WHAT I DID AT MY FIRST ARTS COLLECTIVE. By Susie Dunham

A few years ago, I was very excited when I heard Brett Mabury speak about creating the Arts Collective. He talked about artists. Visual and Musical. I waited for the Written Word to be spoken as art. After a few weeks with the ‘V’ and ‘M’ words being thrown around, I went and talked to Brett about the ‘W’ word. Writers. “Yes! Yes, Susie. We’d love to have your writers incorporated into this collective.” 

My writers? I knew one writer. Sarah.

Sarah was an aspiring writer and also helped set-up at the Arts Collective. “I’ll meet you there,” she said. Great! Super! I wouldn’t be the only W there. What to wear? What do the Visuals and Musicals wear? Skinny jeans and beards or dresses and cute shoes. I already knew I’d be the oldest one there. Already different. I’ll wear jeans and something beige.

Arts Collective Night came, and I went and felt so out-of-place. Old. A Writer. Uncool. I found a seat in the back row, looked for Sarah, who was extremely busy lighting candles, and decided to talk to the old-ish guy in front of me. I discovered he was from the Northeast, where I was from. We chatted easily. His name was and still is Larry and we’re now good friends. 

The program started and I think it was a worshippy sort of evening with some music and singing, which I don’t do well at all. “Oh, this is for the Ms,” I thought. Then Brett mentioned that the cartography group was going to meet and the small groups that had been formed should gather and do whatever they do. People scattered and I decided to leave. I ran wee-wee-wee all the way home. I was insecure, unconfident, and out of my comfort zone, which was very small. I just felt embarrassed.

I think I talked to Brett the following week and he asked if Sarah and I would read something at the next Collective. We did. We were accepted. I was accepted and had very kind words spoken to me. I’ve never looked back and have attended every Monday night I can get to. I mark them on my calendar so I don’t miss one. I’ve met painters, calligraphers, musicians, songwriters, sculptors, fabric artists, projection artists, drum makers and more. Oh, and writers! There are no divisions. We are all included, accepted, appreciated, and loved. I’ve grown in more ways than I’d ever imagined and have made wonderful friends, who are all younger than me! Everyone is younger than me, though! The support of my writing and other writers is amazing and so very kind. 

I am blessed beyond measure to have so many people in the arts collective that I can honestly call friend. I’ve grown as a person and learned life lessons in acceptance and grace. 

I am a writer and I’m never alone in that. Come join us. 

Make it your first art collective.

By Susie Dunham, W