We're pleased to have Dayna Mazzuca join us as our Guest Blogger today.
Artists are a sensitive bunch. As such, when it comes to our art, we should be able to say what we really want. After all, we’re very in touch with our feelings. Yet, we typically get tongue-tied when it comes to asking for what we need: which is often space away (we hate to sound anti-social), and unlimited time (which sounds rather selfish in a “time is money” culture), plus a sympathetic, beautiful, inspiring environment where basic needs are met so we can focus on the act of creation (who do we think we are, rock stars?!).
YES, many artists, deep down feel they are special—because they know the act of creation is special. The trouble is our calculating, objective, goal-oriented culture often does not value the artist, except for the salability of what he or she produces. There is a large gap between what the artist needs to create and what the culture is conducive to.
Seventy-five years ago, when The Banff Centre for the Arts first opened, it was with this disparity in mind. Realizing most artists do not feel validated in the rough and tumble work-a-day universe, The Centre billed itself as “a place for artists.”
Here was a place for artists to relax, and create out of a sense of newfound freedom and acceptance. At The Centre resident artists were not subject to tight schedules. There were few rules and basic needs, such as food and shelter, were met. Daily showings were well attended. Experimentation was encouraged.
As a result, writers, visual artists, musicians, actors and dancers flocked to this small campus on Tunnel Mountain overlooking the town of Banff. As a former reporter for the local newspaper, I interviewed countless visiting artists and they all said, basically, the same thing: “It’s essential for an artist to have time and space and a sympathetic environment within which to create.”
But not every writer has access to a writing retreat at a place like The Banff Centre. The best most of us can do is to re-create just such a place and time—for ourselves and others. Whether it’s giving our selves permission to ignore bills and dishes for a weekend, and be obsessive about our writing, or organizing a full-scale writers’ retreat/conference, it can be done!
Whether it’s a solo retreat or a group event, the main thing to remember is: the creative act is paramount! Small or large, there is a way to honour, foster and encourage creativity, which is the lifeblood of any artist.
Tell the outside world to wait. For an artist, creation is a mysterious process. Ideas come from somewhere. It’s the artist’s “job” to detect those great ideas, those insights, those movements below the surface. The artist’s sensitivity is like the mechanic’s tool box. You can’t have one without the other.
One idea must be allowed to lead to the next… and the next… Ideas thrive on blue-sky possibilities and open-ended thought processes. Mundane interruptions and things of an immediate, pressing nature kill this process. For this reason, it’s a great idea to unplug from digital media. Ban newspapers and magazines.
Direct and prepare conversational topics, if in a group.
Set aside time for collective brainstorming sessions, or solo ones.
Be selective in music choices.
Surround yourself with beautiful things, views and conceptual triggers. Include inspirational reading times.
Start and end and blend in prayer times.
On a more practical note, keep food choices simple and readily available. And try not to set goals for your “time away” that stress you out. Pick a topic or a project to tackle or explore and just see what comes. The administrative and business side of the artist’s life requires the attention of the left side of the brain. A creative retreat time is tonic for the souls of the right-brained. It’s the right brain that needs to be pampered, not pushed. It needs unhurried time, not deadlines. It needs space, not a set number of pages to fill.
Creating a space for the artistic side of our selves to flourish is an intentional act. It can be done for one person, or a small writing group, or a large group of conference attendees. The main thing is to just keep asking, “What would the artist want?” Then letting God lead to what, for artists, would be the most natural of outcomes: time and space and a sympathetic environment within which to create!