I was motivated to join Community Creative Fellows because I am a true believer in the power of creativity in our daily lives. In college, I started as an art major but felt the societal pressure to make a living and got swayed into eventually getting a business degree. That didn’t stop my desire to be creative. Every semester I took an art class to keep my sanity intact. My first real job out of college was working as an economist with the Dept. of Labor (zzzzzzzzzz). I traveled a lot. For a creative outlet, I would photograph graffiti art in cities, up and down the west coast, and watch how it morphed into political, social and individual expressions.
My position now, as executive director of a university’s community partnerships program, allows me to integrate art in most every project. I relate well to artists and feel happy around creative people. In order to share that feeling, I wrote a grant proposal entitled: “Art Behind Bars.” The concept was to hire a local artist to teach inmates about the benefits of art. Whether it is art appreciation, surrounding oneself in beauty, art expression or creative problem solving, inmates loved it. Their families loved it. If nothing else, the benefit was higher self-esteem.
When asked to choose a problem for this Creative Community Fellowship, I chose an environmental issue. Living in an agricultural valley, ranchers buy hay that is bound by plastic twine. This twine accumulates quickly and the closest recycler of this material is 980 miles away (one way). Consequently, this plastic twine is everywhere: wrapped around farm equipment wheels, in burn piles, piled in corners of fields, in birds' nests and left in ditches. Eventually, it ends up in landfills, burned into the atmosphere or just left out in the fields.
To draw attention to the problem, my staff and I organized art exhibits that challenged people to make things out of the twine. That worked. Some creative farmers and ranchers already did it. People not living on farms would connect with a farmer or rancher to collect the twine to make wall hangings, rugs, plant holders, etc. The added bonus is that people sold their work in our community gallery and made some extra income.
I knew I needed to take it to a higher level. So here I am, a Creative Community Fellow!