We had the good fortune of connecting with Scott Harrison and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Scott, why did you pursue a creative career?
The beginnings of my art come mostly from a need to deal with my involvement as a US Marine in the Vietnam war. Art as therapy I suppose. But it was a long journey and its beginning were not very unique. A year after my job of killing and hurting people, and a month after a long hospital stay from being wounded myself, I was studying at the University of Texas among kids my age who winced at scratches from falls. I dealt with my fresh memories and the daily disconnect I felt with my fellow students not with anger or any sense of superiority through experience, but with a detachment that would make a monk proud. Alcohol helped and a few drugs. After solo sailing in the Pacific, I finally got tired of listening to my pitiful self and got a job running a program to help torture victims through Amnesty International where I met stellar activists, like my partner Ellen, of now 47 years. While I was able to put aside my past by working and helping to raise a family, again I found that my heart needed work. I began to carve whimsical animals at night. I stumbled into the fact that another world can exist once one can find the door. The door, for me, was between the home office and my shop where lived a universe separating my human rights work and creating representations of the earth’s creatures. My sculptures had no expectations, deadlines nor, initially, purpose to others. The time in my shop allowed me to begin seeing hope and joy for myself. After 26 years, the Carousel of Happiness was created; several years later, another assemblage of wooden animals called the Council of Kindness showed up. My healing continued with veterans’ PTSD and writing groups. While I am proud of my career in human rights, I am happy because I get to create expressions of joy.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have been lucky enough to spend the bulk of my career, 32 years, with Amnesty International. I helped start and direct a program that has helped tens of thousands of torture victims around the world by calling attention to their situations and working to end their abuse. While tedious in nature with long and irregular hours, it fed my need to do good things for people which in turn allowed me to work with others and feel part of an incredible team of folks. That work led to my attempts to find a more selfish balance in my life through art and expression.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We would go on hikes in the mountains. We would walk through the Pearl Street mall in Boulder, eating outside. Given time, I would have them take the train to Glenwood Springs and soak in the waters there. A trip to the small town of Nederland and a ride on its Carousel of Happiness would of course be essential.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The most influential person in my life has undoubtedly been my wife. I met her at a delicate time for me, a time when I was taking measured steps toward reengaging with others and wanting to be a useful person for society. I had no idea what to do. She taught me to focus on how to help. One early example stands out. I joined her at a farm workers protest where we lived in San Francisco. When we got there, activists were yelling at a small grocer for selling Gallo wine at a time when Gallo would not permit a union of its workers. She showed up well-dressed, and went into the store to have a gentle, quiet conversation with the store owner, explaining the issues. All the while, protestors seemed to be trying their best to intimidate and scream the grocery store out of existence. That day was the first of many that she taught me practical, non-violent, and kind methods of problem-solving. Those lessons have greatly contributed to my sculptures and writing.
butterfly pic: James DeWalt