You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'

So I was catching up with and all the big ideas that have been bouncing around over there. I came across a link to a post on Gary Steuer’s blog in which he writes eloquently about “The Greatest Sacrifice Arts Workers Make For The Arts.” He goes on to say, among other things:

I think the more significant – and unique – sacrifice arts workers make is that we lose the capacity for full, innocent and glorious enjoyment of the very art that our passion for drove us to make our life’s work in the first place.  What do I mean by this?  Think about your earliest experiences with the arts, your first encounter with Matisse, or Chuck Close; your first time in the audience for Sondheim, or Verdi; that time you first saw Baryshnikov on stage, or Judith Jamison. Remember that childlike joy – even if you were not a child – that total immersion in the art where the whole world disappeared and you were unaware of time, of the person chewing gum next to you? Now tell, me when was the last time you felt that?  Sure, you are still passionate about the art form or all art forms, you still go to museums, or opera, or theatre, but something has been lost. Admit it.

I was just lamenting this to a friend of mine. I had just seen a show that was disappointing for many, many reasons and I was saying how burnt out I was feeling. As someone who spends a lot of time in his day job helping artists realize their visions, and then in this “off” hours going to see and experience a lot of art, it is easy to become jaded. It can be hard to hold on to the optimism, idealism and excitement that art can bring. I think part of it is true in any profession – if you know about the “man behind the curtain” then some of the mystery evaporates. But as an arts worker, dedicated to the idea that the creative impulse is something unique and worth celebrating, that the experience of aesthetic arrest is a vital part of the human experience, then burn-out feels really devastating, like you’re losing the center around which everything is built.

Of course – eventually that work of art, that show, that experience, will come again. Someone imaginative and creative will transport you to a special, magical place outside of time and make you remember why you do this in the first place. But those long stretches of blah can be hard to get through.

I started Culturebot mostly to talk about the art itself; but also to advocate for the idea that Art is Work – whether you’re a maker or an administrator – and that it should be taken seriously as such. In that sense burnout is as real in this field as in any field. Makers can feel lost and “blocked”, administrators can feel overwhelmed and under-inspired.

Whether you’re a maker or administrator – or both – how do you deal with those moments when you lose that lovin’ feelin’?

2 thoughts on “You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'”

  1. Brian Despain says:

    As a person who’s dedicated most of his life to the pursuit of making art I was surprised and horrified when recently, like yourself, I said in a moment of weakness, “I don’t want to be an artist any more”. I think it was more a statement of my general overwhelmed professional artist mind rather than my creative soul but it was disturbing none the less.

    I think it’s easy to get to that point when you live, eat, breath, sleep and pay the mortgage with art. However, it’s also important to remember, especially in times such as these, that there’s a reason you do what you do, and more so why you do it with such passion. Though it may not be the identical spark for everyone, there has to be something there to attack it with such fervor.

    When the world of art is overwhelming and the last place I want to be is in the studio, the gallery, the meeting with the client, I like to ask myself, “why?”. Not, “Why am I doing this?” but rather,”Why is it that I LOVE doing this?” and then I hold on to the answer as if my life depended on it.

  2. Kate Loewald says:

    This is indeed one of the biggest challenges in the arts profession, and one we rarely talk about in public as far as I know. I have a few strategies. Being strategic about what I see – there are many shows I need to see for professional reasons, and then there are shows I must see for my own personal theatre appetite. There is overlap, but I try to feed the appetite with care. I’m also careful about when I schedule myself to see shows. I pace myself, and try to save weekend time for a break, or for shows I want to see for pleasure, not solely for work. I try to see work outside of theatre to refresh myself – dance, movies, an art exhibit. That works wonders. And I take a vacation now and then.

    Don’t know what if anything from above can apply to your scenario Andy! Perhaps only the vacation part.

    Luckily, I love the work so much that, at least so far, I am able to overcome burnout and I am rejuvenated by enough of the shows I see that I keep on going. If it ever turns sour it is time to get out.

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