Hello? It’s Andy Sturdevant!

Editor’s note: As the national platform for Springboard for the Arts, Creative Exchange has long been a platform to highlight the artists, resources, and efforts in our national network. In this pandemic, as Springboard for the Arts’ work is increasingly online and accessible nationally, we’ll be turning the spotlight on Springboard staff and our Artist Career Consultants, to share more about who we are, and the work we do. Enjoy!

Andy Sturdevant is an artist and writer, and the founder of Birchwood Palace Industries, a publisher of artists’ books and zines. Andy has written about art, design, and culture, and is the author of several books, including Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow and Closing Time: Saloons, Taverns, Dives, and Watering Holes of the Twin Cities, with Bill Lindeke. You may want to get on his personal e-newsletter by going here! At Springboard for the Arts, he works as the Artist Resources Director, managing Springboard’s Job Board, the Minnesota Lawyers for the Arts program, and resource lists.

Share a little about your creative practice.
The more time I’ve spent off of buses since March, the more I realize a lot of it is being on the bus. The activity of people around me, and the pace of stopping and starting every few blocks lends itself well to thinking in a fluid, undistracted sort of way. Or sometimes you are distracted by people around you, but that plays into the process, as well. Otherwise, you can take notes, you can draw, or you can just look out the window. I like the kind of silence you find on a bus. Which — well, come to think of it, it’s usually not silent at all. A lot of buses are really noisy! I mean silence in the sense of me not saying anything and not being expected to speak to anyone or otherwise make any kind of noise. Whenever I’ve visited a new city, I try to get on a bus and just take it somewhere without planning it too carefully, if I have the luxury of the time to waste (and a general sense I will be able to get back). Being on a bus is basically looking: even if you see something out the window you want to go look at it, you really can’t, unless you want to wait half an hour for another bus and be stuck at a bus stop. You just have to content yourself with the looking. It’s a good way to learn about why the world is set up the way it is, too. There is no better way to see how physical infrastructure can either serve and harm people than seeing it from a city bus.

Walking and biking serve a similar function, so I’ve been trying to do more than that these days. Driving, too, although the attention you have to put into it detracts a little from the unfocused quality you get when someone else is driving. Still, longer drives on quiet roads without a lot of stopping and starting, the sort they always show on car commercials, can get close.

Otherwise, reading and talking with people is always a big one. That’s another difficult part of lockdown, is the lack of unfocused conversation with people around you. Usually when you call or Zoom someone, there is a specific reason you’re doing it.

How did you start working with Springboard for the Arts?
Like a lot of people, probably, I first knew of Springboard because of the Job Board. Someone had mentioned it to me, probably at a gallery or in an email, that if you were looking for a job, it was the best place to go. On particularly unsatisfying days at my old job, which was at a medical school, I’d unwind by checking it to look for new positions in the arts and wonder if there might be more fulfilling ways of spending my workday. I think back then it was only updated once a week, so it was a weekly or biweekly check-in, kind of a way to imagine an alternate existence. Anyway, a front desk job at Springboard opened up soon enough, which had an emphasis on working directly with artists by phone, email and in person. I thought that sounded great, because I loved (and still love) talking on the phone and in-person, and so I stayed late one night after the office closed to work on my resume. And there we go. Ten years later and I’m running the Job Board. And I still like talking on the phone.

Page from Videoland: A Visual Catalog of American Video Store Logos, 1980-1995, by Andy Sturdevant.

What are projects that you have going right now or an idea in the making? What’s a project you’d like to see happen?
I have been working with a local writer named Peter Hajinian on a photo/design book about a trip to Armenia he made a few years ago and photos of the many fish stands along the road to the capital. We’d been pushing back release since COVID, and are trying to settle on some way to have a virtual reading, maybe with Zoom and a screen share of Google Streetview as a way to revisit some of the sites in the book. Trying to imagine what a participatory reading with a strong visual element can be using online platforms is equally frustrating and exciting. Especially considering that not everyone can (or wants to!) use a screen. Part of my work at Springboard, which may bleed over into my personal practice, is thinking about how to deliver programming via telephone or mail. What does that look like? I’ve been fascinated by digital and analog technology in equally complementary ways for most of my life — on one hand, jumping into chat rooms and forums on CompuServe and Yahoo Groups in the mid-1990s and Tumblr in the late 2000s, and on the other hand, incorporating faxes, phonelines and mail art into personal projects. So this moment seems like a good time to keep figuring out how to use both approaches equally.

What’s something you wish others knew about you?
I don’t know if I spend as much time thinking about beards as one might imagine, probably because I can’t see it most of the time. It’s always a topic that comes up in conversation, though. I don’t know it if I actually have strong opinions about it!

Springboard Resources
Job Board: https://springboardforthearts.org/jobs/
Minnesota Lawyers for the Arts: https://springboardforthearts.org/resources-access/legal-assistance/
Community Supported Art toolkit: https://springboardforthearts.org/jobs-opportunities/csa-community-supported-art/