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Help Desk 4 Creatives: Supporting Roles           

By Merritt Minnemeyer
arttimesjournal September 29, 2017

There is a saying in the acting world: “There are no small parts, only small actors.” While this is meant to speak to the importance of giving one’s all no matter the size of a role, I believe there is more to this little cliché than meets the eye.

Whether an artist works collaboratively or individually, the creative process can be a wild ride. Our successes are worthy of celebrations, and most enjoy the accolades that come with recognition, awards, sales, or the next big break in a given industry. That is all well and good. But what of the days during which we are left to our own devices? How do we handle the challenges of creative block, the disappointment of a string of rejections, or those times when we just feel like no one cares?

Enter Your Network, stage right.

In my work as an artist, and administrator, and a teacher I see time and again good, sensitive people who feel alone in their work. This makes sense on some level, as all creative work is deeply personal and individual. What’s more society as it stands has, in large part, relegated art and those who make it to the fringes, deeming us somehow not as valuable or useful as our counterparts in business or other financially-lauded profession. (For the record, I do believe the tides are changing on this, but change is slow and arduous).

Here’s the good news: you are not alone. I hear many people talk about how they want to be more connected to their creative community. When there is a need, there is opportunity. Perhaps it is time to begin an alliance. If one exists already in your area (try Googling arts council, arts services, or arts alliance in your area), reach out to them. An informal group meeting on regular schedule can mean a world of difference in how you feel about your place in your community. Online tools like Facebook or MeetUp can offer user-friendly conduits for connection. Even your local library can be a no-cost, welcoming venue for gathering and swapping stories of surviving the creative trenches.

If these steps seem overwhelming, you are not alone there either. Check out this article for some useful tips on creating as sound foundation for yourself before you put yourself out there: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-manning/make-friends-as-an-adult_b_7529424.html.

As artists, as humans, it is vital to our well-being to support one another. We have been conditioned to accept a kind of nobility or romance in going it alone, but that is pure fiction. Find an elder artist from whom you can learn, and help them teach you. Cast out your net for a young person just starting out, and encourage them on the journey. Start or join an affinity group, take a class to brush up on basics, or attend a lecture with an old friend about something that inspires you. We don’t just need new input for our work, we need it for our health and fulfillment.

Huddle up, my friends. And be not afraid to ask for help. No matter how large or small a part you feel you are playing now (or have played in the past), it’s what you do now that matters. A new connection today could mean a whole community tomorrow. A bit of courage and a little faith on your part might mean the world to someone else. These relationships are the fascia that holds us together. Embrace it, and each other.

Merritt is the Grants & Funding Manager at Arts Mid-Hudson, an arts service organization serving Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster Counties in New York's Hudson Valley. She lives in Ulster County with her three vibrant sons, and two goofy pound pups, and one remarkably darling husband. Have questions or ideas for topics? Email merritt@artsmidhudson.org