People make plans and the gods laugh...
A year ago I told my boss I'd retire after the summer programs were done. I offered to volunteer enough hours to keep my beloved arts camps and apprenticeship programs alive.
I knew the Rockford Arts Council couldn't afford me anymore. Donations and corporate contributions were down in a local economy that has never recovered from any recession. And we weren't getting our operating grant from the state any time soon. Illinois is in a political nightmare. There hasn't been a state budget for two years. This is an impasse between the Republican Governor (wealthy business man who has never held office) and the Democratic Majority leader. Neither will allow the other to win. With no budget, bills are not being paid. We are still waiting for 2016 operating funds from the Illinois Arts Council. The people who know politics better than me say there won't be one until after the next election...another two years. Every not-for-profit in the state is feeling the hit. There's staff reductions, mergers, and closings. Those that provide essential life sustaining services are suing.
No matter how valued the arts are, we will always lose in a battle for basic survival. Maslow's hierarchy of needs are real. People have an intrinsic urge for creative expression, but first their bodies need to be fed, clothed and sheltered.
Back to my point...
I was planning to retire to a life of writing, presenting creativity workshops, and possibly resurrecting a theater company with my husband who was also going to retire soonish.
That day I offered my retirement my boss smiled and thanked me. She resigned two weeks later. She told a friend it was time to leave the sinking ship. The board appointed me Interim Director and six months later the Executive Director.
I'm old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan Show that often ended with a man spinning plates on long sticks, running from one to the other to keep them going.
Spinning has its challenges for me. I have occasional bouts of vertigo. People ask how I'm doing, and I don't know how to answer. I try not to think about it. I can't think and spin simultaneously.
But when I pause to check-in with myself...I am surprisingly happy.
I love our council's mission---to support, promote and develop the arts for everyone.
I get to make that happen by encouraging artistic expression of everyone from children to centurions, connecting people with compatible dreams, providing space for creative conversations that lead to innovative projects, working with local civic leaders to use the arts to bring healing to the community. [The police asked for help in establishing trust in neighborhoods through arts projects.] We've turned the executive office into an art gallery space available to local artists for exhibits, and the common area where my workspace is converts into the smallest performance space in town. A local playwright produces innovative plays that draws parallels from history to current day. She uses a cast of children and adults but doesn't shy away from difficult topics (Playing now is "CULTIVATION" a play about China's Tiananmen Square massacre.) We are launching a campaign to invite everyone to contribute to the arts at whatever level they can to shift away from dependence on government funding.
Life is good---and exhausting. What isn't happening is my own writing. I have a commitment to an hour a day but end up writing to-do lists, or arts project ideas... or a blog about my job.
I had my retirement dream-plan, but the Universe knew better.
If I didn't have this work to do I'd be dwelling too much on the current White House resident.
I have better things to do.