We "sat down" with Brian Behm and got real about the getting unstuck, listening, and how typography is bringing him hope.
Brian is participating in the Exploring Ritual Art Gallery in Nashville. Join us (and Brian!) for the 2nd Annual Nashville Festival. Learn more and RSVP here.
Level Ground: What are you excited about today?
Brian Behm: It seems like a surface answer, but I'm really stoked on the Fall weather arriving. Cool air, a fire pit, some friends, a pumpkin ale or two... this is the backdrop for some of my favorite memories, and each year I eagerly await the arrival of Fall.
LG: Share with us who you are these days.
BB: I'm settling into a new job as a graphic designer at a marketing firm, so that's been a big shift this month. Lately I've also been noticing my tastes becoming a bit more eclectic; I've been digging into some new music, trying new marks and techniques in my paintings, and thinking through new ideas. I'm finding that I still have a lot of growing, learning, and exploring to do.
LG: Tell us about a project of any kind that another person is working on with you.
BB: Late one night a good friend and I got into a conversation about frustration over finding good freelance gigs, and we realized we had a lot of complimentary skills. She's passionate about storytelling, and I love designing pieces that have depth and gravity—it was a perfect fit. We ended up launching a boutique marketing strategy and branding agency called The Unstuck Agency. There we've had the opportunity to come alongside other creatives in the Chattanooga area to present companies and brands with high-quality storytelling through finely-crafted media.
LG: Why and how did you get connected to Level Ground?
BB: As Level Ground was just getting started (before it was even called Level Ground, actually), I was tasked with some branding work to help get the word out about this idea of coming together for conversation around faith and the LGBT community. I've followed along as Level Ground has grown and in 2014 was selected as a featured artist. Following that year's festival, my wife Victoria and I were asked to be Art Directors for the 2015 festival in Pasadena. I was eager to stay involved and relished the opportunity to curate artwork and also display some of my own work. The conversations I've been able to be a part of at Level Ground have had a range of emotions—heavy, joyful, restorative, heartbreaking, and heartwarming—and at the end of the day it was moving and meaningful. I found myself widening as I listened more.
LG: What was the first thing you ate today?
BB: As I was preparing breakfast, I may or may not have eaten some dark chocolate chips right out of the bag.
LG: What does it mean to be in dialogue with someone and how has that been a part of your life?
BB: As an extrovert and an idea person, I've spent most of my life talking, but it was a profound realization for me that true dialogue is about listening. I've found that some of my closest friends were people who first listened to me. They listened as I struggled to reconcile my conservative upbringing with my open-minded view of the world. They listened as I fought through a long battle with depression. They listened when I lost loved ones. Listening well has been a doorway to powerful dialogue in my life and is something I've been intentional about fostering in myself. The other side of that, of course, is asking questions. It's not necessarily comfortable for many people to share a deep or intimate thoughts, but if you prompt them by asking a question from a curious perspective that seeks to understand, you may be surprised by what they have to say. My favorite questions are the open-ended ones that are quirky and catch people a little off-guard. I've found people tend to ask questions about jobs and about the weather, but I want to know what makes people tick, how they see the world, what amazing experiences they've have had, and what painful thing has helped redirect them to find what they're living for.
LG: What is the last book that you read and how would you pitch it to a stranger if you had written it?
BB: I love this question, but to be fair, I really don't read much. And as corny as it sounds, I think the last book I read was the Bible—the story of a man named Job, from the Old Testament. To pitch that to a stranger I think I would tell them it's about a good dude who goes through some soul-crushingly tough times and gets pissed at God but is able to stay humble, be open to teaching. He eventually gets up out of the ashes and finds hope again. It's a wild and heavy story, and one worth reading.
LG: Tell us about your profile picture on your favorite social media platform or on your email account.
BB: My current photo is actually an outtake from a photo shoot I did with my former band mates. I was the vocalist in a hardcore metal band called Void of Kings and we were getting ready to release our first album so we hired a photographer for some promo shots. We walked around the old industrial buildings in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore snapping hundreds of group shots and individual photos. I was really proud of how many of them turned out.
LG: What is concerning to you about the future, whether personally or more broadly?
BB: Politics come to mind. I read an interesting article about how politics, by definition, is about finding compromise. The author went on to say the trouble with our current political climate is that it's about sticking to one side of an aisle rather than truly working together for the best overall outcome. My hope is that this trend will not bleed over into other areas of our culture where it becomes acceptable to be dismissive or critical of other ideas or views simply because they're new or unfamiliar. That would be a perfect way to halt innovation in its tracks. And to take that idea a step further, as a father I want my son to grow up in an environment where he's rewarded for his curiosity and empowered to seek answers to the questions he has, not an environment that is closed-minded or hostile to the "other."
LG: What brings you hope about the future, whether personally or more broadly?
BB: There's been a trend over the last 5 or 10 years now towards authenticity, transparency, and honesty. I've loved watching that unfold. Products are being marketed as true, real, whole, hand-crafted, and lovingly-made. There are musicians who are recording and are deciding to keep the mistakes they made on the albums because it humanizes the music. Artists are becoming comfortable revealing the unique marks of their hand rather than trying to remove them. Typographers are utilizing more hand-drawn and hand-painted lettering in their designs. Seeing that people are looking for true stories, real products, and authentic experiences really excites me. It gives me hope that as a society we're slowly learning the value of each other's differences and that meaningful dialogue and collaboration isn't just possible, but that it is beneficial, powerful, and inspiring.