art: defined or infinite?

The Dudas Inspiration Venue for the Arts(DIVA) was founded to bring together artists and the community for Arts’ sake. How and what you define as Art is most assuredly viewed in a different light by someone else. One of the goals of DIVA is to erase those lines we have, by design or by accident, drawn between us as to our definitions and recognition of Art. In doing away with these lines we hope to erase the boundaries that society continues to draw around us all each and every day. To blend one group with the neighboring group. To find similarities in our Art and each other. To help us all find the Art our lives have been creating since birth and to share it with each other and the world.

art: -the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. -the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects -the making or doing of something whose purpose is to bring pleasure to people through their enjoyment of what is beautiful and interesting, or things often made for this purpose, such as paintings, drawings, or sculptures

DIVA doesn’t exist to define Art, much less confine it. DIVA exists for quite the opposite. DIVA seeks to provide a space where everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s Art observed. Free from constraint. To challenge Art, the artist, and the observer. To create new Art and new Art forms.

The last statement is certainly reminiscent of…what? Star Trek. So to extrapolate one step further…

Art. These are the voyages of DIVA. Its mission: to explore new Art and to seek out new artists and new Art forms. To boldly go where no artist has gone before.

That is what DIVA is all about. Discovery. Equality. That is exactly for what Star Trek stood and stands. No matter one’s color, gender, physical capability, or even species was seen as a barrier in Gene Roddenberry’s trek through the stars.

Everyone has a voice. Everyone has a vision. Everyone has value. Help us to find, recognize, and promote these virtues.

Andy Dudas 7/12/2017

Gravity Reversed
Artist: Raf Rivera


Art Appreciation

I’m just going to say it: I didn’t like The Lion King movie. Go ahead and judge me. You’re not the first and certainly not the last. I’m not a big fan of Elton John’s music and I think Hamlet was better in its original format (thanks to Mr. Shakespeare). And guess what! I didn’t like the stage musical of it either!

Here’s my point: I don’t have to like art to appreciate it.

I can see the popular appeal of the movie and stage musical. My kids love the movie and I’ve spent hours watching it with them (technically, they don’t even know that I don’t like the movie). If my local community theater were ever to get the rights to produce the show, I’d likely audition because people I love, love this show. In fact, I once auditioned for national tour of the production (my life would have taken a very different course!).

  • I think it’s a lovely, visually appealing film. The quality of the art direction is top notch.
  • I think many, if not all, of the performances, both musically and acting, are well delivered.
  • I think every component from the visionary team to the production team to the marketing team were likely the best in their field.

I just didn’t like the movie.

  • But I can still appreciate it.
  • I can still see the value in it.
  • I can still see the quality in it.
  • You can still disagree with me about it and I’ll respect you and your opinion.

I believe that a greater gift of art is not just things we like, but what we learn about ourselves along the journey of art appreciation. And that’s something even Facebook could give a big blue thumb up.

Jared Adamson 9/18/2007


Random Inspiration in a Bookstore

The Fifth Third Bank Theater at Aranoff Center in Cincinnati is a small, open concept venue which recently(July 21,2017) staged Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek. Andy and I were so moved by this production and found it an illustration of our vision for DIVA.

Mazzoli was inspired after she found a publication of Isabelle Eberhardt’s recovered journal pages in a bookstore. Eberhardt fled to Algeria after the death of her family. Disguised as a man, she converted to Islam and joined a Sufi order, exploring the desert. After surviving a suicide pact with her lover and an assassination attempt by a religious fanatic, Eberhardt died in a flash flood at the age of 27.

Using a simple set of a single tree in a black box theater and creating complex effects only with hanging scrims and lighting, director Marco Pelle gave us a mesmerizing production that moved us to tears. Conductor Keitaro Harada led concert:nova through the score for only five instruments (flute, clarinet, piano, bass, and electric guitar). The cast, made up of six vocalists (including mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer in the title role) and three members of the Cincinnati ballet, kept us on the edge of our seats as they told Eberhardt’s story in this phenomenal multimedia work.

The Wall Street Journal called it “powerful.” The New York Times referred to it as a “captivating multimedia spectacle.” The Cincinnati Enquirer perfectly labeled it as “intoxicating.” We barely moved throughout the entire 1 hour, 20 minute performance.

It is important to us to support venues like this that promote progressive works by artists who may not have otherwise had an opportunity to give voice to their inspiration. This production represents the first time in its 97-year history that the Cincinnati Opera has produced a work by a female composer. We hope, on a perhaps smaller scale (at first), to provide similar opportunities for any artist who may not otherwise have a forum to give his or her art a voice. We may need some time to get it moving, but stay tuned to see how you can be a part of this exciting new venture.


Amy Noe Dudas

This image of the stage is a perfect view of how this show was produced.  Minimal and powerful.


One shot – eight ways

We see things in life in many different ways.  As they could be, as they were, but seldom as they are.  Yearning for more than we have or wishing things could go back to how they used to be.

We see ourselves in ways that we aspire and at times despise.  Reaching down within yourself and finding the determination to overcome and finding new ways to grow.  Falling down and wallowing in the self-pity of our failures that can be all too comfortable.

As we grow and find our own point of view, we begin to think we know who we are, or at least who we want to be.  Things that mattered most, suddenly have become those which now matter least.  Our tastes and preferences change as adulthood focuses our view of our world and those within.

Realization and acknowledgement of personal limitations as an adult is a painful, sometimes crippling lesson.  If we are lucky, the one thing we can learn of this world and ourselves and our place within it, is humility.  Few things are more humbling than a public display of our own bumbling ineptitude.

Finding our path is difficult.  There are many routes to distract and lead us astray from what we thought was our goal.  Each day presents us with a new window from which to view the world.  Life can frustrate us as we backtrack to our original path after a trip down a lane of failure.

Waxing philosophic about the eternal question of Why? is an endeavor solved by minds greater than mine.  Instead of traveling further down a road to which we all find our own answers, I submit the following images.  Or rather, image(singular) as they are all the same photograph.  Different interpretations of the same image.  The same view seen through different eyes.  Some will appeal to none.  Some may appeal to all.

_DSC5487_DSC5487 - Version 3_DSC5487 - Version 6_DSC5487 - Version 4_DSC5487 - Version 5_DSC5487 - Version 7_DSC5487 - Version 8


What do you see?

Charleston, South Carolina 6:37am April 26, 2017

One shot – eight ways

Andy Dudas 9/14/2017



An American Tourist in Paris



Andy Dudas 9/13/2017


bridge – noun and verb

connect things:
There are times
we are faced with
things we cannot reach.
Heights out of our
grasps. Life can be
difficult when you are
Finding ways to connect
with your neighbor
will create bonds
to last beyond your
lifetime. Perpetuating
not just our dreams
but forging a connection
for generations to come.
Giving our ancestors their due
and promising our descendants
a future of which they can be proud.
Making stronger the link
from what was separate
to what is now seen as one.
We search for many things
in life.
We find many sorrows.
We hold dear our joys.
Take your losses
and your successes
and grow them to wisdom.
Make connections…
…strive for harmony
reach for unity…
…grow together
along the path…
to this thing called life.



Located just outside Fayetteville, West Virginia, the New River Gorge Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. Completed in 1977, it is over 3,000 feet in length and nearly 900 feet tall. Offering breathtaking views of the Appalachian Mountains, this feat is stunning from any angle.


The Tunney Hunsaker Bridge is located at the base of the New River Gorge, in the shadows of the New River Gorge Bridge. This near replica of the originally named Fayette Station Bridge was first built in 1889, and refurbished in 1997. Named for the youngest person to ever take the oath of office of Chief of Police in West Virginia, Hunsaker also has another unique bit of history attached to him…he was Cassius Clay’s first professional opponent in the boxing ring.




_DSC5102Spanning the Cooper River In Charleston, South Carolina, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge  was completed in 2005. Ravenel was a long serving government official who was instrumental in the passage of laws to create the funding necessary to complete the project. Almost 600 feet in height, a clearance of 185 feet, and a length of over 13,000 feet this bridge is a giant of human engineering.

_DSC5615.JPGFrench Lick, Indiana. The Underwood Ford Bridge is quite at home in its backwood surroundings in rural southern Indiana. Built in 1904 and refurbished in 1995, this little bridge doesn’t have an official name. Gorge Street Bridge, French Lick Creek CR 100S Bridge, County Bridge #49, Old SR 145 Bridge or even the Old Iron Bridge. “A bridge by any other name…”

Go out in the world today and make a connection.

Go out and build a bridge.


Andy Dudas 8/17/2017




Professional Art

I’ve always understood the distinction between “professional” and “amateur” art to be dollar signs. If you are paid for your creation/performance, then you are a professional. Which is why when I was about 6 years old and my grandmother gave me a dollar so I could send coloring pages to fill her refrigerator, I knew I was a professional artist.

dollar bill back.JPG

So with that clarification, the labels of “professional” and “amateur” tend to imply a standard of quality. We anticipate a better creation/performance because a “professional” did it. Professional sports, professional grade, professional services and professional development all sound impressive. Amateur night seems like your mom will be in the audience simply because she loves you. But does monetary value alone speak to artistic value?

In the world of the arts, the environments and expectations are more likely indicators of professional and amateur. In a professional arts environment, regardless of pay grade, everyone is treated as a professional and expected to act, respond and perform at that level. In amateur realms, unprofessionalism runs rampant. Sure, there are folks who blur the lines here—divas with tantrums, but also unpaid interns who go above & beyond.

I’ve noticed recently many professional artists doing crossovers. Singers cast as actors, actors painting, and celebrity chefs starting talk shows. One wonders if this new medium should maintain their distinction as “professional” since they are not to the same standard of achievement in the new field. Maybe that’s irrelevant. Celebrity names certainly create recognition and endorsement.

Where does that leave me? I’m the guy that works professionally in some arts, but dabbles amateurishly in others. What environment should I work in? How should my work be labeled? What company should I keep, the upper crust or the white bread?

Here are my thoughts on it. Maybe you can see yourself here as well.

  • To those I work with: regardless of whether we are paid or not, if you treat me like a professional, I will rise to the occasion. I will give you my best and I will allow our collaboration to stretch me into new expressions I never knew were possible for me.
  • Contrarily, if you treat me like an amateur my attitude will reflect that. Mediocrity will be the banner I raise…except that I probably won’t put enough effort into finding or making a banner, and I’m pretty sure I won’t get off the couch to find a banner pole.
  • If you can generate income from your art, go for it! Working artists are not rare, though neither are they necessarily renowned (and likely not full-time employed in their art). Do it anyway. Create and perform; sing and dance and sculpt and paint and write and more. Concentrate your passion, focus your creativity and live artistically.
  • And if you can’t generate income from your art, do it anyway. Scrimp and save and live beneath your means so that you are able to secure supplies or training or performance opportunities. Live and breathe your art. Let the beauty define who you are. To paraphrase a story I once heard, “I’m a full time artist, daily crafting beauty and stories for all to see, hear and experience…carefully disguised as the everyday checkout lady at the grocery store.”
  • If you are ever termed a professional, don’t let it go to your head. It may be a benchmark or bucket-list, but it does not make you superior. Humility goes a long way. And likewise, don’t stop striving for better. Climb higher. George Lucas and Steven Sondheim have both indicated that no idea is every fully realized. Make more and better art.
  • And if you never reach professional recognition, that’s ok. Be yourself. Don’t let a lack of income from art detract from your art. Maybe you’ll be recognized posthumously, or maybe you’ll never be recognized at all. Do it anyway. Let your soul speak and make art. Even if for only an audience of one (YOURSELF), enjoy the process and the product. It is worth much more than the dollar signs attached to it.

Jared Adamson 9/13/2017

five dollar bill

natural collection

These are a few of images I have collected over the last couple of years.  The more about photography I learn the more I learn I love it.

Andy Dudas 9/12/2017



Let’s call out the elephant in the room: we all get offended. And boy, oh boy, the time we could spend on that topic! From politics and personalities to images, implications and interpretations, some things just don’t sit well with our inner being. Sometimes the offense is mild—an eye roll, a gasp, an utterance of “oh brother”. Other times, the offense is major—a boycott, an outcry, a need for consolation.

When it comes to the arts, does “offensive” mean “bad”?

  • Does the level of offense balance (or counterbalance) the level of quality?
  • Does offense mandate a call to action?
  • Does “distasteful” mean “inappropriate”?
  • What is the purpose of art? To direct? To inspire? To offend? To avoid offense?
  • To misquote Star Trek, does the offense of the one outweigh the offense of the many?

In so many occasions of my life, I have been offended. There are things that offend my political views (not just two-party system disagreements, but truly offensive). There are things that offend my faith (I am fairly conservative Christian). There are things that offend the racial profile of my family (we are a multi-racial family). Many of these offenses come in artistic/creative mediums. But when it comes to the freedom to express, where do we draw the line?

And especially in the United States where we tout our freedom so highly, we must ask the question “when does your freedom (in art) infringe upon my freedom?” What about statues of former Confederate soldiers? What about Stars & Crescents, Crosses, Flags, Rainbows, Swastikas? My point in writing is not to answer these questions (for they are for better minds than mine), but rather to present some perspective as we face the possibility of encountering art that is offensive.

First, consider that “offensive” may be the artist’s goal. Though it seems more likely they are trying to present a perspective that is different than yours, which you may find offensive. Secondly, consider that you may misunderstand or misinterpret the artist’s objective. Just because you don’t understand doesn’t imply any malicious intent. Thirdly, to truly encounter art (in any of it’s various formats/mediums) is to be engaged at some level. Maybe it’s pleasure; maybe it’s poison. But art elicits a response. And that may not be what you expected.

So now you have choices:

  • To respond or ignore?
  • To speak up or let it pass?
  • To call for removal or to remove yourself from the venue?

But whatever your choices, I implore you to seek understanding. Ask questions. Dialogue. Engage. Dig deeper. Seek causation. Establish relationship with artist/performer and audience/observer.

Art imitates life, or so we’ve been told. If that’s the case, then some art will bring smiles. Other expressions will bring about turmoil, even to the point of offending. And through the lens of that phrase, art that offends is just a part of life. And it’s OK to be offended. Will you be offensive in your response to art?

Jared Adamson 9/11/2017


Genius of America – oil on canvas, 1858 – on display at the St. Louis Museum of Art

Adolphe Yvon(1817-1893)

—A symbolic procession celebrating the glory of the United States.  In the center, the lady Republic, in white, and the Roman goddess Minerva, robed in white and green, stand on a chariot drawn by lions.  In front of the chariot are women who represent several states including New York, Illinois, and Virginia.  To the left are European immigrants arriving in America while, to the right, an uplifted African American suggests the artist’s hopes for the abolition of slavery.  Native Americans, in the right background, observe the procession.  

Yvon was a noted official painter who taught in the French Academy for approximately twenty years.  This work represents a superior example of the traditional, highly detailed academic style.  His depiction of this scene reflects the sensibilities of his time.  Yvon’s idealized images contrast with the reality which faced African American and Native Americans in 19th century America.  —St. Louis Art Museum

DIVA has chosen to post this image to accompany this blogpost in an attempt to challenge us all to find the good, the bad, and the ugly in what was, is, and may become of the United States and of the world beyond.


= a thousand words

There are hideous things in this world.  Things we wish we’d never seen.  Things burned into our consciousness for the rest of our years as though we had just witnessed them seconds ago.  We agonize over our inability to just forget these things.

As a child these things, much like the rest of the world, are beyond realistic comprehension in both scale and reality.  The scariest things happen to us when we are too young to truly understand what we have just witnessed.  As adults we have some degree of context in which to place the scariest moments of our lives.  A moment as a child measuring a ten out of ten could very plausibly only be a two or a three to a wizened adult.  Or at least we hope.

One of my earliest memories is of being lost.  I was four years old, shopping with my mother in a department store.  While she was looking at some clothing on a circular rack, I turned my attention to my left.  When whatever shiny object had captured my attention had outlived its usefulness I turned back to my mother: who was gone.  In the tiniest of moments, everything that was my life unraveled.  In one instant I’m a happy lower middle income, middle child, in middle America.  The next I felt as though I had nothing and death was imminent.  To make no mention of all the monsters and strangers who were going to either drag me away or eat me.  Neither of which sounded appealing.

Panic.  There is nothing more scary than true, genuine panic.  I did what any little kid would do in this situation:  I ran.  To my left, in the opposite direction of where I had last seen my mother.  Running a path around the clothes rack, step after step, as quick I could move my feet.  I felt as though I was running for my life.  Each step bringing me closer to death and further from the life I had known if not taking my life itself.  Panic, real true panic is a thing which, as an adult I never want to experience, though it has happened a few times.

The panic turned into something worse.  We could bat words like terror and horror around all day to see which is a more befitting description of what my racing little heart was experiencing.  The most accurate term may be, loneliness.  For a little kid from a family of eight that lived in a two bedroom house, being alone was something I didn’t know.

All the things I would learn from my parents.  All the things my siblings would teach me and share with me.  Being the first kid in the family to not win at least one spelling bee, although I did come in second once.  My neighbor who taught me how to ride a bike.  The bully in the eighth grade who gave me a black eye.  Learning that Stephen C. Varnell would be the most influential teacher in my life.  Realizing almost too late when choosing friends to make sure you don’t have to question why you did so in the first place from the back seat of a police car with handcuffs on(no charges BTW).

My entire childhood up to this point had only consisted of coloring books and barely learning how to use the toilet.  And in the efforts of full disclosure here, I would be remiss to not mention the ‘incident’ in Haag’s Drugstore.  A conversation that started with me telling my mother I had to use the bathroom and ended with me standing in a large puddle.  Not my proudest moment, but to be fair, I did tell her I had to go.  In the end, I think I will chalk that up as the first ‘win’ in disagreements with my mother.

None of those things can happen to a kid who is about to die in the middle of King’s Department store or at the very least be teleported to another dimension akin to the creepy Donkey Island in Pinocchio.  As it turned out, my mother had only moved a few feet to her right.  The clothes rack being round, just a step or two was all it took for her to disappear from my line of sight.  As a child, I didn’t know anything about line of sight, all I knew was my mom was gone and I was lost.

I nearly slammed into her as I was running around to find her.  I didn’t throw my arms around her in rejoicing adoration.  I didn’t try to blame her for what had happened to me.  I somehow managed to not cry over the whole thing.  I felt more embarrassed than anything because once I realized what actually happened, I felt rather foolish.  But as a kid, I made the whole thing so much worse than it was.  I panicked.

As an adult, we take these hideous things, these horrible accidents and reason them into a place in our brains where we can find some sense or peace about them.  Sometimes terrible things happen and you can’t prevent them.  As an adult we call that an accident.  A child just knows panic.

The moments of my childhood when I was the most scared:

  • being lost
  • watching Alien(just that once and I have never seen it again)
  • thinking my Mom might die in childbirth with my youngest brother(no reason to think that-just a kid being scared)
  • the movie Jaws(though now one of my favorites)

Hanging from the precipice I experienced on the knife’s edge of panic or control in those moments gave me something I wouldn’t have expected: an appreciation for fear.  Knowing chaos, knowing terror, knowing panic, now as an adult I find(strange though it may sound) something oddly beautiful those moments.  It has taught me beauty is not always a fully bloomed rose or a sunset, beauty can be anywhere and anything.


Andy Dudas 9/8/2017

This was written purely from the hip.  I chose a picture from my files and wanted to see where my mind led me.  The only direction I had for myself was to make it exactly one thousand words.  One of DIVA’s goals is to broaden the definition of Art and today this was mine.