Arts award acceptance words…an edited version

Humm.. I’m not very good at this Blog thing. My hands are too busy making things I guess. I decided to post an edited down version of the 2015 Arts Council award acceptance speech I gave back in Dec. It’s the real deal. Happy Spring

 

Since I was a very young child I knew I wanted to do a job someday that helped people and I drew the greatest pleasure while making things.  At the age of twelve I fought with my parents daily to let me go to South Africa and fight against Apartheid. Ha this little white girl from Michigan…what was I going to do. I look back and can find so many examples of myself, conscious or not, following my intuitions and what inspired me. Young people in the audience take note!

 

Fast forward post college where I spent a three-year period working with abused and neglected children in the heart of Chicago. I thought I could make a difference…I wanted to make a difference, but after collapsing one day on Michigan Ave from burned nerves and fatigue I knew I had to find another way. 

 

I made a tremendous decision that day to dive wholeheartedly into my art and I have never looked back since.  I knew there had to be a way to combine my love for people and my natural abilities in art. For the next 8 years I taught an arts, job training program in Chicago Public schools that took me to the most disenfranchised communities in the city…I watched how art making made a huge impact with these kids who had little to no resources but plenty of enthusiasm and talent.   This was my first experience seeing the true power of art. I embraced my gift and put it to work. 24 years later I have had the most remarkable journey anyone could ask for.

 

Making Art fills me up. It has given me the tools and strength to give back in very meaningful ways to my community and the world at large.

Like anyone else, however, I too have those days where I go to my studio and I feel down, and question what it is that I am doing.  A quote from Martha Graham always helps me out. She says

 “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”

 

The thing that helps me most to stay focused is to go back and find those poignant moments in my career where I am completely convinced that I am doing what I was put on this earth to do. One such convincing moment was when a father of a 6 yr. old who was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre called me up after seeing a quiet memorial I had made in honor of the children and teachers who died. He told me how unimaginably difficult this was for all the parents and that my work of art was a peaceful and beautiful image that they held onto to get through.  I wept for days after that; not only for their loss but also for the gratitude I had for the power of art.

 

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