7 Steps to Let Art Happen

7 steps to let art happen copy

With less than 24 hours to go before the 7 cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness started, one of our keynote presenters took ill. We met as the organizing committee and the decision was made that I would give the address at noon the next day. It was specific to a play that was to be performed, one which I had a deep understanding of. It was my eldest daughter’s play which she’d written as a 20-year-old volunteer in the art program I’d started at the shelter where I used to work.

I knew I was best suited to set the stage for the play, but I was a tad panicked. I still had the official conference powerpoint to prepare and the final tweaks to the EMCEE notes to finish off. Plus, I was meeting the team at the hotel to help set up that evening.

Panic, fear, anxiety were not my friends.

I had to let them go. I breathed.

And then I breathed some more.

I arrived at the hotel for the opening reception and afterwards asked the team if they were okay setting up without me. They had no problem. It was all my head dancing with fear (and a little bit of procrastination) that made me feel like I ‘needed’ to be there.

I came home and worked on my presentation and suddenly, where I did not know it was already germinating, a presentation appeared with 7 key points to highlight how it was that art happened in a place where survival was the name of the game, and art was not considered part of the survival path.

That was my first lesson on how to Let Art Happen — anywhere. Trust in the process.  

In letting go of fear and giving into trust, the ideas and words and underlying framework of the presentation appeared. Which is also what happened when I first set up the Possibilities Project at the shelter. I simply trusted in the process. Trusted it was the right thing to do with a donation that had been given to the shelter from a church – they wanted to support art in the shelter. I knew I could make that happen simply by trusting in my own creative and artistic abilities.

The second step that became clear was Persistence is vital. I started writing the story of a man who kept refusing to come up to the studio space until one day, after weeks of asking, he simply said, “Now’s the time.” He became one of the cornerstones of the project’s success.

Find value in all things was a challenge the day I discovered much of the art stored in the large multi-purpose room had inadvertently been thrown into a dumpster on the loading dock. We salvaged much of it — and I used that event to leverage the value of having a dedicated art studio for the project.

Watching how the artists were delighted for each other when they sold a piece at the art shows was a true lesson in how to Be Grateful for all things. It didn’t matter if they sold a piece for $5 or if another sold 10 pieces to their one. They were all grateful for the opportunity to share their work.

From a man holding a paint brush for the first time in 20 years breaking into tears and committing himself to another path, to a woman selling her first piece and deciding to connect with supports to find a way out of homelessness, Always believe in miracles was vital to the success of the project.

We do not know what will happen when we Plant seeds of possibility. We can be confident something will. Seeds of possibility are closely linked to miracles — you need the seeds planted to grow into those beautiful miracles of life dancing all around.

Every life is a work of art. It’s important that we each Be the artist in our own lives. Artists honour their talent. They trust it and respect it. They value its presence and treat it with love and compassion and do not give up in believing in themselves, even on their darkest days. Artists let their creative expression out. Always. When we become like the artist, miracles happen, possibility explodes wide open and life expands into limitless opportunity to be ourselves, in every kind of weather, no matter where we are. All because, we Let Art Happen.

Let Art Happen.

  1. Trust in the process
  2. Persistence is vital
  3. Find value in all things
  4. Be grateful for all things
  5. Always believe in miracles
  6. Plant seeds of possibility
  7. Be the artist in your own life.


PS. The play was amazing. More about that in another post!

Give the Gift of Life | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 8

acts of grace week 8 copy

For the past few months I have been part of the organizing team for a conference that was held Wednesday, Thursday, Friday here in Calgary. The 7 cities Conference on Housing First and Homelessness attracted over 410 delegates, 85 presenters and people from across Canada.

When we were planning for the event, we wanted to create a space where knowledge could be shared, ideas sparked and successes recognized, as well as a place to learn from mistakes so we could all do better. We also wanted to create a space where we celebrated the amazing people who are at the front lines and in the back offices planning, organizing and mapping out strategies to end homelessness.

We decided to create a Photo Booth with a Hero Wall — a space where delegates could dress up, act silly, and take photos of their ‘inner hero’. People were also invited to complete two statements on a piece of coloured paper — Ending homelessness means… and  Excellence already turns up in my work… and to hold their answers up while they were having their photo taken in the photo booth.

The second question came from a conversation I had prior to the conference with one of our Friday keynote speakers, Michelle Cederberg. When I explained the Hero Wall she quickly identified ways to tie it in with her talk — and even came to the Thursday noon keynote session to ensure she aligned her talk with the theme of the conference and the audience. Her insightful and high-energy talk on energizing for excellence inspired everyone with simple and practical ways to take care of themselves. She offered helpful tips on feeding and tapping into our personal pool of internal energy so that we can direct our outward attention, in a healthy way, at the important work of ending homelessness. (I highly recommend Michelle as a keynote speaker)

Ending homelessness is hard work.

Having fun is good self-care.

When we were in the planning stages for the conference there was some concern the Photo Booth would be a dud. Nobody would dress-up. People would think it was silly.

We needn’t have worried.

The Photo Booth was a huge hit!

It showed very clearly that — we all want/need to ‘let our sillies out’, as Week 7’s Act of Grace suggested.

Taking ourselves too seriously can wield a death blow to creativity, energy, enthusiasm and compassion.

Cutting loose, letting your hair down, letting it all hang out — they are antidotes to the weary that can overshadow our work and lives when we get stuck trying to push through each day pulling our energy out of an empty well.

Did you ‘let your sillies out’ last week? How did it go?