I’ve been leading workshops on the creative process for almost two years, joking that it was really group therapy for artists. About a dozen mostly strangers representing different artistic mediums would come together and speak openly about their self-doubt, their drive to create, how they pay the bills, the difference between work and play. Although the workshops were always serious and heartfelt, I did not realize their importance until this recent election followed by the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. After the election, the workshop focused on shock, anger, and feeling called to action; we talked about knowing what we have to offer our community and equipping ourselves for the political landscape in front of us, as well as knowing when we need to rest. After the Ghost Ship fire, there was shock again, and the grief was overwhelming. In our discussion we talked about how we were inspired by beloved community members who had passed, and how making art in and for our Oakland community felt especially pertinent. Through discussion, we realized our bodies are equipped to handle the intensity and darkness, and the more familiar we are with the physicality of the emotional process, the more empowered and self-directed that process can be.
I led three workshops in November and December of 2016 knowing that the conversation would need to open up to include more than just the creative process. I added questions drawing from my experience with somatic psychotherapy as well as meditation techniques I learned from Mollie Moorhead. I wanted to invite my peers to slow down, listen and trust their bodies. Even trust the numbness. Trust the anger and the sadness and confusion, and all the ways they can manifest in our flesh.
But also, to trust their way back out of that darkness. Self-care has been a popular, and sometimes controversial, topic the last few years. Living in the Bay Area, I see my friends learn how to slow down and relax after years of hustling their artwork. But our consumerist culture has co-opted the term self-care, trying to encourage us to spend money to feel better, as usual. And furthermore, certain words are so easily tossed around, but rarely do we define them in tangible ways: like what is presence? what is grounded? what is safe? what is healing? And how these words can mean different things for each person—it can present as different sensations, and each sensation can require different action. But recognizing when and how light can come back in is valuable knowledge. And that knowledge allows us to communicate our needs, and what kind of support each of us might need and can ask for. From here, The Actual Feeling was formed.
I have always felt the power of relationships, but given the political climate, the loss of dozens of beautiful community members and our threatened community spaces, I believe now more than ever in the support of deep friendship, of knowing your community—and that often requires more than just showing up to the gallery or the warehouse or the basement. How can we support each other as humans, how can we create conversations that highlight our similarities and our struggles and our successes, and not just the art that we make? How can you communicate what might help, knowing that someone will show up for you? How will you live and create differently with that support?
We will begin the discussion with introductions, preferred gender pronouns, and ground rules to speak to your own experience and to keep the conversation private. Each participant gets a free copy of the zine, and there's usually tea!