This year, ARTS By The People will be celebrating its tenth anniversary with performances, gatherings and a fundraiser in November. As founder and Executive Director, I take great pride in our mantra, “process over product.” It is easy to espouse, but the reality of implementation takes patience and commitment. We work with accomplished artists as well as people who desire to explore their inner artist. Art is unique as it allows us a deeper understanding of the environment, our world and the human condition. Without art, we live in a singular world, void of color and emotion. As creative people, we know the less constraints we have the more options there are to explore. This can work for some, but many of our workshop participants are heading down this path for the first time, so guidance is critical. It will take a child much longer to learn to walk if others do not hold their hand initially. We set loose parameters with our artists so once the participant gains confidence they can create bold initiatives and eventually work outside the box. When this happens, magic can occur.
I’ve been teaching a memoir writing class to senior citizens for the past eight years. They range in age from 83 to 100. They’ve written two new pieces each month for the past eight years, which comes to 192 stories annually. Each year their literary voice grows deeper and sharper. I have never instructed them on how to write (although sometimes they do ask). Instead, I bring in samples of what I consider important literature and expose them to poetry, prose, essays and short stories. I read slowly and they listen intently. We then discuss the works to gain better insight. Like a sponge, they absorb and squeeze it out onto their paper to create non fiction from long term memory that is rich and profound. They read their work in our class, so I’ve listened to over 2300 stories over eight years.
During our presentation of our Moving Words 2019 films in Tel Aviv, I reiterated our mantra to a packed house at the Cinematheque and told the student filmmakers and their teachers that if an artist is allowed freedom of process then great things will happen. After the presentation of the twelve films, one of the students came up to me and thanked me for saying that. She told me that she grapples with pressure as a student, and this was one of the first projects where process took precedent over the final film. Ironically, this young filmmaker then took first place for her work! When I look back on the past ten years, I feel this is our greatest accomplishment, and makes me most proud.
Enjoy the journey!