Sustainability for the Arts: a life-changing journey

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

Sustainability for the Arts: A life-changing journey

By: Seth F Barker and Dr. Angelica McCarthy

It’s been a helluva year. We’ve encountered a pandemic, numerous social injustice issues, lost employment, and more, with no real return to “normalcy” in sight. Together we’ve experienced chronic stress, fear, and uncertainty that has negatively impacted our well-being. Although not favorable, this time has caused us to begin questioning the importance of how we are living our lives.

We put immense amounts of energy and passion into our work in the arts and often recognize only that aspect. Many of us dive in with everything we’ve got and forget to take care of the other parts of our life. We identify as our jobs, our relationships, even our thoughts without acknowledging the beauty of our whole-being. Forgetting the different aspects of our lives can escalate to chronic issues that may not sustain our personal and professional longevity.

Introducing whole-person sustainability: The art of balancing the mind, body, soul, and life. It requires continual cultivation through self-reflection, understanding, humility, and acceptance, which is essential to keep us happy, healthy, and flowing. Sustainability for the arts is not an external movement; it is an internal movement. It is personal & spiritual growth. When we cultivate our self, that empowers us to bring forth awareness and empathy for the person sitting next to us, our peers, and influences how we show up in positions of service.

It allows us and the arts to be sustainable together.

To begin the life-changing journey, we have to take an honest IN-ventory or assess what’s going on in our inner world. We start this process by asking questions to help us along the path:

“Where am I now?” - When asking this question, think about the multiple aspects of your life: Physical, emotional & intellectual well-being, social life, environment, relationships, spirituality, enjoyment, and career.

“Have I fully accepted the conditions I’m in?” - This question allows us to accept where we are, acknowledge mental obstacles, and highlight opportunities we are overlooking.

“Are my thoughts nurturing?” - This question allows us to take inventory of our thoughts that support us vs. the thoughts that hurt us—the ones that block us and hold us back vs. the ones that inspire change.

Now that we’ve brought awareness to our inner self and discovered some areas asking for a little nourishment, we make a plan.

Step 1: Start slow. This is a growing practice. Pick an area that is calling for your attention. Recognize what its current state is and feel into it. Let those emotions flow and ask - “Where do I want to go?”

Step 2: With the morsel you just discovered in Step 1, pick a direction. Start thinking about ways to incorporate more conscious thoughts and habits to support the inner sustainable change you seek.

Step 3: Take Action! Now that you’ve developed awareness and created a direction, it’s time to gain some momentum behind your change. Without taking action, the change you seek remains in the realm of thought or even forgotten.

These steps are just the beginning of creating sustainable change within ourselves that can support healthy growth for the arts. The small decisions we make today create our future for tomorrow.

See this as your invitation to cultivate a sustainable journey that empowers your mind, body, and soul to transform your life.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” - Gandhi.


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