I didn’t really know anything about Orlando until I moved here. My scope of what this city had to offer was limited to the memories of Dole Whip-flavored summers in the Magic Kingdom and running about Islands of Adventure in Ravenclaw robes. But after living here for two years, I’ve come to find out that Orlando is a flowering community for creatives. I can truly attribute the coming into my identity as an artist to this period here in the place I know as my second home.
However, there is a shared feeling of being lost in this era of technology as a creative. Being an artist and knowing that this is what you’re going to pursue, and having to deal with the reality that the stability of your livelihood is never truly guaranteed, is terrifying. With the art world of today being so heavily saturated by social media, it can be discouraging to navigate how you’re going to leave an impression on a crowd that’s seen it all.
So in this particular scene that we’re setting here, I was in one of the worst artistic blocks of my young adult life. I had recently moved home due to finances, and have been working as a hostess in a restaurant full time in order to save money for school in the fall, all while taking classes online. With everything going on, I felt like I didn’t have the time to focus on my personal art. All the looming responsibilities I had were shadowing it in comparison.
I believe that the transition from winter to spring is not just reflected in the weather but in the universe’s design to help you emerge into a new season of life. So following this theme, I got a text in February from a student-led event group called The Village Collective. If you don’t know about them yet and you’re a UCF student, you’re going to know about them now.
The Village is run by a group of student creatives, one of them being my incredible friend Nicole Virreira. Nikki is someone who has always inspired me. She is not only an organizer for badass events featuring local Orlando visual and musical artists, but is full of organic love. Straight from the soul and outpouring for those around her, she gives so much support to her peers in art and life in the purest way possible. So when I heard that she was branching out to create her own series of events, I knew that this was going to be something special.
I never thought in a million years that she would ask me to be a part of their first event. I had never publicly displayed my work and was mortified that someone else outside of my family and dog would be viewing it. Even so, something was itching at me to say yes—so before I could overthink it, I texted her back agreeing to display my work.
I don’t think she knows this, but I sat there for a solid hour freaking out over the fact that I was going to have to paint again. It used to be something I loved but I had been so out of practice for the longest time thanks to technology and Adobe Illustrator. So, out of the fear of a pressing deadline and the itch of an idea, I painted. My room went back to the look of days past where my window stayed open for copious amounts of time in order to get the paint fumes out. The space where my bed once was became filled with acrylic paint bottles strewn everywhere, black plastic tarps and fans facing the large tapestry I planned on turning into something of my brainchild. I let it all pour out, and I pushed aside the everything that was in that moment inhibiting me from my impulses and let my heart seep into the material. It was like releasing the voices telling me that my purpose was other than what I had envisioned for myself. And even if it didn’t come out the way I wanted to, I had at least started from somewhere.
Walking into the gallery the day of the event was unreal. It was in downtown Orlando, at the intimate and eclectic space known as The Downtown Arts Collective, where Funkadellic would take place. And there, smack in the middle of the venue, was a wall just for me. It felt almost like a joke, and that any minute someone would snap their fingers and remind me that it’s just a dream. But as I hung up my work, the sickening yet utterly exciting acceptance of the fact that others were going to see my work set in.
And let me tell you, it was magical. A small crowd gathered around my setup, and I blended in to observe them while they talked about their takeaways. It’s such an odd feeling hearing someone talk about something you created not knowing it was you. It really allows you to see how it affects people without the filter of politeness. I was so taken aback at the time that some people took time to really take in my work like they were making it a part of their story for even just ten minutes. It truly was a physical affirmation of everything I ever wanted for someone to feel when looking at something I created. In a night spun with music from local artists like Josh Gluck and dancing in the glitter of a perfect night with kind and open people, I have never felt more fulfilled.
What I took away from this experience is to never undersell yourself. Your art, no matter the medium, has value. While we are all existing in the same reality, our perceptions of this reality are all unique to us. No one in the history of time will ever have the same experience as you, ever. If you feel that you are “unoriginal,” think about the fact that history is telling the same story over and over again. What makes this story different is the lens you see your part of history through, and the way you relate to this.
There is something to gain from viewing other’s stories. So go out, seek out those stories and your own. Even if you are scared the outcome won’t be how you pictured, or that it isn’t “good enough,” the worst that could happen is limited to rejection. And what kind of millennials would we be if we hadn’t experienced some form of rejection by our 20s?
You can check out my work at the next Village Collective event titled “A Celebration of Women” on May 24, 2019. They will be collecting feminine product donations as cover for the event and will be donating them to Covenant House Florida, a non-government funded foundation for homeless youth. I hope to see you there! You can check out The Village Collective on Instagram.
All images except image 3 are provided by the author.