The Rising of Art

Do you ever look around at all the budget cuts towards the Arts and feel discouraged?

Do you look at where money is being poured like honey, and wonder,
Why isn’t this going into what matters most to me?

Sports teams having NO problem paying their players millions of dollars, and you walk by another busker on the street begging for change or a dollar, for their incredible music.

Why this HUGE discrepancy?

How are we as Artists to make a living when we feel so devalued by society?

Where are those thriving communities that not only value the Arts, but are committed to growing and investing in them?

Does it even exist?

 

In 2000, Bruce Springsteen wrote a sobering song about Asbury Park, NJ, his adopted musical hometown where he began his career at The Stone Pony bar in the 80’s.

Named, My City of Ruins, he lamented on the sad and dismal state of what was once a thriving arts scene,

Young men on the corner
like scattered leaves
the boarded up windows
the empty streets

At one time, the Rat Pack filled concert halls, and the boardwalk rumbled with vibrant visitors.  Riots and waste had transformed the landscape into a ghost town, questionably safe, and decaying.

His heart was not alone in breaking.  In fact, many investors were eyeing this shore town, and seeing potential.

And something began to take shape.  A revitalization……and a transformation.

In 2015, from the same stage, Bruce introduced a new song, Atlantic City, musing,
“But maybe everything that dies someday comes back. Maybe Asbury Park is back?”

 

Packing up and leaving New York City after living there for 19 years was a lot for me.  I love the city.  And one of the TOP reasons it resonates with me so much is the culture seeping out of every street.

You can throw a penny and hit some kind of theater, music venue, museum, or sculpture.

People travel from all over the world to see
Broadway Shows
NYC Ballet
The Metropolitan Opera
The Guggenheim Museum
Carnegie Hall

And it’s not just established artists, there are TONS of opportunities for new playwrights, Off Off Broadway productions, small galleries to showcase new artists, and music venues for those just growing their fan base.

The city is about developing your Artistry AND showcasing it.

Moving down to the Jersey Shore, I found myself asking,
Will I find inspiration down here?
Will I find culture down here?

Most of all,
Will I find community down here?

My fiance had spoken about Asbury Park, and while we had experienced an amazing New Year’s Eve party at the Asbury Hotel seeing local band Remember Jones, I still had not had the chance to really explore.

Last weekend, we drove into Asbury, and what took most of the time was finding a parking space.

Asbury was packed.

Packed with all ages, twenty somethings on dates, older couples having a night out together, and families walking along the boardwalk.

I was enchanted, but here was the part that stood out to me the most….
The number of live music venues and galleries.

They were everywhere and opening up new.  Indeed, Bruce posed a powerful question back in 2015 that was being answered with a resounding YES.

Asbury Park is back, and even more so, being funded by patrons, and investors that see the value of Art.  They are specifically putting their energy into what lights people up.

And walking along the boardwalk, staring at the full moon, I felt my inner light shine brighter.  Inspiration was here.  Art is alive here.

Art is valued here.

And all I want to do now is tap into this community and create.  It’s nourishing.

Do you have this in your life?
What is your community like?
How does that affect your Art and making a living from it?

What would it be like if you DID have this?
What could be possible for you then?

Back on that shocking election day in November of 2016, I sent out an email titled,
What Trump means for your Creativity

The response was enormous, and the cry unified.

I have watched Artists galvanize in ways they never had before in the face of their livelihood being threatened.

And the call was,
We need Art more than ever now.
Your voice matters.

Walking along the streets on Asbury, it wasn’t just the fact that so many new venues were opening, it was the fact that they were FULL.

Full of audiences hungry for Art.

There is a demand here.

And all I can hear is Bruce’s famous song, The Rising.

 

For us to thrive, we need to have community, and have an audience that not only GETS you but VALUES you. Find your community.  Isolation only leads to further suffering.  We don’t get there alone.

The lead singer of Remember Jones, Anthony, shared with me his 13 piece band has grown to profit specifically on the fan base built at Asbury.
Morgan, a theatre professional, is renovating an old downtown vaudeville theater, the Savoy, into a performance space, with 64 micro-apartments on the floors above for musicians and artists.

If you are in a small town, or community that doesn’t have culture, look to communities that do.  What’s incredible about the internet, is the ability to reach people across the world with your Art.

Know they are out there, and they are hungry.
Know people are lining up on streets to see great work.
Know investors are seeking the next great space to blow up with creativity.

We are stronger together.

Revitalizing the power of Art.

The Magic of the Pause

Do you ever feel like there are just NOT enough hours in the day to get everything done?

So much is involved in being an Artist today, and it can feel overwhelming keeping up with social media, promotions, your friends and family, and then there’s the actual CREATION part…

You have this finite amount of time to
write the chapter
paint the canvas
choreograph the dance
plan out the show
edit your footage

So, what happens when you go to sit and actually DO your Art, and nothing comes?

Your mind is racing a million miles a minute going through a laundry list of To Do’s. You find yourself literally listing out groceries instead of being able to create.
Inspiration has gone OUT the window…

It can be so frustrating, right?

This is the FUN part!  This is the part we live for as Artists….so why does it dry up?

And more importantly, what can we do in that moment so we can actually create our best work and actually deliver to our audience?

How can we connect back with our Muse and feel that glorious flow again when we are so stressed OUT?

 

Last weekend I went to one of the most delicious and affirming workshops.  Led by master writing teacher, Christian McEwen, she led us in a one day retreat titled,
Learning to Pause.

In front of us, she offered a thick pad of drawing paper surrounded by colored pencils, pastels, and wax crayons.  One by one, we each tore a crisp sheet from the wire binder and were instructed to fold it in half.

On the left side, she wanted us to draw what a Frenzied State looked like to us.  Then on the right side, she wanted us to draw our state of flow and ease.

I had picked many colored pencils for the right side, but when I thought of the Frenzy, there was only one pencil that made sense…..
black.

The left side of my paper was colorless, marked by strong black circular shapes forming a huge exhausted eye, the lack of sleep and wrinkles in hard lines. I found myself drawing arrows pointing down, and black tear drops.  This was frenzy to me.  Black, colorless, heavy……a giant dragon eye drooping under the pressure.

Then, I picked up the colors and drew my place of inspiration.  Waves of water, rays of sunlight and energy, pulsing over smiling lips, and spirals in vibrant blues and purples.  Nature in all her glory, opening me.

I was struck by the stark contrast, and then Christian spoke about what happens in between.

Because this is the REAL question, right?

We all experience the tired black dragon, the darkness and hard lines in our life.  How do go from the frenzy to the flow?

The answer lies in the fold of the sheet we were drawing on, the crease we had formed from one to the next….

The answer is in the Pause.

It’s when we can stop all the insanity, and just connect back with the world around us.

Take a moment right now, and connect to your five senses.
What is the environment around you? Take in the details around you.
What do you smell right now?
Whirl your tongue around your teeth. What do you taste in your mouth?
What do you feel on your skin?
Close your eyes, and open your ears.  What sounds are around you?

And what happens in that moment when you place your attention on your single sense?

You come present.
The whirlwind in your mind takes a break.

And it’s in this break, this magical pause, that you re-set.

And in the re-set, the Muse comes in.

“Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste.  It’s what everything else isn’t.”
-Theodore Roethke

 

We can so easily forget how important a moment of pause is to our livelihood as an Artist.  This class was a huge reminder for me. I literally walked in 10 minutes late, breathless from booking as fast as I could to the workshop doors.  I felt self conscious, embarrassed, and frustrated.  This workshop was about Learning to Pause, and I was in a frenzy to get here!

Clearly I needed this……

Christian gave us 30 minutes to go outside on the Brooklyn street and noticed up to 8 things, writing a free form poem or short writing.

This felt like a huge gift.  I walked out, and found myself falling in love with so much on the street….a plastic cup, a worn out Toyota, a house sparrow chirping noisily in the tree….I realized inspiration was ALL around me.

And 8 poems emerged….in only 30  minutes.

Why?

I was taking the pause.  I was coming present.  There was no rush, AND I was open to take in my environment. All the other To Do’s fell away, and the Muse came in.  In fact, she had never left.  Now I was actually open to see her, walking alongside me on the concrete of Brooklyn.

J.K. Rowling conceived Harry Potter on a stalled train.  She was forced into a pause, and one of the most popular characters of our time was born.

And the beauty is, we all possess this ability.

And I want to be clear, this is not about disconnection or distraction. I’m not talking about binge watching or playing candy crush.

The pause is coming back to your actual experience NOW. It’s bringing your senses back on line; getting out of the monkey mind of your past and future fears, and actually taking IN your reality.

So what is that for you?
What is your moment of pause?

When you think of a sheet of paper with Frenzy on the left and flow on the right, what nourishes you?

Take out a piece of paper, and write these down.  Place them somewhere you can see them, and re-visit.  Place them by your instrument, or in your studio, or on an inspiration wall.

And now, give yourself permission to take a pause, today, and for this next week.

We need to return to the basics.

 

The Muse enters in when we take a pause.

So look up.
Smell.
Taste.
Touch.
Feel.

Your life is a miracle.

Take in the wonder around you…..then express what is most alive in you.

 

 

Photography by: Caitlin Cannon