By Howard Karren | Provincetown Banner
When Jay Critchley, Provincetown’s resident performance-installationartist- writer-satirist-activist- impresario, sat down to discuss his upcoming talk, “Democracy of the Land,” which he’ll be giving on Tuesday at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill, a messianic mission quickly emerged. Ever since he was “born again” as an artist some 38 years ago, at the age of 33, Critchley has been creating projects and series and films, on his own and collaborating with others, on subjects that he feels need addressing. “It’s just being engaged in the politics of the world and the country,” he says.
Before re-imagining his life as an artist, Critchley’s “former self ” was devoted to “human services” — and he still is, by running the Provincetown Compact, which he founded 26 years ago and has raised millions to support charitable causes, mostly by holding the annual Swim for Life & Paddle Flotilla in September. “I worked for youth in Connecticut,” Critchley says. “I was a VISTA volunteer in Oregon. I worked at a drop-in center in Provincetown — that’s what got me here. I was married at the time. I have a son and three grandchildren. I came out as a gay man first. The ‘born again as an artist’ came four years later. My sister sent me a subscription to Art in America. I said, ‘Why are you sending this to me?’ She said, ‘Because you’re an artist.’ How could I get away with being an artist? It just wasn’t part of my thinking. We’re talking about Irish Catholic in the ’50s.”