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It's easy to get too busy to take time to think about how you began. The project that began as a life-giving activity can become a mountain of heavy obligations. The inspiration that gave you joy at the start of your journey can fade to a distant memory as your calendar fills up and your network grows. At some point on the creative journey, you will likely need to take time to consider how everything began in order to renew the vision that is for tomorrow, let go of the vision that was for yesterday, and rest your eyes so you're capable of looking ahead as you journey from here.
As we began our strategic planning in February of this year, we knew that we needed to begin at the beginning. Six years ago, we were given a home in Houston Station, and you gave us an overwhelming amount of support during the Big Payback. We're looking forward to the future by looking back at our (very) small beginnings.
The artist as a ship is metaphor discussed at length during abrasiveMedia’s founding days. An old, wooden ship, once beautiful, now battered and weathered. Still a good ship but in need of repairs. A crucial step in restoring the ship is sanding off of chipped lacquer and the remnants of a lifetime of bad paint jobs, as well as removing barnacles or other “hop-ons” that are not part of the structure but had latched on in such as way as to become indistinguishable from the ship itself over time. Uncovering the natural luster of the original wood requires no small amount of intentional, meticulous abrasion. But once complete, the world would see the ship as it truly is. It’s not a perfect metaphor, but it gets across the core idea. The artist is a beautiful creation, all too often broken and tarnished by ignorance, abuse, and neglect – both external and self-imposed. But with enough intentional care, they can be restored to reflect their true and functional identity.
Our core value, first and foremost, is the health of the artist.
We are an artists organization – not an arts organization. To create something of beauty is important. But the ability to create it without destroying something else of beauty, including but not limited to the creator, is invaluable. The debate of whether or not an artist is more valuable than their art may continue for centuries. But our role is to value the artist as an individual above all and empower them to make choices in favor of their personal health. This is different for each artist and each season of life, so we start by identifying what each artist needs to be[come] a healthy, stable, “whole person” and then provide them with the resources, education, and support to accomplish it. Intentionally operating as though no person’s creation is more important than the person. We do not sacrifice the artist to their art. This is the bedrock of aM, and the ultimate basis for all decisions.
aM should be an ever-expanding, inclusive community of people from diverse backgrounds with a wide variety of experience and expertise in an ecosystem of collaboration and talent-sharing, of bartering skills and insight rather than just exchanging money. Everyone benefits from everyone else, and everyone is a benefit to everyone else.
Providing education, instruction, guidance, and opportunity for our external communities is of clear importance, but this isn’t just of value to the recipients. The opportunity to teach and to interact with the larger community is crucial to the pursuit of helping artists become healthy, fully-integrated people.
No debt. None. Of any kind. For any reason. Ever. We will not mortgage our future for a gratifying present. Our resources dictate our scope of operation. What is present in our community is what we have to work with. We do not over-extend or create our own deficits.
aM believes that art can and should be a professional occupation. We believe that individuals should grow more and more capable of a creative career as they mature, provided they do not burn out while they are young.
Modular, Redundant Leadership
The organization must be built and grow in such a way that any of us can leave at any time without causing damage to or the inevitable collapse of aM. The organization should never be tied to any individual’s identity. We constantly recruit and train new leaders, always looking to work ourselves out of jobs.
We will not lead from an untouchable, unquestionable place of authority. We lead by example and in relationship, learning and growing with the community (internal and external). aM leadership submits ourselves to the same pursuit of health, stability, and community that we expect of our artists. We are subject to our own rules.
And What We Didn’t Know How To Categorize but Knew Was Important
Creating safe space for the pain and struggle which is necessary to foster quality in both art and artist.