And so many ways to be a creative!
Although I’m not able to be fully open both weekends of our county-wide open studio tour this month, I was able to fulfill my volunteer commitments at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, the organization that hosts it.
Volunteering is so rewarding! We can help fill in the gaps for non-profit organizations. We get to assist the very people who help us get our art out into the world. And my favorite? We get to peek behind the curtain, just like Wizard-of-Oz Dorothy did. (Er…in a good way.)
I got to meet a member of the staff I hadn’t even met before, due to the pandemic precautions. One of them triggered a powerful memory for me.
When we lived in New Hampshire, I became a juried member of one of the oldest fine craft organizations in the country (some contend the oldest), the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. Among other events, they hosted a highly-popular nine-day fair called the LNHC Annual Craftsmen’s Fair. I served on the Fair’s steering committee for awhile, and that deepened my relationships with the League’s staff.
And one conversation simply blew my mind. Here’s that memory:
I was talking to the woman who was in charge of accounting and finances. (I don’t remember her name, but I’ll share it if I find out!(Found her! Joan Hubbard!!! And thank you to Melinda LaBarge for her detective work!) She was always patient and kind in all our interactions, and at some point, we talked about her work history.
Her income came up, and somehow, it was clear she could have chosen to do the same work at our non-profit craft org, at a much higher salary from a corporation or for-profit company. I was curious, and asked her why she’d chosen that.
She said, “I’m not creative, but I’m in awe of people who are! So I consider my work here a way of supporting the artists and arts I love.”
Take a minute to let that sink in.
In a culture where money is the measure of our “success”, often the only measure, and where someone who is good with managing money can make a lot of money doing that…. this person gave up fortune because of her ideals. For her love of creativity. Her respect for creative people.
I thanked her, of course, and shared that story with others whenever the opportunity came up.
But I wish I could have that conversation again, today. I would take the conversation a little deeper, and perhaps have honored her life decision even more by lifting her heart.
I know now that almost every human being is creative, in their own unique way. Creativity, innovation, the desire to be part of a tribe, and to be seen as a unique individual, are all powerful human traits. If you’ve followed my blog or my email newsletter, or my past articles on Fine Art Views, you know this is a common theme for me!
My heart has opened wide to respect many, many ways people are creative:
Whatever you love to do, (whether it’s hard or challenging or easy and relaxing, earns you a living or not), if it lifts your heart, and helps you make better decisions and be a better person…
And you share it with others, with the world (whether is selling, donating for a good cause, lending, or simply sharing it on social media, etc.)…
And it lifts the hearts of others (because they love it, or makes their life better, easier, richer, or helps them physically/mentally/emotionally/spiritually)…
And makes the world a better place…
That…is creative work.
So “art” isn’t the only form of creativity. It can be any form of making. It can be healing, teaching, creating community, mending, restoration, repair, building, care-taking, gardening, feeding, etc.
I now know this is all creative work. Even badly-done, with good intentions and a loving heart, has its place in the world. (Here’s my blog post on Regretsy and the power of awful art.)
Today, I would tell this woman this:
“The work you do for us is creative. It makes you happy that you can support our work, and it helps us soooooo much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you do!”
But I would also go deeper. I would ask her what her creative work is. If she protested she wasn’t creative, I would dig a little deeper: What is the hobby/pastime/activity that lifts her heart? I would gently walk her through my new “rules” of creativity.
And I hope it would give her more support, more confidence, in her own superpowers.
Unfortunately, she died far too early, even before we left New Hampshire. I’ve shared her story with her daughter, and she loved it.
But I deeply regret I could not share my deeper insights at that time.
And the person I briefly met at SebArts fills the same role as this wonderful woman at the LNHC. I hope to talk with her again, soon.
In her honor, I ask you one small favor today.
If you are a “traditional creative”, you know, a “real artist”, take a step back.
Let’s not fight anymore about whether pastels are “just chalk” ( that’s what cave art is made with), or argue about whether pottery is art or craft.
Let’s look deeper at all the organizations, the small businesses, the companies, the people, who support the work of our heart, in so many ways. By sponsoring it, displaying it, promoting it, buying it, or simply letting us know how much they enjoy it.
Let’s be grateful for all the reasons we can even do our work, and all the ways we can get it out into the world.
Let’s work hard to be a force for good in the world, and honor the work so many do, so we can do our work.