I’ve spoken on this topic before, but I needed to say it again: community in the arts is an absolute necessity. I’m privileged to work in the Chicago theatre industry, which has an amazing sense of community. All those stories you hear about intense competition and cut-throat tactics employed by artists in places like, stereotypically, New York? You won’t find them here. The Chicago theatre community is overwhelmingly giving of everything: its art, its insights, its time, its passion. I’ve known marketing and development directors who will call up their counterparts at other companies (essentially their competitors) to ask how business is and talk tactics. We want everyone else to succeed as much as we want do because we enjoy the art and the process. I thought about this a few weeks ago. Last year, I ran the Susan Komen Race For The Cure 10K, and wrote about how it proved to me that you are never too old to try something new and do it well. Well, I ran it again this year. I didn’t train as well as I did last year for a number of reasons, including injuries and lack of time. A big factor too was lack of motivation. Last year I felt like I was running for my friend Dave, as an example to inspire him to be healthier. This year, I had no external goal, so the training was harder. But I had committed to the race, so I showed up on that cold, rainy Saturday morning prepared to slog through those six long miles along the Chicago waterfront. And I did it in 1 hour, 5 minutes, 23 seconds: 11 seconds faster than last year. How is that possible? I certainly wasn’t as physically prepared, and I’m a runner who takes walk breaks when I need to. In fact, when I’m running alone, it’s pretty easy for my body to convince me to take a walk break. Once the thought enters my head (“maybe take a breather at the next block…”) that’s all I can think about and I have a really hard time ignoring those thoughts. But during the Koman race, I didn’t walk nearly as much. For the most part, I found myself surrounded by the same three or four runners, and while we all had our slow times and our walk times, we stuck together. It wasn’t planned; we didn’t communicate at all. But we were part of an informal group anyway. I never wanted to fall too far behind because I would lose sight of my running buddies, whether they were oblivious to me or not. In effect, I had a little community that provided me with inspiration and motivation to get through the run. Similarly, I find that I’m better at producing art when I have a community as well. I push myself to dream up better designs when I’m making them for artists that inspire me and whom I want to succeed. My drawings have more life when they are made for or about people that I care about. Seeing work from other artists makes me step up my game and strive to be better. This is why a community is necessary for art. When we’re operating on our own, it’s lonely and easy to cave in to laziness and complacency. When we have something external guiding us, nudging us on, sometimes showing us up, we have drive and clarity. We are better individually when we are a group. So find your community. You’ll be better for it.
grab bag blog
This is where I talk about my work, my discoveries, my creative process, and the ins and outs of marketing in the arts.