“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” ~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Ok this is one of my favorite quotes: Let me first ease your mind, the man I am referencing was not involved in controversy. I used that quote to reference the measure of a great man! We often hold people in high esteem, however EVERYONE is considered GREAT nowadays! I have heard of so many G.O.A.T.'s (Greatest OF All Time) over the last few years, however a GREAT man to me is not based on how he is perceived by men but by his good old fashioned values. What about character, honesty, integrity, trust..... Those values reveal the true character of a man. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to a GREAT man!!!
A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet one of my heroes: master street painting Artist and 3-D chalk originator and pioneer Kurt Wenner. I have always heard that you should not 1)one idolize anyone and 2) if you held someone in high esteem you should never ever meet them in real life. This thought came from the fact that people have invested everything into trying to get to meet their heroes only to find out that those people they had put on pedestals were just not really nice people. Let me just say for the public record that Mr. Wenner was the complete antithesis to this thought. He was amazing: immensely kind and caring as well as an extraordinary teacher and leader. The true test of this was the fact that I was probably the greenest person in the room and yet still he never talked down to me or suggested I didn't belong, and there was a lot at stake. He had a lot to lose letting someone as green as me anywhere NEAR the master artists...ESPECIALLY on THIS project. As a matter of fact, he was this genuine and welcoming to EVERYONE! The event we had joined together to work on was a Guinness World Record attempt at one of the most renowned street painting festivals around the globe. The festival led by Denise Kowal another amazing servant leader is the Sarasota Street Painting Festival. This was to be their second record. The title: Largest Anamorphic Street Painting in the World. I may not even have that right because I am a 2D artist that still can't do a 3D painting. The people that were gathered together numbered about 40 total. Not just any 40 people or artists mind you. These artists were some of the best artists and master artists in chalk and other media from around the globe! While I was rising through the ranks very slowly but surely I knew when I arrived and even when I signed up before the project I knew was not in the league of these artists and I wanted to do it anyway. So what made the maestro stand out?!? Everything! Mr. Wenner stood out amongst men. Number one, he taught everyone what he knew freely and he didn't dumb it down. You had to pay attention and rise to meet him. I have to honestly say that 2/3 of everything that was taught over those weeks was something above my pay grade and that I didn't understand. He, and these amazing artists however were so giving of their knowledge, skills and techniques. They were patient and gracious and cheered literally my every wobbly mark. While I didn't leave with EVERY piece of knowledge because there was a lot that I didn't understand, I did leave with new skills and a vision of how far I could go or how innovative I could be. It was only because he and other chalk innovators plotted their own course that street artists could aspire to make actual careers and be respected in this field. However their giving spirit was the biggest lesson I received: Their lesson, 'never get the big head!' These were THE BEST Chalk artist's in the WORLD! If any group of people could have viably been snobbish, it should have been them... but no not a one! But yeah let's just talk for a moment about mastering your craft. Before you can teach, you have to be proficient, more importantly, you have to MASTER your craft....., or you're just teaching students to be mediocre. Mr. Wenner KILLED THIS, or to use a hood term 'beasted this concept! One thing that absolutely blew my mind was how fluid and comfortable the maestro was with these artists from around the globe, many of whom did not speak English at all. I watched in amazement as Mr. Wenner taught us complex math, graphing, gridding and measurements as well as perspective, chalk and basic art lessons over the course of the weeks switching between English, Italian and Spanish (fluently) I was floored! There may have been other languages, but those were the few I could pick out. He went well out of his way to make sure that everyone was included in the mix and felt welcomed. He had a great sense of humor and interacted with all of us from the tiptop master artist to people like myself who were literally just finding our way. He was a true class act! When all is said and done I really can't say whether we would ever get The actual Guinness World Record for that particular piece. However I am left with something much greater: The knowledge that there are good people in the world at a time where I was feeling like the art community was a tough and cold place to reside. He renewed my resolve and belief that people exist just to help one another, do inspiring work and push people to higher landings!