Why Are You Here—And What Are You Doing About It?

Artists Matter. They are the living, breathing human beings with the talent, skill, and guts to go beyond dreaming, start creating, and make everything possible.

Heading into a third year of COVID with crises at every level, we’ve running smack into ourselves and our mess of cultural beliefs about what a new year is and who we—collectively and individually—are supposed to become. Last year we blamed 2020, as if the year itself were somehow responsible. As this year turned, we blamed 2021—because no one wants to say goodbye to Betty White and hello to Omicron. Most of us acknowledge that directed anger is not a long-term strategy. It’s past time to come to grips with who we are, even as the earth continues to shift.

Sourdough Solutions

When the pandemic hit, many of us took it in stride, as an opportunity to regain solid ground: our calling…our purpose. By spending more time at home with our families, being more involved in our kids’ education, or devoting ourselves to the ancient arts of bread-baking or crochet, we’d hoped to get in touch with our “why” and figure out our “how.”

Well, we were wrong. Two years, multiple pounds, some ridiculously long scarves, and hours of binge-watching later, we’re in the midst of an even greater upheaval. Something fundamental has changed and there’s no going back. Millions of people are leaving traditional jobs: “The Great Resignation” is showing the highest quit numbers since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking the information.

There’s a painfully renewed sense of our mortality, our planet’s vulnerability, and the finite time we have to make things right with ourselves and with each other. And with this wakeup call, we’re continually being called to accountability for racism, economic inequity, and gender discrimination, with demands to level the playing field so we can try to heal together. Some of us are excavating deep within our foundations to discover or re-commit to giving our best to a world that needs it, some of us are frantically burying themselves further in the sands of an outdated, suffocating status quo, and the rest of us are digging in the dirt (thank you to Peter Gabriel for that reference) for inspiration and guidance.

Crocheting a Cocoon of Creativity

A child watches a man mending a fishing net in Spain
Fisherman and Child, Torremolinos | Clark Hulings

Artists create the rich loam we all require to reach our potential. Artists are master communicators, showing the world in new lights, making internal imaginative spaces visible, taking us deep within emotional states, revealing beauty, banality, suffering, danger, tranquility and humor. They are the translators of the language of the soul. They are the innovators who shake up tired or outdated thinking. They refresh exhausted spirits and ease burdened minds. They infuriate the status quo. They are the leading edge of the change we are living through right now.

None of this transcendent experience happens serendipitously, or in a vacuum, though. Although it can be otherworldly to experience art, it’s not made by magic, it’s made by people. Artists are workers. Artists are economic contributors. Artists are small business owners and entrepreneurs. Artists are your friends and neighbors. The community around them is as important as the art they create, and their networks are a make or break factor for whether their work ever leaves their studio to inspire those for whom it was made.

The Foundation of Community

In the coming months at CHF you will see a small name change to The Clark Hulings Foundation. The core reason is to clarify that we are not a grantmaker: we are educators and community-builders. But in the world of metaphors and imagination, The Cambridge Dictionary definition has some food for thought about what a foundation is, including “the base that is built below the surface of the ground to support a building,” and “the basic ideas or structures from which something important develops.”

Well, at CHF we help to build welcoming and trustworthy communities. We educate artists to be able to navigate and shape their industry, armed with the skills to be powerful decision makers in their own lives and businesses. When your creative vision meets your livelihood and community in full alignment, you are a thriving artist. Your purpose and your profession are wedded, and you are an unstoppable force.

Guess what? This is true of every one of us. We all have special talents and gifts, and our true job is to develop and share them while we are here. Whether you’re a sculptor, statistician, stay-at-home-parent, or sourdough bread baker, please don’t leave the planet without having done that.

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Elizabeth Hulings
Elizabeth Hulings is the Executive Director of the Clark Hulings Foundation, and a principal of the business-strategy consulting firm Counterpoise, where she has worked with startups, nonprofits large and small, multi-national corporations, and sole proprietors--including artists of all stripes. Before launching Counterpoise in 2001, Elizabeth lived through five Fortune-500 mergers at the predecessors of Citigroup, Cendant, and Verizon Communications. She also honed her skills at several nonprofit organizations including the International Development Exchange, The Management Center/Opportunity Knocks, and Human Rights Watch.

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