So with the goal of getting outside myself a bit I have been volunteering some lately. I found out from a family member about an organization that creates spaces for at risk youth to make art in downtown Toronto. I help out once a week as a volunteer with their programming at a community centre which gives me a chance to meet some creative and slightly eccentric young people; if it’s not too busy I can also try to make some art myself and / or participate in the workshops they host with community artists. All in all really great. Gives me a sense that I am involved in the community, and in doing something that is very important to me, art. It also gives me pause.
Art occupies a strange place in my personal life story. I loved art in high school and had a great teacher who encouraged me but for a variety of reasons that sort of make sense in retrospect, I never really saw it as a legitimate thing to pursue in life. That’s interesting because existentially there wasn’t really anything else that I saw myself put on this earth to do. As such I sort of flailed along, eventually going to business school, and then ending up working in government policy in an area that did have an interest for me, infrastructure. Ten years later I found even that field to be a suffocating environment (can bureaucracies be anything else?). Now, still having a passion for visual arts I wonder where I might be if I had tried to make a career in it. I did take courses over the years and occasional produced a painting that I really liked, but this is much different from the kinds of results and innovation one might achieve by devoting every day to it. Some might say, practically that I avoided becoming a “starving artist” but the older I get the more I realize that material pleasures are ephemeral – nice but not foundations of the existential edifice. Nor do I have a family that relies on me to provide for them. Just me: gay and single (sigh).
I find that in this process of feeling like I am starting over, I am drawn mostly to wanting to pursue my creative side, and approach it with the discipline of a vocation. The title of this post is a reference to the Bravo reality show Work of Art I recently watched where a bunch of young artists compete for a big prize. Seeing their tenacity and passion really kicked me in the ass. I can’t quite come to terms with going back to a cube and regurgitating policy documents 40 hours a week. That’s my truth right now at this point in my life – I’ve been denying an essential part of myself for way too long. I want to work in infrastructure but not by producing talking points for the government, rather as interpreting what it means for our society, and how it can be a tool to make it better. I think I can do that through art and writing. By the way I’ve added one of my infrastructure paintings to this post at the top titled “1969” – it is a painting of the last overpass built over the cancelled Spadina, now Allen, Expressway.