by Dana Hagio
Utah has many venues for instruction in creating art: University classes, private instruction, art academies, continuing education programs, plein air groups, etc. The Arts Organization, located in Salt Lake City, believes in a different type of art instruction: The art of creating the artist.
The Arts Organization’s Institute, the T.A.O. Institute, is committed to giving artists the opportunity to engage in the art of living; to connect with themselves and one another and express that connection creatively.
“There is a revolution going on right now,” says T.A.O’s Paige Paulsen, “the world is in a period of change. All aspects of life are changing with it. The work that people do, the way they live together, how they relate to one another and how they see their role in society and their place in the universe is changing. Humanity cannot continue to resolve 21st century dilemmas with 1st century guidelines. The classes in the Institute support this revolution through reawakening the individual’s artist within.”
The Institute offers a wide variety of classes, seminars and special events that support people as they “awaken to those natural gifts and abilities.” The Institute encourages “the ‘artist’ in all of us to create a new way of being in the world that is becoming.” The institute believes that the art of living is the process of creating more with our lives and in that process becoming conscious of self and community.
One of the most popular classes offered by the T.A.O. Institute is “The Artist’s Way” taught by Rick Graham. Graham is a practicing artist who exhibits widely in Utah and also instructs at Salt Lake Community College’s Department of Visual Arts. Graham says you need to look no further than children to understand that there is an artist in all of us.
“Children have an insatiable appetite to express and create,” Graham says. “It’s almost unimaginable to picture a small child with no desire to express how they feel, what they want, or who they are. Or to picture them not wanting to construct something out of finger paints, crayons, building blocks or generating sounds from a toy drum or piano. This drive to express and create is so inherent in the human psyche that in order to see its prevalence all one needs to do is look across the broad landscape of human activity to all of the images, literature, architecture, music, drama we as a species have generated.”
“Too often,” Graham says, “this natural longing to create can be discouraged by parents, siblings, teachers, schools, communities, and churches, causing a vital part of our soul to split off and become disowned. Even as a nation our culture isn’t very supportive of creative endeavors, often rewarding us for living a more financially “productive,” but less fulfilling life. We lose sight of how unproductive it can be to the sustenance of our souls to work decade after decade in a job we despise.”
As an art professor at SLCC, Graham began teaching The Artists Way , a 12-week course by Julia Cameron designed to remove blocks and restore creativity to our lives and found how powerful the process can be. “The sharing of stories, wounds, setbacks, and disappointments, as well has hopes and dreams, can be invaluable in recovering our creative selves and living a more fulfilling life,” Graham says. “The structure and accountability that a group setting provides creates support and encouragement and is a great advantage in staying on task with the processes outlined in Cameron’s empowering book.”
Graham has been teaching the course for the T.A.O. Institute for the past few years and has influenced a number of people in the community.. Pamela O’Mara, founded her Salt Lake City gallery, UTah Artist Hands, after taking the class. She writes: ‘I am most grateful for The Artist’s Way class; for the lasting friendships and support that I forged there; and for the many synchronicities and ‘morning pages’ that led me to finding my dream.’
Another student, Calli Letts, writes, ”The Artist’s Way class facilitated by Rick Graham was a place to gather with a soul-filled, artistic, sensitive group, who became a small, close knit community. Rick created a container in which we could share deeply and honestly, and where we could cry and laugh. The process supported me to find the courage to explore my love for color. In week eleven I knew without a doubt that it was time to leave formal education. I asked the universe what I could do and it responded with the words “sustainable building materials.” I got out the yellow pages and looked up building materials and serendipitously there was a listing for The Green Building Center. I explored the store, loved what I saw and how it felt. I then told the owner I would love to work for her. She had just hired someone, who then quit 3 weeks later, opening the door for me. I love what I am learning and plan to enhance that by pursuing a certificate in interior design. I believe that the Artist’s Way, Rick and the group led me to this opportunity.”
The Artist’s Way class is just one of the classes offered by the T.A.O. Institute to bring out the artist within all of us. For information about additional classes go to www.theartsorganization.com and click on classes and events or email info@theartsorganization with your questions.
This article originally appeared in the September 2005 edition of 15 Bytes
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