Mar 13, 2019

On the Scene: Cultivating Community


It is a very common experience for us, as artists, to feel like outsiders. We often have the sense, in one way or another, of being pushed towards the fringes of our society. I have personally felt that sense of alienation repeatedly throughout my life; I've felt like I didn't really belong anywhere and couldn't find my people. It seems such a large part of the modern condition that most of us try to cope with in one way or another: by embracing those differences and choosing to broadcast them at all costs or hiding parts or all of our real selves to meld with the collective mentality. The experience of being truly seen, heard, and accepted is becoming increasingly rare, even in a society that seems outwardly to give its members so many outlets of personal expression and claims to celebrate the individual. True sense of community and communion, for me, has always been markedly absent. Having the opportunity to be a resident at Mesa Artspace Lofts has been unique and invaluable for this reason. It has provided me with a sense connection that I was sorely lacking.

I struggled during my early college years with a panic disorder and agoraphobia and spent a period of over a year house-bound from anxiety. That overwhelming sense of isolation and disconnectedness lingered, even as I recovered and moved back out into the world. My experiences at Artspace are what have pushed me to fully reintegrate into society. The sense of community that I have experienced here has been beautiful and expansive, and truly healing in so many ways. It is such a rare experience to really get to know your neighbors and the members of your community the way we have been encouraged to: to share meals together, to spend holidays together, to see each other at our best and worst. This authentically human element is at the heart of our collective endeavors, and I hope as time goes on, we see its influence take root and provide vitality and stability to a changing Downtown Mesa.

We live in a time where the scope of our communities, and our commitments to them, can be hard to locate; this setting has created a template that encourages the type of environment, which can bring the best out of its residents and has created many meaningful moments of inter-connectivity. It is not without its struggles, and in many ways our Artspace community is a microcosm of our greater society. Over the course of this first year I have seen the culture here at the Mesa project shift and flux, like any living thing. I have felt the energy here contract. I have seen arguments and open hostility, and some of us have closed our doors and ourselves to this experience. When a mood moves through our complex, I think we, as creatives, all feel it in some way. Yet even this is a mark of our underlying unity and connection. And it is my experience that even the challenges that strike at our community have the potential to deepen our interdependence and strengthen our social bonds. That theft and crime in the neighborhood triggers heightened communication among the residents. That grief and loss create moments to experience solace and solidify our friendships. That isolation creates space for reflection and growth.

Our problems are pathways to their resolutions. It is an active and ongoing process for us all, learning to nurture this organism that is our community and cultivating its health. And, while I have felt the sense of isolation that is the modern condition slowly trickling in, as we finally settle in to our surroundings I have been overwhelmed by the level of understanding and connection, by the support and guidance I've received from my neighbors (some of who are now life-long friends). This experience and the ideals that this property is founded on provide a small dose of remedy for the anomie that afflicts our generation. And while the cure to this condition is not easily won, and our answers have not fully arrived, this deeper experience of community hints at a path forward into meaning and connection, that at its most fundamental level is what our culture desperately needs.

Excerpt from the Artspace QUARTERLY #5: The Mesa Issue

It is an active and ongoing process for us all, learning to nurture this organism that is our community and cultivating its health.