IAM Residency

Interdisciplinary Arts & Music Residency Program


The Endurance and the Redemption of Crisis

Introduction

You may have never heard of Earnest Shackleton and his heroic expedition on the ship Endurance to reach the South Pole (Aug 1914-Aug 1916) because it was largely overshadowed by the events of World War I or because it was a complete disaster.

Either way, It’s a good story and worth your time to see this short documentary about it.

Further investigation about Shackleton’s 3 failures to reach the South Pole or die trying can be found in his Wiki Bio.

IAM:Shackleton

The spiritual experience can be a beautiful awakening into a journey of new faith and gratitude that often begins with the painful and frightening reality that the world which you knew has completely fallen apart.

It has been a year since I have posted anything on the IAM website after the launch of Th3Rivers exhibit. A lot has happened since then and I will take the time now to outline the disasters which have overshadowed my ability to sit down and write. I apologize for the delay.

IAM:Shackleton

In July of 2019, I had just buried my Uncle after a short bout with cancer. During his illness he was staying with my family on the Ribault River and I had conceived of the Th3Rivers Project, an exploration of the St Johns River lower basin as interpreted by contemporary artists. I applied for a grant through the IAM Residency Program and received funding for the project and exhibit. At the start of 2020, the COVID epidemic became a world crisis as I carried on with the planning and organization expecting that certainly a launch date of one year would allow the COVID pandemic to run its course. On New Years Day 2021, I suffered a heart attack and postponed the launch of Th3Rivers until April 2021 at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum.

IAM:Shackleton

After a successful launch of the exhibit, I was planning a cross country journey with my daughter Sophia to Taos and Zuni New Mexico to meet with the tribal councils to finalize the plans for a cultural exchange program with artists from IAM Residency. On route, the Taos Pueblo was closed to non-tribal visits and Zuni only allowed a meeting because I have family on the reservation. COVID was still in full swing around the world and no progress was made in planning any future programs. It was a beautiful trip with my 13 year old daughter nevertheless. We were traveling in a vintage Airstream trailer and camping all across the country. I had done a trip like this with my wife and her son when I married her 17 years before. Some time together for bonding between us was needed as my wife had announced that she wanted a divorce and was moving out when we returned in July. This was when my world went dark.

IAM:Shackleton

I continued on emotional Auto Pilot for a while after we got back home. Our son Cris had finished college and attended police academy which he graduated and became a patrol officer in our city. I am proud of him and supported his decision completely. Unfortunately it was the same year as the civil unrest after the George Floyd riots, the destruction of public monuments and the Presidential election which led to the attack on the Capital on Jan 6, 2022. It seemed to me like a bad year to become a cop.

IAM:Shackleton

By October 2021, COVID was still in full bloom with no end in sight. IAM Residency had received another grant but I had to cancel any future plans for projects which included public participation of any kind. The Cultural exchange programs which had been the focus of my grant application for the upcoming fiscal year was off the table.

IAM:Shackleton

I pulled a rabbit out of my hat and shifted all focus towards a new project for IAM. As a result of the archival research and field work I had done for Th3Rivers and the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, I had exhibited a collection of historic documents which I had found in an abandoned farm house on the St Johns River. In this collection were hundreds of letters and documents belonging to a family farm which ran a successful citrus operation located in Palatka, Florida from the 1880’s though the 1960’s. It was a Black owned business which thrived during the Jim Crow era in the Deep South. I contacted the Florida archives and History Dept at UCF and discovered that finding a comprehensive collection of farm records from this era was rare. A collection of farm records by a black owned business during this period was unheard of. I met with the African Studies and History Professors and made plans to add the documents to the Florida Archives and create an exhibit and catalogue with IAM artists to accompany the historic narrative.

IAM:Shackleton

In January 2022, I was broke, exhausted and suffering from depression and acute anxiety. The reality of my personal life and uncertainty of the future had come into perspective. My world was falling apart.

I could barely stand to get out of bed. I started the bargaining phase. “If I do this I will get that”. I talked to doctors and tried different medications for depression, most of which made me feel worse. I couldn’t sleep at night. I looked into resources in case I needed to be hospitalized. I told close friends what was going on and asked if I could call in the middle of the night, if necessary. I felt hopeless and desperate. I wanted to die. My dog even got sick.

IAM:Shackleton

I surrendered everything to whatever power was out there because I was out of answers to my relationships, my finances and my life. I walked miles everyday. I spoke to my wife and kids everyday. I kept doing these things, over and over for months. This was the spiritual experience. The moving ahead with no direction. It is painful.

I saw the wreckage I had made and began to clear it away. Selling or giving away things I had thought I needed. Throwing out 12 cubic yards of useless junk into a rented dumpster. Donating clothes. Taking inventory. Letting go of old ideas, of my wife, of what had been.

IAM:Shackleton

One year after my trip across the country with Sophia, we took another trip together up the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. I didn’t get my wife back, or my stuff, or the past. I don’t regret any of that now.