It Takes a Village
“It takes a village” is a common phrase used when discussing the raising of children. I agree wholeheartedly. The act of keeping a tiny human alive until they are eighteen years old (or older) and can fend for themselves (supposedly), requires a lot of support for parents. These "things" don’t come with manuals and just because you have one doesn’t mean the next one will be the same. Oh, no….the general rule is that you get a completely different, almost opposite, child to try to move to adulthood. Yikes.
This past year, I’ve been humbled to discover that being an artist also requires a village. A village of supporters and helpers. There is this erroneous idea that art is a singular, independent venture that requires one to be isolated and alone. Yes, some parts of an artist’s journey might require such times, but this occasional situation has morphed into a mindset that is so detrimental to not only artists, but the people they are trying to reach with their work. Artists need people. People of all sorts. And people need artists, too. Here’s a couple categories of folks that I’ve needed this past year. All with different roles in supporting my art, but all essential and part of the bigger picture.
1. The Social Media Supporter--As I have started to spend more time on Facebook and Instagram, I have noticed a couple folks that are consistently liking, commenting, and sharing my posts. Little do they know, this helps my work on social media to get noticed by others. (There are these crazy algorithms that pay attention to this type of thing!) My reach is not that far on my own (again, the algorithms), but when my friends interact with my posts, it helps get my work in front of more and more people, which is a great way to support my efforts.
2. The Informer--I had a friend that sent over an email earlier this year to let me know about a show for which he thought I should apply. I applied, got in, and ended up selling the piece at the show opening. I never would have known about the show without my friend. I search and look for opportunities, but I’m only one person, so I need help in this area.
3. The Caretaker--I’ve had several friends that have helped me take care of my kids while I’ve faced stressful deadlines. Sometimes I need to ask and sometimes they just offer when they see the fear and exhaustion in my eyes. Having "villagers" care for the two loves of my life frees me up to create in more ways than I can explain.
4. The Critic--I have several trusted colleagues and friends that I will send works in progress to when I’m struggling to know how to finish the pieces or something is just “off” and I don’t know how to fix it. I feel safe with these “villagers.” I know that they will look critically, but they will give their opinions in love and grace.
5. The Patron-- I’ve gotten to know several new patrons this year. A patron is someone who buys originals and reproductions of an artist's work. They financially support an artist through their purchases, no matter how big or small. Sometimes these are folks who very financially well-off, sometimes these are folks who have seen my work and have endeavored to save up for years in order to be able to purchase. When there is a will, there is a way.
6. The Sharer-- I’ve had several people who have done a tremendous job sharing about my work, either one-on-one, via social media, via email, etc. It doesn’t matter how it is done, each time someone shares about my work, the word spreads and my work has the chance to connect with new people.
7. The Comforter-- This past year, I’ve had some really disappointing rejections, project fall-throughs, and shows (you know, the kind where you end up not making a cent despite all the work you’ve put into it? ). Being an artist is an emotional roller coaster at times. I have some dear friends who check in on me and know how to comfort me when things have not gone the way I had hoped. They remind me of truth. Of who I am and what I can be thankful for instead of wallowing in my own self-pity. Boy, oh boy, do I need these people!
8. The Colleague--I’ve also met some amazing people who I consider colleagues. And many of them are not artists at all, but they are business people who are striving to provide a service or product for the general public because they believe in it. These folks have shared their ideas and experiences with me so I can learn and become better at what I do. They have offered to create alongside me. They share their networks with me.
9. The Fun Finder-- “Hey, we need to go out,” is a consistent text from two of my good friends that have done a terrific job of reminding me to let loose and have fun. I need that time to laugh, relax, and just be with my friends. I come home from those fun times refreshed and ready to tackle work the next day. I usually can't see my need for a break the way my friends can, so I count on them to tell me when it is time to have fun.
All these folks are my "village". If you are reading this and have participated in any of these roles as one of my villagers, thank you. Thank you so much. You have no idea how much it means to me to have your support and your encouragement. My art means so much to me and when you find your special way to help support my dream, you show me love.
Maybe you have never considered the idea that you can help support an artist through other ways than patronage and collecting their work. Not all of us have the funds to buy original art, but we can still support the artists we have in our life in other ways. What role can you take on today?