DATE: 8/18/2005 06:19:00 PM
I just returned from a quick, but fruitful, visit to Ohio. Invited to speak to the Eastern Ohio Arts Guild, I hopped on a plane and soon found myself in a small town outside of Columbus.
My first unshared, internal thought: My, it’s amazing how something as simple as the act of making creative objects is such a universally understood expression! Art and craft are truly a part of our humanness. It glues us together. Small towns are no exception. In many ways they are the rule. Sure, art congregates in big cities. But it swells up from the ground in quieter areas of the country!
My second thought: What's the flavor of this guild? Where are they headed? What is their purpose for gathering together? All member groups have something in common. I think it’s natural to have a group that appreciates and makes art, but what is the common goal? As one who travels and visits with groups of all shapes and sizes, I’ve seen some truly muddled goals in even large art guilds. I was curious where this group fit in the grand scheme of things.
My questions were answered and my thoughts bubbled to the surface at their Wednesday evening meeting which I was scheduled to present at, following the traditional business meeting. There were the basic readings of old business, treasurer’s reports, and new business. And then, there I found myself, a quick introduction and I was off and running.
We talked about several shared challenges and roadmarkers for success in artmaking. Specifically, I highlighted how focusing on marketability can transform the way you create, what you create, and how you share that creative expression with others. If you move beyond just making to focus on WHO you are making objects for, it colors your commitment to art and enriches your experience.
The group was extraordinary. They were rich with diversity, as most art guilds are. I saw a wide range of ages at the meeting. There were the quiet introverts who sat patiently and waited for the discussion to get rolling. There were also the head nodders who were struggling to define the path ahead of them and had already asked themselves many of the questions I posed. In the end, hobbiest or full-time career hopeful... We were all on the same page. Our passions deserve to be acknowledged and nurtured.
THIS is what glued this guild together at the seams -- A shared desire to support one another. And when I thought about it, this simple beginning CAN spawn so many things: critiquing each other's photography, improving one other's prices, learning how to step away from our work to allow others in to honestly review our objects/images, possibly even identifying group discounts for slides, postcard printing, or credit card processing.
I do hope this group can maintain that core focus as each member begins to bring something new to the table month after month, slowly expanding the bounds of the guild's purpose for mutual member benefit.
Individually, artists should allow themselves to think big.
And, having the support of a membership group allows artists a certain freedom from that individual risk. Suddenly, with the support and creative input of others, we begin to think GIGANTIC!
So, why not investigate an art guild this month in your area? Why not join the group and begin seeing how your boundaries stretch and your work grows? If you're already a member of a group, why not begin assertively bringing new ideas and suggestions to your monthly meeting?
A well-steered team can certainly accomplish much more than any individual artist working unguided in their home, garage, or studio space. Teamwork isn't just a childhood classroom exercise. It truly is one of the winning factors that successful artists have in their back pocket -- the support and guidance of others.