You are still an artist (Cheryl Chamblee, ASBX blog post 013)

You are (still) an artist.

If you haven’t thrown a pot in two years, you are still an artist.

If you haven’t shown up to rehearsal since you can remember, you are still an artist.

If you haven’t written a sentence, picked up a paintbrush, stepped into a studio, taken your instrument out of its case, you are still an artist.

(I will go so far as to tell you that even if you have never called yourself an artist in your life even if the idea makes you laugh even if your own child mocks your drawings mercilessly

you are still an artist.)

But right now I’m talking to those of you who at one time readily identified as a painter, singer, sculptor, theater-maker and for some reason or for many reasons or for no remarkable reason whatsoever now find yourself thinking

I don’t really count as that anymore

or

I used to be and now I’m not

or

I don’t deserve to call myself that

or

writers write and I’m not writing so I’m not a writer

or just plain old

that ship has sailed.

Maybe you had a baby or two or three

maybe you got a not-art job and it grew

maybe someone you loved very much died

maybe your parentspousechildbestfriend needed care

maybe you got your heart broken by a friend or a lover or both

maybe you got sick or depressed very very depressed

maybe a hurricane came along and swept away everything you owned

and so you made choices or non-choices and now you haven’t made much art at all in a month or a year or a decade or longer

and now you and self-help literature and the world at large have persuaded you that you are not an artist.

I vigorously and wholeheartedly disagree.

Actually, what I wrote first is: That pisses me off, and I call bullshit.

Either way, I feel so strongly about this because

I THOUGHT THAT TOO.

For years after my child was born, I couldn’t do it anymore.

I need to contribute to my household income, and I want to be home for more suppers and bedtimes than a traditional non-Equity rehearsal process allows.

I was in a staged reading here / I wrote a 5-minute play that got featured there / I had a poem published in one place / I wrote a bit for someone else’s play in another place.

It didn’t seem like enough to count.

It didn’t seem like I could keep up.

I felt like no one thought of me as Artist anymore and

I was ready to hand in my artist card.

I was ready to say

I was that, and now I’m not that.

I’m done.

Now that I’m a little further out from tiny-baby small-toddler caretaking

I can see that I was

confused.

You can’t hand in your artist card just because you haven’t made your art in a while.

It doesn’t work that way.

I was an artist when I made plays

I was an artist when I was nursing a baby

I was (am) an artist when I was (am) creating budget spreadsheets

I was (am) an artist when I go to a funeral, go for a walk, pack a suitcase, chaperone a field trip

and so are you.

Right now.

Even if you haven’t made any art in 17 years.

Or longer.

One of the things I made 17 years ago when I was an Artist was a play called squeaky wheels.

With Tamara Kissane and Bill Carey as both hands theatre company, I created and performed it in helter-skelter intensive long weekends that involved out-of-state travels, late nights, and huge swaths of focused time. That was how we did it when we were the artists we were in 2001.

A few weeks ago, Tamara and I pulled out a little bit of material from squeaky wheels, and the artists we are today made a little bit of new work with it. The artists we are in 2018 made work that involved zero helter-skelter, across-town travels, reasonable bedtimes, and a few short bursts of focused time.

I’m sharing our work with you now via Tamara’s Artist Soapbox Podcast. It’s a 6-minute listen, and I’d love to hear what it makes you think of, what it sparks for you. Check it out right here. Put on the headphones if you’re at work or have children around. It contains adult language and situations.

I am (still) an artist.

And so are you.

Maybe an artist who is finding new ways to make work in this part of your life

maybe an artist who makes work much more slowly than you used to

maybe an artist who takes long breaks between small projects

maybe an artist who hasn’t made anything new in a very long time

maybe an artist who still won’t make anything new for a long time to come

maybe an artist who feels some loss about the way your art-making is less or different.

but still an artist.

I see you with your artist’s heart, and you are not alone.

**

Hear Cheryl on Episode 025 and Episode 045  of Artist Soapbox.

Cheryl Chamblee is a writer, strategist, theater-maker, and mama with more than 20 years of experience as both artist and nonprofit leader. At the Chatham Arts Council, she recently led the creation of a new focus and identity, including the creation and implementation of the Chatham Artists-in-Schools Initiative. Cheryl’s coaching work centers around guiding leaders, boards, and creatives in times of transition. She’s currently working on several tiny creative projects, including The Letters Project, The Envy Pieces, an audio drama collaboration with Artist Soapbox, and one tiny project more that’s too nascent to name. You can find her writing at onebrokenteapot.com.

1 thought on “You are still an artist (Cheryl Chamblee, ASBX blog post 013)”

  1. Pingback: Reclaiming creative identity after a loss (Mara Thomas, ASBX blog post 014) ⋆ Artist Soapbox

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Artist Soapbox

Artist Soapbox is a platform for original scripted audio fiction and an opportunity for artists to discuss their creative work in their own voices. We do this through our interview podcast, our blog, and original audio dramas.

Artist Soapbox is an anti-racist organization. We believe Black Lives Matter. In addition, as a podcast production company, ASBX has signed the Equality in Audio Pact on Broccoli Content.

Artist Soapbox is more than just a podcast.

We lead writers groups, accountability support, workshops, and events. We produce and create audio dramas too! Listen to the Master BuilderThe New Colossus Audio Drama, Declaration of Love, and ASBX Shorts. Stay tuned to hear about more projects written by the Soapbox Audio Collective Writers’ Group.

Audio Dramas

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The New Colossus

The New Colossus Audio Drama is a totally unhinged dark comedy reboot of Anton Chekhov’s classic play, THE SEAGULL.

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Master Builder

This audio drama was adapted from Tamara’s 2018 stage play produced by Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern and inspired by Henrick Ibsen’s classic, The Master Builder published in 1892.

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Declaration of Love

Co-producers Aurelia Belfield and Tamara Kissane of Artist Soapbox commissioned eleven NC playwrights to craft short audio scenes based on the prompt “Declaration of Love.”

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ASBX Shorts

ASBX Shorts are six short audio fiction pieces created and produced by North Carolina artists. Artist Soapbox Shorts were specifically contributed by the artists to aid in fundraising and to get everyone excited about Jesus Pancake, our new audio fiction series in development.

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