If you’re hiding an artistic passion from the rest of the world because you’re too shy or worried people will get all judgy on you, that’s OK. You’re definitely not alone in this very specific anxiety camp that seems to be reserved exclusively for the creative-minded.
On the other hand, hiding out at Anxiety Camp your entire life could keep you from enjoying some life-changing experiences and friendships with like-minded artists.
Take local artist Annie Hough, for example. It took her years to gain confidence in her craft as a children’s playwright, but when she did, she never looked back.
“Feeling supported has been absolutely 100% percent transformative,” she said. “It gives me courage to explore new things and write about challenging topics.”
It’s the kind of support she started receiving when she put herself out there. As a result, Hough is now a well-known and respected local writer and has most certainly gained some fans across Minnesota and North Dakota.
Confidence in light of setbacks
Raised in Detroit Lakes, Minn., Hough’s early love of nature and literature led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Horticulture and a hobby-turned-profession as a playwright.
As a teen, Hough experienced a traumatic brain injury that resulted in lifelong disabilities. “I’ve been disabled since then and at first it was really hard to accept it,” she said in an interview with Ladyboss Midwest. “I did not advocate or even want to talk about being disabled. Over the years a lot of people have said, ‘It’s nice to see you out and about.’ It’s condescending, but I know they mean well. I just try to be active and do what I enjoy doing. I go to the gym. I see plays. I just try to advocate by being visible and trying to be successful. I stay positive and strong, and try to not be deterred by small obstacles.”
When she first moved to Moorhead, Hough put herself out there in the local theater scene by reaching out to The Arts Partnership, Theatre B and others in the field.
“I wanted to have a low budget reading of a play or a performance,” she said. “I got a spot at RiverArts, then I reached out to Theatre B about a director. Monika (Brown-Ecker) forwarded the script, then local actor Jacob Hartje came on board as my amazing director.”
During that time, Hough earned a grant from Lake Region Arts Council, with support from Tania Blanich, interim executive director of The Arts Partnership.
“Annie sought feedback on an unsuccessful grant application to The Arts Partnership years ago and from there, asked me to give feedback on applications to other funders,” Blanich said. “Throughout the years I’ve known her, it’s been a privilege to see her confidence grow with every grant awarded and play produced due to her hard work.”
Over the years, Hough has extended her creativity and proactivity by seeking funding and connections where available. Nowadays, she’s able to pay her team and has even had some of her plays performed in places as far away as Australia.
Lots of adventures
Hough was awarded a 2023 TAP Individual Arts Partnership grant to fund research and production of “Butterfly Garden Adventures,” a children’s play about butterflies and native flowers.
“The grant allowed me to purchase new plants for my garden. I am observing them and taking notes. In autumn, I will write the play,” Hough said.
The grant will also pay for consulting as Hough explores a new creative path. “It will also permit me to hire a videographer to record a performance,” she said.
“Butterfly Garden Adventures” is one of several nature-themed children’s plays Hough has written over the years. So far, the catalog includes “Berry Farm Adventures,” “Vineyard Adventures,” “Orchard Adventures,” “Garden Adventures,” “Prairie Adventures,” “Meadow Adventures,” “Wetland Adventures” and “Forest Adventures.” Each one aims to educate and entertain audiences through the lens of animal characters sharing life lessons.
They’re often humorous, a nod to Hough’s love of laughter, even if geared toward the under-12 crowd (after all, funny is funny).
“Writing super sarcastic, villainous dialogue is fun and shockingly easy for me,” Hough said. “I wrote a new 10-minute farce where a villainous character has a booger in her nose. It’s going to be shared at an upcoming Springboard for the Arts summit. I asked Michelle, the boss at Springboard, to provide me with a fake booger. She just sent me some options.”
Yet, typical of creatives, Hough’s inner critic still surfaces at times.
“When I was beginning to seek feedback on my latest play, my confidence was low. I feared a play about a boy visiting his grandparents, learning about berries and learning how to bake pies, was hokey,” she said. “I was also nervous about including the topic of a school shooting. I shared a summary of the play with other fellows at Minnesota Upstream (an artists’ program). They all thought it sounded wonderful and they melted with nostalgia for their own childhood experiences with grandparents.”
Seeking feedback brought relief. “I seriously got chills. People who are genuinely supportive of and interested in my work inspire me to keep going,” Hough said.
Music, romance novels and jelly beans
Hough is truly an inspiration for many reasons, including for her love of eating jelly beans and reading steamy romance novels.
She draws inspiration from those moments, as well as playing with her dog, being outside, watching Instagram reels and simply having fun.
“I am proud of so many accomplishments with writing and challenging myself,” Hough said. “Back when I had very little success or support beyond family and friends, and now I’m proud of myself for continuing to write and grow but with oodles of support.”
Follow Annie’s adventures on her website at www.carolannehough.com.
More about TAP’s Individual Arts Partnership grants
The Arts Partnership established the Individual Arts Partnership grants in 2012 to support artists’ ability to realize their artistic visions, advance their skills and build sustainable careers.
In the past 12 grant cycles, we’ve awarded 132 grants totaling $187,000 to artists, musicians, writers, artisans and performers, from those just beginning their careers to those well-established in their field. This year, $16,600 has been awarded to 8 artists.
Proceeds from individual donors provide the foundational support for the grants.
The program is also supported by the Susie Yakowicz Creative Arts Scholarship Fund of the FM Area Foundation and the Moorhead PEO chapters.