I don’t usually share year-old Facebook memories when they pop up, but the one that hit my feed today resonated with me:
A year ago I had wrapped up a month-long series of events, Holler: 31 Days of Columbus Black Art. People kept telling me at the time, and since, that the series “changed the local art game”. Almost immediately after that effort I was on a plane to New Orleans for the first time as a reward for a job well done, to relax. The trip was akin to dumping a payload of gasoline on a forest fire. All I could see were all the things I wanted for my city at every turn: venues, constant art, historical nods, art-infused architecture…you know, culture. All of the ideas I had accumulated for events and shows I had done or wanted to do over the last 20 years kept crashing down on my head the entire time I was there. Creativity doesn’t take vacations. It was a trip in both popular senses of the word.
By the time May 2017 rolled around all of that was a month and a half in the past. I was firmly back on my full-time work grind at a job I hated and not sure what to do with the 40-year tempest inside of me. I had briefly been offered a window that looked out onto a world where art was a job, where culture was a prioritized brick in the foundation of a city’s life, where every day was a reason to celebrate, but I couldn’t process how to make the view a reality. Despite having built the window, I couldn’t see the land that lay before the horizon. And as time passed, the window felt more like a painting, and then became a dream again.
Despite my reputation, I am not much of a long-term planner. I’m detail-oriented when a project is on the table, but in the early, visionary stages of a project I largely operate by feel: what’s missing? Can I stuff art into that space? What is no one else doing? How can this already awesome thing be 25% better? Is this building culture or is it just a gig? It is math I am constantly processing as an organizer, but if I am completely honest, I still ran my life much like a starving artist. One day, I regularly mused, I’ll do the thing that will put me over the wall in one fell swoop. My action plan was hope, which, for the record, is a horrible plan. Hope is a fine ingredient for a strategy, but a horrible plan. I would have had more success with a plan based on luck than hope. Anyhow.
Fast forward to now, today, a year from this Facebook moment of public weakness. I have a plan. I have support. I have a community ready to engage the culture I’m trying to build. It all came together very quickly, in almost as dream-like a fashion as gazing out the culture window. It has been a wonderful year and my life has changed in profound ways since then. None of it were things I could have told you were a done deal, or even planned. The thing I can tell you is that I put those ideas and visions into the world and eventually, the right people came along and said, “I can carry that.” Sometimes that was a donation or sharing an event or being present at a show or, in the fell swoop of all fell swoops, buying a building for me to have my way with. It’s an overwhelming journey, and it’s only just begun. Even when I felt I was doing all of the work, I was never alone. I had my consiglieres, my rocks, my version of a support system. Whenever I needed an answer, I had places I could go to find them, or at least be shown the way to an answer. When I needed to be reminded of how the things I had done had affected people’s lives, I had people I could go to that had no problem letting me know. I regularly accessed the community I was serving and they served me back.
I guess I mostly want to say to the people out there looking for their next step that it’s okay to not know how it’s going to go. I’m not a planner at all, and look at what I’ve accomplished. I’m 75% lazy (if I could fix that one, boy…) and you’re probably way more driven than that. I’m only beginning to see how the rest of my life will go. I didn’t have any of this a year ago, and now I have all of this, and it’s only a fraction of what I’m going to do yet.
I’m not given to pep talks. My version of a pep talk usually consists of the phrase “Just pull the trigger” and that’s about it. But I can think of five people right now that I know personally who need to hear this today, and I’m not too grown to admit that I’m one of them. So listen:
Determine what you want. Put those needs or priorities out into the universe. Surround yourself with those who get it, who get you. Not sycophants, but people who have a piece of the puzzle. Wrap yourself in a handful of people (just a few; that’s all you need) who don’t blink when you dream out loud, who only ask where you want them to stand. You can take over a city with the right five people; you can build one with the right ten. Most of us don’t have goals as broad as that, so a handful of brilliance will do. Just make sure you’re doing the work. It is not about having the answer. Watch the 1956 film The Mystery of Picasso and you will learn – in clinical time – that the work is always about the journey. Hope is not your friend; checklists are your friend. Rumor is not your friend; math is your friend. Haters are not your friends; “get it done” is your friend.
The Scott a year ago didn’t have this to tell you. The Scott that is here does. The Scott a year from now will hopefully be too busy doing dope things to write something like this.