Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Community Beyond My Desk

I never expected this to happen or to find myself here.

Creating for me has been a solitary endeavor.  However, I’ve stepped away from my desk and found a very welcoming place indeed. 

A few months ago, I was invited to join a group of local artists (writers, musicians, actors, painters, designers, to name a few).  Their mission?  “To spark their creative endeavors and get encouragement to keep on working.” As a loner, it was a leap of faith for me to join this group.  We meet once a month and discuss everything imaginable from the drive we feel to be creative, the tools we use, the workspaces we use and the risks and sacrifices we make in our lives to do what we do.  It was astounding to me the similarities in challenges and goals we all share.

In a very short time they’ve had a profound effect in how I see myself as an artist and the creative process.

Photo Credit: Niagara Univesity
An assignment from the “You Should Be Writing Boot Camp” course I’m taking tasked me to “nurture myself with a planned distraction”.  I work at Niagara University, which is home to the Castellani Art Museum. I like museums, however rarely go.  In fact, I've gone to the Castellani once in my seven years at Niagara.

So a few weeks ago on my lunch hour, I walked the rooms, starting with an exhibition of the history of Niagara Falls.  The following rooms housed a celebration of the Top-Spin series (solo exhibitions for emerging regional artists), portraits, sculptures and paintings. 
In the last room that held a collection on the Underground Railroad, I sat on the remarkably comfy bench and thought of being an artist.  

I thought about FEELING like an artist.  Like the ones who created the works I'd just looked at.  They had a vision.  They created and developed it into a form to share with others.  Their work touched me in thought and emotion.  

I thought about BEING an artist. I have a vision.  I create and develop pieces and share them with others.  People read my work that I will never know or meet.  It will touch them in ways that I don't know and can't imagine.   

I thought about the procrastinations and distractions in their lives and the daily routines they had.  And I thought about all the finished pieces I'd seen.  And that made me think about their commitments, their drive, their love of their craft.  I have within me all the same vices and talents. 

Then Friday night, I went to a reception for the artists of MY FAVORITE THINGS, by Robin Frey and Heidi Zanelli at Fox Run’s Gyda Higgins Gallery.  I met Heidi through the local group of artists. 
I walked the exhibition, admiring the beauty of the paintings and portraits as I listened to vocalist Mari McNeil, another artist from the group, provide soft musical jazz background.  Again, I found myself thinking of the process of creating and being an artist.

Sometimes stepping away from your own little corner of creativity opens up a whole new world, which is exactly what’s happened.  Where have I found myself now?  Remarkably... in a community of artists

A community made up of online friends, mentors and blogging groups like GBE2 Blog On and The Writer’s Post.  There is the talented group of writers and a wise instructor, Lisa Romeo, who I’ve met through the Boot Camp course, and an inspiring group of artists that I meet with once a month, all who have spurred my creativity to new heights.  More importantly, they’ve helped me feel a part of something bigger – something that allows me to walk through the Castellani or an artist’s reception and feel a connection not only to the finished pieces, but the artists, whether I know them or not.  We are ALL part of a community of artists.   

So no, I never expected this to happen or to find myself here; part of a world I hadn’t realized existed.  A world where I can nurture and support others with my experiences or by being part of an event.  By sharing my goals, my failures or my techniques. By showing interest and giving encouragement and feedback.  Yes, it’s a simple concept, but a new one for this solitary writer.  I’m glad I finally ventured past the edge of my desk.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

On Being Lucky

Really - I couldn't just put a RABBIT's FOOT here now could I?
My mother, the Queen of Spin, instilled in me at an early age that 13 was a LUCKY number.  So, standing on the horizon of 2013, I’m expecting a lot!  In my heart of hearts, I know she pushed that belief in us kids because my oldest brother’s (and youngest nephew’s) birthdays are on April 13th.  She wasn’t a believer in bad luck, so in our household, the number got flipped on its head.  There was never any worry of the 13th floor in any building and Friday the 13th, well that was just a “double” lucky day. 

I kick off 2013 with turning 50 this month.  Personally, it doesn’t bother me – chalk up another one for mom – who always said that age was just a number and since we didn’t have any control over it, why worry about it?  What I didn’t expect is the freedom that I do the closer I get to the day.  Somewhere in my head, 50 became the line in the sand.  You know… the one where I’m not trying to “establish” anything, or to “be” anyone.  It’s where I just get to be comfortable in my own skin and enjoy the groundwork I’ve laid down.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the fact that I’ve gone to a few funerals in the past few years for friends my age or younger that really shook me up.  So, in their memory, I really don’t have any right other than to just celebrate it for the sheer luck and gift of being able to.

March brings the joyful celebration of 30 years of marriage to my confidante, best friend and soul mate.  Will it have been 10,958 days of wedded bliss?  Of course not.  But honestly, pretty darn close. A few years ago, I watched Susan Sarandon as Beverly Clark in Shall We Dance give one of the best descriptions of marriage I’ve ever heard.. "We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'." And so, on March 19th, Steven and I will have been each other’s witness for 10, 958 days.  And for that I am grateful, humbled and proud. 

Kitschy, Kitschy - here we come!
Summer looms with the “Amy & Steve hit Route 66” trip.  We’ll fly into Chicago, rent a car and travel the fabled ribbon of asphalt and concrete to LA and then fly home.   Over 2,000 miles in 14 days filled with enough diners, kitschy road side attractions, and historic sites to keep us laughing, learning and loving all the way. 

Around the house there is a front foyer make-over project with a built-in combination coat rack/storage bench that we’re pretty excited about.  We’ll be tiling virgins on that one as we place the tile floor in during that project (good thing it’s a small area to learn on)!

I’ve got some writing classes planned, hopefully LOTS of writing and some submissions to send out. Birthday celebrations for Abram and Steve along with a few surprises sprinkled in and it should be a busy year! And of course, there’s that whole “lucky” element from Mom.  I’ll have to pay closer attention to the lottery this year, just in case it wasn’t all spin.