Newly Addicted…In Search of Support Group.

It’s taken me some time to get my head around my month at Vermont Studio Center.  I haven’t really had the words to describe the profound impact it has had on me. I still don’t. But I will try, because I want everyone I know who makes art of any kind to consider applying for a residency there. And those who don’t have art to make but are art-lovers, consider supporting this place in any way you can. It is truly a gift.

So what happened to me?

I found kinship and community.  This was a place of no judgement, of utter support from people I only just met who were filled with goodwill, generosity, excitement and curiosity.  I ate with them 3 times a day, listened to their stories, learned about the particular passions that make them them, found inspiration in their approaches to life and creative processes, swam in rivers with them, traveled to French-speaking cities, danced, sang loudly, jumped off high rocks into deep pools with their encouragement, stayed up all night, watched horror movies, shared Bowie-love, and laughed. A lot.

In these circumstances, it was easy to feel the flow of creative energy.  It was visceral. It made me sleep for only 5 hours a night. It actually hurt at times, when the adrenaline rush of being in love with so many people just wouldn’t quit. I lost 8lbs. I believe they were the 8lbs of ennui slowing down the creative momentum in my daily life. I plan not to regain the weight.

And somehow, with this creative fervor flowing directly into my veins, that rigid exoskeleton I hide inside (and take full responsibility for sculpting) was shed. I was fearless. I even wrote a poem about it – something I haven’t done in years.

In this state of fearlessness, I was able to look at my work anew. I was pushed to think about it in new ways, both by other residents and visiting artists.  I was able to expand past the self-imposed boundaries of my mind, and find a physical and emotional connection to my work in a way I could only theorize about previously.  My utter fear of “feeling” and my need to put it in specimen jars, where it can be observed coolly and contained, was dismantled.  I existed on edges.  Found a place between thought and feeling, known and unknown, self and community. I came alive.

If it sounds like I was high, I think I was.  My body reacted to that place, that time and those people as it would a drug.  The chemicals in my body – the dopamine, adrenaline, serotonin to name a few – were going crazy.  And like all highs, there had to be a come-down.  It’s been harsh. Really harsh.

So now the hard work begins… How to create some semblance of this community and energy in my everyday life? Pack up my studio and move to Vermont?! I thought about it. But then I remembered that I have a fantastic group of friends here in the Bay Area too, bubbling with creative energy – if only I can persuade them to let me tap into it and get my fix.  And surely there are more creatives out there, if only I can learn to be fearless in the real world (where the stakes are higher) and find them. I have been changed by this experience, and there’s no going back.

So, I’m going to get more involved here in the Bay Area; join groups, attend shows and poetry readings, make things happen, and apply to more residencies!

Universe, I’m going to need your help.

Here’s a video of me creating a new piece during my stay at VSC.

Some links to the work of other artists and poets/writers I met at VSC:

Ben Steele

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