Creativity blooms in solitude- not in isolation. There’s a difference between the two, kind of like the difference between alone and lonely. We believe we are alone because our most creative moments often happen when we are by ourselves. These moments are sometimes shared with our intimates or sometimes not at all. Alone is not always lonely. Lonely often leads to isolation. We don’t have to be isolated, if we choose not to be.
When I discovered VSAVA, I felt lonely, isolated, and afraid. I had spent a few long years, isolated recovering from multiple spinal surgeries. Many of my old friends and acquaintances had drifted away, finding my new circumstances too difficult to deal with. While my longtime boyfriend provided a great deal of support, I didn’t want him to be my only source of support. It wasn’t up to him to create my life for me. I wanted to be less afraid of my life and more independent.
I had read somewhere that the choice that sounds the craziest; the most risky; the choice that makes you squirm and giggle and makes you feel vaguely uncomfortable, is usually the most natural and creative choice. That was the choice presented to me when I became a part of VSAVA, first as a participant in the Da Vinci Project and later as a volunteer. It turned out to be one of the most risky and creative choices of my own life.
Before becoming disabled, I had spent years being a round peg trying to squish my broad imagination into small square holes. I had developed protective devices
and armor that had become defective. I had conformed in many ways to ideas that were not my own. More importantly, I had forgotten that I was a wonder-full, brilliant, and forgivable spirit- if I had ever really known it. I
chose not to follow that path again after becoming disabled.
I knew it was going to be tough enough to craft a new life with new physical and emotional challenges without doing work that made me miserable. Without my involvement in VSAVA, I would not have developed the confidence to begin to consciously choose a life that was authentically mine filled with relationships that were nourishing and nurturing.
It’s easy to buy into the idea that society doesn’t support creativity and it’s just as easy to find examples that justify this rationale. Too often, every time a child tells a grown-up about the elf they saw in the backyard or colors outsides the lines in their coloring book, they are told there’s no such thing as elves; that coloring “right” means staying inside the lines. For every teen and young adult who says, “I want to be an artist”, there is a chorus of grown-up voices who discourage any art as a vocation; “You’ll starve. Artists are crazy”, they are told. At every turn, creative thought and expression are not only squelched but squished under grown-up convention.
While it’s true that every year more and more arts funding is cut, subliminally giving us the message that our government and our society support the notion that creativity and art are not valid, worthy endeavors. But this doesn’t mean we can’t experience the magic and wonder of garden fairies and backyard pixies who sing softly anyway.
In a creative community, we find the freedom to choose to relearn how to call for our muses and then listen to what they tell us when they whisper softly in our ears. Creative thought and expression are fed and tended by the support, encouragement and insight of everyone in the community. We are included and our opinions considered. We learn we are not cast out or dismissed for our intrinsic non-conformities, sometimes for the very first time.
Without art and community it would have been much harder for me to learn to trust what life hands me; to hear my muses and imagination above the cacophony of grownup voices, thoughts and obligations. Without VSA arts to provide my first creative circle, I am not certain I would be as willing to chat sincerely with children about fairies and invisible companions openly today without worrying that someone
might think I am “crazy”. I’ve learned there are far worse things people can think of you.
Today I work part-time for VSAVA, assisting the executive direct and volunteer as the Richmond Regional Director. I also work at a local art gallery as the Gallery Administrator; I curate local, national and international exhibitions of Outsider and Emerging Art; facilitate art and writing workshops and privately tutor other emerging artists. I continue to make, promote and show my own art, and am
an active, talented part of the larger art community around me.
I have met such colorful people and forged friendships with such creative and talented spirits; all people I might never have encountered had I not chosen to be a part of VSAVA’s creative circle. As my world expanded in new directions, so did my imagination, dreams and belief in myself. I have a tall, wide, multifaceted life crafted by my own inherent creativity and resourcefulness.
As I embark on the beginning stages of starting my own art business, I am often reminded that it is we who are the keepers of our spirits and dreams; we are
our own muse tenders and caregivers. Accepting this responsibility means to truly seek out and follow our most creative pathway. At times we may need to carve out the path ourselves, clearing it of brambles and thorns. It may not be an
easy, well-traveled or popular path but it will always be clearly and uniquely our own.