August 23, 2011
by Paulette Beete
Desmond Mason paints live for guests at the 2011 POP! ARTini fundraiser. The finished piece was auctioned at the end of the evening with proceeds benefitting Allied Arts. Photo by Bryan Cook.
“A thriving art community is the heartbeat of any city; there’s no question about that.”
Even as he was distinguishing himself on the basketball court at Oklahoma State University, Desmond Mason—who was drafted into the NBA in 2000 by the Seattle SuperSonics—was studying art history and hoping to become an art teacher. Since retiring from pro basketball, the former NBA Slam Dunk Champion has opened his own art gallery in Oklahoma City, regularly hosted an annual art show, and made a habit of selling out gallery shows that feature his boldly hued paintings. We spoke with the busy artrepreneur via e-mail about painting full court.
NEA: What do you remember as your earliest experience/engagement with the arts?
DESMOND MASON: The earliest experience I remember with the arts was drawing profile pics of people on my brown paper bag-covered books, drawing trucks in the mini-truck era, and creating and drawing all kinds of shoes.
NEA: What’s your version of the artist’s life?
MASON: My version of an artist’s life is for an artist to have the ability to create freely without scrutiny, judgement, or criticism. There’s no such thing as a struggling artist if you’re doing what you love and expressing how you feel through your art.
NEA: You studied art in college, but you became better known for your professional success as a basketball player. Do you remember the moment when you thought, “Oh, I can also be a successful professional artist”?
MASON: I didn’t have that thought until I sold out my first—32 pieces—at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee. I had come off of my show the year before [for which] I called and had an art critic come and give me an honest review. He had never seen my work or heard of me and gave me a good review. I had always seen art as a release from basketball, but from that day my confidence was pretty high.
NEA: Do you see any similarities or common traits between athletes and artists?
MASON: I think there are quite a few similarities between athletes and artists; one of the main ones is creativity. In sports you have to [be as] creative and grow in your craft as with art. (more…)