by Ari S. Neulight, Clinical Program Director, Glide Community Housing
The 149 Mason resident artists’ exhibit community opening at the Creative Space on June 3rd was a really moving experience for those who were able to attend (and it’s still available to the public for the rest of the month in case you missed it!). So many people put their hearts and souls out there so we can experience their worlds.
But often the artists don’t hear back about the impact their work has on us. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say a few words about my experience. Michael White offered a way of listening and responding to others that gives back, something he calls “outsider witness practices.” It provides folks the opportunity to reflect on how others moved them and where it transported them in their own lives.
Bill Madsen* best describes this witnessing and its impact using the metaphor of a pebble dropped in a small pond. The sharing of an experience causes ripples, touching the person witnessing. When the witnessing person acknowledges the ripples, he/she then offers something back. Here is my offering…..I will do my best to offer what moved me that day using a few guiding questions that Madsen offers:
What did you hear/observe that captured your attention?
I noticed how so many of the 149 Mason community members joined in the celebration at the service and afterwards. I also observed how the congregation was genuinely interested in the community, the individual artists, and the exhibit overall. I saw how, while each resident artist who attended responded differently, each sparkled in his/her own way.
How does that connect to events in your own life or work?
In the artists’ experience, I saw my own struggles in feeling comfortable receiving acknowledgment and appreciation. I also saw in them the importance of being seen and celebrated. I noticed the surprise the artists felt and wondered if it was similar to my own doubt around my creativity. Likewise, I resonated with that sparkling quality I witnessed in people’s responses to the appreciation and visibility. I know from my own experience that being seen requires a light that also allows you to sparkle.
How have you been moved by observing this experience, and what do you want to carry back into your own life and work?
I was moved by the power of celebration, acknowledgement, community, and connection. While I try to regularly and actively emphasize and integrate these elements in my life and work, the artists so strongly reminded about its power and necessity in people’s lives. I was moved by the courage residents demonstrated sharing something so personal and powerful with so many, and the incredible value it added to me and others I spoke with. The artists inspired me to be courageous when I am not sure if I can. They reminded me how so many people have not been recognized or seen—much less celebrated—for so long. At times, I may take this for granted. The artists reminded me not to. They encouraged me to continue to shine this light, allowing others to sparkle when and how they can. Although, in the end, the magic they helped me realize, came from all of us co-creating something beautiful together: the light, the artists, the residents, the congregation, the staff, Glide. Thank you for letting us all sparkle a little that day!