My resume tells a story of an artist who has performed alongside remarkable artists across numerous stages. But, if I am honest, I can barely remember what came before many of those performances. Of the few creative processes I can recall, one has filled many pages of my journal (I rarely journal, but knew that this special experience could not go undocumented). The process was drastically different from any of my art creation experiences, and it serves as an aspirational template for creating spaces that prioritize joy in art-making.

I stepped off the bus to our first meeting filled with excitement and anticipation to meet the artists I have looked up to for many years. I walked into a room filled with equally excited humans, who showered me with all manner of compliments “okay, jacket!” and greeted me as though we were old friends who had not seen each other for some time. We did the same for the next person, and the person after them, standing up to meet them at the door and welcoming them into the space.  With the weight of always being the only Black person in art spaces lifted, I was free to bring my full, unique, and complex self into the room. In a sector were vulnerability is a requirement, it saddened me to recognize that this was the first time I had ever created without reservation or fear. We dreamed boldly, laughed with our whole bodies, held each other as we cried, and saw ourselves through each other.

Our subsequent meetings were more gatherings than rehearsals. There was an understanding that a deadline was approaching; however, this had no control over what we would do. There were times we met to just be in each other’s presence, and other times our creative juices flowed us into the next day. We recognized that the process itself was the gift, not necessarily what we produced. We trusted our brilliance and talents, and they did not let us down. What came from this process was a phenomenal collaborative piece that reflected the process: free and joyous.

When commencing a creative process, I revisit my journal entries on this process to be reminded of the elements necessary to create conditions for joy to flourish.  I hope you find yourself in one of these spaces: affirmed, free, seen, held, and alive.