and you know, since you mentioned it… I’m shaving my head for kids’ cancer research. Because cancer is definitely interfering with a saved world.

    So anyone who wants to donate… because they think kids shouldn’t have to be all full of cancer and shit, feel free.

    Really, though, it’s hard not to do things that push you out of your comfort zone in hopes of doing great things when you are surrounded by the women here at Skepchick. Since I got here, I’ve been driven to do more. I’ve been inspired to do more. And, most importantly, these women work hard to help me succeed in everything I do.

    Sometimes I wonder what I could achieve if I put on pants and left my apartment. Then I remember I’m in Texas now… so I don’t venture out much.

  6. Do you have a code you live by? – I live by the code used in the Voynich Manuscript so I don’t understand it myself; as good as any I guess.

    What people do you know who you think are helping to make the world a better place? – Hmm. Well after the recent fealty to St. Jobs d’Malus (RIP, ominus dominus, kyrie eleison and all that happy horseshit) is it out of line to say I admire Bill Gates for not just talking the talk since stepping down at Monstersoft? Too soon?

    How are they achieving this? – As a wise man once said “The older you get, the more rules they are going to try and get you to follow. You just gotta keep on livin’, man. L-I-V-I-N.” so yeah, livin’ and givin’ away a shit-ton of money.

    Have you done anything recently to make the world around you a bit better? – Tried (unsuccessfully?) to make people laugh a little. Will try again to mixed results, maybe one day I’ll succeed just a little.

    Are you going to Skepticon? I would love to, but since I am not a subatomic particle the laws of physics say that I can not be in two places at once. That and I have nothing to wear.

    1. Oops. I have been leaving photos, and taking footprints. Sorry.

      But I do almost always share what I have (often, lots of footprints).

  7. –Do you have a code you live by?
    The closest I have to a code is “be kind”. I’m not always successful. Sometimes I’m downright vindictive. But I try. My general goal in life matches the artist’s code–I’m working on leaving the planet a bit better than it was before I arrived on the scene. Not that I have any inflated sense of my importance or abilities–I’m utterly insignificant in the grand scheme of things–but I do what I can to improve things.

    –What people do you know who you think are helping to make the world a better place?
    Um, me. I’m an educator, and I’m trying to pry open the minds of my college students. Recently I used homeopathy to illustrate the three principles of magic.
    I spend a lot of my free time volunteering for a cat trap-neuter-return operation and for a domestic violence shelter (I used to be a hospital advocate in cases of sexual assault), plus a few other places. Most of my volunteer energies (30+ hours a month) go towards the former.

    –How are they achieving this? Have you done anything recently to make the world around you a bit better?
    See above.

    Are you going to Skepticon?
    Sadly, no. See above. I’m scheduled for more than 15 hours of volunteer stuff this weekend. Gotta go get my cape from the dry cleaners.

  8. Be inclusive.

    I am a community builder. I don’t like to see people left out if they genuinely want in. I am always first to say hello, make introductions and find out about a new person.

    I suppose in some way it’s “be kind” but a little more specific.

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