"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." - Pablo Picasso
Throughout my childhood and into my teen years, I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to paint and draw, to take photographs, to work in clay, to play a guitar and to dance ballet. In my spare time, I wanted to try just about every crafty fad that came along. A high school counselor suggested that I focus on something reasonable like teacher, nurse, or mommy.
Teaching and nursing didn't appeal to me much, and then my parents told me there was no money to send me to college. I got married, had three kids, stayed home and took care of them and the house, and in my spare time I dabbled in just about every crafty fad that came along.
Many years later, I was 40, divorced, the kids were all in school and beyond, and I paid my own way to college. Staying home and taking care of the house and kids didn't pay very well, so I figured I'd better get serious and prepare myself for a career.
I loved every class I took, but I didn't allow myself to take a single art class; I had to be reasonable and serious. Fortunately, just as I was about to graduate, I came up with the idea of opening a quilt shop. I finally found a job that let me make a living in an art-related job.
I loved it! My customers and I became a quilting community. We shared ideas. I taught classes, but they taught me things, too. We all inspired each other to take on greater challenges all the time. When the problems of running a business took away the joy of the art, I sold out and moved away.
Near my new home in Washington, I joined a co-operative art gallery. Although I was the only quilter of the group, we all shared ideas and inspiration. The painters and the photographer and the stained glass guy and I were really all doing the same thing; we just used different materials to do it. That was when I realized the value of belonging to an artist community.
Of course, there are artists' communities all over the world. They offer creative environments that support the work of artists. Some are informal groups, some are organizations that provide short term residencies in small communities, and others are whole towns, like Sante Fe or Taos, New Mexico, that are full of galleries and art museums.
My uncle once took me to see some apartments in Long Beach, California, that had been built specifically for artists. Each apartment was a studio with a generous work space as the focus, but also included a kitchen, a bathroom, and a sleeping area. I would have loved that, and I was seriously tempted, but I was literally on my way to my retirement in Mexico when this happened.
I hadn't done any quilting for a few years, but I recently became involved with a fiber arts group. All of a sudden, it is as if I have come alive again after a few years of drifting along. Most days, I am in my studio for five or six hours. Inspiration is coming to me much faster than I can complete projects. I can't figure out what I was doing with my time before this.
Actually, this whole Lake Chapala area is one big artist community. It seems like almost everyone finds the artist inside of them once they retire here. We have theater groups, musical groups, writers, painters, potters, photographers, weavers, jewelry-makers, quilters (of course) and people creating all over the place. It turns out that once we retire, that artist inside of us has another opportunity to come out and express itself. Maybe this is what they mean by second childhood.
PS - It has been almost 20 years since I graduated from college and barely a day goes by that I do not regret that I didn't allow myself to major in art or at least take some art classes.