It’s every artist’s dream, but I was shocked when it happened to me.
While in Arizona a couple of years ago, I decided to visit the local art museum, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). It’s one of my favorite museums in world.
When I was the director of a nationally-known fine art lithography and etching studio, SMoCA purchased our archives.
In other words, they collected one of everything we created in the studio.
Running that art studio was the coolest job I’d ever had.
The way we worked was to invite artists in to collaborate with our studio crew to create original fine-art prints and objects.
Sometimes we invited world famous artists. Other times, we invited artists who were just emerging, and I would introduce their work to the marketplace.
My job was to liaise with the artists, participate in the conversations about the ideas, and oversee production details. Once ready, I sold the work we created to museums, galleries and collections around the world.
SMoCA was one of those museums.
Like most artists, when we created work in the studio, we often had no idea where it would end up finding a home. We had to trust that it would find its place.
And like most artists, our studio made decisions based upon our interests and aesthetics, processes we were curious about, ideas we wanted to explore, and people we wanted to work with.
Very rarely does an artist have a lateral plan that takes them directly from Point A to Point B. Because we’re driven by curiosity and fueled by passion, we tend to follow our dreams.
And that works because when you’re an artist, you can’t predict where the opportunities will come from. You can’t predict where your intuition will guide you.
So from the outside, the road you’ve taken on your artist’s journey may look haphazard and unintentional.
But just as the underside of a beautiful rug looks like a series of threads gone mad; when you turn it over, you see that the chaos produced an exquisite design.
That’s how a lot of creative careers work too.
You never know where you’re going to arrive on the artist’s journey. You simply show up and give each opportunity your very best, whether you’re filling a wall in a coffee shop or a room at a museum.
It’s been more than ten years since I left my career at the studio behind.
I remember how sad I was to say good-bye to the artwork I helped to birth into the world. And how scared I was to face the uncertainty of my future.
But that was over a decade ago. Flash forward to a couple of years ago as I walked into SMoCA’s large gallery.
The room was dark and the walls were hung salon style — hundreds of pieces from floor to ceiling. It created an impressive atmosphere. There were also glass vitrines scattered throughout the grand room, each showcasing handmade books and other art objects.
I started to look at the work but I quickly had to sit down.
The vast majority of the art in this huge exhibition was from my former studio.
I was surrounded, floor to ceiling, by pieces that I knew intimately. I had participated in its conception, sometimes even its creation.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I started to cry.
I sat in that large dark gallery and saw my past looking back at me.
I felt proud. Proud of the work. Proud of the artists. Proud of the incredibly talented team of people who worked with me at the studio to make these ideas real. And yes, proud of myself. Proud of the journey taken and the journey I’m on now.
Often, it’s through revisiting past experiences that we realize how far we’ve come and where we want to go next.
Stumbling into my past work like this was a surprising gift. It gave me courage and confidence to reach even higher as I moved toward my future.
My wish is that you too have an opportunity to see your work surround you. It’s every artist’s dream.
No matter if the work was successful or not, you must honor where you’ve been before you can fully embrace where you are now.
And truth be told, that’s the secret to creating a new future.
But until then, honor yourself for showing up.
Honor yourself for the learning, the growing, the risks taken and the lessons learned. Honor the achievements, no matter how small. No matter how long ago.
Stand on your success, not on your disappointments or your struggles.
Your work deserves to be seen.
But first it must be seen by you.
Take a look back at your past art and achievements. Bless the artist you’ve been.
And now turn to face your future, ready to become the artist you next want to be.
Step into your own artist’s dream.
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