Feeling overwhelmed can be a good thing!

Taking on a big project can feel overwhelming. 

My stated goal in my last post was to “take full advantage of retired life.” I want to keep growing creatively and adjusting to new challenges without increasing my level of stress.

Over the past year I have found a new rhythm to my life. Several days a week I spend most of my “energy” in my studio. I keep healthy with walking, yoga and meditation. My social life is growing through connections with other artists in my area.

Even with the luxury of being able to set my own schedule and the self awareness to know what works for my physical and emotional well being; I occasionally get overwhelmed. Taking on too much creates a challenge. When faced with a challenge I have to rely on my strengths and  I get to discover new skills.

Before I retired I committed to being the regional representative for the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). I accepted this job when I was still working.  Before getting this role, I approached a city gallery director about  an idea to use a public space to display art quilts. Eighteen months later 60 artists from three states have art quilts on display.  “Above and Beyond” at the Lakewood Cultural Center opened on January 22nd in the main gallery at the atrium. It will remain on display until Easter.

Since the chance meeting with the gallery director in spring of 2014 until the show opened  I have invested many many hours on this project. Two weeks before the show was hung was stressful. Artists needed information, the venue needed images, schedules had to be adjusted, inventory had to be received and volunteers needed to be organized.

Above Main-Gallery

Add to this the physical nature of hanging work from wires, arranging a pleasing display and working within a large group of people – many of whom I was meeting for the first time. I began to wonder if I was in over my head. Lucky for me I had lot’s of help from my co-rep, gallery staff and SAQA members.

By the time I got home from hanging the show in Colorado I was tired and a little sore. The first thing I did was finish up a project in my studio and sent off an entry to a national SAQA show “Tranquility”. Then I started eating better, caught up on my reading list and slowly got back into a routine.

Now it’s time to evaluate.
After putting this show together, I am thinking about the experience and putting it into perspective by asking a couple of questions: 

What capabilities helped me get this project done
does this challenge inspire me to pursue similar projects?  

I have strong organizational skills:
As former art teacher I can assemble materials and instruct groups of people pretty well. I also understand how to communicate effectively using email and social media. Networking helped me reach out to people who had skills I don’t and have access to information I would need.

I love people and creative people in particular. Working with a gallery director turned out to be something I really enjoyed and learned a great deal about how that position fits in the art world. It helped me to have a personality willing to let creative people take charge. I like to organize, but not to control every detail.

Inspired to create a small group show:
After I hanging a show that left me feeling exhausted, I wanted to say “never again”. I don’t disregard the parts of challenge that I found tedious or that did not fit my skill set. But a given a little time, I started thinking about the value of expanding the world of the art quilt through shows in public spaces.

I would like to work with another public gallery or public space. I don’t want to spend my energy managing a large group. I would like to  find a small group of local art quilters, who would share responsibilities for a show at a public space.

My biggest insight was I am coming very close to leaving behind a desire to “lead”. As a working mother; I often joined organizations and ended up in a leadership roles. These groups allowed me to express myself creatively, support organizations that I believed in and to connect with a large network of interesting people.

This has been true with my role in SAQA as representative. This job will end in November.  I have learned so much and made so many friends. Now I look forward to working in small collaborative groups and finding places closer to home to display art quilts.

Until the next time…..