A Case for Community

I'm fast approaching the end of  Creating a Mindful Studio Practice Workshop in 6 Degrees of Creativity 2. Regretfully. As I mentioned in my last post, I felt that I'd written the workshop as much for myself as for the workshop students.

But that would be a short sighted view. As Gretchen Miller said in her promotional materials for 6 degrees 2, the workshops are a way to develop community.

And community bears fruit beyond what anyone can imagine. Case in point, I became friends with Beth Rommel, of niftyartgirl.com in another online art workshop series. We began talking to each other 2 years ago, helping each other to solve art problems (and as time passed others as well.) Recently, I'd been talking to Beth about how to supervise student volunteers in the hospital setting.

I was frustrated. Often, it seemed that these bright premed students saw their time in the hospital playroom as a chance to return to childhood themselves. I wanted to find a way (without reverting to my own past days of mothering) to convey to them the gravity of these children's situations and how important it is to give each of them pure, undivided attention.

There is a lot going on with kids in a hospital playroom, some it obvious, some of it not. An iv pole or long scar on the head are hard to miss. Emotional distress is often invisible at first glance.

Beth had an unusual suggestion. She told me that she was listening to "The Martha Rules," an audio CD of Martha Stewart's. In it, Martha lays out a framework for success in starting, building or managing a business.

Despite my misgivings about Martha because of her conviction for insider trading, I purchased a copy and began to listen. Martha presented a succinct and understandable paradigm that I could easily adjust for my students.

But that wasn't all. Yesterday, the book literally saved my life. I was on my way to visit my artist friend, Linda Johnson, who lives a couple of blocks from the hospital. As I drove, I listened to the CD, paying close attention.

Martha stated firmly that sometimes bad things are going to happen and that while you can have strong feelings, even overreact, you cannot panic. She firmly reiterated that whatever happened, not to panic.

Suddenly, smoke started to creep out of my hood. 2 seconds later it was billowing and the car crawled to a halt on the exit ramp to the hospital, located in a rough part of town. Cars started to swerve around me.

"O.k., Martha says not to panic," I told myself and took a deep breath, thanking God for cell phones and AAA.  Long story short, a kind gentleman helped to push me down the ramp and around the corner to relative safety. I was scared, but hearing Martha's words moments before gave me an inner certainty that everything would work out.

And it did. The tow truck came, Linda arrived and we ended up having time to paint together before work. I am extremely grateful to both of these friends, who are part of my artist's community. Beth lives in Georgia. I live in Davis, CA and Linda is in Sacramento.

These days, people talk a lot about whether connections we make through the internet can truly help to create bonds of friendship. Although we are separated by distance, the connections that I've made with these two friends through my artwork has created more than good artwork. It has created a network of community that I can count on in good times and in bad.

I'd love to hear your stories about serendipity in your art community.