Maija Liepins on building relationships and responding to opportunities that feel good.
I’ve been thinking about the value of the Bureau of Exchange. It was a popup shop Lydia Heath and I created for CAS which offered 4 artists a week each to host a space of non-monetary exchange. It became a place where people could learn, play, share, socialise, and pool resources. It was the first of our Dissent themed projects in 2015 and asked How can we think about social space differently and repurpose empty shops as public spaces that bring non-monetary benefit to people through relationship and exchange?
We did secure Grants for The Arts funding for this project so we were able to offer an intensive array of experiences across four weeks but all of the activities are things that people could find time to do in their daily lives over a greater period of time such as sharing skills, swapping goods, cooking for one another, and showing up to talk, share, imagine and create together.
How do you show up? and how does that reflect your values and the experience you have?
At her talk ‘How to survive and thrive as an artist’ Rosalind Davis was spot on when she said to find ways to “say thank you” and appreciate people’s efforts because ultimately no one owes you anything. It sounds simple but for complex reasons I think a lot of us forget to play our part and respond warmly to opportunities that are of value.
What do you value?
Do you invest in relationships with people who share your values?
Or are you spinning your wheels and giving and giving to relationships where the seeds get trampled?
What makes you feel under appreciated and when have you exhibited similar behaviour?
“Build the kind of art world you want to be part of”
– Rosalind Davis
The problem we all face when we are feeling a lack of resources, time and support is we can get grabby or demanding, expecting support even before we’ve invested in what we want ourselves. The victim mindset of “I’m under appreciated and don’t get paid enough” gets passed on and perpetuated.
- We all need friends, networks and communities in order to do much of the work we want to do – to contribute something, change something, to build and grow and learn.
- There is always a limit on how much people can give, especially if the investment in the relationship is not reciprocated.
- So let’s invest in our relationships by recognising that there is no such thing as working for free, but we can get payback in non-monetary and unplanned ways.
It’s up to each of us to understand what we need in order to get work done and build healthy relationships, and it is up to each of us to advocate for and demonstrate a willingness to offer those things to people whose different needs and different skill sets are compatible with our own. And if they’re not compatible it’s ok to walk away, and say no. That is also a form of mutual respect.
To create your own opportunities, you need to take the lead.
You might make an offer and say… “Can we do this?”
You are staking your claim: “This is important to me so I’m going to offer it, will you join me?”
And when people join you, you might ask yourself, what gesture of thanks would feel good right now?
If you are on the receiving end of an offer:
- Saying no is better than saying yes and not really committing or bailing at the last minute.
- There is a difference between a) saying no and blocking/rejecting an offer and b) saying no but still receiving the sentiment.
For example, you invite me to a party and I could say:
“No, sorry, I’m too busy this month.”
Or I could say “Oh, that sounds so fun! I can’t make it, but thank you for inviting me!”
Which response is more likely to result in you thinking of me and inviting me in future?
This applies to private views, meetings, and any offer of people’s time and support.
- If you have to say no you might ask yourself what gesture of thanks feels good right now? Maybe in the coming weeks you realise there is something you can offer that feels a better fit for your relationship with that person and shows “I’m thinking of you too.”
And if you find no one is responding to your social media invitations you might ask yourself – can I make this more personal? Have I made it clear that I really want that person to come or am I treating people like numbers as if any people will do?
To summarise, there are some things we can give away for free such as our time and attention, that are rewarding regardless of whether we get “payback”. It’s like the reward is inbuilt into your activity. It just feels good. It feels worth it. Notice what makes it worth it.
And there are some contexts in which giving is draining and a chore, or conditional on your needs being met. In contrast, any successful collaboration is successful because it meets the needs of all parties through the combined effort and contribution of compatible skills, abilities, and circumstance.
Feel free to leave a comment or you can join the conversation at #casarthour on Twitter every Tuesday night. This week we will be asking:
Artists, what do you value? What kind of exchanges enrich and strengthen your work/relationships?