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Redesigning success with an artist identity

cunningham-emily:

About three months ago, I was transformed by a talk Sharon Ann Lee gave on redesigning success. Lee is a cultural trend analyst and author who runs “a think tank/studio on trends, culture and creativity.” Her talk has been buzzing around in my mind since watching it.  Lee recommends: 1) know your numbers 2) live in the power zone 3) create a poetic vision of your life.  Because a poetic vision serves as your North Star, keeping your heart/dream/life-purpose mission at the forefront of your mind and guiding decisions about what projects to take on, I’ve wanted to start drafting mine.  Well, today I did! I filled out the worksheet she emailed me and created my very first draft. Your poetic vision is a project that is in perpetual beta, constantly being tested and redefined, so although I need to work on it, I’m pleased that I now have a good first draft. [Note: I began drafting this post on January 9, 2012, which is the day I drafted my poetic vision.] 

Lee’s talk was also important to me in a long journey I’ve been on to reclaim myself as an artist. Identity, and how you think about yourself is so powerful. Though I liked drawing when I was younger and creating visual art, I didn’t particularly have more of an affinity for it than most children (though I think children are amazingly creative and artistic!).  I wasn’t labeled an “artist” by my family or education institutions nor did I think of myself as one.  The way I thought of myself as a “creative” person ebbed and flowed.  But more and more, bit by bit, I started thinking of myself as belonging in the Creative Camp.  Though I didn’t think of myself as a (capital A) Artist, I knew creativity was important to me and I just felt like I belonged with poets, artists, dancers, and other creative people.  Several birthdays in a row in my late twenties, I modeled my birthday parties after those a 5 year old might have, with coned party hats, and lots and lots of paper, magazines, scissors, crazyons, markers, tape, and glue spread out on a long table. The idea was to create an environment for people to create, engage, and connect with one another through art with no judgements attached - after all it was modeled and branded as a birthday party a 5 year old might have! There was no way to have “bad art.” The point was to have fun and connect and explore art-making.

In July 2010, I went (hesitantly) to a night for artists to work on something deemed artist liberation. The basic idea behind the evening was to work on the idea that art is important, that what we each were striving to do with art was important, and that while oppression against artists was damaging and hurtful — and real —  we could keep going forward with what we believed in.

I knew this group was very open and non-judgemental about who qualified as an artist, so though I decided to self-identify enough to go, I didn’t feel like a “real” Artist, and  wondered if maybe I shouldn’t be there at all.  It was amazing, and I had probably the first major breakthrough in beginning to think of myself as an artist.  Afterwards, I tweeted (lightly edited for clarity):

Inspired by artists and thinkers I met with tonight. Some thoughts I had: 1) Ideas are (one of) my medium. 2) The Internet is a giant playground 3) The open, social web *is* art & creativity, realized (and other stuff). 4) designing play & interaction is art making. 5) I love humanity.

I didn’t have to think of myself as a visual artist to be an artist.  Being an artist was a way of looking at the world, of being in the world, and interacting and influencing the world.  I could look at problems, I could look at situations, I could look at the wonder of the universe with an artist’s mind.  Lee’s talk took this idea that had already been percolating in my mind, and made it more real by describing the way she came to think of herself as an artist.

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