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April 29, 2010 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Wondering Around

I’ve dedicated these past few days to  Wondering Around. I am Wondering Around my apartment, my neighborhood, the internet, and that tornado inside my head.

A few days ago, I was fortunate enough to have the time to Wonder Around many, many wonderful blogs.  Specifically blogs dedicated to hand-crafters and online sellers.

I’m so excited about everything that I’ve been learning these past months.  Learning always excites me, but it is a good indication that I’m on the right path when I learn something which leaves me wanting to know more.

A couple of years ago, a very left-brained, money-oriented,business minded acquaintance of mine went on a tirade about the problem of self-employed artists…   in his opinion the reason so many of us struggle is that we don’t think like business people.

I have been incredibly blessed in my life to know many talented artists, musicians, actors, and dancers, and I’ve come to the conclusion that some do think like business people, but many who need to don’t. I suspect that it’s not a matter of how we were born, it’s a matter of how we think which is at least partially the result of how we are taught to think.

One of the many things that I am passionate about, (and this is at the top of the list along with things like preserving the environment) is arts education.

I truly believe that our education systems all over the world needs to change drastically to fully incorporate  creative disciplines so that every student has opportunities to excel and reach their full potential if we are going to survive. I have had the privilege of knowing many wonderful teachers, arts educators, and others who agree. There have also been so many published authors, arts organizations, individuals and great educators who are working very hard towards this change. Still, I worry that it won’t happen in time…

I am constantly saddened by the way we think about education as being limited to “important” (read academic) subjects taught as completely separate entities that don’t connect to each other, and how so many of us are taught or decide from too young an age what we can and can’t do based on our innate ability, (or lack of ability) to perform in precisely the way that schools have decided we should. Mainly, to score well on academic tests.  The end result is that too many of us leave our primary education without having the least understanding of our capabilities.

I notice among the general populace, that we tend to think of everything in either/or terms.  We are either creative, or academic. Left-brained or right-brained. Smart, (read: score well on tests) or not. And then of course we all have ideas about what we’re good at, and not good at when it comes to individual subjects.

One of the very first things I learned in school was that I’m not good at math.  Learning to read and write was as easy as it was thrilling to me as a 1st grader, but math was a source of anxiety and fear, so I learned to struggle and then when I grew older and had more options to avoid math as much as possible. I did.

Imagine my surprise when one day in my early 30’s I suddenly realized that as a Pattern Maker, I had been doing math for a living for years without even realizing that I was doing it at all. It became easy as soon as I applied it to something that made sense to me. I am totally convinced now that math isn’t a problem for me.  I simply didn’t respond to the way it was taught to me, and lived with the assumption that I’d never be able to do it.

I suspect that the same might go for artists as business people. Business people as artists, and so on. As I have learned, and am learning from my own experience, we’re all capable of stretching about as far as our imaginations will allow, and when we need to, we can change how we think of ourselves.

We can choose to give up our rigid definitions of who we are so that we can grow and expand as we need, and therefore, fulfill our potential.

If I had the voice to do it, I would challenge all self-employed artist to take a close look at how we define ourselves both as artists and business people and how doing so could increase our potential to contribute to the world through our creations.

I wonder what would happen then?

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