Love Note #12: Coming up for air

Apparently, it has been 3 months and counting since I last wrote a love note. I kept meaning to write one but every time I got some free time I found it more appropriate to sleep and/or watch Netflix. Now that I'm on a self-elected three week winter break, I finally have the time and energy to write/reflect. Last summer, I took a similar much longer (3-4 month) break. I had to spend some time reevaluating what was important to me in terms of what kind of work I was doing and more importantly who I was working with. I did want to teach again but I wanted to be more exclusive to ensure that the organizations I was affiliating myself with really shared the same values as me. By October, however, I was ready to get back into the classroom and back to the classroom I went! 


It started with getting a gig through Arts @ Large teaching two 4th grade and two 5th grade classes at one school one day a week. Last year, I had a residency with Arts @ Large co-teaching with my friend Mikal so I was both equally excited and a little terrified to lead my class solo this school year. And let me tell you, it has been quite challenging. Luckily, the school is pretty awesome and the staff and teachers I work with are really supportive. That being said, I still have to plan lessons and teach 26-32 students per class every week. My first 5th grade class is amazingly well-behaved but as the day goes on, each class gets progressively more out of control. I've broken up a fight, I've banned a student from my class for throwing scissors at another student and I've literally lost my voice yelling at these kids. And while I'm being compensated well for contact hours, I spend so much more time gathering and prepping for my class every week than I'm being paid for. And I start to resent kids being kids - misbehaving and not understanding that art time is precious time! And then just when I'm about to lose my patience and sanity, one of my students will tell me how I'm so much better than their last art teacher. Or I'll get unexpected hugs when students enter or exit the classroom. Teachers show their surprise when I show them certain student's work. Another student who is notorious for acting out, tries extra hard in my class, continually asking if he's doing well. I saw one student outside of school and she was so excited to say hi to me. Her mother made a point of telling me that she said I was 'the best art teacher in the world.' And all this pulls at my heart strings and I wonder if all the stress, effort and unpaid time I put into these four classes is worth it...  And I think the answer is complicated. Living in the gray space in between yes and no. 

Quickly after I landed the Arts @ Large gig, I was very excited to land two different teaching opportunities with Milwaukee Repertory Theater. For those who really know me, my love for theatre goes wayyyyy back. My only good memories I have from high school revolves around my involvement in the drama club and school plays. The only reason I showed up to high school my senior year was I had theatre class for 2 hours at the end of the day. I went on to college thinking theatre was probably going to disappear from my life only to fall more in love. When I transferred colleges, it was between the directing program at Fordham or my dream choose-your-own-adventure program at NYU where I could study theatre AND art both through the lens of cultural and gender identity. I chose the latter and while theatre wasn't my sole focus it remained something I was truly passionate about. I taught my first drama class to elementary school aged kids the summer before my senior year, I co-directed a Guillermo Gomez Pena play, I took a directing course and directed a rare but stellar one-act play by Tennessee Williams. Upon graduating, employment was more important than my passion, so theatre took a backseat but by the summer of 2008, I found myself in South Africa teaching the first ever drama class to amazing high school students. Nearly 10 years later, this is still by far one of the most magical and influential experiences of my life. I've had many teaching experiences since South Africa but it has taken me this long to get back teaching performance/theatre. And I have to say, I can't believe it has take me this long. 

Before I talk about my teaching with Milwaukee Rep, I think it's worth noting that I've worked for the Rep in the ticketing office since November 2016. It didn't occur to me to look into teaching until one day I was watching The Incredible Jessica James and then I realized I needed to be teaching theatre again. Whether my influence from film and television is normal or not is debatable but I am sure glad that as the credits rolled, I got my resume together to send to the Rep's education department. The following week I had an incredible interview and soon after I started to teach an after school program to high school students and three in-school 6th grade classes. Let's talk about the 6th grade first. 

For the 6th graders, I am teaching them about Animal Farm so they become familiar with the play before they go see it at the Rep in February. I also teach them different theatre/improv techniques and general theatre appreciation. I was really apprehensive teaching 6th graders but a job is a job so I figured I'd give it a go. I have been pleasantly surprised at how much fun I'm having with my students. It's awesome to have them act out scenes from the play and have discussions about what they read. I've been impressed with how much they understand and remember. We haven't read the play in total but each week, we peel back different layers of the story. It actually is pretty complex stuff but I think coupled with fun theatre exercises, it really does sink in with the students. To be honest, I've always been afraid of middle schoolers. And you know, some students, at times, have their moments, but so far, the experience has been far more rewarding than I imagined it would be.


Now, on to my amazing high school students. First of all, after a short two months with these kids (and honestly after the first 2 hour class), I must say, I was totally in love. It also solidified what I have known for years, that I am truly passionate about working with teens and allowing them to find their voice through creative expression. I think it's because I am still so grateful for my arts teachers at that age. They encouraged me and my talents and I think I have this impulse to give back that gift. Also, teenagers are hilarious and I love listening to them talk - I always walk away with a new word or phrase to use and this simultaneously makes me feel super old and young at the same time. Anyway, for this particular class which met for two hours on Wednesday evenings, we were focusing on the theme "community heroes" and each week we explored that theme through different art mediums. I definitely got lucky with this group. On day one they came with excitement, intelligence, open minds and A LOT of personality. The culmination of this program was for the students to create something to showcase at the Milwaukee Rep's Stacker Cabaret Theatre and my group decided to do spoken word. I was excited for them to choose this, as almost all of them were incredible writers but only a few had experience performing. It was so cool to lead them through the process of bringing their voices/ideas to the stage. Of course, they did an amazing job and I was incredibly proud of how hard they worked, how well they worked together and how serious they took the class and opportunity. The week before the showcase, they met two additional times with me and another time without me to ensure they were prepared. Their dedication was inspiring. If I wasn't already bursting with pride, they impressed me even more at the showcase by demonstrating respect, attention and support for the other student groups that performed and shared work. Basically, I could go on and on and gush about these students. And I would probably be balling crying now just thinking about how this program ended BUT it looks like I'm going to continue to work with these amazing students when I return from my much needed hiatus from all things teaching. So stay tuned for more gushing and bragging about how I get to teach the best students ever! 

So yeah, that's what I've been up to the last few months. Completely consumed with ensuring the world continues to have amazing artists or, at the very least, people who appreciate art. You're welcome. ;)


Love Note #11: Oh yeah, Chicago is, like, super close...

“It’s always fun to get away from camp, even for an hour.” — J.J. Wet Hot American Summer

When people ask me what I like about the cities I've lived in I always start with the most obvious answer. Los Angeles... weather. New York City... 24/hr everything. Boston... the easier answer here is more personal but it's home, it's where most of my close friends and family live. And while most of you are probably thinking beer and cheese for Milwaukee that's a close second, the real answer is rent! I type this from my studio which is located in my apartment where I also have a complete separate bedroom! And while I have two roommates it's still 2 to 3 times cheaper than anything I've ever paid in rent before. The last stress in my mind is how I'm going to make money for rent each month. And honestly, it's a big part of why I stayed. 

Of course, Milwaukee has charmed me way beyond it's rent prices! For one, like I wrote in my last love note, I have an incredible community! And it really feels like the the majority of people here, no matter what industry they are a part of, are pretty community minded. And that's something I think is extremely lacking in other cities, particularly bigger cities. I really feel like I'm a part of something here and while progress sometimes feels really slow it's not for the lack of organizing. I don't know if anyone has said this exactly but the sentiment that people say and what I really feel is that Milwaukee is a mid-sized city that acts with a small-town heart. For better and for worse! Luckily, I've mostly seen the benefits so far. 

I'm sure I've written about many other amazing aspects of Milwaukee over the past year or so, but I better get to my point of this love note and one thing that I think is pretty cool about Milwaukee is it's proximity to other cities, specifically CHICAGO! When I decided that I was going to stay in Milwaukee, I told myself I would go to Chicago ALL THE TIME. In reality, I became a true Milwaukeean and anything more than a 10-15 minute drive seems impossible. So "all the time" has translated as three planned trips and one accidental layover. But hey, it's comforting to know it's there!

This past weekend, I made my most recent trip to Chicago and yet again, I thought to myself, 'What an easy drive, it's so close, I should do this all the time!' And I seriously should, because like the great quote I started this whole love note with - it is so great to get away from camp, even if it is only for an hour!! Okay, so you need to replace "camp" with "Milwaukee" and "an hour" with a day... but you get what I mean! 

My reason for going down this time around was my good friend, who also happens to be one of my favorite artists, Jennifer Ling Datchuk. She was in town from San Antonio performing a new work at this great art space called Threewalls. And pretty much if this amazing rock star of a human is presenting any kind of work close enough for me to drive, I am there! If that wasn't motivation enough, everyone back in July told me how great the Murikami exhibit was at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I saw that it was open until September so I thought I had plenty of time. And then time did that sneaky thing where it just happens without notifying you and you're all like, OMG WHERE DID TIME GO?! And when I looked at the MCA's website again, I realized that this was my last chance to see the exhibit. So it was decided, I would have an art day in Chicago! 

I woke up early which is a rare thing for me these days and I was out of my house just after 8am. I stopped at Colectivo to fuel up on caffeine and a delicious muffin and I was cruising along sometime around 8:30am. As always, I hit a little traffic just as I was entering Chicago. I'm positive hitting traffic as you enter and leave that city is impossible but I got to my parking spot destination just after 10am! This is where all my east/west coast folks shout, 'IMPOSSIBLE! MILWAUKEE IS IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!" I assure you, it is not, just look at a map! Anyway, thanks to this real nifty app, SpotHero, I found a parking spot for $8 for the ENTIRE day AND it was near a Whole Foods, making for a great pit-stop before heading to the museum!


And then I managed to get myself to the MCA with only slight confusion. I don't know if it is the lack of public transit systems in Milwaukee or if google maps is equally confused about the CTA but it is not intuitive. I had an easier time in Berlin when everything was in German and basically every stop had 10-16 letters in it! I've decided maybe google maps just needs to step up their game... I mean, right? I digress but while waiting for the train, I took a lovely photo and posted it on Instagram. Within moments, I get a notification that my friend from Milwaukee, another amazing artist, Gabi, was also in Chicago and was headed to the MCA at that very moment! See? Milwaukee is such a small town you even run into your friends in the next town over! 

It was great to run into Gabi (and her boyfriend, Tyler) especially since the line for the museum was out the door and onto the sidewalk! Apparently, everyone had the idea to go to see Murikami's exhibit and had also been giant procrastinators like me. On top of that, it was a million degrees on this late September "fall day." If I hadn't run into friends, I just may have  given up on all my plans. When we finally got into the museum, the next ticketed time for the exhibit was 1:30p. I was in a bit of a bind because Jenn's performance was at 2pm. So, I got a 4pm ticket and figured I'd do my best. Sorry, Murikami, but there was no contest on this one. In the meantime, Gabi, Tyler and I went around to the rest of the museum. I was really into the Michael Rakowitz exhibit and just might have to go back to take a deeper look and try to get some food at Enemy Kitchen. FULL DISCLOSURE: I probably won't do this, but hey, if you're in Chicago you totally should! After seeing everything but Murikami, I bid my friends adieu and took the train back to the neighborhood in which I thought Jenn's performance was going to take place. And since I thought I had plenty of time and I was in front of a Shake Shack, it seemed like a perfect time to stop for lunch. While I was waiting for my portobello burger, I thought I'd double check the address of the gallery and realized I was near the OLD address and the new address was a 15 minute car ride away! ¡Dios mío! Thank god for another great app - Lyft! I jumped in a Lyft with my Shake Shack and had a wonderful ride with man named Corin. I taught him being vegetarian doesn't mean you can't eat delicious things and he taught me a little about the neighborhoods in Chicago. I hopped out at Threewalls and arrived just in time. 


There was only a few people in attendance for Jenn's performance Whitewash which made it feel like a private performance in a way. In this performance, she kneeled over a basin and washes unfired porcelain teacups and saucers until they break back down to clay. Her statement on this act is brilliantly written so I will share this excerpt:  "We live in a world where identity can be manufactured and appearances appropriated without concern or even awareness. We question and desire authenticity of the other. I explore this conflict through my chosen media – porcelain, which nods to my Chinese heritage but also represents “pure” white – the white desire I find in both cultures. I aim to take back that fluidity and use it to explore my own identity as a woman of color—the sense of being in-between, an imposter, neither fully Chinese nor Caucasian."

I didn't realize dishes were going to break until it happened. And the continuous breaking down of this material that looked so solid -- it was stunning and emotional. One of the reasons Jenn is one of my favorite artists is because she tackles her complex identity with such vulnerability and courageousness. In much of her work she uses her own body. In Whitewash, not only is she kneeling and washing with her hands for twenty minutes but at the end, she puts the broken down clay on her face. I'm also just so impressed how she has found a way to use a traditional medium and transition it's use into a very modern art practice. Anyway, as a spectator I was blown away and as a friend, I was so so proud of this new work. It's pretty cool when you can be a fan-girl but also get to call the person your such an fan of a friend! 

After Jenn's performance, I somehow made it back in time to see the Murikami exhibit before the museum closed. And maybe it was unfair to see his exhibit after Jenn's performance but I just wasn't that into it. I mean his work is cool to look at and I love the scale of it but I just like my art to have a little more meaning behind it. And maybe it does and I just don't get it. What I did learn, however, is that he has a PhD in traditional Japanese painting and he kind of ignored that during what I'm calling his "Kanye years." And then in 2011 when Japan was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami, he tried to merge his traditional background with his modern aesthetic. This is a really hard thing to do and unless you're Jennifer Ling Datchuck, it can be hard. :) I also think that once you become a pop-star visual artist, I think it's pretty hard to go backwards. At the end of the day, the coolest thing about this exhibit was the insane amount of people lining up to see it. You can't say art is dead. 

After roaming around Chicago in the heat, meeting back up with Jenn for dinner that I wish could have lasted a few more hours, it was time to head home. I arrived back at my apartment just before midnight and man... it really was great to get away for an hour, er, I mean day. 


Love Note #10: Family and Home

For a myriad of reasons, I have been thinking a lot about family lately. To be honest, it is something I have thought a lot about my whole life. As many, if not all, of you know, I was adopted. I was only three months old, so being adopted was and has always been normal. Naturally, I was surprised when I started to learn that being adopted isn't seen as normal to everyone else. Sometimes, it has made people downright uncomfortable. But being adopted is the only reality I have known and I can't imagine my life any differently. In fact, I don't want to. When I was little, we would celebrate my adoption day, August 5. It was like having another birthday but without all the presents. When I realized that not everyone was adopted (which was totally late to the game – I think I was 6 or 7), I felt bad for all the kids who only got to celebrate birthdays. Suckers. As you can see, I was more than content with my reality, my adopted life.

As well adjusted as I was to the idea of being adopted, many confusing questions, of course, bubbled up from time to time. It started with questions from everyone else. Where does your hair color come from? Little me would stare blankly and think God (I was raised religious and thinking back on this thought makes me chuckle). Just as I would give my answer, my mom would chime in: her uncle has red hair. Not untrue, but I obviously didn't get it from him. Why lie? I wondered. Now that I am older, I understand - not everyone needs or wants to know your business. Of course, as I get older I stop caring about what people want and answer their questions directly in hopes they think twice about asking questions they don't actually want to hear the answer to. I digress...

As I grew older and became more aware of myself so did the differences between me and my family, at least in my mind. My hair was red, my eyes were brown, my skin got darker instead of red in the sun. I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered what it would be like to have blonde hair and blue eyes like my mom. I also started to notice that other families had members that looked the same and I wondered what that would be like to. I dreamed about having a twin. I felt like maybe I was missing out on something. I was a resilient little kid though and instead of focusing on the differences, I focused on the similarities. My mom was artistic like me and we would paint, draw and do so many other art projects together. We both had a sweet tooth and loved putting in the work for the reward of freshly baked cookies. I have the most vivid memories of standing next to my mom on a stool to reach the counter to mix in flour, sugar, eggs and more to make cookie dough. We'd laugh as we'd sneak scoops of dough to eat – the “broken pieces.” With my Dad, I played games. I loved games, I still do. On Sunday mornings, we'd eat pancakes and I'd help my Dad with the crossword puzzle in the newspaper. Later in the day we might play a game of die-hard scrabble or cribbage. In between, I'd ask my Dad how different things worked and somehow he always had an answer. In the summer, we'd watch baseball over sandwiches and pickles. And my older brother, well, I just wanted to be him. I think I was in denial about being a girl for awhile. No pink. No dresses. If my brother didn't have to than I shouldn't either. Or conversely, if my brother was doing it, I should be able to as well. At a very early age, I realized there were inherent differences between us because of our genders but that wasn't going to stop me from trying to be the same.

As I got older and into my teen years, it became harder to ignore the differences. Thoughts of this family living in Colombia crept into my mind – would they get me? I was sure the family who knew me best didn't understand me at all. And just as I was going through the growing pains of figuring out who I was, my family fell apart. My foundation was shattered. It took time and a lot of growing pains later to figure out how to split myself in two. To share my time with both parents when they no longer shared their time with each other. To this day, I still worry I am not measuring up but I know my parents would (and will) assure me that I am. Soon after my parents split, I too went away for college. I wanted to get as far away as possible but only got as far as a ten hour drive away. Far but not too far. Distance, in this instance, really did make the heart grow fonder. Slowly, I crept back up the east coast from Washington DC to New York until I found myself back home in Boston. It was then I started to travel internationally, learning more about myself in every new city and culture. I was and forever will be grateful for my family who gave me wings so that I could fly.

While I think leaving home and traveling has always been my very personal journey to understand myself better and piece together my identity, I also always knew I couldn't do it on my own. So through all my travels and moves, I have found remarkable people who I am lucky to call friends. I have the privilege of saying that I have traveled around the country and the world and have created an even bigger network of family than I ever imagined. And finally, that brings me to why I have decided to write all this on this love note – my blog about my time in Milwaukee.

For some reason, all signs pointed for me to be here in Milwaukee. One of my best friends, who I met as my college roommate, moved here first. I started to visit and see this quaint city through her and her future-husband's eyes. A few years later, I headed to graduate school in Los Angeles and quickly met a professor who, coincidentally, was also from Milwaukee. As our relationship grew, the work she was doing in Milwaukee piqued my interest and I was even more eager to visit (and get bonus time with my best friend). Through all these visits, my heart was telling me that at some point, I would find myself in Milwaukee. Sure enough, in 2016, the opportunity presented itself.

At the time, I was restless, I had moved back to Boston yet again, and despite being close to my family and so many of my amazing friends, nothing felt exactly right. I wasn't finding work that motivated or inspired me. I was comfortable but I wasn't being challenged. I was starting to coast and simultaneously losing my way. A wake up call came in the form of an actual phone call when I received the invitation to work on a project in Milwaukee. It was the first time I ever had an offer to write for a living. I hopped in my car and couldn't get here fast enough. While I only took enough of my things to get me through the summer, a part of me knew I wasn't looking back. I was excited for this creative opportunity but I was even more excited to live in the same city as one of my best friends – we hadn't lived in the same city in nearly 10 years! Without a doubt, I knew our relationship was going to grow and we would become even closer. And while many obstacles presented themselves this past year, our friendship really has blossomed into something incredible. It has been so beautiful and rewarding. And while this older friendship continued to develop, I started to meet new people as well. Living in Boston, my friend-network is pretty large (this always feels like bragging but I swear it is not). So over the last year, it was hard to have so few friends here. It was a real lesson, however, in quality over quantity. I am so happy to say that the friendships I have developed in Milwaukee are truly remarkable. In such a short time, I was able to create a family here in Milwaukee. And in turn, Milwaukee has become another home.

I think most of us grow up thinking that we can only call one place home or one group of people family. What I have learned, more than ever in the last year, even more so in the last week, is that this is wildly untrue. If we open our minds and then our hearts, anyone can be family and any place can be home.


Just some of the wonderful people that make up my crazy Milwaukee family. <3

Just some of the wonderful people that make up my crazy Milwaukee family. <3

Love Note #9: Rewind and Unwind

Wow! What a difference a month can make! May was absolutely insane. I was basically working non-stop to help my students get their art projects done, wrapping up my elementary school art classes and completing my own piece to ship to North Adams, MA. I probably got an average of 4-5 hours of sleep a night and my stress level was through the roof. And now... I'm living a stress free summer in Milwaukee kind of life! And it's magical. 

Now that all the stress has melted away, I can finally feel all the good feels that months of hard work produced. First, it was incredible to see five different groups of teens, with five different artists and site/community partners come together to create five meaningful works of art.

The first project was done in conjunction with a really cool initiative called Block Build MKE where volunteers are going block by block to revitalize and rebuild homes. This particular Block Build was happening in the South Side of Milwaukee and 30 homes were being worked on. Our students from the very first time I worked with them were extremely interested in making art with and for the community to celebrate the different cultures that make up Milwaukee and the South Side neighborhood specifically. So, that's exactly what we did! Lead by the incredibly talented artist, Jenie Gao, we used a steamroller (yeah, that's right a STEAMROLLER) and made triangular woodblock prints that fit together to make one giant print. 

When we arrived on site for this printmaking project, we foolishly thought and hoped the rain would hold off until the afternoon despite the overcast skies. Of course, it started pouring as soon as we set everything up. We rushed to put everything in a generous neighbor's garage and headed to lunch. Our first complete print was ruined, we were soaked, cold and unsure if we should just pack everything up and call it a day. That was when Jenie and I looked at each other and realized we were sitting under a huge tent and were completely dry. Once lunch wrapped up, we got a few volunteers to stack tables and make space for our materials - including the steamroller! I was most impressed by my students who did not complain once. In fact, I'm pretty sure I complained more about being cold than they did. They were such good sports and ended up having a great time engaging with their neighbors all day while making prints! Each teen got a chance to drive the steamroller and they must have made thirty t-shirts using smaller woodblocks and printing by hand. All and all, it was quite an awesome day! 

Next up was an awesome sign-painting and sculpture project with the teens at Our Next Generation lead by one of my Milwaukee faves, Mikal Floyd-Pruitt. This was an extremely ambitious project and was basically two projects in one. We were given the task by the owner of Amaranth Bakery & Cafe, Dave Boucher, to beautify the wooden structure on his property that provides shelter to Farmer's Market vendors. The students wanted to put an inspiring quote and after a lot of conversations, we finally decided on, "Change the World Bite by Bite." During one of our design days, one student came up with an idea to make a sculpture that spelled out "LIFE" with the letter "i" made out of a tree. Mikal spent a lot of time figuring out how we could get both projects done and while it was down to the hour (literally we were hanging the sign on the structure an hour before the ribbon cutting ceremony) it all got done! And while I'm totally biased, I have to say that both the sign and sculpture have totally transformed this space. So - go get a coffee and a delicious treat from Amaranth and then take a selfie with the LIFE sculpture - post it on Instagram and hashtag it #LIFEMKE - I'm pretty sure this is going to be an iconic Milwaukee landmark. Just saying...

And then it was on to complete a project with MIkal's brother, another fantastic artist, Anwar Floyd-Pruitt, and the teens from COA Holton Teen Center. This group took on a pretty heavy topic as they wanted to create something to bring awareness to gun violence. Under Anwar's patient and incredible leadership, we created 125 flower sculptures out of old records and placed them in a vacant lot. The number represents the number of documented homicides due to gun violence in Milwaukee in 2016. Installing this temporary sculpture garden was a labor of love and I absolutely loved how it came out. 

Another sculpture to find in Milwaukee is the beautiful, larger-than-life, interactive puppet in Alice's Garden created by Gabrielle Tesfaye and the students at NeuLife Community. Each limb represents a different element: fire, wind, water and earth. In the belly, a short history of the underground railroad can be found. This, in my opinion, was the most important piece of this puppet. Johnson's Park, which Alice's Garden is a part of, is the site where the first "passenger" of the underground railroad arrived in Milwaukee in 1842. At just 16 years old, Caroline Quarlls' arrival inspired Abolitionists to organize to assist and protect even more fugitive slaves. The puppet is stunning and I think that the garden could use even more!

And finally, the last project was at Escuela Verde where the students, under the direction of George Jones, created a vending machine that dispensed uplifting and positive items like small pieces of art, seeds, and words of encouragement. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of the finished product yet because I had to miss the celebration and revealing of the vending machine. I have no doubt it turned out awesome and I believe it may be traveling to a Night Market near you! ;) 

And the ONLY reason I missed the last project come together is because I didn't want to miss out on seeing my own work in an actual gallery! As I started this whole note, while I was busy helping all my students complete these great projects, I was making my own. The only other time my work has been in a traditional art gallery is in college so this was pretty exciting stuff! I was asked to be part of a group show called Babel's Bricks at MCLA Gallery 51 curated by a dear friend, Corwin Levi. When Corwin asked if I wanted to be in a building block themed show, I jumped at the opportunity. And Immediately, I knew I wanted to break things. You know, the exact opposite of building... ha! It has just been an incredibly tough year - the political nonsense, one of my best friends dealing with cancer, artistic rejection after artistic rejection, not feeling adequately valued (or paid) for work I was putting my entire heart and soul into... and the list goes on and on. It was time to let some aggression out. So I did just that with the help of my artistic partner in crime, Tracee Johnson. We smashed a bunch of plates out on Venice Blvd, in LA and filmed it. I came back to Milwaukee to create a 20 minute plate smashing complitation video and prep 100s of  broken shards to send to North Adams. And at the gallery, with instructions printed on a clipboard, I invited visitors to turn my aggression into art. And I have to say, I am completely in love with how this piece, Break·ing point turned out. 


And just like that, it's JULY and it's time to relax and unwind. I'm intentionally taking it pretty easy this summer and hoping that I can keep my stress level close to ZERO percent. One, because I need a break after six crazy, amazing, inspiring, stressful, sleepless months! And two, Milwaukee summers - well, there's nothing like it! 

Til' next time... xoxo

Love Note #8: Approaching Year One, Facing What's Next?

As I wrote in my last post, things here in Milwaukee are really ramping up. There are a lot more events happening, opportunities to apply to and socializing to be had. Simultaneously, however, the end of my "money-making" teaching contracts are quickly approaching. While I'm trying to be present and focused to end these contracts and projects well, I'm also starting to the feel the pressure of trying to find "what's next" and prepping myself for this time of transition. 

This is the part of being an artist/freelancer that is quite frankly, really fucking hard. I trade in financial stability for flexibility. So sure, while people are always enamored and jealous of my travels - I need those vacations for all the time I spend freaking out that I will be jobless, penniless and hungry. At the end of the day, however, for me I'd much rather dictate my own schedule than be locked into a certain location 40+ hours a week and being told I can't take another vacation because I've used up all my PTO. Of course, freedom is never really free... but it sure felt like it when I was sitting in a pool on a beach in Mexico drinking Rose Champagne. Right now, however, I'd give anything to be on a beach instead of letting the panic set in as my last contracted days of work and last paycheck date gets closer and closer.

I've also had quite the few rejections as of late. Another aspect of an artist that isn't glamorous at all and consistently has me wondering: why did I choose this line of work and lifestyle? I'm always one to stay positive and most days I truly believe when one door closes another one will open. Sometimes, however, I wonder what it means when several doors slam in your face...

Perseverance is hard when you're consistently told no, no thank you and/or please apply again next year. And trust me, I often feel like giving up and doing anything else. You see, when I'm rejected from something it's hard not to take it personal because my work IS personal. My work is an extension of myself so when I hear "no" I have to somehow convince myself that my work, my story is still important and still worth making and sharing.   

Another issue I've been facing here in Milwaukee is explaining and advocating for the work I do. I joke I'm an artist that doesn't make anything but I probably should stop making that joke because I recently got a follow up email from a residency I applied to asking, 'How likely will it be for you to either create artwork or hire another artist to produce the artwork?' I don't apply for medical residencies because the likelihood of me practicing medicine is 0% but I do apply to writing and artist residencies because I want to write and make art! So this follow-up question really had me offended and in shock. 


I am an artist who tells stories through all different mediums - often that is writing, performance and video. That being said, I've also used a lot of 2D and 3D elements in my work! If I'm not an artist who makes artwork than I legit have no idea what to call myself. I think people get tripped up because I don't have that "go to medium." My work is often very investigative and journalistic in approach. I like to dive deep on my subject and then figure out how best to express what I've discovered. I'm a social practice artist and it's a term that people are really late in adopting even though it's been around for years and years and years and years. To make things more confusing, I'm not only an artist. I am also an educator and most recently a radio personality (haha but seriously check out my show We Heard We're Funny!). I truly think people need to try harder to keep up with the fact that people, particularly artists, can be, and I go ahead and say it, SHOULD BE dynamic.

It's hard to quiet everyone else's thoughts, questions and perceptions of your work negatively buzzing in your ear. But I was just reminded of the Andy Warhol quote I posted above. At the end of the day, I make art because I genuinely believe it's part of the reason I'm living and breathing. And even though there have been countless people who don't understand, appreciate or like my work, there have been plenty who do. And I create solely for the purpose that my creation can spark change at whatever level that may be.

Luckily, it doesn't take much to remind me why I continue to do what I do. As my high school students start to present, unveil and celebrate their art projects one by one, I am so excited by how their hard work is manifesting. Once they are all complete, I will write a love note dedicated solely to these amazing experiences and to show off all my students' work! 

It has been quite the journey these last six months and while I cant exactly say what is going to happen the second half of this year/beginning of my second year in Milwaukee, I am hopeful that it will continue to be rewarding, exciting and most importantly, fun.

'Til next time... xoxo