The Artist’s Commitment
I promise to always remember
my power, love, and intelligence
as an artist,
and the vital role that artists have played
in every culture and time.
I will never again invalidate any artist,
including myself, or any work of art,
but rather ally myself with all artists
to end our economic oppression, and
enthusiastically encourage the creativity
of every human.
Rational Island Publishers
developed by the Re-evaluation Co-counseling Community
The next artist to weigh in on this commitment is well known professional storyteller and author Rafe Martin.
Rafe was born in a snowstorm in New York City in 1946, after a hurricane destroyed the Air Force Base in the Everglades where his father was stationed after returning from overseas. Perhaps, Rafe muses, the shift from sunny, tropical, pre-natal dreams to the shock of darkness and snow is what launched him into a lifetime of dreaming and imagining. He spent much of his childhood up in treetops with a good story at hand. In sixth grade he discovered Moby Dick, and read it over and over; this led, years later, to his becoming the first student to graduate with Highest Honors in English from Harpur College (now Binghamton University), for his thesis on that book.
With an M.A. in English Literature and trained as a literary critic, Rafe left academia in 1969 and held a variety of odd jobs ranging from construction worker to substitute teacher. In 1974 he and his wife opened a bookstore, and in 1982 he became the first storyteller-in-residence for the Rochester City Schools.
Rafe’s first book was published in 1984. Twenty others have followed since, with more appearing every year. Besides being an award-winning author, Rafe is also an internationally known storyteller; he has spoken or performed in nearly every state, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as in the International Schools of Japan.
On a personal note: I met Rafe years ago at East Tennessee State University. Rafe handles words carefully and with his well told tales can freeze time. Better yet, he can suspend time to take you the place of the stories he is sharing. This craft and skill seems to be done at ease, but from taking workshops with Rafe and talking with him, he spends a great deal of energy and contemplation around how a story should be shared. Even in casual conversation, Rafe invites me to think of what I say and the best way to share it. I value the rich learning that I have received from Rafe. He is truly values the gift and enrichment that comes from a lifetime of storytelling study.
My Commitment as an Artist
My commitment as an artist is to let myself know nothing, (or at least less and less), so as to be available to be grabbed by an idea, a color, a character, an image, a brush stroke, a word, a phrase, a narrative pattern. And then to obsessively mine into it past the point of disaster, and come out the other side with something that can walk away from me and live on its own. And I will do my best to not cry when it does not say goodbye or call or write or visit. And then also do my best to get paid decently (and have a contract, and go after any organization, person, etc. who does not pay properly) for the privilege of it all, and to keep growing into work that still grabs me, without hacking out and repeating the same stuff again and again, just because it made (makes) money in the past, unless I’m simply fascinated with the process, theme, image, etc. and cannot let it go. In short, I promise to have the courage to go where the vision leads. And when it comes to storytelling, my commitment is only tell stories I really care about. No ifs, ands, buts. And finally, when the well is dry, to stop. Just stop. And have the patience and courage (are they different?) to see what comes next. Or might come next. Or will.
So that’s my commitment in a nutshell. Cheers! Now, back to work.