I recently finished an Arts Entrepreneurship course that was offered through the local art community. It was a life changing experience and one that has helped me find my place in a community that I feared for so long.
I came to a lot of realizations about myself over the 6 weeks or so that I was involved in the course. Epiphanic thoughts became a normal occurrence, and I learned more than I could have hoped about myself, my art, and the community that I kept myself sheltered from for so long.
I got to wondering why I had so removed myself from the local art community. I never took any formal training in the arts; I never had any close friendships with other artists, and so there I was floating around and creating my work in a vacuum, without any of the available supports or a sense of belonging to anything outside the edges of my paper or tip of my paint brush. Anything outside of that was scary for me.
No matter how far back in my memory I go, I have always been Wendy the Artist. It’s how I’ve defined myself and been defined by others. It’s what makes me happy and content. I think I shied away from the art community because I was afraid it would reject me. I was afraid I just wouldn’t stack up against other artists. I was afraid I was a fraud. No matter what my loved ones told me about my work, that insecurity was always there, so I kept myself separate from the Art World. If the art community rejected my work, it would be rejecting me, and if I failed at This, I didn’t have any other way of defining myself. Lost in oblivion.
There comes a time when fears must be tested. This course immediately framed itself in my mind as a risk when I realized I would be exposed to the world I shied away from, and so it became a test for me. It scared the life out of me, and when I showed up on that first day I felt as vulnerable as a newborn; but as I looked around the table on Day 1 and realized that everybody else was feeling the same things, a lot of that wall I’d put up melted away. I felt safe around these strangers, and they quickly became friends.
As for my work? They liked it. I was asked questions about my work; I was challenged; I learned the value of having a community of like-minded individuals to bounce ideas off of. I learned more about my work in a few weeks than I did in several years secluding myself from others. Perhaps most valuable of all, I began to see where I fit into this community and where I can carve out a path for myself as Wendy the Artist. I realize I do belong here and I do have what it takes to succeed in this business. This isn’t just the art community; this is my community.