In the past 25 years, I have had the good fortune to meet well over a thousand Ucross artists, writers, composers and dancers from all over the world. It’s given me a close view of their extraordinary creative gifts.
In 2020, it seems that life is asking all of us to be artists now. Whether we are helping children with remote classes, finding ways to stay connected with family, friends and coworkers, educating ourselves on cultural awareness and upheaval, or juggling a vast number of technology tasks — all of us have had to draw on deep creative resources to meet the challenges of the year.
Every day we are using artistic skills we didn’t even know we had. Most artists thrive in uncertainty, and all of us are becoming experts on uncertainty this year. It is getting us to think in new ways — just like artists — and find temporary but workable solutions.
Creativity extends far beyond the arts, too. Would we ever have imagined that Major League Baseball players would take to the fields with no live audience and cardboard cutouts in the stands instead? (I especially like the golden retrievers.)
Yes, the game looks and sounds different. But it has brought me, as a lifelong baseball fan, much needed laughter and mental distraction. Playfulness is such an important artistic skill. I salute the athletes — and everyone else who is finding imperfect and sometimes playful approaches to the challenges of the year.
Many artist residency programs are currently closed due to the staggering public health challenges. At Ucross, we studied our situation for many weeks. We counted buildings, bedrooms, studios, assessed the open space, talked to health officials and decided to move forward with caution.
In August we opened our doors at half-capacity, supporting five artists at one time instead of 10. All of them have their own private spaces, and our terrific chef Cindy is creating delicious group dinners, served according to social distancing guidelines.
It has been inspiring to see joy on the faces of artists — to be in Wyoming, breathing in the fresh air and beauty, sinking into the uninterrupted time and turning their attention to the creative work at hand. The Ucross Art Gallery is open again, too, and we hope you’ll come out to experience the unique work of Jennifer Reifsneider and Martha Tuttle. We are forever grateful to the Wyoming Arts Council for their support this year.
I have great appreciation and empathy for all of my colleagues in the nonprofit world at this time. An article in the Harvard Business Review reported that many American workers have found themselves working 40% more during the pandemic. How we have conjured extra hours out of thin air is beyond me.
In arts nonprofits, we keep doing the extra work because we believe in it. We are relying on the artistic skill of persistence through difficulty, and propping each other up when necessary. That’s a big part of what art and life are all about.