Blog to support the book "Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs" by Kristen Fischer

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

When I heard about Squam Art Workshops, I thought it would be the perfect way to spotlight creatives doing creative things. So I caught up with Elizabeth MacCrellish, the Director of this creative hub located in New Hampshire.

Tell us about your workshops.

SAW is an annual event inspired by an alternative arts gathering called Artfest (http://www.teeshaslandofodd.com/artfest2008/info.html) that takes place each Spring in Port Townsend, WA. There is a vibrant arts community on the West Coast (San Francisco, CA, Portland, OR and Seattle WA, in particular) and one way that these personal and professional connections have been developed is through weekend workshops and retreats. So, I wanted to see if we could emulate that here on the East Coast. I thought it would be wonderful if we could have art retreats that had all the magic of an arts colony, but that would be open to everyone, not just artists.

The campus where the workshops take place is called Rockywald-Deephaven and it is an utterly beautiful set of turn-of-the-century cottages along Squam Lake (www.rdcsquam.com).

SAW runs from Wednesday through Sunday on the second week of September. Each day is one full class (six hours: 3 in the morning, 3 in the afternoon) and then in the evening there are optional events including a bonfire, an Artist's Panel discussion, and Vendor Night.

One of the very best ways to sum up what this workshop is all about was sent to me in an email by Jen Gray (www.jengray.com):

"I guess what I want people to know is that SAW isn't just for artists-that it is for anyone who just wants to have a creative experience in a beautiful and supportive atmosphere--to consider this an adult summer camp.

I have not previously signed up for other art fests because I never felt like I had the talent and or the experience in many of the classes offered. What is great about Squam Art Workshops is that this doesn't matter ~

This is an opportunity to explore all different arenas of art and have the guidance of amazing teachers to guide and assist you. The truth is, we are all artists, designing our own life so an art workshop actually applies to us all."

You've assembled a great collection of instructors. (There are a few CSE contributors!) How have you crossed paths with them? Do they come up with the curriculum?

The teachers are what make SAW so utterly unique and fabulous. Many of them have their own followings (via their websites) and they are, each of them, a source of great creative inspiration. It is a tremendous honor for us to have such a roster of talent at SAW.

I know the people who will be leading the workshops through their websites/blogs. As someone who lives in a very remote corner of New Hampshire, the blog world has been a life-saver for me as it connects me into a much larger and more diverse world.

For the most part, I had an idea of what general area of focus each teacher might want to bring to the table, but they created the actual content and curriculum of what they are offering. And, it's a funny thing-- when they saw the full list of classes, several of them said to me, "Oh man-- I want to take these classes . . ."

I love that there is so much shared inspiration.

Do you run the center full-time? How did you join them? What had you done previously?

No, this is a side project. My primary focus through the year is on my job where I teach English and Writing at the New Hampshire Institute of Art (www.nhia.edu). I formed SAW in 2008. This is our first year.

Prior to teaching at NHIA, I worked in both the non-profit world as a Program Director for a university arts outreach program and in the corporate world as a Commercialization Manager, so I have a strong background in project management and event planning.

What's your typical day like?

Mornings are pretty much consumed with emails, processing registrations and putting together confirmation packets that get shipped out in the afternoon. As this is our first year, everything has to be created from scratch, so I spend a lot of time developing our systems, database, website, etc. With any luck, once all of that is in place, I can focus more on developing and expanding the kinds of programs SAW will offer and less time on the nuts and bolts.

Afternoons are focused on details of the different events such as venue and equipment for Vendor Night, writing press releases, and putting together kits for potential sponsors.

What does the center have to offer the creatively self-employed who are already making a living at what they do?

Creativity is an energy that needs to be fed and nurtured just as we care for other aspects of our well-being; people who are creatively self-employed know this better than anyone.

The whole purpose of Squam Art Workshops, its essential nature, is to provide a safe place to tap into your creativity. Each of has our own spark. I’m not sure why people lose touch with the magic of their unique self. I do know that once you get the creativity going it feeds your life—whether you pursue an interest in color and texture, gardening, painting, cooking, writing, fashion, sewing, knitting, what have you. Creativity is the spring under a vibrant life and, in my opinion, it promotes deeper empathy with others, greater interest in the natural world, and more compassion for animals. Having more of it alive in your day is not about making “art”—it’s about being alive with passion and joy and pleasure--which, I would assume, feeds directly into a satisfying professional life.

So, to answer your question, I believe that SAW offers all of us a chance to jump start or invigorate our creativity and carry that energy, and the friendships or connections we make with other attendees, back into our regular lives and enjoy that support all through the year.

link | posted by Kristen at 3:17 PM |

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