It's hard to believe that last year this time I was in Paris.  Or that I've been working on my current project Elegy to Connie for almost four.  It's been an exciting past couple of weeks in that I found out I received two grants to continue working on this project.  One is through the Mid-American Arts Alliance and it will help fund my work this summer, hiring an assistant, and traveling to screen this film next spring.  The other is an Artists Count Grant through RAC and this will help fund supplies and studio space, namely updating my computer/software.  On this fourth of July I am feeling very thankful, that I have the support to continue making this film, and that I have had and continue to have opportunities to travel and create art.

Elegy to Connie short at RAC.

Break it Down.
This film has been built in an incremental manner and the support I've had to create it has been widespread.  Everything from my regular teaching jobs at Marian Middle School, Forest Park Community College, Continuing Education, SLAM, and the Contemporary (Thanks Christy, Jamie, Heather, Chinyere, Renee, and Tuan) which has kept me paying my rents and buying food to the series of little opportunities that I've used to build the framework of this film.  A Critical Mass Grant that allowed me to start the interviews and create a 5 minute short.  The CALOP grant which allowed me to really dive in and create the bulk of the film plus hire support staff.  The CITE Residency, where I drew out the 40+ page storyboard.  As I am saying this list, I also will say that there are many grants and opportunities I wrote for that I did not get, numerous GRB's, a creative capital grant, other residencies, other local grants.

Edit, Edit, and Edit Again.
One thing I've learned from this experience (as repeated from my grad school writing teacher Jane DeLynn) is the value of editing.   I began to see my writing about this project, not just as text I fill in for a grants required info, but as a writing work that was constantly redrafted for clarity.  Each application I wrote was a chance for me to become better at how I described the project and to continue to visualize its outcome.  Along the way I've opened up my writing and creative process for other people's feedback and their insights have been significant.   Although it was intimidating initially (my own fears of rejection/failure), sharing these pieces brought to my attention new ideas and succinct writing suggestions that left me wondering, why hadn't I always been doing this?  Through my conversations with other people about this project I grew.  I am quite possibly most excited that my friend Lyndsey, who reviewed my project, suggested I join a group called Witnessing Whiteness that examines white privilege.  I look forward to reading this book and discussing my experiences of white privilege so that I can understand and thus be a better ally for people of color- my friends, students, and colleagues.  I will try to write about this experience and hope you will forgive me if I seem clumsy in my understandings.
Cover of book I'm reading with discussion group.

Starting to unpack my Privilege
Already from our first meeting's discussions, I realized how as a white person I received many opportunities purely based on the color of my skin- the freedom to travel, to be in almost any space, (while I'd argue that being female is another matter because I most certainly have not felt safe in certain places), to not have experienced persecution or exclusion because of my skin ( I do have remember experiences of exclusion because I was considered a weirdo growing up).  As a white American I have also had the privilege to be able to travel to many countries of the world without having to apply for permission or go through excessive red tape.
I've received a great education, my parents/family have supported my decision to be an artist,  they have always had work, and I've always found work.  I have not been without my own suffering- eating disorder, depression, and sexual assault, but I am seeing how these things brought me deeper in my own art practice and quite possibly made me more compassionate for other people's experiences.  If I am the sum of my experiences, I see how my own whiteness has contributed to what I have been able to do.

Untitled 2.  Collage that seems to relate to what I am saying somehow.

No one's life is awesome 100% of the time.
I receive these grants with a humbleness and a notion that a positive is often counterbalanced with a negative- I lose an old friend to liver failure, another friend's mom struggles with mental illness.  The privilege I am beginning to look at is intertwined with my success.

At the same time, I recognize the hard work, sacrifice, and continued focus I have had working on Elegy to Connie.  I also realize the significance of receiving these grants, how they allow me focus on the project,  to avoid credit debt, to not be in a constant state of worrying about money, and ultimately to give me time.

Message to you and past self: Don't Give Up!
For anyone out their who has received a rejection, I urge you to keep going, stay focused, and invite your own community into you work to help make your art or proposals better.  I've been on the other side of losing, hating on someone that won.  And the reality is that we all deserve to feel hope and support.  
I've got a couple tricks to keep myself going. One is I have a file folder of all my rejections/applications and I will periodically measure it, if it is growing then I consider it a success that I'm still putting myself out there.  Another is I make lists.  I have an art list called 50 chances,  each time that I do something in service of getting my art into the world, I write it down i.e. contact a person, make a business card, or apply to a show/grant.
I even have a happiness list where I try to brainstorm and then check off things that make me feel good to do, like taking a walk, cooking a meal, or setting up a date with an old friend.  These mini successes keep me going.

Flying in my dreams is hopeful.

Happy 4th of July!  Gratitude to you for reading, being you, and here's to staying hopeful.  


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