reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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initiative. [flawed wednesday]

(sign on the door of the milwaukee institute of art & design)

a year and a half.

jen told me yesterday that the 1918 pandemic, though most often referred to as a two-year pandemic, actually lasted two and a half years.

two and a half years.

i shudder to think of the toll this pandemic will have taken if it lasts yet another year or more. we have learned so much; we have learned so little. the pandemic has been like a kaleidoscope and like a microscope, both. it has scattered us into constantly changing patterns and it has brought everything into minute focus. yet i wonder where this will take us.

artists aren’t typically conservative in-the-boxers. we take risks, live gig lifestyles, put ourselves out there, are vulnerable and push back against things we consider inequities, ironic double-talk, disinterest in humanitarianism, opacity where transparency is touted. we aren’t quiet, for it is our job to speak – in whatever medium our talent. we are, as artists, there to raise questions, to promote pondering, communicate ideas, tell stories, express emotion, encourage engagement, inspire connection and collaboration, reiterate interdependence of all people.

though this burden does not remain singly on the shoulders of artists, even banksy has participated in making statements about safety and guidelines in this pandemic. i’m not sure how much more blatant it needs to be. encouraging covid-19 responsibility, his work in the london tube in july 2020 was titled, “if you don’t mask, you don’t get.” he spray-paints the words, “i get lockdown, but i get up again” at the end of the video featuring his rats on the tube.

though attendees were 100% vaccinated, the invitation read, “masks required at all times unless actively eating or drinking.” they provided masks, sweet ones with the initials of the wedding couple and a heart. the venues had high high ceilings, exposed rafters and ductwork. the wedding was outside, cocktail hour was outside, dancing was outside.

when the rain came, we all kept dancing. outside, twinkling lights all around, we breathed in fresh air. even with masks on.

“a lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to.” (banksy)

initiative (noun): the ability to assess and initiate things independently; the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.

the milwaukee institute of art and design has posted signs on all their doors. they have taken a stance.

wearing a mask in public spaces – and vaccination – have been scientifically proven to lower the rate of transmission, sickness and death of a deadly global pandemic. already a year and a half.

exactly what additional kind of initiative do you need?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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artists. funambulists. [two artists tuesday]

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between us we have two master’s degrees, two bachelor’s degrees, four businesses, a coaching and consulting practice, various certifications, multiple states of teaching credentials, fifteen albums, four singles, hundreds of paintings, multiple play-scripts, countless productions and concerts and performances and gallery showings, a radio show, four cartoons, books, blogs that contain a few thousand posts, numerous and diverse leadership positions in theatres and churches and educational institutions, too many non-profits to count, long resumes and a combined total of over eighty years of work experience.

we are artists.  and, as you know, that is not the easy path.  it’s gig economy in a corporate environment.  it means piecing things together, working a plethora of jobs at once, purchasing your own healthcare, investing in your own so-called retirement, advocating for your own value, balancing, balancing, balancing.  the tightrope is thin, but anyone doing the tightrope dance (funambulism) is well-acquainted with the balancing pole and standing tall in the center of mass on the rope, necessities in an artist’s life.

in a workplace conversation once, i was asked how i would even speculate about having a second job.  an incredulous moment, as a person who has always had simultaneous multiple jobs, it was ludicrous to me that the person asking this, who apparently has always lived in absolute bullet-pointed stability, could not fathom having more than one job at a time.  were artists to be so lucky.  were any gig workers, in their area of professionalism, to be so lucky.  that is another world entirely.

so we are always on the lookout for additional gigs, so to speak.  education, experience and skills from the wide spectrum of the first paragraph speak well to helping with growth and change processes and insight and honoring students and employees, not to mention the separate and interwoven threads of music, painting, theatre.  these experiences that span decades speak to the arts, that which the world turns to in times of chaos, unrest, dis-ease, periods marked by adjectives like distraught, devastated, frenzied, unprecedented, uncertain, arduous, splintered, divided, distrustful, untrue, exhausted.  the arts – that which feeds society.  yet, “creativity takes courage,” understated henri matisse (painter, 1869-1954).

as many of you, we receive solicited and unsolicited lists of jobs in our email.  we peruse through the obvious ill-fitting options like neurosurgeon or stem cell biological researcher; we look for opportunities to plug our work as artists into the world.  we are also emailed positions that line up with our professional abilities and tenure in the arts.

and this is what we’ve been sent:  sandwich ARTIST and GALLERY advisor.  it’s hard to know whether to laugh or be insulted.  sandwich artist?  if this is really what subway calls their employees, i would say most of us have related experience since the first time, at like age 3, we spread peanut butter and jelly on our wonder bread.  and gallery advisor?  tesla, really?  car dealer concierge maybe?

it’s a dim future if you cannot see relevance for the arts in a society, if they are secondary to anything and everything else, if they present in sandwiches and on dealership floors.  where are the organizations, the institutions, the employers who recognize the multi-faceted diamonds in an artist’s perspective, an artist’s drive, an artist’s commitment, an artist’s vision, an artist’s project-driven dedication and multi-layered stamina, an artist’s sensitivity, an artist’s heart?

as two artist-funambulists, we’d like something better for the gifted artists giving breath to joy and hope and tomorrow.  from the tightrope of this gig economy, it makes our toes curl to think any differently.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

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where do we go from here? [d.r. thursday]

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“where do we go?  where do we go?  where do we go from here?”

an empty canvas.  a roadtrip with no predetermined destination.  where do you go from here, davidrobinson?

sheet music clean

an empty staff.  a roadtrip with no predetermined destination.  where do you go from here, kerrisherwood?

artists’ journeys, rife with intersections, foist decision-making upon us in our quest to create.  simply starting is sometimes an uphill challenge.  the questions are never easily answered.  the value of what we are doing is never really clear.  or is it – the value assigned to what we are doing is never really clear?

journey synonyms according to google: travel, leg, trek, ride, jaunt, expedition, drive, outing, mush, passage, junket, long haul, circuit, schlep/shlep, digression, transit, pilgrimage, excursion, sashay, traveling, tour, pleasure trip, odyssey, trip. 

i think schlep about covers it.

where do we go from here?

we have a daily decision, a choice to “begin anywhere” (john cage) and speak to the world around us and what we see through artists’ eyes.  we write, we paint, we compose.  we either create or we step away from the canvas, the staff paper, the qwerty keyboard.  we know that nothing we do will change the world.  we know that everything we do, like you, will change the world.

where do we go from here?

last night anderson cooper’s chyron read, “meanwhile, back in the real world.”  the real world.  a world fraught with chaos, trembling with the fever of a pandemic and the disease of racism.  we, as people, turn to the sages of old for words of wisdom.  we turn to art for honest displays of emotion.  we turn to music for expressions of pain and hope, grief, despair, love, action, change, fear, questions.

questions like – where do we go from here?

Every day just gets a little shorter, don’t you think?
Take a look around you and you’ll see just what I mean
People got to come together, not just out of fear

Where do we go
Where do we go
Where do we go from here?

Try to find a better place but soon it’s all the same
What once you thought was a paradise is not just what it seemed
The more I look around, I find, the more I have to fear

Where do we go
Where do we go
Where do we go from here?

I know it’s hard for you to
Change your way of life
I know it’s hard for you to do
The world is full of people
Dying to be free
So if you don’t, my friend
There’s no life for you
No world for me

Let’s all get together soon, before it is too late
Forget about the past and let your feelings fade away
If you do I’m sure you’ll see, the end is not yet near

Where do we go
Where do we go
Where do we go from here?

(peter cetera, chicago – where do we go from here?) 

purchase this CHICAGO album

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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exit. stage right. [merely-a-thought monday]

exit

metaphorically speaking, the gravel hadn’t even settled after we pulled out of the parking lot and our newly-created-recently-released website had already been changed.  david warned me about this, telling me how tom m used to tell him this very thing about the moments – even just mere moments – after you leave a position.  you are forgotten, your ideas are left behind in the dust; you are the person who used to do the job.

i had spent hours and hours and hours and weeks and months designing, branding, carefully trying to portray this unique place in a fresh, interesting, vital-to-the-community way.  i painstakingly chose fonts and always included “xoxo” in posts.  i pored over hundreds of pictures i had taken there, looking for the right imagery to represent this performing arts center to which, just over a year ago, i had felt an instant attachment.  TPAC, a beautiful 253-seat theatre on a tiny island.  i added a small heart to advertising, social media posts, communications.  my heart was attached and it seemed apropos to subtly include love from TPAC in everything to the residents who have shared their island with it.

for the last year – until the end of the day yesterday – we, two people with lifelong immersion in the arts, have been the co-managing directors of this theatre.  on this island-you-cannot-drive-to, across death’s door from the mainland of door county, we weathered our way through waves of challenges.  we were brought there to create, to bring TPAC into next, to carefully elicit change in a place that pushed back against change.  we made dear new friends; we gauged our days and our progress by the greetings at the grocery store.  my fondness grew.

managing a performing arts center is not for the weak of heart.  it is not, as some would think, simply about booking performers into the space.  instead, it is weaving the place in which it exists into its very fabric, acknowledging the importance of the local arts organizations and forging relationships with their people, listening, working together to make the theatre accessible and intrinsic – necessary – to all.  it is fundraising, addressing personality issues, graphic design, ad sponsorship, strategizing, gently and firmly guiding.  for us, it was seeing the infinite details (i’m the detail one) and the arcing scope into the future (he’s the big picture one).  it was sitting-on-the-edge-of-the-wooden-stage-dreaming at its best and cleaning-the-backstage-refrigerator at its most practical.

we lived in the littlehouse on the water, a place we still cherish.  every morning i took a photograph over the lake; every night we marveled at the million stars in the sky.  we walked on quiet roads and hung out laundry to dry.  in the middle of enacting progressive forward-moving dreams, we had also returned to a simpler place, a simpler time.  washington island is indeed away-away and the ferry that makes it possible to come and go dictated our few comings and goings.

there were moments, as you would suspect, of difficulty, for no tiny place is immune to that, to agenda or powerplay.  indeed, no dense urban city is immune, so a somewhat homogeneous island with generations-long-standing residents proves no different.  when we accepted this position we put on our ‘what’s best for TPAC?’ hats and, with more objectivity than those who have been immersed in the politics and life of a place for most of its tenure, we were determined to leave those hats on, despite all odds, regardless of any pressure to bow differently.  we brought heart to TPAC and we leave pieces of our hearts behind in it.

every journey has meaning.  today i grieve the inevitable exit from this place.  they will continue on, outsiders-be-gone, with one of their own at the helm to take them into next, the island way.  TPAC will continue to grow and change; there is so much potential there.  we can see it.

and today, as i close my eyes and see the traditional red-cushioned theatre seating of the house and feel the wooden stage under my boots, i know my heart will mend a bit as the dust settles.  and the key sticks in the lock of the backstage door just as it always has.

(a farewell video post to TPAC)

read DAVID’s post this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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©️ 2020 kerri sherwood & david robinson

 


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put your fingers on the keys. [d.r. thursday]

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nine.  i have nine fingers i can use right now.  and, like chicken marsala, i am putting them on the keys and following the music.  two weeks after breaking my wrists i was back playing and directing.  who needs wrists anyway?  who needs all ten fingers?

music can’t be stopped.  it’s in the sound of the sunrise, the sound of your baby waking up, the sound of the clink of coffee cups.  it’s humming as you ready for your day, singing along in the car, laughter shared over the phone.  it’s in the hug you give your children as you drop them at school and the help you give your aging parents.  it’s in dinner you prepare for loved ones, and in the volunteering you do for a local service organization.  it’s in the walk in the woods, a stroll by the water’s edge.  it’s in the quiet weary at the end of the evening, the sighs of a life-day done well.  it’s in dreams and in hope. and it can’t be stopped.

we will always turn to the arts for comfort, for meaning, in joy and in sorrow.  the music follows us; it surrounds us.  it waits silently, ready to volume-up when necessary, hush-down when needed.  it’s background.  it’s foreground.

we need only put our fingers on the keys.

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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CHICKEN MARSALA ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 


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make others happy. [merely a thought monday]

pt barnum quote

wendy aka ben aka saul brought the movie so that we could watch it together.  the musical the greatest showman was completely entertaining.  there are so many quotes and moments in that movie that are worthy of repeating but the one that is on-screen at the conclusion is by far the umbrella quote.  “the noblest art is that of making others happy.” (p.t. barnum)

so often, it is the arts that people turn to for a breather, for something beautiful, for something to relieve their stress.  a person will listen to music, gaze at a painting, get lost in reading a book or watching a play, feel their breathing slow down during a ballet, sink into a poem. invaluable offerings of peace, of happiness, the arts give pause.

it is humbling when someone tells me that a piece of music has touched them, that a song has made them weep, that something i wrote made them stop a second and ponder.  it is my job as an artist to do my best to reach out with my work.  i can’t determine if it will resonate with anyone; i can only “put it out there” as they say.

it is more often lately that i bemoan the priceless value of the arts that coincides with the oft-price-less earnings of the arts. for what better work than to make others happy.  what better work than to be part of what people turn to when they need to breathe, when they need beauty, when they need to de-stress.

it is noble work.  however you achieve it.  for at the end, will we remember anything other than what made us happy and, more importantly, how we made others happy?

read DAVID’S thoughts on this MERELY A THOUGHT MONDAY

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