“Love is an action, never simply a feeling.” —bell hooks
Dear AAC Network,
In recent conversations with two trusted colleagues, one who works in academia and the other who serves on the board of an assisted living facility, they stated there is only one metric for them in this time: that no one dies.
An uneasy feeling took hold of my body. But as I sat with that discomfort and their words sunk in, I felt relief, hopefulness, and deep gratitude that people are setting aside their personal and institutional agendas to care for others. With the weight of the world in their decisions, both colleagues had made a bold, clear commitment to center the people in their care and, by extension, their families, friends, and communities. There was no discussion of excellence or worthiness, tax brackets or backgrounds, political ideologies or religions, creative practices or disciplines, professional status, sexual orientation or race. There was no discussion of deficits or cost sharing, progress or innovation, reaching new audiences or expanding digital footprints, or appeasing boards. Their sole metric of love singularly and comprehensively addressed all of the above and more.
What is the single most important metric for your organization? Do your actions and language demonstrate “a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust,” what the cultural critic bell hooks calls the basis for love? Are you centering the lives of the people who power your organization?
An expression of love doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture. It’s the one-on-one conversation with an artist, team member, neighbor, or stranger. It’s the conversation where you pause and listen and ask yourself, “Am I creating the greatest opportunity to advance the mission of our organization and allowing love and compassion into this space?” Love as praxis can begin by simply reframing the questions you ask.
Try this commonly stated vs. thoughtful reframing practice:
During this time of multiple pandemics, how will my organization manage waning cash flow?
How can we best operationalize our program to support the well-being of artists and staff in their work, not ours?
How do we reschedule artists and maintain the integrity of our current selection process?
How can we update our selection processes so that more artists can participate in a generative and joyful environment?
How do I ensure that all artists follow the rules so we do not have liability concerns when we reopen?
How do we create a welcoming and collaborative climate?
My organization exists in an area where some artists might feel unwelcome, should I invite them anyway?
How can our organization be a thoughtful intermediary, learning more about the truths of our community and the artists we serve to foster a climate of transparency and choice?
How do I make the case to funders that the work of our organization is important?
How do I build relationships with my funders while getting artists and staff working together without loss of life or livelihood?
How do I convince my racist and resistant board to change and that equity training matters?
How do I work with my board to uplift the different archetypes of artists and their creative practices?
The past several months have been hard and disheartening. However, the opportunities for growth and change remain. We are bearing witness to our own evolution as a society and being called to expand our capacity for compassion, to see beyond our individual likes and preferences and hold genuine space for one other. The invitation of this time is to throw away traditions, prescribed ideas of normalcy, and your usual metrics and put love in action. How will you move forward? I want to hear from you.
Lisa Funderburke Hoffman
Executive Director, Alliance of Artists Communities
Subscribe to AAC Newsletter