I spent years working as an organizer in social justice, women's, anti-poverty, education, housing, child protection and community linking. It was amazing work and I feel very fortunate to have worked for groups like End Legislated Poverty, DERA, OXFAM, COPE, RAW, Every Woman's, REACH, the Vancouver Guild of Fabric Arts and the Surface Design Association.
There was time spent in political committees, working for politician's, and running for office.
I have spent most of my life doing this and it took me years to justify going back to art school after many years. It was a difficult decision to make a change because I wondered how to justify the self indulgence in making art. I felt guilty for a long time and used to have tearful sessions with Ruth Sheuing, my wonderful teacher, while I was learning.
I think I really thought that the world would change if I wore myself to a nub by doing nothing but justice work. Not very useful for my causes. Cranky, tired, disassociated, forgetful, sick a lot, controlling and fanatical. Even a bit paranoid. I really tried to be joyful in the work by I was often surrounded by people who were behaving just as badly.
I woke up one morning and couldn't face another day. Complete burnout. But I gave three months notice and then quit everything. Everything! I went to bed for a whole year I swear and got up one day and went to an interview at Capilano Textile Art's Program. I had always done some art since I was tiny. Mostly with cloth. It was a no brainer. I was accepted and I excelled. (Except as a weaver, definitely one of the world's worst loom weavers)
I also got breast cancer. Bad breast cancer and nearly died from the treatments alone. Art, love,
and hope for a bright future got me through it. So did good medicine and alternative treatment in combination. And the people who organized to make it all happen. Lucky, lucky me!
Now I am in a position to decide whether or not to be an activist/organizer again. This is also a no brainer. Funding has been slashed for the arts in British Columbia to an extent that many favourite organisations are biting the dust. I have lots of skills to help.
But what I really, really just want to be able to do my art.