BlueSky Project is one of the most unique programs I have encountered both in terms of artistic opportunity and youth interaction. Initially, this program was an opportunity for me to return to my studio practice in earnest after spending many years as an educator, curator and arts administrator. What happened over the course of my eight weeks with BlueSky Project turned out to be so much more than I had expected.
The biggest challenge for me in terms of my project and the collaboration of my project was to not be a teacher, so I focused on really infusing my personality into our collaborative studio. This is an important part of my own practice but it also helped me to engage my youth participants in a way that I could not have done as a teacher. As an artist, I consider myself a storyteller so my personality is a big part of establishing the artistic attitude of my work. I like to work with intensity and to have fun, and I think our collaborative studio fulfilled both of these requirements. In the end, I realized that as I was trying to reconnect with my own creative expression, I was also connecting my kids to it as well. On an individual level, I love to challenge myself through my work, but in this situation, it was really fun to challenge the whole group. The final result was a group of works that were bigger and more ambitious than the way I typically work and, indeed, a group of works that I could not have created on my own.
The collaborative nature of this program has also taught me a lot about my own practice and the way in which I work. I feel as though I am able to stay connected to myself and to the world around me through my work. In this respect, it was difficult to open up my studio practice for others because there is “stuff” that happens in the studio that no one typically gets to be a part of or see. Having seven people staring back at you when some of that “stuff” happens took some getting used to but most of the time, those seven people were interested and supportive (and sometimes critical) of my ideas as they were developing. That vulnerability and that interaction also created an avenue for thoughts and ideas to flow and, as the project grew, I realized that I was connecting to the world around my through my youth participants and they were connecting to the world through me.
One of the other unexpected things that happened during my BlueSky Project residency was getting acquainted with the Dayton community. From the first time I visited in May, this place has felt familiar and I was a little surprised by the depth of this community’s openness and support. I made a lot of friends here and got to really enjoy the cultural climate of Dayton, so much so that I am intending to relocate here to continue my practice. As I have been immersed in my own artistic transition, I feel as though I’ve found the right place and the right community through which to continue my artistic work.
In the end, I am hoping that BlueSky Project will be a springboard for bigger and better things in my career. Regardless of what happens, this experience will always be a part of me and my artistic work. I don’t know that I’ll ever find another experience where I will be so fully supported in my studio practice by such a diverse group individuals. I think it’s only now hitting me–after the program is finished–how much I was relying on my team and how important they were to me in completing this project. Sitting here writing this statement, I can feel how much I miss them already. I really hope that all of my kids have walked away with a little piece of me, as I know I am walking away with a little bit of each of them.