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’?

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