Studio Talk #7: Community

 

If I could only choose one word to describe what I love most about Knoxville, I'd have to choose "community."

I have spent years trying to find the puzzle my piece fits into and even though I've found so much of what I crave in other places like Asheville and Carrboro, something just feels different about Knoxville. 

  My first workshop in Knoxville, at RALA. Photo by Mark Lilly.

My first workshop in Knoxville, at RALA. Photo by Mark Lilly.

I mean, just today I got a card in the mail from my dentist and each person on staff signed it with a personal message...with specific information about our time together!  Like, damn, I don't think a dental hygienist has ever made me feel special before, but I can't WAIT to go back to get that cavity filled.

I can't believe I just said that. Anyway...

The thing is, it's not just my dental office. It's like that EVERYWHERE. And sometimes I'm like, keep your guard up cuz this can't be real, and then I'm like, no no, you don't have to walk around with your fists up anymore. 

We all react to trauma and disappointments differently, but one thing is to be sure -- it's hard to trust when you've been shown over and over again that it's a bad idea. But that ish can be overcome. The only way I know how to overcome it is by receiving consistent unconditional love and support from trusted friends, and I have definitely gotten that here. 

I can't say it's been perfect, but it's been overwhelmingly good, which is pretty great.

I have experienced more personal and artistic growth in my short 9 months here than I could have imagined possible, and it feels great to be learning, changing, letting go, and making plans. And being in a place filled with people who cultivate a spirit of creativity and who are just generally happy to see each other doing well makes all the difference.

People here have taken me in and given me exactly what I needed and that's huge.

RALA has played a huge part in making this feeling of being "at home" possible. I mean, damn. Everyone there blows my mind. Pretty soon after getting to town, they gave me a First Friday show, let me start teaching workshops, and even helped me get hooked up with Dogwood Arts, where I'm no volunteering to help with future exhibitions.

Just this past Sunday I co-taught a Feminist Embroidery Workshop with illustrator Paris Woodhull who is pretty much one of the kindest, most earnest people you'll ever meet, and the turnout was amazing. Not only did 11 people show up, but the evening was filled with incredible conversation and super fun crafting, and there's not a single person I wouldn't love to get coffee with sometime.

Basically, I just want to say Thank You to everyone who has shown me friendship, put faith in my abilities, and who has supported my endeavors. 

Just a few shout-outs to Knoxville biz people who have really helped me fit into the creative community. (I was going to start listing friends also, but then the list got really long and, well, I hope that you know I care and stuff, but mama's getting tired):

This doesn't even include all the creatives who have been generally supportive, given me game-changing advice, offered a random helpful tip, or even just made the right introduction. If you're reading this, you know who you are and I know who you are and I'm super grateful.

Glad to know all y'all.

Night night.