As I prepare for my upcoming trip to China, my focus is, as you might imagine, on leadership. For 5 weeks I will be facilitating a class on leadership for the World Academy for the Future of Women in a program called Giving Voice to Women through the Arts. I am excited for this amazing opportunity. In preparation, i find myself reflecting on how I have grown as a leader as I traverse my presidency and prepare for my final year.
In that context, I need to consider AAG’s impact on its members and its role in the greater Arizona art scene. By many we are viewed as leaders in the Phoenix art world. However, to others we are obscure and still often unknown. ‘How do we change that?’, I ask myself. This question makes me realize that leadership can’t be defined in a bubble. Leadership alone is not enough, one must – or at least is a must for me – question one’s definition of success to measure one against the other. As I think about this, my eyes fall on a framed quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
I have had this framed since High School. It has been the guiding principle of my adult life, informing my decisions and values. With Emerson’s words as the measure, AAG is hugely successful in its endeavors. There are too many reasons for this to mention. Suffice to say, we have a board and band of volunteers with a lot of heart steered by a strong mission to promote the arts through education, exhibition, and outreach.
Success in art-making has its own definitions and interpretations as well. What is successful today cannot be considered successful in a year or 10 years. We can’t continuously remake the same piece and think of it as successful. We can’t continuously repeat the same behavior in- or out-side the studio and expect to grow. The same is true for us as an organization and community.
I invite you to think about your art practice in this context of leadership and success. Does that pertain to you, and if so, how? I invite you to consider your role in AAG and AAG’s role or impact in your life. What has changed over the years? What’s lacking? What’s blooming? I’d love to hear from you. Please email me with your thoughts if you care to share.
Have a wildly creative month.