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Why Do I Work Here Again?

September 25, 2012

Guinea PigsThough I often get a warm glow from telling people that I work at the Community Arts Center, I don’t always get that warm glow when I’m actually at work. Of course, no one’s job is warm fuzzies all the time (except maybe a guinea pig farmer), and I don’t really expect it to be. But after days of slogging through emails, press releases, newspaper articles, meetings, and phone calls, I often come out the other side uncertain what it all adds up to. While I can recite the Arts Center’s mission statement in my sleep and wholeheartedly believe that what we do is a worthy and good cause, most of the time I’m too bogged down in the spacing of text in a newsletter, finding just the right word for a press release, or converting a file from one format to another that I don’t see the bigger picture. It doesn’t exactly make me feel like Mother Teresa.


Mother-Teresa Who I want to feel like.
office-space-06 full1
Who I actually feel like.
Luckily, I got yanked out of my Office Space-esque doldrums this past week when I offered to help Brandon stencil in some elephants and donkeys for our debate themed mural (which if you haven’t seen, you need to go see. Right now.). I had been skeptical about the project from the beginning, mostly because of our tiny staff, tight schedules, and limited budget, but I agreed to help out. Tracing the first few animals took only a few minutes, but the outlines weren’t very visible, so we decided to slap on some red and blue paint—just to see.

DSCN2069                                                                            Caught in the act!
Right as my brush touched the white base-coat on the windows, my neurons blossomed into a daze of jangling sensations. I was creating! This may not seem like much; after all, I’m paid to be creative for 8 hours a day, thinking up Facebook posts, newspaper stories, press releases, web pages, newsletter blurbs, sponsorship packages, posters, and flyer designs (let’s not forget blogs!). This was different though—this was powerful and effortless at the same time. And this time, my finished product wasn’t a piece of paper or a digital file—it was a piece of public art! I felt electrified: the endless marketing to-do list in my head fell silent, even my surroundings faded until all I could see was the clean blue line at the end of my brush.

ben frankling
Ben Franklin = me. Key/lightning rod = art!

All of a sudden, it was five o’clock. Had we really been out here for four hours? The next few afternoons flew by as we worked our way down the row of windows to be painted. People of all creeds and kinds stopped on the street to talk with us, ask questions, and compliment us on our work—we were getting way more positive and extensive exposure than I could ever achieve with all my frenetic marketing ploys. This was why I worked at the Arts Center, and this was why I wanted to keep working at the Arts Center. We were actually making community art, and I was getting to be a part of it!


The mural project couldn’t have come at a better time. My honeymoon phase with my job was just wearing off and my second year of grad school was kicking into high gear, leaving me more than a little frayed at the edges. Little did I know all it took was a little good old-fashioned art to remind me why I come to work every day!