The Life and Times of Chuck Smart
By BILL MICKELSON
North Kitsap Herald Arts
and Entertainment Reporter
Feb 06 2009
The late Bremerton artist leaves lasting impact and a
definitive body of work, both of which will be on display in his memory for
Theres an eerie feeling around Studio 68 in downtown
The Fourth Street studio which Des Moines poet and photographer Anne
Sweet and Collective Visions Gallery president Alan Newberg shared with the
late Chuck Smart has been quiet ever since Smart passed away in the waning days
of 2008. But strangely, you can somehow still feel his presence.
the body of work that hes left behind.
Especially in the last two
or three years of his life, it really became an important thing to him to leave
behind a body of work, Sweet said. A legacy I guess you would call
She and Smarts widow Dawn have taken on the project of
cataloguing and preserving that legacy. Theres a vault in Smarts
basement, Ive been told, where he kept all the work that hed
created and collected over the span of his life. It was also a jam room and
gathering space for friends and fellow musicians.
It has a lot of his
energy and his spirit down there for sure, Sweet said. Theres
a lot of rhythm down there, you can still feel the vibrations.
addition to being a self-made, staunchly independent, somewhat underground
artist, Smart was also a world-traveled, globally influenced, improvisational
musician. In his formative years, he became a gypsy of sorts, after buying a
one-way ticket to the Netherlands expatriating amidst the madness of the 1960s
Chuck Smart is a man with some stories to tell, I
remember writing after first meeting him a few years back. His death, at age 67
on Dec. 29, 2008, didnt really come as much of a surprise. Hed been
secretly fighting pancreatic cancer for sometime, in the late stages of which,
hed decided to discontinue treatment. But even before that, you could see
it somewhere in his gaze that he saw it coming. There was a painful sort of
acceptance in his eyes.
One of the last times I talked to Smart, in an
interview for a show which unfortunately never made its way to print, we
toasted rum in a silent, though somehow somber exchange, pondering life and art
at Studio 68.
We talked about a lot of things that day from Miles Davis
to the muse of creation to the beauty of improvisation and creating a body of
work. We talked about the Best of Show award he won for a piece in
Bremertons inaugural statewide CVG art show in 2007, and the piece
hed planned on entering this years show, a multi-media work titled
Life and Death, which was later accepted into the show.
to jazz and perused his newest work that day. We even jammed on an impromptu
bit of rhythm and vocal improv. Even though he was quietly facing the most grim
of realizations in life, Smarts energy was still infectious.
is likely one of the things for which he will be remembered most.
as he put his foot on the ground in the morning, he was making art, Sweet
remembers. It kind of goes back to that Miles Davis line ... it was all
about art for Chuck. Everything had some artistic vein to it, and one vein fed
A musician and artist born into a family of musicians and
artists in a culture of music and art, Smart became a full-time visual
artist late in life, finding his master medium by locking himself in the
basement with a Mac computer and creating his own strain of digital art.
Hes noted as a local pioneer in the art form, with his digitally enhanced
photography collages and other multimedia works.
While hes mostly an
unknown artist to the outside world, hes held in very high regard in the
local arts community, called a true creative spirit and a
visionary by local gallery owners and community members.
People need to look at his work, Old Town Custom Framing and
Gallery owner Maria Mackovjack said of Smart. I dont care if it is
here or at Collective Visions or at Amy Burnett or even on the back of a truck
somewhere, they need to just look at it.
Smart came to Kitsap County in
the mid-1980s from Ohio, where he had been an assistant dean, teaching
percussion at Antioch College. He and Dawn came here when he lost his job to
downsizing, because this is where she had been raised. Interestingly enough, at
the time, theyd been thinking of moving to Brazil, but, Smart said, they
liked it here. And theyd been here ever since. Throughout the 1990s,
Smart commuted to Bellevue as a volunteer DJ for jazz and world music radio
shows on KBCS-FM (91.3). He also worked at Buds Jazz Records and also
wrote and contributed art work for Seattles Earshot Jazz newsletter. But
since the turn of the century, hed focused his energy as a full-time
independent artist in Bremerton.
In the typical bittersweet fashion, Sweet
said, sales in his work have been climbing since his death. It will remain for
sale, Sweet said, on the web and locally at Marias Old Town Custom
Framing in Silverdale.
A Gathering for Chuck and final First Friday for
Studio 68, a gathering featuring his work and impact on the local
community, will be tonight during First Friday festivities at Studio 68, 608
Fourth St. in Bremerton.
Also in remembrance at the next quarterly art walk
March 13 in Old Town Silverdale, Smart will be the featured artist at
Marias Old Town Custom Framing and Gallery at 2533 Lowell Street.
more on the Life and Times of Chuck Smart, go to www.chucksmart.com.
Kitsap Herald Arts and Entertainment Reporter Bill Mickelson can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-779-4464.