Build it and They Will Come—A Mini-Memoir of a Grateful Builder

The title, from the movie Field of Dreams, suggests an overblown parallel to my mini-memoir. But the film shares a thread about need and belief that resonates. It seems appropriate as we approach our 10th annual open studio.

CHAPTER ONE

Once upon a time I was a fragile budding artist. I longed for things I could not name. I, like many late-blooming, 30-something “adolescents”, felt an itch that could not be scratched. It drove me in a direction that took continued, increased effort to deny. There was no map, no examples to look-to to locate this craving and satisfy it. And no potential pat-on-the-back for finding it. Surely, life told me, there were more important things to do—home-making, child-rearing, elder-care, money-making…

But… the itch… oh the itch…

CHAPTER TWO

Persistent longing and instinct led me back to the arts, which always served as a childhood salve to the anxiety of feeling lost and adrift. But in pursuing an art education and eventually a studio space I knew that it wasn’t just the art that I needed, but a like-minded community. I sought out a studio within a larger studio group. I met many fine women with whom it was fun to share things like collage nights, book-binding and paste papers, off-loom weaving and found object-sculpture, etc. We taught each other what we knew. And made up things we didn’t.

As things ebb and flow I eventually I landed with another more important group in my life that consisted of smart, sensitive, amazing artists. We talked endlessly of painting and philosophies and the meaning of life. It was more than sharing skills or techniques, it was heart-opening and soul-searching. I found my tribe. The love I felt for these folks and our sacred space seemed boundless. It was a home which, for some years, remained at the very heart of my growth and survival.

It was not to be sustained. Things change. Its demise was devastating.

CHAPTER THREE

Finding a group of artists to join is tricky. Artists are often highly strung, very sensitive and sometimes threatened by competition. A group with similar sensibilities and awareness and a place and time to gather is a rare thing. I knew a few people in the local art world but the alchemy needed was missing.

Luckily I was rich in support with a strong group of friends, some of whom expressed an interest in learning to paint. It was just after 9/11 when souls were bruised and being a part of a whole felt right. So with the generosity of a friend with a space, I started to teach—to build.

CHAPTER FOUR

Fast forward 15 years. A permanent place in a historic house built for a healer long ago serves as a home for shared sensibilities in the pursuit of creativity. The group grew to thirty people we now call ArtHouse 23. Some had never pursued painting until they arrived on the doorstep. Others studied in art school. The mutual care and respect and the willingness to explore interiors while learning the ins and outs of art-making has made an incredible thing–a community that is rich learning, inspiration and comradery.

The art that will be in this up-coming exhibition is increasingly vivid and resounding! I am so stirred when I see your visions. It keeps me on my toes in my own work. You all deserve to be proud of what you hang on the walls. It is not only lovely to look at, but authentic and meaningful. You have all shown your uniqueness and courage in following your own voice in how and what you create. I am ever-grateful for our fruitful discussions. You inspire me and each other.

When we walk the halls on June 4th and 5th it will be worth taking a minute to reflect on the journey. Think about how all that art came out of the same shared space and know the significance of your contribution to the whole. There’s a cost to that—showing up, caring, offering feedback, giving assistance, sharing materials, sharing pains and laughter, and a little food and drink. It is an investment you all make graciously. Your efforts have built the community that I longed for. Thank you for coming.

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