This is the annual letter that is on the to-do list of every non-profit director. It’s the letter where we reflect on the previous year, often through rose-colored glasses and launch our community into the new year with unbridled energy and enthusiasm. I am sure mine is not the only letter like this that has landed in your inbox this holiday season. It’s a long one, but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read it.
Part of living a creative life means being willing to go into the dark places – it is impossible to create authentic, impactful art without the willingness to be vulnerable. It is impossible to truly touch an audience without being honest and transparent. If you hold something back, the artwork suffers and the connection is diminished.
I have always felt that being the director of Art as Action is a creative process, and the organizational tasks we do behind the scenes are as much works of art as what happens on stage. Therefore, I address you today, not as a non-profit director, but as an artist – a vulnerable, transparent performer.
Many audiences are not interested in the gritty – they long for the rose-colored enthusiasm. But as someone who is engaged with Art as Action, I know you respect and admire true human expression over polished, perfect persona. So in this end of year letter, that is what you are going to get.
2015 has been a series of incredible highs and crushing lows:
- Our thirteenth Artivist Process and Performance, TENSION, brought together one of the most generous and talented casts we’ve ever had. We rose to the challenge of a new performance space (Broomfield Auditorium) and created an intimate and powerful show, all the while truly enjoying each other’s company and supporting each other as artists and as people. As a performer, it was my favorite season ever.
- Our Reconnect with your Body program caught the attention of the media as well as prominent Parkinson’s support organizations. I travelled to Brooklyn in April, visited the flagship Dance for PD classes and spent time with founding teacher and my personal hero/mentor David Leventhal. This trip infused fresh energy into our classes and motivated our Programs Committee to spread the word of Reconnect far and wide. Our Reconnect dancers beautifully and courageously performed in TENSION – it raised the theater roof!
- We hit the wall several times this year in regards to funding. We were “this close” on a few key grant applications. We were “this close” to getting SCFD eligibility. It was an ongoing challenge not to take these rejections personally as a reflection of our worthiness. Our cash flow was a constant concern and heightened anxieties throughout the year.
- Our Boardavists grew as we welcomed Meghan Camp and Whitney Waugh to our team. Running a non-profit is a strange mix of intense strategic planning and throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks – our Board of Directors manages this with resilience, generosity and humor. It astounds me how much we truly like and respect each other.
- Inspired by our Reconnect program, the Colorado Conservatory of Dance invited us to collaborate with them, offering their gorgeous studio space to us at a significantly reduced cost. This collaboration expanded this month when I moved into an office (which is also a dance studio!) at CCD.
- Art as Action suffered a great loss in July with the passing of Ernie Gilbert, the original sponsor of Reconnect and a tireless supporter of the organization, especially during the last 5 years of his life. My whole life I knew him as Grandpa – but his interest in my life’s work near the end of his life created an opportunity for me to know a different side of him. It also made me know that he truly saw me. I have a note taped to my desk that he sent along with his last donation: “Keep charging girl! Ever onward!” We miss him so.
At the root of these successes and struggles is the incredible human spirit that is the foundation of this organization. No matter how many funding doors are slammed in our faces, no matter how many seemingly unsurmountable obstacles are put in our path – there is a chorus of voices that chant: “never give up. this work is worthy, it is necessary. keep going.” These voices are joined by generous hearts, brilliant minds, open arms and hard working hands. This organization has sustained because of the sheer determination and unending creativity of our Artivist community. The creative thinking, vulnerability and generosity that makes us effective artists are the same skills that we use to navigate the choppy waters of the non-profit world. And despite how it feels sometimes, we rise more often than we fall.
The other crucial piece of this non-profit puzzle is, of course, money. I want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to every person who donated to Art as Action this year. Whether it is $5 or $500, the opening of your wallet is an opening of your heart to the work we do. That radiant energy fuels us each and every day. Your donations enable us to introduce people to their inherent creative genius, whether it is through The Artivist Process, Young Artivists or our beloved Reconnect with your Body program. It is a powerful thing to witness someone discover their inner artist – your generosity this year made that possible for many.
I often use the hashtag #dreamjob when I post about Art as Action on Facebook. Dreams are complex things, they take unexpected twists and turns, they can be surreal and sometimes terrifying. But doing this work every day, creating art, collaborating with spectacularly kind and talented people and being at the core of this exquisite community is a dream I never want to wake up from.
I am not a fearless leader. But I am a grateful one. As an artist, being creative is not optional. So I won’t give up. I’d be crazy to get off this roller coaster.
I wish you and yours passion, empowerment and peace in the new year. Stay tuned to the Artivist channel – I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.
yours in Art and Action, with astounding awe and deep gratitude,
Founder and Artistic Director of Art as Action