This weekend I participated in a professional development workshop for artists organized by Creative Capital and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs -- two organizations to whom I am absolutely grateful, for the opportunity, the funding, all of it.
The workshop was a really unusual for a creative person. I think the life of a creative person is analogous to the experience of being gay: you always know you're "different," although there does come a specific crisis point in your life when you put a name to your difference and realize what it means for you. In some, small circles, it opens doors and makes you "a part of" something. But in the larger circles of the world it closes doors and makes you "apart from" things.
There are probably 500 ways of characterizing what Creative Capital is doing with artists in these workshops, but one simple way of putting it is that they're bridging the divide between artists and an important part of that world that artists are traditionally apart from: money.
Artists do not undervalue their work intellectually or emotionally, but they have trouble translating that value into the material world. It sounds weird to an artist to suggest that, because your work is valuable to the human condition, you "deserve" better living conditions - and even weirder to suggest that there are simple business-like steps you can take to achieve a greater impact with your work, spend more time on your art, and live comfortably, with, like, the money and time to take vacations and stuff, and... okay (so saith the peanut gallery:) who's painting this pink pony purple here? No one's buying this!
But this weekend I was convinced: in part through reason, in part through example, since artists who are making a living as artists led the workshop. It was a lot of information to process, and I'm lucky I've got spring break this week to think things through and make some plans, but it feels like I've gone from treading water to touching sand, and land is just a matter of walking in the right direction.
This weekend I also met some amazing people -- not just the group leaders, but artists like me, who are still in earlier stages of their careers. I was the only fiction writer in the room, so I got a glimpse of a lot of brilliant new work going on in Florida outside of literature -- painters, sculptors, filmmakers, and more -- and I'm going to write about each of them over the next few weeks. I hope you'll come back and read about them all: they are amazing!