Sunday, I cried a lot. Not tears of sadness and pain, but outpourings of joy. The night before, Shimai Pottery & Gifts, in their "Studio Shimai" gallery, on the grounds of the nationally famous Loveless Cafe ,hosted EMERGING: Three Young Artists with disAbilities.* My daughter with autism, Grace Walker Goad, was a featured artist along with Donald Werther, and Preston Vienneau.
As I drove to the event, I realized I felt ease. I wasn't hosting this event, like many of the artist shows for Grace and others, that I coordinate regularly. I just had to show up. At the conclusion of the show, I summoned one word that encapsulated the vibe that night: LOVE. Other artists, friends, family, patrons—there was such an expression of love for the work and the artists. I'll note that all three young people stood on their own artistic merit. This wasn't about disAbility. This was about sheer talent. It is of great joy to bring together community and to celebrate the gifts of a special population whose talents, by virtue of their challenges, are often overlooked. And also whose talents are often enhanced by virtue of their differences. Saturday night was a celebration of the sum.
The evening was also a demonstration, yet again, of the energy forming within our greater Nashville community for the work of such individuals, who are the focus of Art Tank. My spiritual mentor reminds me frequently that Art Tank, our nonprofit social enterprise, is my lesson. And one of the lessons is remembering to live in the moment. If I look ahead to the mammoth to-do lists in a future that is not yet born, I become overwhelmed. I cannot do that. I choose to reel myself back into this now moment and choose what is the best use of my time in this moment and then when it arrives, the next now moment. Do I always choose wisely? No, I don't.
Choosing wisely also means protecting my energy via my choices. I know that I could expend myself in such a way that would git 'er done more quickly but absolutely fry myself. I choose to remember what I speak about this in the Autism Orientations and presentations on disAbility grief I have led the last decade-plus. We—any of us—must take care of ourselves and our families' wells and foundations first. If our wells are not replenished, if they are not filled, and our foundations not firm, then there is no more nourishment and quenching, no more platform on which to stand and serve.
I choose to know with absolute certainty that Art Tank will manifest into its full vision and/or one that is greater than my finite mind can envision. That the helpers and the financial backers will come and are already there as I cannot see over the horizon. And I do see them coming. And I do know there will be more.
We are thrilled that our social enterprise—the selling and installation of gallery-quality art by artists with disAbilities in high-end commercial venues, such as luxury apartment buildings, is underway and that we are navigating our second venture. As well, we are rotating work of artists with disAbilities in three area venues.** The nonprofit is still in the preemie stages and not out of the incubator. The mission of Art Tank, the nonprofit, is to provide studio and learning opportunities for artists with and without disAbilities to collaboratively create, exhibit, and sell art. (Versus historic models where talents artists with disAbilities worked in seclusion of the their art world peers.) Listed below are ways that you and others can help. (We miss our summer art interns!):
Grant writing; nonprofit paper work forms; event organization; writing media releases; hanging and taking down exhibitions each month; social media; helping operate merchant booths at a varying event (fairs, festivals, markets, conferences); attending monthly art crawls to represent artist work; assistance with blogsite, websites, digital and physical art inventory; minor research of various resources; some marketing; serving as peer mentors during art workshops***; teaching or hosting an artist workshop.
*EMERGING: Three Artists with disAbilities will be up through Sunday, Sept. 28.
***Our aim is to host quarterly art workshops for artists with and without disAbilities until Art Tank launched into a daily operation scheduled for late 2016. We've hosted one and a volunteer is planning through the next year.
Photo, counterclockwise: Grace Walker Goad, my daughter, with her art and I; artist Donald Werther; attendees admiring Donald Werther's work; psychologist Doug Herr, artist Gary Oglander, mother Beth Werther, potter Evamarie Pappas Oglander admiring Donald's work; artists Preston Vienneau and Edie Maney; giclee printer, artist, musician and disAbility community chief champion of love and word-of-mouth promotion Massood Taj.
It was the photos that got me last Sunday and still do. Especially the two with Gary Oglander. Check out the sense of awe on the face of this well-known and tremendously talented artist. He got it. He touched at the purity, strength and richness of this population's art. We are thrilled that Gary and Edie Maney, also a well known and tremendously talented artist, have stepped forward to mentor two of our artists.
The magic has begun. Actually, it began a long time ago. Thank you Shimai for turning up the volume.
UPDATE (4/15): Late December, I suspended plans to launch Art Tank, realizing that the demands, as a single mother, of my own daughter with autism and her transition out of her services in 1.5 years and the need to help her own art business were not getting the time they deserved. For the time, I also suspended the social enterprise, which ran successfully for a year. We are now looking to relocate out of state for a greater saftety net post 21. #AutismPost21Crisis #AutismAgingOut #SilverTsunami Read more here: The Tipping Point and Moving On