Over Rhode Island College’s spring break, CREATOR Jose Rosario facilitated a workshop that brought together individuals from all over campus. As a PeaceLove team member and RIC student, I dropped in to participate. The workshop, Creative Calisthenics, let us get our hands colorful, and collaborate on a series of paintings.
(Above: A fellow participant using the back of a paintbrush to carve into their painting)
As the group gathered around the table for introductions, we were prompted to share the last creative thing we did for ourselves. It’s that last bit of the sentence, ‘did for ourselves’ that really sunk its teeth into my mind. As I get older, I’m beginning to learn the value of doing things for no other reason than simply, ‘I want to.’
As we circled around the table, some participants could not remember the last time they did something creative for themselves. It’s understandable; most of us are busy with school, work, and family. When short on time, it’s easy to borrow against ourselves. However, there’s something valuable in giving yourself the freedom of creativity.
In a culture that sells consumerism as self-care, partaking can often feel exhaustive of time and money. What I’ve learned recently is that self care is more than just pampering. It’s giving yourself time and space to stop and breathe. As people shared their creative moments, I realized that there’s no pressure to make these moments revolutionary. You don’t have to paint a masterpiece. It could be filling in the wordsearch on the back of your breakfast cereal box, or swapping 5 minutes of screen time with journaling and reflection. It’s about giving yourself a moment of childhood joy, or a moment to slow down—whatever you think you need. Giving yourself a moment of peace, or showing your creative side some love, is not selfish. It’s necessary.
As we started to paint, a natural communication began to flow. People who had met for the first time in that room were laughing, smiling, and interacting with one another. After each layer of paint was put onto the canvas, the work was passed to the right, and the next person would add a new layer over it. At first, it was hard to see a painting you had put effort into be covered by someone else. Over time however, it became more interesting to see what someone was doing with what you had made, than it was sad to see your work move on. It became a creative challenge to take someone else’s work, and find a way to make it your own.
(Above: CREATOR Jose leading us as we got ready for another round of passing our paintings)
By the end of the workshop, the paintings looked nothing like they had at the beginning. It was impossible to tell which canvas began as your own. Despite this, each of us had added something meaningful to each painting. In this way, they were all ours, and not ours, all at once.
The workshop was not only a great community builder, but it served as an important reminder of how we impact one another. How, even though we might not see it, our handiwork is under the surface of everything we touch.
Victoria Rose is a writer and musician from Providence, Rhode Island. firstname.lastname@example.org