Illustration and Intentionality, with Kate Bingaman-Burt
An illustrator, educator, and overall joyful person, Kate Bingaman-Burt approaches her artistic outlets with intention and commitment to community. Kate’s first project of drawing her own credit card statements every day and coming up as an artist during the graphic design boom of the mid-2000s inspired her signature style, or her “confident wonk,” as she coins it. Her expressions of consumerism and her hand-drawn technique, a way to put humanity back into art, continues to be the essence of her work. Listen to this episode to hear Kate’s philosophy on “good nervous,” teaching through the pandemic and being an active participant in your life.
Read the episode transcript below.
Michelle Khouri 0:00
How do courage, COVID, and consumerism tie into culture? Well, on this episode of the Cultured Podcast, you’ll find out from Kate Bingaman-Burt, the illustrator who focuses on obsessive consumerism. And leggo!
Hello, my beh-behs. I am officially joining you from the year 2021. As you know, I recorded the intro for the last episode with Drew Tetz in 2020. And, whoo-buddy, I am now on the other side of 2021 with you and it is basically so far 2020 v2, but, you know — what’s to be expected when all we’re doing is forming an arbitrary timeline, just according to when the Earth rotates around the sun, you know what I mean? So, on this episode, I’m talking to someone extremely special, very talented with a phenomenal story, THE Kate Bingaman-Burt! And you’re about to hear what an exceptional perspective she has. And, unfortunately, how relevant the conversation we have about black lives and oppression continues to remain super-relevant. But she also tells us a lot about her own background and what she’s been doing during quarantine, which, unbelievably, on the other side of 2021, we’re having to be probably even stricter on. I mean, that’s how I feel because numbers are skyrocketing — tried to make that in, like, a little, like, breakfast-cereal jingle just to, like, lessen the burden of it. But anywho! There are some big changes coming this year. And I have dubbed this the ‘Year of Expansion.’ And so that is my inspiration for today. But my inspiration is also an announcement that I feel pretty bittersweet on that I think encompasses this inspiration of expansion. And that is that this is the last episode of Cultured before our series finale, our complete podcast finale episode, which is coming in two weeks. And it’s a very, very special one. But basically, I have decided that like all wonderful things that help us grow and expand and find joy and bliss, this is as ephemeral as any other thing. And so I am bringing it to a close. The cultured podcast will no longer be releasing new episodes after this next episode in two weeks. And honestly, I feel really good about it. I feel weird about not being with the Cultured Crew, about not dedicating so much of my time to talking to artists and learning about new art forms because this has been an integral constant in my life for years now. But it’s also the launching pad that inspired me to start FRQNCY and grow FRQNCY and meet all these incredible people. And now, I’m taking on another endeavor alongside frequency that may become something special, too. And the bottom line is that I found my purpose and FRQNCY. And on a daily basis, all I want to do is stuff that revolves around what I do with FRQNCY and audio in general. So it’s bittersweet. It’s, it’s weird, but it also feels right. And it goes along with this theme of expansion because what I’m feeling from this year is that expansion is very real for all of us. But it’s not this like glorious kind of expansion that’s like, “Oh my god! Utopia! We’re expanding!” I mean, the vision that I got, the, like, image that I got in my head when I was thinking about expansiveness as like the word for 2021 was Alice — you know, in Wonderland — Alice taking the growing potion and becoming giant and busting through the house, her arms and legs just like busting through the house that she was in, and how uncomfortable and cramped she felt as she was growing. And that’s kind of how this feels is like we are meant to shed things that prevent us from the full growth of our potential. And that’s not a comfortable process. We’re about to expand — if you let it happen — we’re about to expand outside of the normal realms of our definitions of what’s good, what’s bad, what’s good for the world, what’s bad for us, self-care, definitions of community, of work, of capitalism, of economy. I think we’re about to majorly expand outside of the confines of our own perceptions. And that’s going to be super -uncomfortable. But what I also feel is that if we allow it to happen, if we allow the changes to take place, and don’t hold so firmly rooted to what was and what we think was true, before we knew something else to be true, what happens is that opens up a whole freakin’ new realm of opportunity, a whole new world for you. [singing] “A whole new world–” I had to. And in exchange, you’re feeling some discomfort. And yet, you know, you’re receiving these opportunities for growth that are going to change your life for the better, I hope, I think, I feel, I believe. So that’s the announcement-slash-inspiration for this week, we have one last new episode coming out in two weeks. And that’s a very, very, very special — well, I guess I’ll tell you! — it’s a special conversation between everyone who’s made the Cultured Podcast possible: Jessica Olivier, Becca Godwin, Enna Garkusha, you’ll get to know them, you’ll meet them. You’ve seen their picture on the feed if you follow us on Instagram before, but now you’re actually going to get to hear how all of this came to be. And everybody in that conversation is also a critical member of the FRQNCY team. So you’re gonna get to know what it’s been like to, you know, transition from this like scrappy podcast team to a fast-growing podcast production company. So, yeah, I think you’re gonna really enjoy that last episode. And it’s, it’s gonna be our chance to say, buh-bye to everybody in the Cultured Crew. But just remember, of course, that you can listen to 80 episodes at this point. And there’s a beautiful backlog. And, yes, we’ve had to take some of those episodes down, because 2020 felt like the year of reckoning and awakening, and we found out some real ugly stuff about people we’d interviewed in the past. So you’ll see some episodes missing. And it’s because we don’t want to give a platform to those who are still doing so much work to heal themselves. And it’s just, it’s an ugly phase right now. So, anywho! How many things can I squeeze into an intro, Am I right? This is a beautiful final interview for us. I’m really, really glad this is our final interview. It’s been a wild ride. And I have appreciated every single one of you who have listened, we have kept the show small and scrappy, and really focused our attention on the content and on the conversations that we’re bringing you. And, for one, I have had the most amazing pleasure of getting to know the artists in this show, many of whom are now my friends. And it’s gonna be weird to live in a world where I’m not the host of Cultured Podcast. Well, of course, I will always be the host of Cultured, but let’s just say there’s more to come. So you know, you can follow FRQNCY media on Instagram (@FRQNCYMedia), and you can follow me on Twitter, Michelle Khouri. You know the name, hopefully. Okay? So anyway, without further ado, let us get into our last artist interview (ever!) on the Cultured Podcast, with Kate Bingaman-Burt. Leggo!
Kate Bingaman-Burt, I’m so excited to have you on the Cultured Podcast. I’m so excited. Welcome!
Kate Bingaman-Burt 8:54
Oh my gosh, thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.
Michelle Khouri 8:57
To have somebody on this show who has, like, — matches my level of energy, which I feel like you are this like gregarious, fabulous, joyful, exuberant personality. Not that I’m calling myself those things. But sure, fine, I’ll take it. I’ll take it from me! It’s really exciting. And on top of it, I’ve just been following your work for a really long time. So this is just double the excitement. So thank you.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 9:20
Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate that.
Michelle Khouri 9:24
So before we dive in, let’s level set.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 9:28
Michelle Khouri 9:29
Tell us who you are and describe your art form for us.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 9:33
Okay, well, um, my name is Kate Bingaman-Bert, and I am an illustrator and educator. And over the last — lemme think. I think the main thing that I deal with in my art is just the stories behind our stuff and objects and how we consume them and how we kind of imprint our own memories to these machine-made things and I find like that to be very fascinating and it’s been it’s been the thread I’ve been pulling out for like 15-16 years. And I love talking to people about their favorite objects. I love listening to the stories. I love documenting collections. I love documenting collections of people that I know and people that I don’t know. And it’s just been a really fun, kind of, journey that I’ve been on over the years. And a lot of that work manifests itself in drawings, or in zines, or in large-scale installations, or — in the early 2000s, it was very much like “Internet art.” And I use air quotes to say that, but that’s what I was doing in the early 2000s. Now, it’s just what everyone does in the 2020s. But that’s, that’s really kind of like the core. And then that has led me to a really wonderful career in teaching in building community. I have really gotten, like — I love finding spaces and turning them into places for creativity. I love, I love organizing events, like — it’s just, it’s — I have a practice that is also really important to be just me and my, my drawing tools, but then I have to kind of, like, step away, and then it’s, like, me and like lots of people. So that combination of just being solo, and then like needing lots of people to make things happen has been a really rewarding one. That’s kind of it in a nutshell.
Michelle Khouri 11:30
In a nutshell, in a real nutshell.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 11:32
Michelle Khouri 11:33
So, so, describe your illustration style.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 11:38
Okay, I will describe my illustration style, because it’s all very accidental, all very accidental.
Michelle Khouri 11:43
I dig it.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 11:44
So, I actually, I never really enjoyed drawing at all. Like, I would do lettering in high school, but it was mostly just to, like, forge other parents’ signatures. I was, I was — that was, like, my thing, where it’s like, “Okay, I’ve got a pretty good eye when it comes to that type of lettering.” I also would, like — “Oh, we need to have lettering for the prom floats.” I’m like, “Okay, I’ll do that.” But like, as far as, like, drawing, I’m like, “Well, hell no, I cannot do that. That’s not gonna happen.” Like, “Go talk to Chris Hutchison because he can make a truck look like a truck. And a deer look like a deer. He is your guy.”
Michelle Khouri 12:23
Kate Bingaman-Burt 12:24
And it’s one of those things, too, where it’s, like, I mean, I grew up in an artistic family, like, but I still had a very narrow point of view of like what drawing was meant to be
Michelle Khouri 12:33
It was realism. And that was it.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 12:35
And that’s it. And that’s it and, and then I was an art major in college, but, like, drawing classes were my least favorite. But where I came to draw in the way that I can describe my drying style was that — it was after a big project where I’d photo-documented everything that I’d purchased in the early 2000s. I also was $25,000 in credit card debt. And I had just spent the last two years, kind of, creating this online community of people who are like talking about things that they’re purchasing, and like sharing stories. And here I was, like, what I felt at the time was this very shameful secret. And the $25,000 in credit card debt, I mean, it wasn’t like, I was purchasing big things. It was just, like, you know, coffees and magnets, because that’s how it happens–
Michelle Khouri 13:20
That’s how it happens. That’s how I went into debt.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 13:22
Oh my God!
Michelle Khouri 13:22
And then you add interest to that, and that’s when the exponential increase happens.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 13:28
And it’s, like, my first credit card I got when I was 18 years old. And it was for Dillard’s in Jefferson City, Missouri. And they basically were like, “You’re 18! Here you go.” And I’m like, “I have $200, I’m going to spend it on Clinique makeup. Done!” You know, it’s just —
Michelle Khouri 13:48
Yep. And then they’re like, “Oh, you didn’t pay so your interest rate is, like, 50,000%. So now you owe us $10,000 on your late payment.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 13:51
Exactly. Exactly. And, and also, I had just started teaching. I was an assistant professor of graphic design at Mississippi State. And so I had just gotten my first, like — this was after my trade show job. And I had gotten my first, like, teaching job. And I remember sitting in my office in fall of 2004 with these credit card statements and just feeling like, feeling like garbage and feeling embarrassed. And I was trying to call the credit card companies to lower the APR, cuz I was just — it was just insane. And I remember being so frustrated because, like, I was trying my hardest to appeal to the human at the end of the phone. Like, “Please, what can I do?” And they — I could tell that they were reading a script. It was like even though I was talking to a human, it was still very machine-like, and then I’m getting these machine-generated credit card statements in the mail. And so I sat there after one particularly, incredibly frustrating phone call and I just started — I just drew my credit card statement, and, and then after I finished doing it, I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to do this with every single credit card statement until my credit cards are paid off.” And I, I picked drawing because it was my least favorite way of working. And so it was kind of the equivalent to like, “I will not talk in class–” writing that on a chalkboard over and over again.
Michelle Khouri 15:22
Yeah, when I would get in trouble, my mom would have me sit down and write — depending on the crime — it was either like 250 or 500. And I got in trouble a lot. I was a rebel and a little shithead. But — and she would make me write the same sentence over and over and over again. And it was the worst. And if it was sloppy, I had to rewrite it. And I started skipping numbers so that I could write less. And so she started noticing. So for every number I skipped over, she had me write 10 more lines. So like, this was your, this was your self imposed penance. This was your like —
Kate Bingaman-Burt 15:56
Yup, this was my self-imposed penance. And, and the thing is, like, I didn’t, I didn’t like drawing. I felt like this was a compromise because it was also writing. And, like, I had said earlier, like I felt comfortable doing writing. I actually really loved, like, my handwriting, and I really loved, like, the way that I would like learn things was by writing notes. And so I just kind of I started, I got into drawing through writing and repetition. And then like, joke’s on me, though, I actually really started to enjoy the making of the lines, the drawing of the logos, the — just, kind of, the whole thing. And so my, my drawing style, my lettering really was built out of, kind of, copying the machine type from credit card statements. And then about two years into that project, I decided that I wanted to try to draw something other than my dumb credit card statements. I started my Daily Purchase Drawing February 5, 2006, where I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to draw something that I purchase every single day as an attempt to get better at drawing.” But I had a system of rules that I set up for myself, because I know myself, and I know that I — you know, if it didn’t look right, I would want to start over again. So everything that I do is done in pen. And I also have, like — if a line feels like it’s going crazy, like, you can’t start over. You just have to go with it. So my initial drawing style was very, like, shaky and wonky and felt like I was drawing with my feet. But then, you know, 14 years later — 12? Whatever. 12. I have no idea what 2006 is. 12? 14?
Michelle Khouri 17:34
Kate Bingaman-Burt 17:36
Thank you! Oh, my God.
Michelle Khouri 17:38
Kate Bingaman-Burt 17:38
It’s, it’s definitely — my drawing style it’s still wonky, but it’s more of a confident — it’s a confident wonk, basically. And and that’s where it all started from. And
Michelle Khouri 17:48
It’s a stylistic trademark, basically. It’s a signature.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 17:51
Yeah, yeah, confident wonk.
Michelle Khouri 17:52
Yeah, I love that.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 17:58
But yeah, that’s how my drawing style started. But I also feel very indebted to the time and place that I was in, you know, 2004, 2006, I feel like a lot of graphic design and illustration, was very sterile, computer based… And, around that time, there were a lot of us that were like, “Wait, where’s the hands? Where’s the where’s the humanity?” And so there were — I feel like I came up with, like, a wave of people that were doing more, like, hand-drawn DIY, kind of, like, just showing the hand and the hand being celebrated. So there was a good group of people that I was with during that time that were — again, where the internet comes, I was, at this time, I was putting everything on Flickr. I found a really good, like, community with other people on Flickr. The internet felt so much smaller. I was able to, like, connect with people who —
Michelle Khouri 18:52
Kate Bingaman-Burt 18:52
Yeah, it was. I was able to connect with people who were working in ways that I found inspiring, and it was, it was, it was a really nurturing time to just be making things, too. And I was also — I was living in Mississippi. I was in, you know, my mid- to late 20s. And it was just, like, that’s what I was doing. And I was — I felt very uninhibited to try lots of different things. And I feel very fortunate for kind of having that naiveness to to be like, “Oh, sure. Let’s try that. Why not? You know, because I don’t — I don’t know, hindsight is a wild thing, man. I don’t know — I don’t know what type of work I would be making if I instead of being born in, you know, 1977, if I were born in 1997, you know?
Michelle Khouri 19:36
Yeah, and let’s not even like, like, let’s not even ignore the fact that your credit card debt also is what led you down this path to where you are today, which is a really interesting catalyst. Because I think that points to the things that we might think are the worst moments in our lives or terrorize us or keep us up or actually sometimes the things that set us on our path. I mean, it kind of alludes to the quote like, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
Kate Bingaman-Burt 20:05
Michelle Khouri 20:06
Everything exists in a state of constant duality or multiplicity, right? The things that can feel bad are the things that maybe 15 years from now feel like your whole life and purpose.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 20:16
Yes! Absolutely. And it’s also, I will never forget the moment before I, like, shared these credit card statements, because of course, I was going to draw them and I was going to put them online, because that’s what I did with everything at that point. But right — the night! I remember this — the night that I posted my first batch of credit card statements to my website, I had, like, I felt like I was just gonna puke. I was just, like, it was just such, like sweaty palms, like, just sweaty pits. Like I was just — and it was just this feeling of just, like, uncomfort — intense uncomfort. But I also, at the time, I thought that was a bad thing, which I made it sound really bad. But it’s also I, kind of — and I use this with my students too — where it’s like, I now know that that’s something called “good nervous.” And that’s where you feel like you’re growing. That’s where, like, it’s — again, if it’s not gonna hurt anyone. So, like, I’ll have students that’ll be like, “Oh my god, I’m so nervous, I can’t, I can’t go and talk to this person who, you know, wants to maybe hire me,” or “I’m so nervous to, like, share my work.” And I’m like, “This is good. These are these are good nervous things to be feeling, and that means you should go and do it.” Like, but it’s hard to differentiate like what what those feelings are, you know?
Michelle Khouri 20:38
I love the term “good nervous,” because what is that other than, essentially, courage?
Kate Bingaman-Burt 21:43
Michelle Khouri 21:44
But people don’t connect to the word “courage.” I think people don’t see themselves as capable of courage. And so to give it a name, like “good nervousness,” I think is a lot more — that’s like a psychological trick because you’re like, “I am nervous. Yeah, I’m not brave. I’m nervous, but it’s good nervous. So I’ll allow myself to be good nervous and still do it.” And it’s like, “Tricked ya into being courageous.”
Kate Bingaman-Burt 22:09
Exactly. Oh, that’s so good, Michelle, that’s so good. But yeah, that’s so true. And I, you, again — I just, I use that so much with my students. And–
Michelle Khouri 22:16
Kate Bingaman-Burt 22:17
It’s essential. And I see so many, so many people talk themselves out of doing things. And I just, I tried to, I tried to be like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, this is good. This is good. Let’s, let’s make let’s make some pro-cons list about why this is good and why this is outweighing the cons, and why you should go through and do it.” And I just, I feel like some of those are the most, like, satisfying experiences that I’ve had with students over the years, where they, you know, I see them get — it’s just like those, it’s just like you see those, like, viral videos of kids, like, afraid to go off of the high diving board. And then once they go off the high diving board, they’re just, like, filled with exuberance and, like–
Michelle Khouri 22:54
“Again, again, again! Higher, higher, higher!”
Kate Bingaman-Burt 22:56
That’s what happens with with my students where it’s like, “Oh, my God, I did that! And now I can do it again–”
Michelle Khouri 23:01
Kate Bingaman-Burt 23:01
And I can feel, I can feel — and it can be better!” And it’s just — ugh, that’s, that’s what I love about teaching right there!
Michelle Khouri 23:08
Kate Bingaman-Burt 23:09
Shoving kids off the high dive!
Michelle Khouri 23:11
100%. Just pushing them off, like watching their terror. That’s the best part.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 23:17
No, they’re gonna be so good. Yeah, you know that they’re gonna return to that high dive, and they’re gonna be even more confident. And it’s just — I love it. I’m totally addicted to teaching.
Michelle Khouri 23:28
Oh, God, I can tell! Like, first of all 0– so many things, right? First of all, I can tell that there’s just a courageous gene in you. Because the reason I brought up your illustration style is because I didn’t know you started with photography as sort of, like, area of focus. And you mentioned –, I watched your Creative Mornings talk, which I highly recommend. I know it was eight years ago, but it is so good. It is so relevant. Yeah. It’s so good.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 23:55
I was so nervous to do that. That was, like, my one of my very first public-speaking things.
Michelle Khouri 24:00
It’s awesome. And it really gives a great background on your ethos. But I also learned a lot as a creative myself. Like, I love your rules and systems. And, in one of your rules, you were talking about, like, taking a photo of the object — “Don’t worry about composition. Don’t overthink it.” — and you know, I kind of glossed over that. But then you started talking about photography during our conversation. And I was like, “Actually, that takes a lot of effort!” If you are a photographer, and you’re taking passing photographs, and you’re trying to tell yourself, “Don’t worry about the perfection.” That’s a big thing to overcome. Half of it to start illustrating something that is a source of shame for you, like credit card statements, and then to publish that to the, for the world. Even if the internet felt smaller back then, that’s the dang world, that’s your world. That? Holy shit, that’s, that’s a lot of good nervous to overcome, you know. So kudos to you.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 24:59
I’m a little addicted to it now.
Michelle Khouri 25:01
Yeah. I know! It happens.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 25:03
It’s a good hit. Like, I feel like I feel like opening Outlet was another like, I hadn’t felt nervous about stuff in a long time and Outlet was a big dose of that. And I feel now, like, with COVID, and trying to, you know — what started as an art studio, which is now a business that, you know, supports employees. Like that’s just another like, it’s, it’s all sweaty armpits over again.
Michelle Khouri 25:30
Yes. Every day.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 25:30
Yeah, every day. And I feel I feel that also just, like, kind of being thrown out of my comfort zone with teaching and having to switch to it being online and trying to figure out how to make sure that my students are being taken care of, and that they feel that they are having a good experience through a computer. You know, I had a little freakout week three of the of the spring term, and then I was like, “Okay, how do I make this be the best experience possible?”
Michelle Khouri 25:42
And how did you? How did you handle that?
Kate Bingaman-Burt 26:04
Well, number one, I kind of threw out expectations that I could be teaching in the exact same way.
Michelle Khouri 26:11
Kate Bingaman-Burt 26:12
Because I think, I think for the first couple weeks, I really wanted to replicate what it was going to be like in the classroom. And I was getting really frustrated that there’s just no way that that could possibly happen. That disconnect for me was really hard. But some of the ways that I’ve been incorporating not only teaching online, but also with my online workshops, too, is just making sure that everyone is being heard, making sure — whether that’s on the screen, or — it’s so easy if you’re a shy kid to even disappear more now on Zoom. And so–
Michelle Khouri 26:44
It is harder than ever to make sure everyone’s being heard and seen.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 26:47
Yeah, and I want to make sure that I’m meeting them where they feel comfortable. So if they want to chat, that’s great. If they want to do email, that’s great. If they want to do you know, just one-on-one video voice, let’s do that like. But it’s like — one of the things I want to know is — I want to know, “What I can do for you where you are? I’m here for you.” And it’s a lot harder to do that, it’s a lot harder to do that just because, you know, my classroom power was just going and talking to everyone and going and finding them. Like, I’m a super-moving teacher. And by “moving,” I mean just moving around the room a lot and talking to a lot of students. But it’s harder to be a little bit more confined to this 12-inch screen that I’ve got.
Michelle Khouri 26:55
It takes so much more intentionality. And, not just that, but I imagine — I mean, I’m projecting a little bit onto you — but I imagine you’re also going through your own, like — you have your child, you have your husband, you have your business, you have —
Kate Bingaman-Burt 27:51
Michelle Khouri 27:51
Kate Bingaman-Burt 27:53
Michelle Khouri 27:53
‘Cause you’re still illustrating and, and there are commissioning projects, plus Outlet and keeping that going, plus teaching. So you’re, I imagine, sort of, at max-capacity, but then having to create even more space to think about, “How do I reach my students?”
Kate Bingaman-Burt 28:10
Exactly, exactly. But I feel like, I feel like I feel very fortunate to have had so many years of teaching prior to this, because any of that stuff that you just mentioned — like, if I’m stressed about stuff, I can’t take that into the classroom. Because if I am worried about other stuff, it’s going to make those next three hours in the classroom so much worse. And so long before COVID, if I was like worried about any of those things, I would sit in my office, and it was a total, like, I would jump up and down. I would like just, I, like, I knew my energy level had to — it was like I was a, like a, like a boxer going into a fight. You know? It’s just like, “Okay.” Because I, I have to be in a good place so I can help my students get into a good place. Because, if I am distracted by anything else, it is going to make that class so difficult. And really, so much of it is just about making, making good experiences and making things possible and easy. And, I — and so it’s it’s a lot of like pep-talking for myself too.
Michelle Khouri 29:16
Kate Bingaman-Burt 29:17
Cuz you gotta. You gotta you got.
Michelle Khouri 29:19
Yeah. So how has COVID, if at all — I guess the question is has COVID — and by COVID, I think, I’ve just started referring to this this sweeping insanity that is 2020 and what I consider to be an awakening slash wake up call of 2020.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 29:39
Michelle Khouri 29:40
How has that informed or changed your work? And your thoughts on consumption, too?
Kate Bingaman-Burt 29:48
Yeah, I mean, I one of the things that has always been a –I’ll make this a multi-part response. The — as far as my work goes, I feel like just Outlet in general, it’s always been really important for us to be part of the community. And even though we are a business, we’re not a nonprofit, it’s really important for us to give back. And it’s even more — we’ve, like, doubled down on having, you know, scholarships for BIPOC workshop students. We had a print show that we put together that featured 36 BIPOC, local Portland artists who are printing in our space. And then since the end of May, we give away free posters, free protest posters. So we’re open Monday through Thursday, one to four. And we have this archive online where people can download and print their own posters, too. And it’s just this, just, you know — we’re gonna do that for as long as we need to. And so that’s definitely something that we’ve been doing here at Outlet. And then at school with graphic design it’s been so much about “How do we decolonize the curriculum?” How do we, you know, make sure that we are listening to our BIPOC students. We’re organizing town halls for our BIPOC students. It’s been a lot of anti-racist work in that regard. And it’s also — I just — again, I really wish that we could have this stuff be in-person, too. I mean, I think we’re doing — and that’s where the other COVID part comes in. Because this whole summer has been trying to figure out how to — I feel like our spring term was pretty successful online. But I’m like, “How do we–?” I feel very fortunate that we teach graphic design, because at least that’s classes that we can be doing online.
Michelle Khouri 31:44
Kate Bingaman-Burt 31:44
I feel, I feel for, like, our weaving students and our painting students and things like that. But the thing that I had been working on so hard for the entire time that I’ve been at PSU, which has been since 2008, is about building community. And everything that I built at Portland State was things that happened outside of the classroom. So so much of that has been pivoting “Well, okay, so this big student showcase, how do we just shift this to online?” And it’s been really, it’s been really — the generosity of the creative community, reaching out and being like, I’d love to do Zoom calls with your students, and just kind of like organizing all that has been really wonderful. And we’re just going to be doing that again, for the next for the next year. You know, and as far as like, my own personal work, you know, the Daily Drawing Project, I took, I took a three-year break from that from 2014 to 2017, because I wasn’t quite sure, like, what role it was playing. But I came back to it on my 40th birthday, in 2017. And I’m so glad I did, because that Daily Drawing Project now is a chance for me for just some like thoughtful like, one-on -one time with me and my sketchbook and more of like a journaling documentation of my life through stuff. And, just, me trying to be more intentional with where my dollars are going and being more intentional with, you know, the, the things that I’m purchasing. And, granted, I have really bought some stupid things from Instagram ads, but I want to say, “Who hasn’t right now?” Okay? But it’s been important for me to to be putting my money towards different different Black-led organizations, different Black businesses. And just being more of an active participant in your life, basically. And I feel like that, that project’s part of that, and I think it should bleed out to, to everything that we’re doing. It’s just like — and I tell that with my students, too, where it’s like, I think it’s so easy to kind of like, be a passive consumer, and also just be a passive participant in your life, but you actually do have ownership over the things that you’re doing. And, like, if I have students that are upset with something at school, I’m like, “Well, what is it that we want to do differently?” Like, “You have control over this.”
Michelle Khouri 34:04
Kate Bingaman-Burt 34:04
You know, “What is it? What is the thing that you want to see happen? And how can we make it happen?” And so, me being able to help, kind of, like, activate, that is really exciting for me and something that I want to continue to do, even, even through this online school that we’re doing for the next, hopefully, just a year.
Michelle Khouri 34:24
Yeah, that’s incredibly powerful. And, you know, I think that we’ve been having to face a lot of the things that we’ve been passive about in our own lives, in society. And one of those things has been capitalism and consumption.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 34:38
Michelle Khouri 34:38
And you know, there’s just daily conversations about the rich getting richer in a time that is incredibly hard for so many people–
Kate Bingaman-Burt 34:48
So many people.
Michelle Khouri 34:49
— looking deeper and deeper into poverty, or losing their homes or being evicted, or losing their jobs. And, and we have to sit at home and watch it.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 34:57
Michelle Khouri 34:57
We have to.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 34:58
Michelle Khouri 34:59
Well, we don’t have to you. You can ignore it, sure.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 35:01
Michelle Khouri 35:01
Like, you kind of can’t, if you tune in to the internet, which is now certainly a the entire world.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 35:06
The entire world! And it’s also there’s such a, there’s such a disconnect, too, because, like, I’m, I’m teaching graphic design. And it’s my responsibility to show students that that doesn’t just mean that you go work at an agency, so you can help a business sell shoes, you know. It’s —
Michelle Khouri 35:24
Talk about decolonizing! Like, if you look at the history of advertising in the country, it is the whitest of the white. And it is racist, and it is horrible.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 35:33
Michelle Khouri 35:34
And it’s also like, it’s so, like, white supremacist but misogynist. And so talk about — I mean, propaganda across the world is built on graphic design.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 35:46
Michelle Khouri 35:47
Talk about having an active voice and role in reshaping that.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 35:50
Yeah, I mean, I think the tool set that I can give graphic design students is very valuable, because it can help them, it can help them communicate in a very powerful way. But I want I want that communication to be for, for, for good. And also, too, like, it’s — I have a lot of conversations with students that feel guilty because they’re working — or, like, former students — who feel guilty because they’re working at an agency. And I’m like, “Well, how can you, how can you take that money that you’re making and channel it into something else?” And it’s, I think it’s so important — but I also say this is because I work to where it’s like, “You don’t have to do just one thing, you can do lots of different things!” You can do lots of different things. And if you’re working at a job that is paying the bills, that is, you know, keeping a roof over your head, that is, like, making you feel secure. That’s good. But then also, if you’ve got some excess money, how can you, again, Robin-Hood it, and, and, and use that to create the good that you want to see, too. We’re not going to immediately be able to burn everything down right away. And just like what you were saying earlier, Michelle, it’s like, it’s like how do we how do we continue to kind of exist in, in this structure that we, we have built over the years. And, and, again, I think it’s just about being an active participant in your life. And in again, there’s so many different ways that you can be working and doing and making, too.
Michelle Khouri 37:18
Yes, amen. Snaps. First of all, I’m just so glad that you are teaching those students. I’m so glad that you were in this world. You are also in Portland, which has been one of the loudest, most consistent pushers of this movement.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 37:34
Michelle Khouri 37:34
And, and loud and clear about what cannot continue. And I just want to thank you for being an active participant on this show today in this conversation.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 37:45
Oh, thank you, Michelle! Thank you so much for having me.
Michelle Khouri 37:49
So, before we sign off, where can the Cultured Crew see more of your work, learn more about you, check out some of those workshops you’re hosting through Outlet?
Kate Bingaman-Burt 37:58
My personal account with my artwork is just @katebingburt on Instagram and then Outlet is just @outletpdx on Instagram. And then my website is katebingamanburt.com and then workshops for Outlet is outletpdx.com.
Michelle Khouri 38:14
Obviously, all of those tasty little links are going to be on the show notes at culturedpodcast.com. Kate, thank you so much. This has been a pleasure.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 38:22
Thank you! Thank you so much, Michelle. I really this was a great way to start my morning.
Michelle Khouri 38:26
Oh, yay. Oh that’s right! You’re West Coast.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 38:29
Oh, yeah. It is 10 AM.
Michelle Khouri 38:35
Appreciate you so much.
Kate Bingaman-Burt 38:36
Michelle Khouri 38:42
Oh, my gosh, I just love this woman! Her energy, her enthusiasm, her point of view. All of the things she’s doing to battle racism through the work that she does as a teacher, as an illustrator. She is dopeness embodied!
Alright y’all. I hope you enjoyed that conversation. And you know what to do for next time: Keep it Classy. Keep it Curious. Keep it Cultured!