By Dominique Hunter
Last week’s article seemed to open the floodgates of pent up frustration and rekindled the conversation about Guyana’s absence from any serious regional arts and culture discourse. For years there have been persons who have shared similar frustrations and have been championing the cause – but to no avail. Even the most passionate advocate would eventually surrender to the very casual attitude directed towards these problems that have been plaguing creatives for so long.
And I say creatives because these problems aren’t unique to just visual artists. There is a visible breakdown in every creative discipline. But perhaps one can make an argument in defense of the movers and shakers of Guyana’s art scene. Just imagine the herculean effort it would take to repair such an incredibly flawed and broken system that has made sustainability almost impossible. Where do you even begin?
Although change seems to be manifesting much faster in our physical environment, the same can’t be said for the manner in which we do things. This week we get down to brass tacks and take a closer look at those sorely neglected areas of our modus operandi. Below I’ve listed ten simple mantras that everyone (and I really mean everyone) would do well to remember and put into daily practice. These mantras, in my opinion, have the potential to launch Guyana back onto the regional arts and culture scene. So without further delay here they are:
1. Acknowledge that you don’t know everything. This is perhaps the toughest pill to swallow, for even the most conscious person. Too many times we allow our egos to assume control and ruin perfectly good opportunities to collaborate with more knowledgeable persons. Our unwillingness to even consider that there might be someone else out there who knows a bit or a lot more than us is precisely why we’ve been going around in circles for the last forty plus years. So the next time you feel the urge to drop snarky remarks about Ms/Mr. Know-it-all because they “feel they know everything”, consider this: they may not know everything but they may very well know more than you.
2. Ask questions. This cannot be stressed enough. If there is uncertainty regarding anything, the smart thing to do is ask a question rather than risk embarrassment by making assumptions. In addition to the embarrassment, there is also a pretty good chance that valuable resources may have been squandered in the process. Equally important to asking questions is to ensure you ask the right person(s). It should go without saying that asking someone just as “in the dark” as you will serve absolutely no purpose. So do everyone a favour and speak up if you have any doubts.
3. Do your research. The importance of seeking out information and educational resources cannot be overstated. Before undertaking any project it is essential to conduct the proper research to ensure a solid foundation. The success or failure of any project is dependent on months (and in some cases, years) of extensive research and planning. This process of culling information usually involves additional parties. Use this as an opportunity to get a second opinion, and a third, and fourth for good measure.
4. Hold yourself accountable. No one is perfect and no one should expect perfection from anyone. Mistakes are as natural as breathing and can happen with anyone. Having said that, should you find yourself in a jam, own up to it. Looking for a scapegoat to cast your inefficiencies onto will only serve to weaken your image as a team leader or member. Instead, accept responsibility for your mistakes and propose new ways of working around them.
5. Invest in your own education. For the past few years quite a number of persons have been questioning the value of pursuing an academic degree. I must admit that I too have questioned its value. But as I quickly came to realize, you won’t get very far unless you are qualified and have completed several courses of study to validate your work. It’s not impossible to reach your potential without an academic background, but it is a lot harder. My advice now will always be to acquire as much knowledge as possible. It doesn’t have to cost a ridiculous amount of money. In fact, there are a number of free online resources that are available to the public. Exploit them.
6. Commit to being patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day (I know, another cliché). But understand that as with anything, trying to get any project off the ground is going to take time. There will be more setbacks than you initially catered for. Life has a way of keeping us on our toes like that. It would be a good idea to take up yoga or something to help calm your nerves while the storm blows over. Use that downtime to focus your energy on fine-tuning the details of your plan. More importantly, don’t give up.
7. Know your worth. Too often people, particularly creative people, fall into a terrible habit of selling their work for less simply because they want the sale. It is completely understandable that bills have to be paid but continuously selling yourself short will hurt more than it helps in the long run. As hard as it might be, don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t jeopardize your integrity for a few dollars. Establish your terms early on and everyone will fall in line or they will leave. Either way, you would want to be surrounded by people who respect and value your work enough to pay the price without question.
8. There is no box. When we realize that there are no parameters cordoning off our possibilities, we will finally be free from the burden of trying to think outside “the box.” Don’t be afraid to try new things at the risk of appearing weird or crazy. It has been said that the average person lives up to a mere two percent of his/her potential in their lifetime. Just imagine the things we could accomplish if we spent more time nurturing our true self instead of binge watching way too many television series on Couchtuner. This is where I bow my head in guilt.
9. Appearance matters. This is a big one. As superficial as it may seem to some, the manner in which a person, product, service, event or project is presented to us makes all the difference in the world. Human beings are visual creatures and our propensity for beautiful things heightens with each passing year. Let the first impression be the best impression. Pay attention to the finer details. The viewing public will notice and have a greater appreciation for the work you’ve put in.
10. And finally, be nice. No one likes a jerk.
(Dominique Hunter is an independent visual artist who recently graduated from the Barbados Community College with a Bachelor of Fine Art, First Class Honours.)