Sometimes it is just too hard to maintain production of my own creative artwork. Not for lack of ideas, but rather from too many good ones that involve other people and other creative choices. That has definitely been my problem for the last year and a half, as I have put my efforts into other initiatives and goals.
I have embraced offers to do work with community arts, and teaching skills that are fundamental to our society if we are truly to make a positive change in our environment and slow the pace of climate change. And I have been working collaboratively towards building an organization that can offer so much and bring so many together to share skills in upcycling and reclaiming of materials.
It has been a slow and often stressful and difficult process to get it up and running, but finally Creative Reuse Toronto is incorporated as a Not-for-Profit organization, and we have a beautiful space in which to offer classes as an Arts & Environment Learning & Resource Centre at 68 Abell Street, in Toronto.
Sue Talusan and I have partnered on Creative Reuse Toronto as the Founding Directors. We have had others join us as an Advisory Board, some of whom will choose to be on our full Board. We have even more plans and strategies in the works. Sue and I have discovered that we have a great combination of skills, we work really well together, and we are completely dedicated to the success of our ideas. And there are so many skilled and concerned people that we meet who share our goals, ideas, and values, and who are helping us with advice and the heavy lifting. It will take a community of like-minded individuals to make this work, but our little community is growing.
The Centre has had three major delays since September 2019. First, I developed a life threatening illness - and am thankfully now mostly recovered. Second, there were some contractual and organizational delays. And now, two weeks after finally signing the lease - a pandemic has shut us down once again!
Will it stop us? No.
It will give us time to pause, to reflect, to get our paperwork and programming set up, our organizational ducks lined up and ready to swim. I see this as an opportunity, a way to truly test our creativity - particularly my own ability to be creative and strategic. In spite of the bumps along the way, we know we will be a success.
Creativity is not just related to my individual arts practice, for me it goes far beyond my own artwork and into a philosophy and approach to arts that includes everyone, that is collaborative. It is an approach that is process and play driven, but with an underlying belief that we waste too much in our society - both material and human resources - and that art includes beauty, expression, craft, and utility. A basket made from reclaimed materials can be both beautiful and practical, it can make a statement, and it can stem the tide of landfill by influencing others to change their consumer habits.
And how is this new challenge - the Covid-19 Coronavirus - going to affect my thinking, my work, my teaching? How will it affect others in the Arts? How will it affect those around me and our determination to make a real and positive change in the way our society consumes and wastes?
Much is unknown, but that in itself is a challenge to creativity. I know that I am very high risk for serious illness, due to several factors, but I will adjust my habits, my work, my communications, to adapt. I know that others, especially those in the Arts will suffer real financial hardship, and that the way our community interacts with each other may change. Hopefully much of the change will be to embrace difference and social interaction, rather than the distance and stress that has been visibly exhibited in the last few years.
The Board and Advisors of Creative Reuse Toronto - a small but dedicated group - will be able to help me - and others - give people a new challenge within isolation and quarantine, using new technologies until we are able to once again convene face-to-face programming.
We are living at a really fortunate time in the history of human civilization. We have the skills and knowledge to heal, to save lives, in spite of this new viral threat; to communicate with each other and build community and strengthen our social connections through technology, without spreading the virus sweeping the world. We have the knowledge and ability to change the direction of our societal goals and reaffirm or adopt community-based and planet-based values that can make a better future.
In the meantime, I am challenging myself - how many samples can I create? What ideas can I come up with? How can I fill my days in self-imposed isolation? How can I contribute to positive change from behind my closed doors? And how can I find more time in the day to be creative? There are so many wonderful possibilities for my creative work, and so many unfinished projects to complete.