Most people I’ve met who learn that I am an artist tend to make the initial, incorrect assumption that I am always on the verge of birthing another piece into the world; that my head is always in the clouds, floating down the sidewalk instead of walking, stopping to appreciate flowers while in between appointments and errands because that’s what artists do. We see life differently. And we are in a perpetual state of creation. Or something.
I end up having to remind them that people who make art and identify as artists don’t have this luxury. That we also go days, weeks, months doing the same thing over and over again that most people do: wake up, go to work, come home, go to sleep. That we also search for moments throughout the day to rest or let our minds go blank for a second. We don’t get to hang around and cultivate our craft all day because despite what stereotypes would have us believe, this capitalist world doesn’t allow much room for that; for that and many other things beyond art. This effects inspiration. Inspiration can be hard to come by on any given day. Then enter a pandemic that has completely rocked the way many of us go about our daily lives and we are faced with an even bigger wall than the last one. Brick after brick, speedily piling up before our eyes, we wait for something to hit. A thought, an image, a dream, a feeling. Something to get the hands, voice, and brain moving. More than ever before, creation in every part of the formula is proving to be difficult: making space in our heads for ideas, making time to bring the idea into art, and finally, making the art. Which is why it is nothing short of amazing every time I get to witness those who succeed in it.
This year’s MMTM is one of the many programs that HWF has been offering online to young people since the pandemic took hold last March. While I try to focus on specific films or themes that continue to present themselves throughout the program, I felt a shift in the usual programming when sitting down to write this time. While I could certainly write about themes, discussions, and how this programs’ initiatives and goals connect to larger issues and concerns taking place in the world, I am finding myself moved to state something plainly instead: what these participants are doing is lifeblood maintenance.
In the midst of sudden and constant change, radical shifts in political power and decision making, as well as the guarantee that when we go to sleep we don’t always know what kind of world we will wake up to in the morning, I am finding it almost impossible most days to carve out time to even think, let alone write poetry. I know most of my friends also feel this way and I suspect many other artists do as well. This can make things feel bleak, to be sure: looking around and seeing that you, your friends, and so many others throughout the world are unable to find the time or the drive to create. Then I log on to Zoom. See everyone’s faces. Hear ideas, see rough edits of films and sketches, and listen in on the brainstorming. And I am reminded that making is still happening. Creation is continuing. The life force is intact. That there are people who are keeping art alive, even as the rest of us are struggling to find our way back to it. And while this isn’t to say that those of us on involuntary hiatus will never pick up our respective crafts again, these programs are comforting reminders that art doesn’t stop. Mary Therese Perez Hattori writes in her piece “We Are Art” in Value of Hawaii 3: Hulihia, “… the pandemic cannot halt our creative practices. We are motivated more than ever to live as fully as possible, be our best selves, and enrich the world with our cultures” (205). No matter what is happening, we can always count on people to keep art practices going. And trust that when we feel moved to make once again, we will have a rich genealogy of creation to continue adding on to.
And so I suppose this is a ‘thank you’ more than anything. Thank you to the participants of MMTM and HWF’s other programs for waking up on Zoom days and showing up. Thank you for asking questions, offering insight, opinions, and words of wisdom. Thank you for showing those of us who are on pause that there are things and people to love and make art for in this world. Thank you for reminding us that art is not going anywhere because you are keeping it safe. Thank you for letting us witness your creations time and time again. Thank you for the privilege of getting to know you through creative practice and exchange. Thank you for reminding me constantly that the next generation of artists are ones to look up to and instil faith in. Thank you for everything you do. This old poet is grateful always, always, always.