15 5 / 2013
We’re in the thick of end-of-the-school-year celebrations, recitals and performances at my house. It’s rare that I don’t get at least a little choked up during the curtain call of any performance, add kids and it’s pretty much guaranteed. When it’s my own kid? Well, I’m a goner.
As I found myself streaming tears after an elementary school performance of The Lorax last week—a performance where about 1 in 20 lines were audible and I had to peek through a forest of parents to catch a glimpse of my daughter’s arm—I realized that part of this emotional reaction is sentimental, and part of it’s parental, and part of it is the endorphin cloud and anxiety release that comes at the end of a show. But mostly it’s the clapping.
Arts education has myriad benefits. For me, one of the most important is that performing provides an opportunity for us to gather our children and applaud them. Every kid should have the experience of standing in front of a room of adults and hearing them clap. Growing up is filled with anxieties and challenges and it demands persistence and bravery. Curtain calls give us a chance to say: you’re doing great, keep going, this collective community of people have gathered in this room to celebrate you, your risks, your growth, your voice. Well done.
Take a bow, kiddo, we’re here for you.
(it’s a good photo, right? you’ve now seen about as much of The Lorax as I did.)
01 5 / 2013
I always love when John Spayde writes about our work. He has a real depth of understanding and level of nuance that really resonates with me. In this nice feature on The Line, he manages to cut through my excited talking and hand waving and make sense of what I’m trying to say.
21 4 / 2013
This won’t be the most popular thing I ever write. The most popular thing I ever wrote is this letter I wrote when I got really mad at the Governor of Kansas.
Which makes sense – we share things that are “against”, “take downs”, “rebuttals”, and “refutations” Don’t get me wrong, I love a well-worded smack down, especially if I agree with the author. And, certainly, there are many ideas who’ve had their time, people who could use a humbling, and wrongnesses that need to be pointed out and challenged.
And I count among my closest friends energetic questioners, enthusiastic hole-pokers, challengers, dissenters and the sassy, grouchy and downright curmudgeonly. And sometimes I get so mad about something that I have to express it, and sometimes I want to publicly challenge assumptions.
But it’s not what I want to be known for. If I have the great fortune and luck to be known or remembered for something, I want it to be something I added, not something I took down. That’s the challenge I am trying to give myself, before I comment, before I write, before I grouse about how somebody else is doing it wrong. What am I doing to make it better? What solutions am I offering? Can my work speak for itself? What if I spent the time and energy I was going to spend on critique on making something awesome instead?
It’s a whole lot harder to shine than undermine…
09 4 / 2013
Thanks to the Knight Foundation for this feature on their blog about our new healthcare toolkit and an interview with meeeeeee.
15 3 / 2013
The McKnight Foundation asked me to respond to their fantastic data visualization project that they created for the artist fellowship program.
“It makes me think that artists are like bees—going from flower to flower, pollinating, creating hybrids, feeding, taking, making things bloom.”
15 3 / 2013
Thanks to MinnPost for publishing this piece I wrote with Andriana Abariotes:
“Creating or experiencing art can give people a fulfilling sense of personal power. We all have something to say about the world, and art helps us find our voice. It can also help us find each other. Arts activities provide valuable opportunities for people to gather and interact. Personal power gained through art can become community power, and collective action that results from that power can be transformative.”
15 3 / 2013
In the midst of the swirling conversation started (this time) by Sheryl Sandberg, Forbes published this piece called Why Women Need Sponsors Not Mentors. And it made me reflect on all of the incredible people who have helped me along the way. There is so much value in the idea of mentorship. I don’t mean the kind that comes from a program, but in real, authentic friendship that involves advice giving, energetic questioning and pushes you to be better at your work and your life. But, like the Forbes author, I dislike the word mentor and I’m not sure sponsor is a better word for it. When I think about my own experience, I am lucky to have a whole collection of teachers, mentors, sponsors, bar-raisers and challengers. Including these women –
(Linda Hope, Charla Jenkins, Kathy Pryor)
I studied theater at the University of Kansas, and I got a fantastic education in performance: movement, voice, text, history. I also got a well-rounded liberal arts education. And I got these women. These 3 women worked for the University Theater – leading the marketing, box office, front of house, fundraising and systems of the theater. KU has some really great programs that intentionally connect students to the inner workings of the theater – work study positions in the box office and fellowships that include helping run events and auditions; but more than those programs, it was the personality of these 3 women that made a difference.
They showed me so much about life and work, taught me lessons I use every day and trusted me to try things out for the first time. They were more informal than teachers, more like allies than sponsors and more fun than mentors. They were (and are!) confidants, role models and friends. They are my arts aunties.
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit all three of them as part of an alumni event at KU. It reminded me again of their impact on my life and career and some of the important things I learned from them:
-You have to be in your community. Serving on committees, helping with events, elections, showing up at parades—participating in the broader community is part of the job.
-You have to care about the work deeply. You have to be invested beyond the job, if you don’t love the work, you’re never going to put up with the crap that comes with it.
-It’s work. You’re going to have stay late, clean up messes (literal and metaphoric), deal with personalities, and get up tomorrow and show up on time and do it again.
-The quickest way to build loyalty is to show your staff that you will always have their back.
-Do not eat your lunch on the counter of the box office.
-Don’t put your lipstick on at the table.
I’m so proud and grateful to have these women in my life and to know that after nearly 20 years of friendship, I can drop back in and they can still teach me things.
What about you? Who are your aunties?
26 1 / 2013
A while ago I was looking for my daughter’s birth certificate and my marriage certificate. This involved dragging a file cabinet out from under a pile of shoes/junk/suitcases/flotsam in the back of my closet and then searching through smushed papers/manuals for electronics I owned in college/diplomas/birthday cards from files that are labeled important/misc/save and looking for the paperwork. On the downside, this exercise always makes me frustrated that I can’t just keep track of things like an adult (on a related note, when will I start getting out of bed more than 20 minutes before I need to be somewhere?) on the upside, sometimes I find fun things that I never would have rediscovered otherwise. I never did find the papers I was looking for* but I did find this little book that my mom made me for high school graduation:
There’s a lot of good quotes and advice from other places in the book, and then at the end she added her own advice…this is my favorite part:
- Remember that your family loves you no matter what.
- Even though you know your family loves you no matter what, don’t take them for granted. Let them know you love them, too.
- If you’re really feeling down, do something nice for someone else - there’s no reason for two of you to be depressed.
- Don’t make any life-altering decisions unless the sun is shining.
- The best place to consider important problems is outside - sit under a tree or go for a walk, no matter what the weather.
- Remember in dealing with difficult people, everyone is the center of his or her own universe - we all look at things from our own history.
- Follow Stuart’s advice** and tell yourself something affirming every day.
- Everyone has an interesting story to tell.
- Sit in the front row.
- Cultivate people who can make you laugh.
- Make lists.
- Change your oil.
My mom is pretty smart. I’m glad I found this list.
I notice she didn’t include “be well organized”-so that’s a relief.
*Will you remind me that I put the new copies in the back of my jewelry drawer the next time I need them?
**My mom loves the Al Franken character Stuart Smalley. Who knew he would end up being our Senator?
16 1 / 2013
I’m honored to be included in this round of trends from this week’s Pollen: