One of my dreams for the future is to be able to provide a year long patronage for an artist or artists. I was speaking with a friend of mine about this and sharing some of my more idealistic vision when he challenged me in a very positive way.
To get us off to a start, I’ll share the goal. The goal is to give the artist a year with no responsibilities other than creating. Some of the particulars are as follows:
- All basic necessities and art supplies provided for.
- Community based living, but no requirement to engage in these activities.
- No judgment on the artist’s work.
- No requirement to create any specific number of works.
Note, that in my mind, the growth of the artist is assumed. I admit that several of these are in response to the limitations we place on others that can be stifling and unhealthy. It is the best approach I could think of that stands in opposition to the very restrictive and stifling way the church has limited its artists. I was reminded that the above would be wonderful for the mature, but not everyone is mature. This would not have worked for me even a few months ago. This is where the conflicting opinion helped clarify and better the idea. That being a quick endorsement of community in itself. It helps us see blind spots and make our work better. Now, back to idea of the day.
My friend shared the need for accountability. The dangers he saw in this scenario were those things that might hinder the artist or lead them to lazily let the time pass by wasted and unused. Where I assumed growth, he called to attention the real possibility that growth might need a little help. One of these helps is accountability. By this I mean to say some measure of productivity or growth is in place that is attested to and encouraged by other individuals. This too is a benefit of community. We are responsible for and to people other than ourselves. It is amazing the power this can yield when it is handled correctly. It is also amazing the disastrous and destructive power it wields for guild and shame when it is not handled correctly.
This is where his challenge began to grow new things from the combination of our thoughts. He mentioned a discipleship like relationship. These are relationships that I had assumed would take place. So we began talking with this in mind and he shared something wonderful. The idea was simple. Don’t make it one size fits all. Every individual artist will need different things. Some will be highly self motivated and may only want you to touch base with them now and again. They will engage in the community work by their own choice. Others may need a checklist and very intentional pursuit to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them by living in community and having the freedom, a sometimes daunting freedom, to pursue their hearts desire without restriction. It’s amazing how much encouragement it takes to face such freedom. It’s almost too vast for the mind to handle.
I am experiencing that right now in some ways, and I find I need constant reminders that whether I deserve it or not, it’s a gift given to be fully realized, enjoyed and shared. Furthermore, it is my gift to be fully realized, enjoyed and shared. You see, accountability is not always a checklist. It is also a side effect of good community where we are bound up to a greater purpose and in that way bound to other individuals. People shape us and help, as my friend here did, to refine our vision, but they also encourage us to pursue our callings boldly. In addition, the simple awareness that what we do or do not do affects those around us can be a powerful motivator, especially if we know and care for those people. Amazingly, it is still about relationship.
This is why I believe that we, as artists, need community so desperately. It is not a stifling community that tells us how and what we should do, though we shouldn’t fear being challenged, but a supportive community that encourages our work, discovery and personal growth.
So who is your community and how do they help you to utilize the freedom to create that you’ve been given?