I just had a talk with a young woman who said,
“What advice would you give young people about becoming artists?”
And I know this is horrible, but I actually started laughing.
The day after this awful election when we woke up feeling like we were going to throw up?
My advice was to GET OUT NOW, become a banker, and move to Scandinavia.
Actually, what I said to her was this:
We need artists now more then ever.
And we need artists who are making work for their own communities.
Yeah, there is no funding.
Yeah, there is not enough space or enough time to make the work.
Yeah, you will be doing the marketing, the producing, the generating, the editing, the costuming, the lighting, the sound, and managing it all, especially at the beginning.
And yeah: You are going to fail over and over and over again
(Well, would you look at that: The Failure Festival just happens to be this weekend! Come on by and let’s celebrate this failure thing together).
And in the end, we still make art because we have to.
Because now more then ever, when our freedoms are being hacked away at, when our resources are dwindling, when the people who we just elected yesterday are just not that nice,
We still make art.
And we do it with persistence.
We do it with intelligence.
We do it with vision.
We do it with thoughtfulness, with wisdom, and with courage.
And we do it with a really good sense of humor.
Then this young artist asked me:
And then I really started to laugh.
The kind of laugh were you slap the table, spill the drinks, and snort so loud the people at the table next to you, get up and move as far away as they can.
(She got a little nervous).
I was laughing because I have NO IDEA how to do it, and I certainly had no idea how she should do it.
When I finally calmed myself down, I looked over at her for a moment and realized she was serious. She wanted me to tell her how to make art.
Oh the sweetness!
The complete trust she had that I would actually know the answer to her question made me pull myself together and pretend to know what I was talking about.
This is what I said to her:
“See a ton of work. Go to museums, concerts, plays, galleries. gardens, dances. Talk about art with your friends, your teachers, your family, the politicians we just elected.
Ask why art matters, and why it matters NOW.
Wonder about this…deeply.
Think about who has the privilege to create, contemplate, and make art.
Think about who doesn’t have the privilege to create, contemplate, make art,
and still does anyway.
Take breaks from making art to see if you miss it
and if you do, then get back to it.
Don’t work so hard that it isn’t any fun, but work hard enough that you are in a creative process that is daunting and awesome.
Get into the studio and just start.
Invite a friend in to see what you have been working on.
come out of the studio a lot and take a look around.
Trust. Rest. Dance. Trust. Rest. Dance. Trust. Rest. Dance. Trust. Rest. Dance.”
She nodded and smiled and wrote everything I said in her notebook.
I smiled back and took a sip of my tea.
When she left, I sat for a bit by myself and thought:
oh Mark Udall, oh Wendy Davis, oh Michelle Nunn, oh Kay Hagan, what have we done?
And then I thought about the young woman who had just asked me for advice.
Her wide eyed wish to be an artist.
Her tenacity and eagerness to make something that matters.
For her, I thought.
For her hope and for her trust, no matter who is elected,
I am still going to dance.
I hope you do too.
Dance mission for the week:
Next time you are on Facebook or Instagram or Tumblr or Twitter or Pinterest or whatever else is out there:
Turn it off.
Put on some music, or don’t put on some music,
and just start dancing.
Post about it here
And you know what:
If you want to post in either of these places and make your comments more public, that’s great.
And if you don’t, that’s great too.
Whatever feels the most comfortable to you.
Either way, I love hearing from you.
And if you like this newsletter, feel free to pass it along to your friends or have them sign up directly through my website: www.joannaandtheagitators.com
Joanna and The Agitators
sweetly agitating/persistently upending