What to do when the world uproots you?
Simply take off your shoes, plant your feet firmly in the dirt and start planting seeds.
I’m writing today from my family farm just outside Rolla, North Dakota. It’s where I’ve been spending a lot of my time during quarantine and it’s allowed me to reconnect with the land I grew up on.
It has been a blast, but also hard work. This spring I helped my mom Danielle (pictured above) and older sister Rachael plant almost 80 rows in our 1.5 acre garden including: 600 baby plants, 6,000 onions, 1,500 hills of potatoes, 1,800 cucumbers, 275 tomato plants and 158 jalapeño plants to name a few.
And now we wait until summer when the real work starts.
You may be wondering what a garden has to do with art. Well, it felt like the right time to make a more authentic connection with our readers, so I decided to start by introducing you to a formative part of my life as a farm kid.
I wasn’t always inspired by the hot black dirt that I find myself working in today, though.
From a young age I knew I didn’t want to work on the farm.To avoid working in the field, I decided to take up a job at our local newspaper and soon I was writing articles, selling ads and taking photos around town.
Over the years I found a voice that was authentically mine. Whether it was creative writing or cut-and-dry journalism, i leaned on that voice to guide me from the very first paragraph to the final sentence of every story.
Although my current role with The Arts Partnership has me creatively inspired every day, I seem to have lost a bit of that personality along the way while trying to keep up with the daily cycle of writing newspaper articles and managing our communication outreach like our newsletter called Connecting the Dots. So this blog serves as a sort of revival of that voice, starting with the newsletter and moving out in every direction.
The following blog is a look back at my short-but-storied time with TAP, an overview of what I’m doing now both personally and professionally, and a brief glimpse of the future.
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It’s hard to believe that I’m coming up on an entire year of working as communications coordinator for The Arts Partnership! I’ve had so many incredible experiences that I would have never imagined possible before taking this job, but there’s one surprise that takes the cake.
Like so many other people, I was uprooted from my daily work life as a result of COVID-19.
No more office, no more clear-cut nine-to-five, not even pants were necessary after our small staff of five started working remotely. But if you know me, then you know my ambition transcends a physical space, and is a driving force even amid so many countless uncertainties.
The one certainty though is my job security. That’s something I have to stop and think about a lot. Fresh out of college, I started working full time as a bartender for almost a full year. With so many friends in the industry who had to face unemployment as a result of the global shutdown, I knew I couldn’t waste this precious security. I needed to support and uplift as many people as I could, whether with words, money or a simple smile.
In a field many consider trivial or fluff, I have a stable income and an upward career trajectory in the arts.
Pulling on my foundational memories with TAP, I realize the first 6 months in this role all led up to that bleak day in March. I distinctly remember feeling so incredibly distracted by all the cancelations rolling in as I sat at my desk wondering about my future. My coworker Danica and I were the only ones in the office that afternoon so we decided to take a field trip to the Rourke Art Museum to clear our heads. Mike Marth’s piece called “Gone Viral” was a fitting retrospective.
“It almost felt like a going away party for life as we knew it.” – Danica McDonald
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Mike Marth "Gone Viral" sweetgum tree seed pods, polyurethane, acrylic, wood glue, oil paint on melted polystyrene On view and available for purchase in his exhibit "New Work" at The Rourke, 6 March – 19 April 2020. #therourke #moorheadproud #supportlocalart #minnesotaartist #mixedmedia #mixedmediaart #onlyinmn
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Rewind to August 2019 and it feels like a different world. It was a different world.
I hit the ground running in my role, making connections and adding absolutely everyone I met on Facebook. An average day included brainstorming story ideas, shooting videos, exploring new places and attending as many art events as humanly possible. I worked far beyond 40 hours a week with a big cheesy smile on my face.
I wrote my first blog for The Arts Partnership entitled “My 2009-2019 Professional Transformation and New Role” introducing myself and recapping my past 10 years as a writer. It was an exciting new beginning, but I wasn’t fully aware of the responsibilities of my role.
Shout out to Jeff Walkowski for one fo the most heart-felt and encouraging responses to this blog post.
Flash forward to March of 2020 and things started to look different.
Our events calendar was hemorrhaging events, my outline of Fargo Forum stories started to unravel and the physical paper was even cut to just two days a week. It became clear things couldn’t continue the way they always had – or the way I had known them in my short tenure.
But this blog isn’t about COVID-19. It’s not about regrets. It’s not even about me. This blog is about connecting with YOU.
There’s so many changes happening in the world, many of them terrifying, but we hope to make a change for good. This newsletter shake up is a starting point, and with your help we can bring our support for local art to unimaginable heights.
I hope by making a more personal connection through my writing that I can grow our audience and expand into unknown territories. After all, the unknown is practically home at this point.
Here are a few other things – personal and professional – so you have an idea of what I’ve been doing outside the garden…
I’m excited to say we’ve streamed over 12 hours of live videos to our Facebook as part of TAPpy Hour since we kicked it off with a tour of the Salvador Dalí exhibition at Plains Art Museum.
Inspired by the incredible response we received on our Facebook live videos, I decided to take the concept to TAP’s Instagram account and host my very own videos. We’ve only done a handful so far but they have been so much fun and a really unique experience.
Getting back in the bartending mindset, I’m planning a delicious cocktail kit for the next virtual CSA happening in July. I can’t give away any details but it will include a fresh ingredient from our garden.
To get back in touch with my creative side I stated taking an abstract painting class over Zoom with a handful of prominent painters from the area. I haven’t painted since high school so I feel a bit out of my league, but there’s been such thrilling encouragement from everyone in the class.
I recently found an old journal from high school where I documented my trip to Tokyo where I lived with a wonderful host family. I’m thinking about typing it up and sharing! Who wants to see?
My younger brothers are almost grown up. I call them “little” affectionately but they have both long outgrown me in stature. Evan graduated from college this spring and Reid from high school. I can’t wait to see what fine men they grow up to be. I’m so impressed by the roles they have taken as young farmers as they continue our family’s legacy.
. . .
Keep an eye out for more personalized notes sent out in upcoming newsletters and email me your by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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