Meet SweetPea Cole
Meet SweetPea Cole: Artist, Community Activist, Creative Muse, and an absolute ray of golden sunshine.
You are one of the most creative people I know. Do you have a favorite art form?
I’m blushing…. For me creative is a huge compliment. It’s the recognition of something that I strive to be; it’s a quality that I value intensely, almost ferociously.
It’s difficult for me to claim a favorite art form. My own artwork has varied from collage, to film, to printmaking, to drawing. There are so many painters that inspire me, and obviously sculpture occupies a huge space in my heart and home. But if pushed, my favorite art is any in which the artist is dedicated to intense quality in the execution of their ideas.
How would you define creativity?
Creativity is something we find when we straddle the border of the familiar and the unknown, when we utilize our life’s experiences to move forward without expectations. It’s innate in all of us. We all have the capacity, but it takes confidence to tap into. To be creative, we have to believe that we have the ability to succeed at something we’ve never seen done before. We have to trust that the knowledge and skill we bring to a situation will be enough to make something new. To be creative, you have to believe that you are capable.
Who are some of your personal muses?
The world is so rich with phenomenal artists… We are so very lucky and I draw inspiration from hundreds. I am always searching and watching for artworks that stir that special place in my heart.
I’m repeatedly drawn t0 the line work of street artists SWOON and ROA and the characters of graffiti brothers Os Gemeos. Lee Krasner stands out for her dedication to life as an artist – especially in the shadow of Pollock and the male dominated art world. Patti Smith is another one of those female artists whose ferocity and dedication to an artist’s life has always inspired me.
But, truly the biggest influence in my artwork is my husband Chris. He works on art every day. He continually reminds me that good work takes patience and practice, that you have to push through the failures to find the successes. And he always-always supports and encourages me to make art, and to make it more of a priority in my life.
And then life muses! Oh my! There are sooo many. My family – who have, each in their own way, inspired me to be brave and strong. My best friend Bridget (who has been there for me daily since I was 8) inspires me to be my own person. Jimmy Carter –I mean seriously! The guy is 90 and is fighting harder for social change than most of us. Ruth Bader Ginsberg for doing the same, but in a different context. Joan Jett – cause she’s a bad ass. Aung San Suu Kyi, Cokie Roberts, Dianne Roff, Lynn Hill…. It’s so hard, because I could just list and list and list…
You do so much to promote creativity locally – what role do you see creativity playing in our community?
Creativity keeps us alive. It is innate in all of us and using it is like using our heart – we don’t have to think about to make it function, but when we give it attention it becomes stronger, healthier. Art in the community might inspire someone to create art themselves, or, more importantly, it might inspire them to look at the world a little differently – that’s how we solve problems, discover new possibilities, and find excitement in life.
What are some of the projects you’ve worked on?
When I was part of Artists Local 101 (15 years ago), I was involved with all sorts of art shows and events, most notably coordinating Art in The Machine: a vending machine that dispensed cigarette-box-sized artworks, and creating Trashformations – the yearly build- it-onsite art event at Pakit.
I helped with Art+Bikes=Love (the art and culture brainchild of Cassondra Schindler) which brought ArtCrank to Bend – something I’m still so proud and an honored to have been a part of. I mean Whoa, ArtCrank Bend?! Mixed in with London, NYC, SF, etc.
I was part of a stellar team for the MUSE art walk last March. The generosity of the 22 women artists who shared their work and our community’s support for the arts was immensely rewarding.
Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?
I’m really excited to be helping with Bend Design – a conference celebrating design citywide. The inaugural event is this October and it’s going to be amazing! The team, all volunteers, is so deep with talent and passion. It’s exciting just to be in the meetings with them.
I’m also really excited to be on the board of the newly formed High Desert Mural Festival. We’re working with local and international artists to bring large scale murals to Bend starting in 2016.
And… I’m really exciting to be installing my own work later this summer at the Ale Apothecary in the Century Center. It’s a mural/installation of a determined girly character, painted onto wooden panels with cutouts that allow light to shine through colored films. The entire process has been fantastic. Starting with Paul Arney (who commissioned the piece) and friends who helped with hours of cutting and sanding, I have felt supported in my creativity. The work was more involved than I am used to. It pushed my patience and my skills. And took me to a new place. I really want to more work like this on the future.
Enthusiastic! Strong. Kind.
How has art changed your life?
I don’t know that it’s changed my life, as much as it has shaped it. Art has always been in my life so there is no demarcation of my life before or after. While it is familiar, I understand that its presence is special.
I grew up in a home with books and music and art on the walls. I have always known that I could make things- that my hands and my brain should work together. My mom made everything from our baby food and our clothes to our sleeping bags and Christmas tree ornaments. I had art classes via public school from 1st grade through high school. And I started with a double major in Art and English in college. (English won out in the end because it just so much more practical – jobs galore, big wages, you know…)
Falling in love with an artist when I was 17 had it’s affect on me as well. Or maybe it was the art that made me fall in love? I know this to be true: Art keeps my eyes open to beauty and possibility.
What has been one of your greatest life lessons?
Learning to trust and follow my own path has been the most gut wrenching and most satisfying lesson in my life. That whole “path less-traveled” thing… It’s not easy. Being different has always been bittersweet for me, I crave camaraderie and at the same time have always felt compelled to do things differently. Being considered creative is wonderful; being told you are weird is not.
How would you like to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as someone with a huge appetite for life and dinner table with lots of chairs (filled with friends and family).
What do you know to be true?
…that I must I strive to be the best person I can be – Every day should be a push to be more creative, to be more giving, to be more kind and fun. And when I say more, I mean more that I was the day before – in a cumulative sense.