Be realistic. Be transparent. Be authentic.
I was featured as a guest on Artistic Resilience, a new online community that is designed specifically to unite different types of creative people. In this community artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, educators and more can share ideas and collaborate on new projects to improve the world as we know it. Artistic Resilience provides a platform that incorporates ideas, dialogue, connectivity and hard work. The interview with Claudia Walters, the founder of Artistic Resilience follows:
Creative drug of choice: Theater, Theater Education, Acting, Singing.
Random fact: I have struggled my entire life with the correct spelling of my name: There is the masculine spelling FrancIs and the feminine spelling FrancEs. As a way to thwart the shame and embarrassment I felt to validate my identity when the incorrect usage was made I decided to address this and other issues that come with growing up in an Italian family of 10 (6 girls and 3 boys) by creating a cabaret act Frances With An E. Now, what do you think about THAT?!!
Tell me something good: As of March 2011 my position as Education Director was eliminated from a not-for-profit arts organization due to budgetary constraints. My entire professional life has been devoted to promoting the arts on many different levels. For over 30 years I’ve worked as an education practitioner: first, as a classroom k-12 English and theater teacher, then as an adjunct professor, and finally as an education director for not-for-profit arts-in-education organizations. I’ve conducted a variety of drama workshops across the nation, and now unemployed for the first time in my life, I have found my new niche as arts activist: raising awareness of the vital inclusion of the arts in our every day lives through the launching of my new website.
Where can we witness your creative genius:
aR: Define artistic resilience in your own words.
FM: Artistic resilience means to persevere at creating a deeper, richer, compassionate world through the arts despite the obstacles; artistic resilience requires re-inventing, re-imagining our world through the gift of our innate ability to make art and seek solutions to the ills of our society.
aR: When you’re feeling a little discouraged in your creative work, what tools do you employ to get yourself back on track?
FM: I make lists: Monthly goals; a one-year plan; 3-year; 5-year plan. This serves two purposes: first, it forces me to focus on realistic goals and objectives and second, it offers opportunities for me to reflect on how far I’ve come since that last month. It’s also a great tool to “punt” during the course of the month and shift paths without feeling like I’m going in too many directions.
I have also learned a valuable lesson since losing my job: surround myself with an inner circle of friends who are 100% FOR me. Not necessarily in an ingratiating way, but to selectively have those persons who truly value my talent and believe in my potential and can provide insight and balance when I feel like a failure.
aR: Yes a support base is essential. You also perform right…? Do you wish to continue that as well as your business? Are one of these professions a bigger passion for you or more important to you?
FM: I am an actor. I would always apologize and refute that declaration of truth, but after performing in an Off-Broadway production of The Vagina Monologues with an amazing cast of talented women, I have accepted that this is something I’m good at and one that I will continue to pursue. It’s not necessarily a matter of importance; nevertheless, it’s a part of my genetic design and well, why not use it?
aR: You seem to be in love with storytelling. Can you name 2 of your favorite storytellers and tell me why you think their way of bringing a story to the surface is so awesome? (Can be anyone. Singers, song-writers, playwrights, directors…)
FM: Mr. Fred Rogers. The best of all storytellers for every age. E.B. White. I still weep at the end of Charlotte’s Web. Any Irish playwright/citizen/actor. The ultimate spinner of tales, Shakespeare.
aR: A few of my favorites as well. So what do you ultimately hope to accomplish with your new website?
FM: To raise national awareness of The Arts so that funding remains intact. To keep The Arts as a staple of a child’s education. To keep The Arts as a core mission of government as compared to road repair. And to keep The Arts as a cultural investment because the National Endowment of the arts conducted a federally funded research that showed $278 billion in economic activity was spun off by the arts in 2009.
aR: Wow! How do you plan to accomplish all of that?
FM: Phase One: Let’s Get Loud: Raise AWARENESS
The purpose of the first phase will be to establish an audience by focusing first on The Arts and its critical role in defining our humanity. First Online With Fran will serve to be the sounding board to let the world know that, “We’re angry as hell and we’re not gonna take it any more!”
Phase Two: Spread the Word: NETWORK
To prepare a list of guests, I am setting up appointments with people who I feel are getting the job done. I am interested in the work you are doing and would like to feature you and/or your organization on First Online With Fran. We can talk about goals and objectives and the obstacles you confront either as an individual and/or by the organization. I am particularly interested in your personal commentary and why you have chosen to pursue this cause.
Phase Three: Go Global: GO OPRAH!
Who better to get the job done, than Oprah? We need to convince her that the Arts need her support and know-how to thwart the decline of arts inclusion. Her new programming network: The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will be the means to the end. Here’s how:
To redefine the shape of television, CEO Christine Norman summed up the programming mix in simple words and phrases: “Aspiration. Nurturing. Newness. In short, Winfrey’s fans want to see their hero helping make people’s dreams come true in a new, always-on TV environment.” (The Post Standard January 1, 2011 page C3).
First Online With Fran will be the FIRST TV Talk Show that will bring sustainable National attention to the vital inclusion of The Arts in people’s lives by inviting guests from all walks of life – the school custodian, Lincoln Center, struggling/successful actors, lemonade stands: ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to make the arts the fabric of our existence. Let’s make The Arts FIRST ONLINE WITH FRAN.
Phase Four: Change: Alternative Solutions
By raising awareness of how the arts are important to our existence through First Online With Fran we can change the perception that The Arts are viewed as optional, an extra – fluff. No Arts? That’s like saying let’s cut the air for which we breathe. Through the program, First Online With Fran creative alternative solutions that are being implemented can be offered to show how The Arts are a vital component for educating the whole child.
aR: Well you definitely have it mapped out! You mentioned before that you think the arts enhances the professional as well as the personal lives of others. For instance, having exposure to the arts can make a businessman a better communicator, etc… When did you first come to this revelation?
FM: Personally, it transformed my life from a shy, insecure child to a protector of the ARTS UNIVERSE. Seriously, after writing an integrated arts curriculum for a high school program I began to get feedback from students after graduation. How Theater Troupe saved their lives; helped them to accept identity issues; helped them to be a better lawyer, architect, manager, etc. I have witnessed over the years how theater can provide life skills through hands-on learning. I’ll never forget a student, Lauren, who was the designated producer for a our first major drama production on the school auditorium stage. There were a lot of politics and problems she had to face in order to get approval for the use of the space. I told her, “Welcome to the world of business. Figure out how you’ll get past the red tape.” She returned a few days later with a dispenser of red tape. “Here it is,” she said. I laughed, not at her, but at my assumption that she understood the idiom. Priceless learning experience both for her and for me. It was these kinds of challenges that afforded each student to experience and allow each of them to take ownership of their learning firsthand.
aR: What’s the most important advice you can offer to another creative person trying to seek their own goals?
FM: Be realistic. Be transparent. Be authentic. Know your strengths, weaknesses, and enemies. Be surrounded with an inner circle of friends. Be vigilant. Be diligent. Be willing to turn your will over to your spiritual Creator, whoever and whatever that may be to guide you to your ultimate destiny.
aR: Thanks for being so realistic, transparent and authentic in this interview. And best of luck to you in your new and exciting venture. I believe your goals for your business are relevant to us all.
FM: Thanks so much for this. Take care.