exploring the details

George Roberts, owner of Homewood Studios art gallery, Minneapolis, MN

The path to truth is often different than the path to facts. It’s not made of concrete nor is it straight. Knowing truth is above all a process of seeking. For George Roberts, this journey of exploration is enabled by art. He says that art is not the answer but it happens to be his answer.

George is the owner of Homewood Studios, an art gallery and creative space in the Homewood neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The gallery has become a community resource, a space of gathering, discussion, reflection and teaching.

George hopes that the studio can serve as a reminder to the community of its own agency. He says that the Homewood neighborhood has historically been a struggling community and it often seems that attempts to fix it come from the outside. This breeds dysfunction and alienation.

Community agency is about people taking part in making their neighborhood what they want it to be. Art involves a great deal of self-discovery and opens the door to the possibility of teaching. George’s aim is to invoke a sense of agency through teaching. Instead of feeling like life is something happening to us, we can learn to see that we are able to make choices ourselves rather than be chosen for.

Art prompts people to tell their stories. It doesn’t attempt to prove anything but rather to open up possibilities. Art possesses the ability to pose questions in a non-threatening manner.

The path to truth is about engaging with the details of life and art is composed of details. Art highlights details in a way that nothing else perhaps can.

George’s self-written bio talks about his artistic process and the value of working slowly:

“I work slowly. Relish working slowly. Like walking on uneven stones in a Japanese garden, art makes me slow down, notice. Slowing down is a way of keeping things from slipping by or getting away.

"Letter press printing, hand paper making and hand book binding are all practices requiring patience, a slower pace, a willingness to dawdle, to be tentative, to waddle. Tarrying honors the possibility of discovery. Making art is like searching for clues. What one finds is often what others have, in their haste, passed over many times.”

He says that some of his hand-made books take him a years’ worth of work to create.

Consciously working to do less in a day actually gives me more…
— G.R.

It’s easy to forget the importance of pausing, ………….  ………

of seeing the details in our haste to complete. It is of immeasurable value to stop and ask ourselves: “What is it I know and what is it I think I know?”

Unwelcome trouble comes when we don’t take time to observe the nuances around us and thereby trick ourselves into thinking more than we really do.

When he first moved in to the Homewood neighborhood with his wife nearly 50 years ago, George says that he thought mostly in terms of his home and his work (North High School as a teacher) but it was his wife who helped him see what was in between. Everything is tied together.

Highlighting this idea has for a long time driven George in his work. He taught at the high school for over 30 years and embodied a mentality of instilling a questioning attitude in his students.

What is it I know and what is it I think I know?
— G.R.

He would challenge them to spend an entire day only asking questions.Declarative statements were off the table. The mindset of wonderment and seeking provides a standpoint from which learning is the natural result.

George says that his job as a teacher was not to simplify kid’s lives but rather to “complicate kids’ lives” by encouraging curiosity as a way of sorting through problems.

This is George’s hope for the art studio. There seems to be something significant to the idea of tackling issues from a creative standpoint rather than hashing them out politically. Fostering an environment where people can share their stories without the express purpose of changing someone else’s mind can be profoundly productive. It becomes an exploration rather than a threat.

Trust flourishes in an environment of exploration. George says that all learning begins with a good relationship. Sharing the artistic process with the broader community is his act of encouraging exploration. Knowing truth is above all an act of seeking.

Link to Homewood Studios: