On Creativity: The New Normal

I’m a born-and-raised New Yorker, transplanted to Houston (TX) by work. As a former Yankee, one thinks about disaster and tumult in the wake of a thing like a major hurricane. [Note: I left NYC before Sandy.]

Prior to my Southern transition, I lived through the World Trade Center bombing (1993) and 9/11, and a smattering of other less catostrphic anomalies like the east coast blackout of 2003. My experiences with those were, largely, peripheral. Living near a thing does not necessarily mean you were affected by the thing.

Harvey was my first hurricane, and I — along with millions of others — did experience it. The storm dropped 33 trillion gallons of water on Texas. That’s… a lot. And even if zero water made it into your house, your car or your property, everyone was impacted. Life all but paused for over a week, and still now, countless Texans remain evacuated and/or displaced; indefinitely paused.

But you’ve watched the news, so you know all that.

Over the last week, I’ve been talking with folks better and smarter than me, with whom I share creativity — artists, arts leaders, board volunteers and more. The storm shook many of them, though by and large this group of fine people emerged unscathed. And, as decent humans do when we fare better than bad, we brainstormed about what we could do to help. But, also, we time-traveled.

We time-traveled into the future — three, six, 12 months. We pondered how things will look. What will be “normal?” Will there be a “new normal?” I have a hate/hate relationship with that phrase, though it certainly fits. The conversation for me culminated in one thought: I certainly hope not.

Of course I want humans to be better, friendlier, less divided. We all should. But when I think back to August 25, before Harvey made landfall, I was fixin’ to attend three great performances during the storm’s tenure. Getting tickets, sitting in unique art spaces, experiencing great live creativity. To me, that is normal, but thanks to the hurricane, some phenomenal creatives (and organizations) have been displaced, offset or otherwise impacted. The road to recovery will be long and winding, though when we emerge on the other side, I want all those creatives around, and kicking.

If post-Harvey normal includes a culturally thinned-out Houston, I don’t want that new normal. I want regular, old normal. I want artists rehearsing; I want artistic directors planning engaging and thoughtful seasons; I want fundraisers visiting with donors to learn about the passions they wish to support.

To me, that is normal, and please know I feel insane for even having those thoughts. Some people have lost the entirety of everything, and here I am talking about the arts, even while Irma gathers momentum. But right now I’d venture to say that a concert sounds infinitely better than FEMA paperwork. I digress.

On my best days, I aspire to be inspired. And right now I, like many, am inspired to donate my time and disposable resources to Harvey relief. Heaven knows we need that, absolutely. Though I implore that we not forget about pre-Harvey normal. For me, that’s the arts. For others, it’s binge-watching all the put-off Netflix, eating all Houston Restaurant Weeks foods (extended through September!) or any number of things.

Cute, right?

My point is this: Take care of yourselves so we can take care of others. You can’t share beer you don’t have, right? Check in on people. Volunteer. Bake someone a banana bread muffin. Donate if you can. Do what makes you feel sane, because I believe it may just make you happy. Let’s do this so we can do that, Houston, so we can get back to normal.

Our great city has had its share of slogans and expressions over the years, though I’m especially proud to see everyone rally behind #HoustonStrong.

Rant, over.