Volunteers: Keeping our Community Strong

April 17, 2020 By catherine-norcott
Man holding sign with multicolor letters reading Thank You!
Man holding sign with multicolor letters reading Thank You!
We just want to say Thank You!!

At Arts of Life, April has traditionally been a month focused on celebrating the strength of our community.  We’ve had events like How We Make It, which revisits our roots as an organization and highlighting the people who make it possible.  This year, in celebration of our 20th Anniversary, we had planned a reunion of current and former members, including staff, volunteers, and artists.  In order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, our plans had to change, but we still want to take a moment to reflect.  

We are constantly building new relationships and strengthening ongoing ones.  And rightfully, we often have the biggest spotlight on our artists, as the core of our community.  Although we don’t stop there. Arts of Life strives to be inclusive. We want a community of creatives of all abilities and levels of professional practice.  One way this works is through the participation of volunteers in our programming. Some are students, some are working artists, some are makers with other gigs as their main focus, some are retired and exploring new possibilities – but all are drawn to Arts of Life by a shared interest in artmaking.  Their presence expands possibilities, brings diverse viewpoints, and makes it possible for us to operate day to day in the studio.  

Two women smiling and hugging at art exhibition.
Volunteer, Cindy S., and Artist, Nikki H. together at the North Shore Award Show.

Since we have been apart, many volunteers have reached out to check in on artists and staff.  They have participated in phone trees and supply deliveries. They are joining our initiative to make virtual programming available to artists from our studio and across the country.  They are continuing to play an important role in what we care about most as an organization. Volunteers have a direct and palpable impact on our community. Here are some artists’ takes on these important members of our studio: 

Helping with my painting – the huge part of working with volunteers is my communication with them.” – Oly T.

It might depend on the project that I’m doing. I talk to volunteers about it.  I’ve had a volunteer come over and talk to me about my work and suggest or give an idea of a way that the project can draw more attention.  I can’t exactly remember but I’d say the importance of your art, like the way you are painting and the texture and different ways you can make something.  And different color mixing so it blends in with it. Volunteers have helped with that.” – Alysha K.  

[Cindy] supports me with my art by sharing her feelings about my art. If I cannot do something, like draw a building, she has some ideas how I can make it happen.” – Chris V.

The volunteers help me when they come by to talk to me and they see my work.  I learned from the volunteers about their work, too.” – Tim S. 

They have told me that I could shade in a little bit more or doing cross hatching.  Good help along with the highlights when it comes down to my artwork, to make it stand out.  But also to maybe add some color when it comes down to my artwork.” – Hector J.

There was this one volunteer that we had when I first started. She worked with me doing my art – abstract art.  She taught me things I didn’t know about art and I learned things about so many artists that I never knew about. I felt like working with her and learning about all those things was helpful.  I grew a relationship with that person and learned a lot from her.” – Alysha K.

[Cindy] has influenced me in terms of art as well. She’s helped me come into my own, actually, which is something I never thought I’d say in terms of my own practice. I do now because all these people have helped me in different ways.” – Ted G-B.

Two women seated, looking at pieces of fabric together on a table
Volunteer, Allison W., and Artist, Susan P., working on a collaborative project together

From sharing sources of inspiration, to giving feedback on works in progress, to helping artists deepen their understanding of their creative practice, volunteers help out in so many ways!  But even beyond the active ways they support the studio, we value our shared connections. These relationships often extend beyond the limits of an individual project, a semester, and even beyond the walls of the studio itself.  Our relationships form a web of connection between everyone at Arts of Life. And they have the deepest impact on our lives as artists.  

[Cindy] sees everyone as an artist.  She makes sure everyone’s abilities shine.” – Chris V.

I like everyone over there.  Marty’s a good artist. He’s a really good man.  He helps me with painting.” – Billy B. 

I learned several things from Allison.  Drawing things, different designs. Different squares and rectangles.  Stuff like that. And fantasizing on different things – when you think and imagine new things.  We do that together. It helps me – and it helps her a little bit she said. We talk about how to collaborate even more.” – Susan P.  

I mean [Cindy] has involved me in things. She’s involved other people in things. It’s been like boom, boom, boom! It’s just been amazing to work with her. Cindy’s been like focused on other people besides herself which is what I like about her.” – Ted G-B.

For all they do and who they are – we want to give a deep and heartfelt thanks to all our volunteers, past and present!  Thank you for being part of our community of artists. Thank you for giving hours of your time, for the ways you share your unique skills and interest, for all the ways you connect and care!  During this time when we have to be apart, you are just as important to us.

And to all those looking to be part of a creative community – we would love to get to know you!