Building Foundations

If you have built castles in the air,
your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.
Now put the foundations under them.
-Henry David Thoreau

This past week, I spent a few days out in North Adams at Mass MOCA learning about different Creative Communities throughout New England. I learned about tools to help develop creative communities, models of creative community programs which can be replicated, toured artist living work spaces and galleries, walked through a community and discovered different walkability ideas, ate great food, reconnected with colleagues, met new people who I am sure will prove to be great resources, saw amazing work, and more. It was a fantastic week.

This weekend, I spent Saturday reconnecting with my kids and husband at my brother's "Super Classy" wedding party. It was a summer backyard cookout type event, one of our family's many backyard bashes that are held throughout the summer every year. He recently married and bought a new house that's located at the end of a beautiful street that abuts New Bedford's Buttonwood Park. The wall you see above is the back of a business that is located next door and faces the perpendicular street.

Every time I am in their back yard, my brain races with images of murals or different ideas that I would love to put on that wall. Actually doing something would mean sketching, approval of the property owners and my brother and sister-in-law, supplies, commutes, weather cooperation, etc. So I just dream about it. I don't have the time or resources for another big project.

At the party we ate typical cookout fair, including a bologna cake made by my godmother, which you really have to experience to understand. The kids, loaded up on the wedding cupcakecake and chips and soda and juice, quickly started the rush of activities needed to work out the "beginning of the summer" willies. Tag, sliding on every conceivable structure with a tilt, sneaking tv time inside the house and making parents chase them, football and baseball were the key activities.

After the kids finished hitting all of the whiffle balls on top of the roof or into a nearby gutter, they started to draw on the sidewalk with chalk. They traced themselves on the ground with chalk. The adults did some graffiti; the kids ground the chalk into the sidewalk into palettes of color. Then the magic happened.

It was quite a thing to experience. They realized that when they stepped on the areas of walkway that were heavily loaded with chalk, that they could leave foot prints.  So they purposefully ground the chalk into the ground to use as stamp pads. They started making footprints everywhere. Then someone spilled water on the chalk. They started making handprints on the ground by dipping their hands into the muddied pigment. Then they started mixing colors a d trying to find different objets to use as stamps, i.e., shoes, leaves, hands, etc.

One brave, innovative child ran over to the huge blank canvas with a smile on their face and daring in their heart and stamped her hands on that wall. Then they all joined in. In a melee of running and dipping hands and mixing colors, and laughing and spirited celebration of spontaneous creativity, group process and disregard of consequence, a group of children created a mural that was as beautiful in its final stage as it was in its creation.

And, it washes off.

We all work with hesitations and wanting to make things perfect and permanent. Truth is, nothing is perfect and nothing is permanent. Life is messy.

But if you don't stamp your hands on the wall at all, all you will end up doing is dreaming by yourself.

At one of the workshops that I went to this weekend, Kevin Sprague from Studio 2 got up and spoke about design tools for communication. He told us to actually not over think design. He said to focus on the message. The point is to communicate.  He said not to worry about spelling mistakes or the little things. Be messy. Just get the message out.

Don't worry about being perfect. Get out there. Get messy. Be brave. Build your castle in the clouds.

The foundation is already there. It's you.



My shortest blog post ever:

Q: Are you going to change the name of TLGUTS?

A: No. It Takes Lots of GUTS to be an artist.

I know it's a tough idea to think of an organization without literal walls, but that's what we are now. No walls = No limitations or boundaries.


Running Towards a Sabbatical

Taking a sabbatical was a tough decision. It took me a long while to make the decision. This past weekend I was at a fundraiser on a track in Sommerville. It was one of those red spongy tracks that only the colleges and richer communities had when I was in high school. Our track was like cement.
Even if you wore spikes, you couldn't really dig in to the track and get the good push you needed to achieve your best times. It had its limitations.

I ran and walked for about an hour as a part of the fundraiser, but at one point, the jumping pits called to me. I had to jump. I brought my daughter out and showed her the long jump. She had remarkable running form and was used to jumping and timing her steps from gymnastics. She jumped as far as I did without even lifting her legs. I showed her the stages of the triple jump. I ran and jumped as hard and far as I could.  I did it again, and again, wanting to force my legs to take on their old speed and strength through sheer will. I felt old.

It dawned on me that I haven't been following my grandfather's advice at all. I haven't been running my best race, or even my own race for that matter. I haven't been running at all. I haven't had time to run, or jump, or play in a really long time. I have been holding on to the premise that if I just keep working, I will eventually get to a finish line.

I don't want to get to a finish line. I want to keep running. 

I preferred a more well rounded approach to track and field. I tried the javelin when I had a torn hamstring. I hurdled. I long jumped, triple jumped and high jumped. I sprinted. I ran cross country.  I ran in relays. Some things I did better than others, but I tried everything I could. And I pushed myself as hard as I could to be as good as I could at everything I tried.

The wonderful thing about trying out all of the different events was that I could appreciate my teammate's accomplishments. I knew that a 36' throw in the shot put was something to celebrate. I knew that a five foot high jump was pretty top notch. I knew that a 60 second quarter mile meant state competitions were in the runner's future.

I knew as much as I could about stretching, strengthening, visualization techniques, pushing through a wall, finishing techniques, hand off techniques, cold starts, block starts, loose face, loose hands, but not too loose, use your arms, lift your knees, lean on the bends, bend at the hips, look forward, etc. I immersed myself in the sport and decided I was going to be good. So I was good. Not Olympics good by any stretch of the imagination, but I was good.

Running a brick and mortar out here in an isolated area physically limits the amount of immersion I can achieve in my current field. I have learned as much as I can about managing TLGUTS's current space and curating that space. I want to learn more. I want to reach a higher level of achievement for both myself, and my team... the artists I work with. I want to re-immerse myself in the art world and lift my chin and look forward and continue to be challenged to get better.

I want to run a new race, one in which I can achieve the highest level of proficiency possible. I want to try a few new events. I want to take the time to appreciate the achievements of my team mates. So that's what I am going to do. I am taking a sabbatical to gain more knowledge, to focus on my own race, i.e. my own art work and writing, and to get out and spend more time with my team mates.

I don't want my team to run on cement anymore. I want us all to run on the good stuff. I'm not going to stop running, I'll just be perfecting my technique. 

Come run with me.


Well I'll Be Damned

Jake and his best friend grampa
 That's something my grandfather used to say when he was surprised.  He's been on my mind a lot lately. He can't remember me anymore, which is a tough pill to swallow because he raised me. So even though he's technically my grandfather by blood, he's really my dad. He's the one who showed up for my violin recitals and art shows and track and soccer and volleyball and whatever other sporting events. He's the one who came to all of my graduations and encouraged me to write and draw.

I don't know if you have ever been forgotten by someone you love in the literal sense, but it's awful. I have a hard time with it and I'm not quite sure I've let myself fully come to accept the fact that my grampa, my dad, is no longer accessible to me. He's lost in mixes of memories and reality and trying his best to make sense of his days. I don't get to see him often and each time he seems further and further gone.

So what does this have to do with art and Lynn?

Well, this weekend on Mother's Day I cleaned my garage. I needed more space at the house. I've started moving things out of my closet space at the gallery that don't need to be there, but aren't ready for the landfills. What I found in my garage and closet was a ton of old art supplies, half made projects, tests, and something I had forgotten about: me.

I had forgotten me,  just like my grandfather.

I was so gung-ho about trying to build the arts community here that I disregarded the personal consequences of lost time and lost pay and lost sight of my personal needs. I have, for the past number of years, put myself aside so many times, that I literally lost sight of my own value, strengths and worth.

Over the past few months, those closest to me have noticed my head spinning around with smoke coming out of my ears as I have been trying to figure out how to piece together a future in which my life is more balanced and that I am taking care of myself and family through my work, not taking care of work at the expense of my family.

This morning I met with someone who wanted to help me figure out the next stage of the gallery. He asked me, "What do you want?". Well, what do any of us want from our work efforts? We want to be challenged, to have space to grow, to make a difference, to make a living, to be taken seriously, and most of all, to be appreciated for our contributions, and for our contributions to not be forgotten.

That's what I want, for me, from the gallery. 

My grandfather might not remember me, but I remember my times with him. I remember a Class A 600yd race that I ran at the Harvard indoor track.  I went over to see him one last time before my race, before I went over in the far corner of the track to stretch, and he said to me, "Don't worry about anyone else,  just take care of yourself." I didn't worry about the long legged girl from Brockton or anyone else on the track. I just ran my own race. I ran my fastest time ever by about two seconds.

And the other girls in the race ran faster too.

In remembering me, and remembering what parts of me are results of the lessons my grampa taught me, I can hear him calling out, "GO JOCIE," as I raced by him. And I can hear him imparting his Swamp Yankee wisdom during one of our many car rides home after my races, "You just have to give 'em hell Jocelyn. You have to run your own race."

Well I'll be damned.