When fellows leave the grounds of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts after their residency, they are greeted by this reminder:
One really feels they are crossing the boundary between two distinct ways of being, simply by driving through this gate. It is an hour drive between VCCA and Charlottesville, Virginia. I purposefully kept my radio off, driving in silence to be with my thoughts and the lush southern countryside.
My residency was an opportunity to be with myself and my creative work for a time, unfettered by the concerns of the “real world.” After a few days in this creatively generative space, I found myself able to begin allowing new thoughts in. Though my residency was only 9 days, I was able to sketch out the beginnings of 7 new solo piano pieces. These works are far from finished, but I feel they are good beginnings. It was exciting to be in a position of creative generation again, after spending so many years on finishing up my last project.
If nothing else, my time at VCCA reminded me of the contours of a creative life. I don’t believe the sign at the boundary between these two places is meant to instill dread. Rather, I believe its purpose is to remind leaving fellows that it is their duty to keep one foot firmly planted in the practice they developed while in residency. There is no greater gift one can give themselves than to be generous with their work, or with those around them.
As I navigate the year ahead, I am excited to put this theory into practice. My residency has opened me up to allow new creative influences into my life. I will be heading off to Spain soon, collecting inspiration for new creative work. I don’t know the shape of this new work yet, but I feel I am able to receive whatever the universe is willing to share with me.
VCCA from afar
Despite living in the country, I have neglected to go for many walks this summer. I resolved that one aspect of my short summer residency at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts would include getting outside. Walking in the Virginia heat, under tall & unfamiliar trees, while hearing cicadas and the rumble of distant trains has proved to be incredibly restorative.
When I return to my studio, I am eager to start exploring. I am at the beginning of a new project—some solo piano works—and I’m still looking for a direction. That is often the hardest part for me in creative work, finding that entry point. However, I feel that I am beginning to see some potential. Today I finished my first sketch. I am not sure yet if it will make it into the final collection, and it clearly needs some revisions. However, it does feel good to be putting ideas down on “paper” again.
Shortly I will head to dinner with fellow artists. There will be good conversation, and perhaps a reading. All I know is that I will return to my studio after dinner for more explorations. All in all, another great day!
the work in progress
Consider these simple goldfish:
They have a safe pond to live in. They are fed and cared for by a watchful staff. They get to live their lives, doing their own work, day in, and day out.
While at an artists’ colony, I have the good fortune to do the same. My meals are taken care of. I have a warm place to sleep. There are ping-pong tables, and record players, and grand pianos. And all that is expected is that I engage with my work.
Today I talked about poetry, played Bach, discussed Charles Seeger’s Manual of Dissonant Counterpoint, wished fellow artists a fond farewell, and played several hilarious games of ping pong. How does that relate to my new compositions? I am happy and relaxed—what better place to write from can I ask for.