That Brian Cook left Connecticut is not unusual. The media has been fixated on how many people in his generation are moving out of state. Where Cook is unique is that he continues to actively contribute to the arts and culture of Hartford, which is more than some artists do while living just a few blocks over the city line.
If you have been to any venue with a pulse in the last few years, you’ve seen his work.
What also sets him apart is that he rejects the idea of himself as a professional artist, and says he has no ” plans to be one.” The result of this perpetual hobbyist mentality seems to be pure, unpretentious art. There’s no ego getting tied up in the work. There’s no distraction triggered by the schmoozing that frequently takes the place of actual creation. Cook could teach the professionals a thing or to about being earnest and getting a real kick out of one’s work.
As for his artistic background, Cook describes it as an organic process: ” I had an artistic mother and grandmother, and have always enjoyed doodling, writing poetry and sculpting in the sand. […] About two years ago, having learned to use Photoshop as part of my job with a web startup, I began making flyers for some friends in Sea Tea Improv, Hartford’s beloved comedy troupe. I enjoyed doing it and got some positive feedback, so I tried to get better. I love Hartford, and want to use design for positive social impact. My first foray in this direction was an imaginary metro map for Hartford, with proceeds going toward Connectikids. I see the Hartford Museum [Passport] as a next step in this direction.” During this past snowy winter, when so many schools and businesses were having to shut down for several days due to the stormy weather, La Paloma Sabanera — a small, independent coffee shop — was under particular strain. Many of the shop’s customers are state employees, so even on days when La Paloma Sabanera was open, business would lag if the state closed or dismissed early. The proceeds of a poster Cook created especially for this “third place” would go to the store’s “snowy day fund” to help keep the business afloat.
Now — besides creating posters for events and beloved local coffee shops — Cook is trying to get funding for a project designed to encourage museum attendance by Hartford youth. The Hartford Museum Passports are themselves part art, part bribery. With each museum visit, the passports would be stamped, validating the experience and incentivizing future ones.
The inspiration for this project is twofold. The museum passport itself comes directly from the way that an actual passport serves as a type of diary. Cook says, “I’ve had the opportunity to travel a lot, in Asia, Europe and the Caribbean, and always loved the appearance, language and symbolism of passports, and varying aesthetics of stamps from country to country. I actually look at my old passports fairly frequently, remembering visits by the stamps.”
Though he does not say it, a passport signals permission. It says, this is who I am and I can go anywhere. It provides tangible proof that a person can go places beyond his or her imagination. (more…)