As I walked through the corridor, I saw Sallianne the Energizer bunny organizer of this event and her right hand gal Linda who was soldiering on through a cold. Oh those beautiful smiling faces.
I was greeted with joy in their voices and a little bit of sassy teasing. The kind that makes you feel loved.
As I checked in, I saw 2 girls I became friends with at the last AIY. Hugs and excited giggles follow and I am reminded of the un-advertised elements of AIY. The connections and friendships it fosters. The safe place we are in, where we can step into our creative courage and let the everyday fall away.
We aren’t mothers, wives or day job girls anymore.
I say hello to a girl looking a little lost. She’s here for the first time and is on her own. I ask her what classes she is doing (the obvious but perfect AIY conversation starter) and introduce her to a friend. Before long her nerves give way to laughter. I hope she makes the kind of friendships I have here.
As I wander around the room, I catch up with my Art Sisters. My cheerleading girl squad. I renew connections with girls I’ve met before and we all instantly feel like long lost cousins at a family reunion.
We begin our classes by ascending the swirling staircase. Teachers and fellow students helping carry each others supplies up the stairs. No pushing, no rushing. Just gentle giggles and nervous banter. Gosh I love the vibe here. Why can’t it be like this in real life? The world would be a much better place for it.
I’m in Andrea Matus DeMeng’s class today. Photos do not do her work justice. They are drowning in colour and depth and symbology. Andrea is a beautiful gentle soul. Her voice is very calming and zen but she also makes us giggle at our nerves as she pushes us through our comfort zones. She calls it ‘pushing us to our edges’. By the end of the day we are all exhaustedly happy and tiredly glowing. I am in love with what I’ve made and jealous of what the others have made at the same time. And I’m in awe of Andrea as a teacher. This quietly spoken soul has broken her work down into achievable steps. She has pre-empted our fears and voiced them before we could. Reassuring us ‘we got this’. She helped students all at different levels of experience, all making very different pieces navigate our ‘stuck’ moments. Our ‘mine sucks’ moments. The ‘I don’t get it’ moments. She navigated it all, floating through the group quietly offering her art theory, explanations and guidance. She shares some beautiful words with me about my work and it fills my heart to overflowing. It is such a generous gift from her and I am teary with gratitude.
At night there is more catching up at the art trunk. Attendees laying their creative heart out on little tables, for sale.
We mingle, catching up on what we made in class that day, discussing art with those bravely selling their pieces.
My night closes with 6 of us scattered around a friends room, sitting on the floor, on kitchen chairs, on a couch and a fold out bed. We are eating cheap pizza, making fun of “The Batchelor” and telling stories. I laughed until my sides hurt.
And I am reminded, sometimes it’s not the classes that create the best memories but the friendships.
I fall into bed, tired but with a heart overflowing from a day of creative living and dear treasured friendships. At the dawn of day two, I giggle in the dark, thinking of our conversations last night. I heart these moments and these girls so hard.