Life has a funny way of looping back around and smacking a person upside the head. Especially when, like me, you go with your gut.
Let’s rewind to about 9 months ago. I decided to take a part-time-fill-in-every-once-and-awhile job in the Octagon Center for the Arts gallery shop. It was a way for me to get out of the house, meet other artists, get a little boost to my income, and learn some new things from the gallery shop manager.
About two weeks ago I got home from vacation, had an interview on Wednesday, was called back on Thursday, and started on Monday at my new job as Exhibits Manager. It’s part time. But I love it. And being part time is perfect for me right now.
Now, go back 20 years. To being 9 years old. I have a drawing of me running a gallery. You know. One of those. This is me. And this is my gallery. It was a specific dream. I didn’t want to work at a museum. I didn’t want to work in a commercial gallery.
I had this idea in my minds eye that I wanted to work in a community gallery. I wanted to be an artist for sure, no two ways about that. But I also wanted to curate a space and help empower just-starting-out-most-likely-starving artists to become professionals and give them a jumping off part. I wanted to people in the community to feel connected, empowered, and ownership of the art in their lives, not intimidated by it.
At 15 I volunteered at Quad City Arts, which was my ideal, and I marched right up to the gallery manager and ask her – “what degree did you get to qualify you for this job?” A BFA was her answer. And that’s why I decided to get my BFA vs any other degree. Plus I wanted to be an artist, so it was a two-fer.
At 18 I won the art scholarship at my college and worked in the college gallery space for the duration of that semester.
Unfortunately, the academic advisors weren’t very helpful, so I didn’t find out that Northern actually had a Museums Studies undergraduate certificate until my last year. But that’s alright, because instead of that I got a minor in art history, which helped train my brain for thinking about art in a different way than the artist’s point of view. In fact, I was just 4 classes away from my BA in art history. Classes were spaced in a weird way and I would have had to take 2 years to finish, another academic advisor issue. Ah well, c’est la vie.
When I resolved to join Jason in Ames and not chicago, san francisco, or some other large city, the dream died. I didn’t even realize it died, it just wasn’t there. Something was missing, but I just didn’t know what. I’ve felt listless and lacking future planning because no future I could see felt right.
So I started Ames C.art. A way to curate my own projects, help other creative types, and do something good in the community through art. Over the last 4 years I’ve painted 2 murals, coordinated the ArtVend project, hosted over 40 creative social gatherings, workshops, and drawing sessions. Won a grant, successfully did a kickstarter fundraiser, helped coordinate two rummage sale fundraisers. On my own I’ve had a solo show, wrote a book, posted more patterns than I can count, am steadily working towards a new body of work for a top secret project, bought a house with Jason, got married, got into Renegade and Maker Faire.
It was my work with Ames Collaborative Art (and everything else over the last 4 years) that gave me the experience I needed to prepare me for my current job. Grant writing, presentation skills, strategic planning, the ins and outs of not for profit work, networking with the businesses, people, and organizations in town.
I didn’t know what I was building towards, I just knew I had to keep working on it. Now I realize what it was. That dream of running a community gallery. Now, a lot of the headache has been removed from the equation and I’m getting paid to do good. It feels amazing.
Now, that’s not to say that the job isn’t hard, frustrating, and headache inducing. Because I’m sure it will be at some point. We are, of course, under funded, under staffed, and over our heads with “to-do” most of the times. But we have some great ideas, some really good people, and loads of volunteers who are dedicated to the cause. Our art and music scene in Ames is healthy and vibrant. There’s a lot to do. It’s exciting.
To give you an idea.
My first day:
I signed papers.
And then proceeded to have shows to change over in all three galleries, create supporting documentation for, and market it to the community.
It’s been a whirlwind.
After this week I’ll be back to a more steady pace of 20 hours a week. And posting will hopefully return to a steady pace too. I actually have photos and text for three posts. And I have three projects I want to make for my job — a vintage dress to alter so I can wear it this Friday to the opening, jeans to mend so I can wear them at all, and a new bag for my laptop. An unexpected bonus to all this is that working has re-kindled my joy of making.
And one last note. I just voted. FYI. You should to. I don’t even care who for. Just go do it. Take hold of the freedoms we all should hold dear.