I recently got a note from Linda Esterley with the subject line, “Generosity of Artists.” In it, she told me about a project she’s coordinating, and it was so cool–and the response she’s gotten is so cool–that I asked her if she’d share it with us here. She generously said “yes,” and here’s her story:
Here’s how it went down, more or less….
It’s early morning in Central New York state. 3a.m. early, or “dark o’clock” as we used to call it at my former radio job. I’m finishing up my Gratitudes, and the first load of laundry is swishing in the washer. The cat and dog have been fed, and my Diva Dog has rejoined her dreams, snoring at my feet. On my feet actually.
A smile stretches across my face as I see my inbox fill with emails that all start with the word “yes!” Can I just say that artists are The Most generous people I know?
There’s background, and if you know me, you’ll know that this won’t be short. (but I’ll try).
Last May, I agreed to meet a friend at a local cafe. It’s a funky place with unmatched, brightly hand painted tables, an incredible music library, the perfect spiced chai latte, and sandwiches and wraps to die for. I saw couches, and baskets of knitting laying around for anyone stitch on, and journals to add your own thoughts to.
This was my first visit to Cafe 407. The ambience was amazing. My artist heart took this all in and felt like it was Home. It was calming, yet energizing at the same time.
I thought, “What a funky cool place for an art show!”
That’s when my friend told me that the Cafe was the main support for a non-profit resource center called Ophelia’s Place – a place for individuals and families to go when they need to untangle the boondoggle of eating disorders. (I know, ironic, right?)
I knew I had to do something to help – to reach beyond myself in gratitude for all I had been given, and all I never had to experience.
The directors of Ophelia’s Place were excited about the idea, but had no experience planning an art show. I meant to say, “I can help,” but somehow (they cast a spell on me), the words came out, “I’ll do it.” The date was set for November 3rd, and I was off and running.
It seems appropriate to note here that I am not a professional fundraiser or event planner, unless you count 6 weddings (not all mine) and a carnival about 35 years ago. I’m an artist. With a computer. so…
I sent out emails to every single artist I knew, and many that I didn’t know…I figured if I had ordered an artist’s work, then I at least owed them an invitation into this project, am I right? Fingers crossed. And then the ping! of my inbox started…email after email came back “Yes!” and soon, there were 40 confirmed artists from as far away as the U.K. and Japan who were contributing close to 100 pieces of art for this amazing fundraiser. The generosity was simply overwhelming. There are “popular name” artists that you probably took a workshop from or bought a book from…there are internationally collected fine artists, and lesser known artists, and community artists, and a few that will note this as their first ever show. Each and every one came forward in the same spirit of generous giving and love.
Radio stations, TV stations, magazines – all have contacted me about the event. It’s the love & generosity that attracts them, of this I am certain. There is such a cloud of peacefulness and well-being that touches everyone who dips their toe in this event. By nature, and by nurture, I am a worrier. No detail goes unworried about in my world. And I worried that the artists would forget their commitment, or that no one would show up to the event, or worse – that they’d come, but not buy anything. It was like a hamster wheel in my head. But, I tell you, love and generosity do conquer quite a lot, and a deep breath is always good. One morning as I sat at my computer, mired in negative, tearful worries, I suddenly realized there was only so much I could control, and the rest would just Be. And I began to enjoy the ride. I have a saying now on the folder for this event that reads: “It will be as it was meant to be, and nothing different.”
This art show/fundraiser feels guided and protected by the combined generosity of everyone involved. To see the pieces gently sift together makes me sit slack-jawed in awe at what we artists can do with our gift, and with our hearts.
It has been an amazing privilege to put this fundraiser together, and I am so grateful for the experience.
For more information, check out Ophelia’s Place website: www.opehliasplace.org
Huge thanks to Linda both for organizing this event and for sharing the story of how it came about.
Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.
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