What a week! On Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. the roofers arrived to replace my roof. Since a tropical depression was predicted to hit St Petersburg with rains starting around two p.m., it was nerve-wracking to watch my roof being removed, A crew of workers slaved away in the hot Florida sun until finally, at shortly after six, the rains came and they packed up their gear. I was surprised to see them back on Wednesday morning to complete the job in the pouring rain. The tropical depression has been upgraded to Tropical Storm Hermine, the full impact of which Florida will feel on Thursday, so the roof was completed in the nick of time. I'm relieved to finally have a brand new roof that, hopefully, will weather storms for years to come. (While replacing my roof isn't a grant-related activity, it's a reminder, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, that artists too, have to maintain the roof over their head, sometimes literally!)
This drama has certainly eaten into my work time. It's been difficult to concentrate over the constant din of thumps, bumps and hammering. I sympathize with Ms Tigger, my cat, who fears loud noises, and who retreated under the back deck during the roofing process, both on Tuesday and Wednesday, in spite of Wednesday's heavy rains.
I did, however, accomplish one thing over the past week: I finalized plans for an exhibition (through Galleries On the Go) at Ruth Eckerd Hall for my Morean Arts Center students and me. The exhibition will open on January 16 (just ten days after my residency at the Sanskriti Foundation in India ends) and will be up for two months. The date of the artists' reception is to be decided. I have, in the past, organized a number of exhibitions for my Morean Arts Center students: several group and solo shows at Everything Dolce, a now defunct coffee shop that was on St Petersburg's Central Avenue. Also a couple of exhibitions at Art du Monde, a gallery that was in Central Avenue Edge District until a few years ago and, two years ago, a group exhibition at the spacious Gallery 221, Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry Campus.
The first session of the fall courses starts next week at the Morean Arts Center. My six week Beginning/Intermediate Painting Course, in which students can explore oils, acrylics, water colors and mixed media, is on Tuesday evenings, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Or, for those who prefer a day-time class, I teach the same course on Thursday mornings from 9:30 until noon. Those interested in learning more about this, and the many other Morean Arts Center course offerings, can explore the Education pages on the Morean's web site. There is an option of signing up for just three of the six classes.
As my trip to the Sanskriti Foundation draws closer, I'm beginning to experience both the excitement and the trepidation of a residency: there's an internal pressure to create. After all, with such a major investment of time and resources, something good MUST come out of it, I tend to tell myself. This, combined with the challenges of traveling alone to a foreign country where English is not the mother tongue, and to which I have never been, sometimes feels intimidating. Then I remind myself that India is the place from whence the practices and the philosophy of yoga originate; I have studied and practiced these for many years, including yoga asanas (poses), scriptures, chanting and meditation. Attachment and ego have no place in yoga. I am, I tell myself, preparing to visit my spiritual home. The sage Jnaneshwar Maharaj said that the person "whose mind is not agitated in misfortune, whose desire for pleasure has disappeared, whose passion, fear and anger have departed, and whose meditation is steady is said to be a sage ... of steady wisdom." I have a long way to go to reach this lofty state!
I'm including some images from artists' retreats at which I've had residencies. These photographs bring back fond memories of long, uninterrupted hours spent making art in a variety of studios in beautiful, rural settings. Also of meals spent in the company of Fellows (visual artists, writers and composers from the world over), an occasional evening sharing our creative output, swimming in icy mountain streams or lakes surrounded by nature (including, on one occasion, a pair of mating snapping turtles), and hiking hilly (sometimes mountainous) trails, experiencing the unique gifts of the seasons. This is not something one can do in Florida with its year-round summer sunshine, interrupted by a few cold days and, of course, it's tropical storms.