We had the good fortune of connecting with Abigail Smithson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Abigail, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
As an avid fan and practicing artist, I felt like I was missing something from the podcasts I subscribed and listened to that were about sports. The content was geared so specifically for a certain audience, that no information was brought onto the show that touched on other cultural elements outside the sports world. I wanted discussions about history, about art, creativity and current events, alongside my dose of sports news and analysis. Of course, I still found these shows informative, entertaining and fun to listen to but I wanted something more. I decided to start the podcast Dear Adam Silver (named for the current commissioner of the National Basketball Association) to create a space for sports and art to be considered side by side, where non-traditional perspectives on sports were given a platform and regularly discussed. Dear Adam Silver is for people who care about sports and want to think about them beyond the lines of the court or field.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
For the past five years, I have been researching the value of sports (mostly focusing on basketball) outside of their traditional cultural context. My work encompasses a meeting point for studying place, sports, and community engagement through art. During the process of making this work, I hope to create a new lexicon around art and sports and analyze them side by side as creative expressions of humanity. More specifically, I explore courts and fields as places where human nature and social politics are undeniable aspects of the games as well as a space for social engagement to occur. Using writing, visual work, and my own podcast, I reflect on the role of the human body and the question of representation in the discussion surrounding both fine art and sports. Rethinking issues of race, patriotism and loss, I question where the boundaries of the court and field mimic the boundaries of the country. Dear Adam Silver (named for the current commissioner of the National Basketball Association) is a body of work I have developed that expresses my attempts, successes and failures at making artwork about sports. Mr. Silver has become my target audience as I hope to draw his attention to the production of visual art as a way of thinking critically about sports. By addressing him through both letters that I have sent in the mail and regularly on my podcast, also entitled Dear Adam Silver, I create an unusual, non-traditional dynamic between a high ranking administrator at the top of his profession and an artist looking for space in the world of sports. This ongoing work had allowed for me to connect with many different artists, writers, critics and even a few athletes, resulting in a melting pot of perspectives on where sports and art diverge and overlap. It is not particularly easy for me as an artist, to insert myself into the world of sports media. But through my podcast I have connected and formed relationships with so many wonderful artists and thinkers, it is well worth the feelings of imposter syndrome, non responses and rejections. I hope listeners, new and old, of the podcast realize that the show is a unique space for discussing elements of our culture that normally don’t get unpacked and heard side by side.
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?
Well I would start by letting the readers (and any visitors) know that I am a proud vegan, and in Tucson, there is no shortage of restaurants for good plant based fare. We would start with Beaut Burger for artichoke “crab” cake sandwiches. We would then go to Cup Cafe for a snack or two (so many choices!), Roma Imports for eggplant parm sandwiches (hold the cheese, add hot peppers), to Zayna’s for the cauliflower sandwich and fries, to Aqua Vita for the samosa chaat and to La Chaiteria for a jackfruit al pastor burrito and potato taquitos. We would also go to the Rillito Farmers market on Sundays for more burritos, grilled this time, and jars of strawberry lemonade. Can’t forget to stop at Tanias 33 for every vegan/Mexican food option one could hope for and finally stopping at Ermano’s for their delicious house made veggie burger. We would also stock up on bread for the week at Barrio Bread for all our staying in eating needs. For hiking and views we would head to Gates Pass, Catalina State Park, Finger Rock Trail and Tumamoc Hill. We would also take drives to Bisbee, Parker Canyon Lake, Peña Blanca Reservoir, Chiricahua National Monument and San Xavier del Bac Mission. Before dropping my friend/s off at the airport, I would make sure to take them to La Estrella Bakery to pick up some of the world’s best chipotle flavored tortillas.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to first shoutout Annie May Johnston, a dear friend and fellow artist, who convinced me that I could be a part of sports media as an artist. My work is somewhat about fitting myself into a role that is not meant for me and she told me to go for it from the start. Artists and educators, and my mentors, Lily Brooks, Kristine Thompson and Laura Mullen who encouraged me every step of the way as I have engaged with basketball as a muse for my work. Senda Berenson Abbott, a woman’s basketball pioneer, who came long before me but whose story gives my work more meaning and power. Howard Bryant, Hank Willis Thomas and Claudia Rankine, thank you for opening my mind to the possibility that sports mean more than just the game. I would also like to thank Bookman’s, a wonderful business and Arizona institution, for supporting my podcast.