The Liminal Space of Creativity in the Year of the Individual

Updated: May 19


Artists love to complain about the squeezed funding dedicated to the Arts, an unpleasant reality that has seen decreased spending on the Arts starting, arguably, with Reaganomics. I’ve shared that narrative in almost every presentation, workshop, and event I’ve produced. But what I’m starting to see now is that more than the lack of funding, it’s the very system itself that is broken.


Specifically, non-profits that are created to fund under-served artists simply cannot keep up with the demand. There are just too many people awakening to the artist within. I think we’re finally starting to see that the answer to the squeezed Arts industries is not to find more money, nor create more organizations. All that does is replicate the same problems. In an increasingly diverse environment (which was always diverse, society is just now starting to embrace it), what we need is more diverse systems!


But the point of this article is not to offer a solution. There will always be #AnotherWay, which means no one way will ever be a cure-all for everyone equally. Instead, I’d like to suggest that we are in a time of unpreceded opportunity precisely because our systems are collapsing.


The events that have transpired since 2020 have catalyzed interest in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Most notably, integration of the BIPOC, BLM, and LGBTQ perspectives has been given a greater weight inside the workplace. Both corporations and non-profits have increased their efforts to ensure representation. This in turn supports inclusive narratives that will propel the organization’s footprint into a post-pandemic environment.


This all sounds very forward-thinking, exciting, and…modern. It seems we are in the season of the “individual.” Time’s Person of the Year in 2011 was “The Protestor,” so it seems appropriate, in my mind, if “The Individual” assumed the prestigious title for 2022.


In a recent New York Times article about the Global Culture Wars, David Brooks writes that the idealized vision of globalization that the majority accepted in the 1990s, has since devolved:


“This was an optimistic vision of how history would evolve, a vision of progress and convergence. Unfortunately, this vision does not describe the world we live in today. The world is not converging anymore; it’s diverging.”

Western thinking was built on patriarchal views that strived for a unified ideal. We are the United States, after all. But in the Year of the Individual, it seems to me that the very concept of unity is flawed.


And while some people may be upset about the splintering of our collective, I see this moment as having tremendous potential. We are sitting in a liminal time in history. That means that buried in the chaos of broken systems is the opportunity to create #AnotherWay.


Creativity thrives in the liminal space. As many people still have one foot firmly planted in the comfortable, predictable way of life that was pre-pandemic, we are simultaneously stepping into a new reality. It’s a paradigm shift where technology is a deity, to be worshipped or crucified, and temporal unpredictability is the new normal. We’ve lost favor for those in dominant, wealthy positions of power, such as government officials, religious leaders, and even educational institutions. Allegiance seems to lie, more so than ever, with an individualized identity.


So I leave you with a prompt to consider in your own life: How can you build a new narrative that doesn’t attempt to unite, but also doesn’t suppress? Your answer is the creative thread that you carry in this time of chaos. According to mythologist Michael Meade, if we each carry our own thread, we can collectively weave a new reality. Be the change.


Emileena is writing a book called ANOTHER WAY, the Dao of Artist Development. If you are an artist looking for development, consider Emileena's E-Velop program.

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