DJ Gathers – Make it Inescapable

“Make it Inescapable”

Written by Doug Geyer

Most artists, like many who express themselves creatively, desire to share their work. To engage, inspire, and provoke others outside of themselves. To have a captive audience.

Darrin Gathers is no different.

Yet for this junior from Madisonville, he is driven by something deeper than the personal satisfaction of knowing his art is seen and appreciated, perhaps even purchased. DJ has something to say. But venting via Facebook, though common for his social media saturated generation, is not the medium he chooses. His anger will not be quelled, his vision not realized, by a posting here or a tweet there. As a young, biracial man growing up and into a world filled and fuming with social injustice, he has a singular goal for proclaiming that black lives matter through his art.

“Even though I’m a part of the first generation to grow up with social media, I don’t want to just talk about it on Facebook. With everything that’s been happening around the country, through my art, I want to make the message of Black Lives Matter inescapable.”

His dedication to offer his voice to those who are often unheard coupled with countless hours in his studio bears witness to why he was one of two students chosen for the New York Studio Residency Program. As a charter member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, the AAC participates in the consortium’s annual program to give art students from around the country an opportunity to taste the Big Apple for themselves. To listen to and learn from other artists while discovering how they will make art that makes a difference.

But DJ’s passion wasn’t always so clearly professed or understood. With only two months left in his senior year of high school, he was preparing for a life of fighting fires and saving lives. It took a nudge from his mother to visit the AAC to help him realize there was no fire burning in his heart to be a professional firefighter. Once he saw the studios, envisioned having one of his own, a spark found ready tinder and he decided to change course.

“I didn’t want to just do something to earn a steady paycheck. I’d rather care about what I do.”

Like Ryan Khosla, a friend and fellow Residency recipient, DJ was drawn to the world of art while skateboarding and tagging in high school. Though at the time he didn’t envision himself moving beyond listening to hip hop, spray painting and simply enjoying the work of artists like Shepard Fairey, he was beginning to explore a world where he would ultimately become a contributor, an agent of change.

His time in New York this fall has fueled this ongoing exploration via the vast physical urbanscape itself and the inner world where his love for screen printing and collage has expanded exponentially.

DJ has also felt empowered by his mentor Oasa DuVerney. Oasa is a Brooklyn-based artist who often uses graphite and ink on paper as well as video to address social inequalities in the context of race, gender, and class.

“I’m impressed with DJ’s interest in creating work that has relevance outside of this very small art world, in spite of a less than supportive society that typically is not interested in art that is critical of the oppressive, white patriarchy that it upholds. It’s my hope that he continues to explore his voice and experience through art making because it is important and should be heard.”

To create a collage, an artist brings together various elements from different sources to give birth to a new, unified piece. Visuals that don’t typically reside in the same space somehow working as one to bring forth something of value because essentially they are different yet together. Screen printing relies on pressure applied by a hand guiding a fill blade or squeegee to push ink through a screen, persuading it through spaces it needs help to navigate.

Perhaps in the heart and hands of DJ, there are answers not only artistically but socially. Answers which are capable of bringing together people which aren’t typically residing in the same space. Birthing solutions both new and essential, applying the right kind of pressure to leave a memorable and lasting impression. Saving lives by starting constructive fires in the hearts of others eager to see equality for all.

Providing a way out through art that is inescapable.


Ryan Khosla – Poetry in Motion

“Poetry in Motion”

written by Doug Geyer

Skateboarding and surfing would probably sit next to each other at reunions. In the prolific Athletics clan, they hang on the same branch of the family tree where sport marries spirit and attitude gives birth to form and function.

Watching someone defy physics, whether on a wave or in an empty pool, and seem so relaxed while doing so, is akin to enjoying great poetry or watching a well-made film. You know what they’re doing is really hard to do well but so amazingly accessible and stirring when it is.

Ryan Khosla, one of two recipients of the New York Studio Residency Program (along with DJ Gathers), is one of those brave and rare souls who has learned how to guide both board and prose, body and video.

Though a self-described introvert, Ryan has also demonstrated an affinity for adventure, venturing off the beaten trail while breaking new and personal ones. After graduating from high school early, he moved out on his own at 17, and began casting around for a purpose beyond illegal art and substances. But the hours he spent skateboarding and spray painting (not officially commissioned works), as he grew up in Loveland and Sycamore, instigated a growing drive to express himself creatively. While he didn’t know what form that would take, he realized he was ready to connect to a community that could provide both a foundation and a jumping off point.

“I saw some of my older friends who were already at the Art Academy making art, having fun, working within a structure. The community and the structure were attractive,” Ryan remembers.

Old friends drew him to the AAC and new friends have inspired him since arriving. He has learned how much he enjoys being in the company of artists who share his passion for pushing the boundaries and drawing new ones. Being pushed in all the right ways by passionate faculty is another element of the AAC’s community which has called him higher and pointed him in new directions.

He began attending poetry readings initiated and organized by faculty and realized it’s what he wanted to do.

“I never thought of being a writer or writing poetry at all before I got here.”
Ryan attributes his pursuit of poetry, in addition to videography, to the way faculty like Matt Hart and Brett Price are able to balance fundamental instruction with the freedom to explore.

“They’re all great at guiding you with the history of poetry, having a knowledge of it, while giving you the room to develop versus trying to force you into something.”

He’s excited to explore both poetry and video during his time in New York. Taking the work ethic he thinks was part of why he was chosen and combining it with a curiosity to soak in the city. All the sights and sounds like a colossal half-pipe on which to try out new poetic moves.
Seduction of Translation (Ryan Khosla)

I can’t quite explain it,
it’s as if I’ve forgotten the smell
-David Rivard

I still wake up some mornings
pretending I’m home again.
Phil brewing his Folgers coffee
and then adding 2% milk with two spoons
of sugar. He would make me a cup next,
and I would ask him to do so because
I wanted mine just like his.
I remember this, most mornings, when
I wake up to make my own or drink
the cold one from yesterday
that I didn’t quite finish.
I translate the hues of light
on the pane of the window,
and seduce myself with the memories
moved from yesterday, to now
where they lay beside the pillow
my head rests on. The trailer park
sunrise through the plastic blinds onto
the carpet couch. The back bedroom and
the front bedroom, the old bowling alley,
and the old grocery store only a few miles
away from the rubber factory, producing
tires and providing jobs for the town,
until it finally closed down
some years later. In the morning
Phil would gnaw his way
out of bed to pick up Cathy
from the night shift at the call center,
where she worked. Cathy would come
home to sleep all day, and then she
would wake up to cook dinner.
Swiss steaks and corn, mashed potatoes and
gravy. Phil would take her back
to the call center. I would watch cartoons.
I would wait. And now when I wake up
or when I go to sleep, I think
once of Phil and once of Cathy,
then I think of coffee and
swiss steaks.

Pricked Fingers (Ryan Kosla)

or these things
on the table
I’ve felt this
before I’ve been
here before this
thing I’ve seen
and so have
you and you
have been gone
but you are
still here maybe
I am gone
but wait only
now wait, no
you are here
waterless and waiting
being torn into

Sponsor an AAC Creative Runner


If your New Year’s Resolution is about getting in shape, we have the perfect plan for you!

Sponsor one of the 14 students in our CREATIVE RUNNING class taught by AAC Professors (and avid runners) Paige Williams and Matt Hart.

In this team-taught/team-coached literature, art and running course will be held on Friday mornings this spring from 9 – 11:50 a.m.

Students will explore not only the highs, the glories and the agonies of running, but the ways they intersect with the creative process in terms of imaginative flight, commitment, endurance and performance. In addition to reading, writing art-making, discussion, and field trips, the course will include miles and miles of running!

Students will train as a class to run the Flying Pig Marathon’s 10K race (6.2 miles). Good running shoes and warm winter running clothes will be necessary for all students. (It’ll be cold in January and February, and the class will be out in it).

As a sponsor, you will

  1. Buy a pair of running shoes for your student (Estimate $85-$150)
  1. Attend at least one class or running session. (Optional)
  1. Support and cheer your student across the finish line at the Flying Pig Marathon 10k!
  1. Finally, it would be totally wonderful if you also entered and ran the race with the class.

If you want to sponsor one of our creative running artists, please contact Joan Kaup ASAP!  513-562-8745

Start stretching your mind. Get ready to run!