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AOA S4 E7: A Misfired Bow & Arrow Moment: Season Six

Hello and welcome to a podcast about creating experimental art in trauma-informed and sustainable ways that support artists, our communities, and the organization as a whole. You're listening to Any Other Anythings. And in this season, we are focused on the journey of Grey Box Collective, and we will take you through from the very beginning, before Grey Box Collective even existed, and all the way through to present day, and talk about what the future of Grey Box Collective might include as well. Highly recommend listening to this season in chronological order since it is somewhat building upon each part of it, but it's up to you if you want to take a nonlinear approach. Appreciate that. Respect that, and hope you enjoy this journey of Grey Box Collective.

All right. Hello everyone and welcome back for another episode of Any Other Anythings. I am your host Molly. I am the Founder and Creative Producer of Grey Box Collective, and we have arrived at season six. So, season six was fall 2021 to spring 2022 and in my notes I'm calling this a misfired bow and arrow moment. And underneath it I have timid expansion and a journey of pause and the butterfly. So yeah, a lot. 

This was quite a season - I think I'm gonna say that with this season, the next one and also the next one - that's just where I think I'm at. That is how I'm feeling about things. In hindsight there's something about season six that I don't know, it felt, in hindsight when I think about season six it felt really gentle, but also, I mean, it was a shit show as like, and I say that with so much love and respect, please, just in terms of like, you know, fall 2021 to spring 2022 we were still kind of moving through this whole COVID situation thing unknowingly. And like that first show back we, you know, returned to live performance and all of that, but we came back when our numbers spiked out here to like the highest numbers we had. Like, I don't know, twenty-two thousand twenty-four thousand cases per day or something ridiculous like big frickin numbers. And I think because going into this season there was that kind of like, “okay, well, let's see what is gonna happen”. That…I don't know, it was just like easier to take things in stride a little bit more than perhaps other seasons. So yeah. 

Okay, doing a quick check-in. Let's see, I, I'm doing pretty well. I have like, a little burst of energy, but I, my head also feels funny, so we'll see how that results in, navigating this episode. And I think talking about season six at, when I first thought about, and as I kind of brought up in other episodes, it was like, oh shit. Like these are some hard seasons to talk about. But there is something about, I don't know - just coming into it in this moment it doesn't feel quite as hard to talk about this season as I anticipated. 

So season six, getting through to the what. So, let's talk about what some of the biggest things with season six, and the biggest thing was funding. Funding for season six was a very distinct pivot, which also allowed me to leave the professional life that I don't know, it was kind of in shambles at that point what little professional life I had continued to scrape together. With adjuncting and like at this point - yeah, by like summer 2021 all of my fitness classes had been taken away from me, due to like me taking sick time for injury recovery. I had left higher ed this summer before season six, which was huge. That was leaving a decade long career and that was hard. And, this is the part where I'm like, why do I feel like season six was a shit show? It's like, oh, 'cause that's kind of how I felt. Like I definitely crashed and burned personally in season six, and it was a lot of me feeling like, ‘oh I'm like able to get it back together and like, you know, functioning and all of that’. And then in between functioning though I was really in a state of like absolute collapse and yeah, so I think that's why I have kind of some weird feelings about season six. Just in terms of where I was at - I know I was struggling, and at the same time it was the season where I could finally lean enough on a stipend from Grey Box Collective that I did not need to be running into the, like, hustle culture of academia. So, I was still doing some freelance work and had some gigs consistently outside a Grey Box Collective, but yeah, I finally felt comfortable enough. It was also the first season I paid myself appropriately or as close to appropriately as I can really. It was the first season I paid myself. It was the first season that we had funding from multiple granting organizations, within the state. It was our first season receiving, yeah, like general operation support, and grants. So that was huge - yes, we would've received operational grants as well as programming grants this season. 

Season six also still had some of that COVID relief money and COVID relief grants out there. So, we were able to apply to those to also help stabilize. It was the first, and actually I think it's the only season we've received funding from a national grant. So, really it was the first season that felt kind of like protected in a way - from a funding model. And so, which I am grateful for being that it was the first season where I was like, ”oh shit, I'm working for myself full time”. So yes, we had that funding to support the work that we were doing, and it was kind of that crossfade out season of, okay, we've been in this digital world for what felt like, fuck all ever, but you know, I guess now looking at it, it's like it was a year and a half folks. It's not that long - it was one and a half seasons long. 

So yeah, so we had continued. What did we do? We really focused all of our energy on a performance called PAUSE... And this performance was looking at kind of the mental health, but also just generally looking at grief, loss and transformation. We had kind of this attempt at a hybrid performance where we still had a digital group because we had made these connections with former creatives during COVID, and it was important to hang on to those connections, right? So we continued this digital developmental performance side of things and we also had our in-person performance side of things kick back in. So, we had the digital and in-person teams both working on this piece called PAUSE… With that, we decided that the digital group would kind of create, like the, the prologue and epilogue to the in-person performance. So we were able to collaborate in that way with the digital and the in-person teams, and we had planned originally for the in-person performance to be outside - we were at Mesa Arts Center and at Singh Meadows that year. So, we were able to have outside performances so that if by chance - and which actually happened - like numbers went through the freaking roof, so I'm very glad that we were outside.

We also kind of rebooted that partnership with La Frontera that had gotten kind of like drifting, kind of floated off a little bit during COVD. So, we were able to reconnect with La Frontera and perform at Take Back the Night through the digital side of things. So, the digital performers actually were able to have their piece shown at Take Back the Night, which is really cool. I think - then I wrote down like, there are lots of other plans that fell through thanks to COVID. I don't know what those plans were, maybe I have them written somewhere else. Yep, that's what I got there. This was also a season, because I was, I'm gonna use like “full-time” working for Grey Box Collective, but because I could pour more of my energy in, I was also able to seek out more help and support. And so like deep behind the scenes of this season, there was a lot of thinking and conversations around, like moving forward what, what all was going to be happening with Grey Box Collective.

 I'll also say this was the first season where we went with a local fiscal sponsor. It was one of those things, you know, when you're organized as an LLC and working with a fiscal sponsor, they take a percentage of that and I don't know, it just, it, it reached a point where it felt kind of like icky that, you know, 4% of every tiny little grant we were getting was going to some organization at a national level and like they do wonderful work. I am, like no shame for any fiscal sponsor, but there's something about it that kind of got to me of like, I don't really know where that percentage of money is going. I don't really know who it's supporting. I don't really know, right? And one of the values that we've held throughout all of the seasons as best we can, and I think really started to get louder - this value of the importance of the funding that we are receiving, staying within the arts ecosystem that we are a part of, right? Like shopping local, supporting our local arts ecosystem. And with that grant, percentage of the grant funds, going to some other organization, it just, I don't know, it got to me at some point. So looking at local organizations, and I looked at several and looked at various setups and eventually partnered with Orphanage Dance Project, which was founded by someone I went to grad school with Emily May. And so it felt really good that like we had also kind of developed our organizations somewhat in parallel or around the same time as each other. And so it just felt like a very natural partnership, so yeah.

And let's see - season six was also where, kind of another COVID blessing is that there are a lot more breadcrumbs. Like meaning like artifacts and like digital footprints, I guess, of what was going on. So, I was starting to be much more intentional about like documenting processes and creating PowerPoints for meetings so that, like, I had that as notes.

 And, let's see. Yeah, we also, this was the first time that the ‘Play in the Grey’ phrase came up as a thing that we did. So, these were virtual creativity improv jams - so, kind of off of the idea of like a contact improv jam, but instead it's creativity improv jams. And yeah. So, we had a Play in the Grey series and that was the first time that language kind of came forward. And we were once again working in partnership with K through 12 - there were actually multiple partnerships that were going to be happening, but I think we just had one in person to the best of my recall. Yeah.

And then we had the digital creative team and the in-person creative team. Yeah, I guess that's kind of, that's it. That's enough, that's what I should say. It's not that, it's like, that's it - that's enough, that's plenty. And so what was also happening in season six and that came to fruition in summer 2022 - so the end of season six going into season seven - was that our non-profit branch formed, with our founding board members. And that was another significant moment that I don't think in that moment I was totally aware of how significant it was and how significant even at this point, that it can be. But yeah, to move into this hybridized organizational model of being both, or having both the LLC and the 501C3 - those are very important aspects of our organizational structure and that was a really big shift. I don't think it was a shift that maybe was seen or witnessed, or felt on the outside, but at least internally, like massive change with that.

And so, let's see. One other thing I'll bring up around artistry 'cause I, I, it's been very logistics-focused, I guess that's where my brain is at right now. One thing with season six is I started to ask the question, ‘how do you know that you're proud of the work that you're creating’, right? Like, what is it to like stand, to stand proud and be like, “I did this”. Or you know, that scene in Bridesmaids where Kristen Wiig's character takes a sip of that pink lemonade and she's like, “oh shit, that's good”. Like that. I want that. Like, oh shit that's good moment with the work that we're creating. And so started to talk more about that as not just like, how we're creating work and what is it to be in the process, but what is it that makes you say at the end of it, like, Ooh, shit, that's good, right? How can we set ourselves up for that moment? Setting ourselves up for success is something that I ask a lot. So yeah, that was one thing and is… I'll also talk about why I said this was like a misfired bow and arrow moment of just - I feel like there is this pullback that happened with COVID, right? There's a constriction and I think we can all say that we may, well, I hope, I guess, I don't know I'm sure there are exceptions - but COVID was a time of constriction, and after a period of that kind of constriction there is going to be a period of expansion. And I felt like thinking of like, as you pull back that bow and arrow moment, yeah, it is a pullback, right? But that is to launch forward and I was like, “oh, here comes the launch”. And misfired being like, you know, then the realities of operating an organization through COVID happened - and it was like, you go to pull back the bow and arrow and someone like taps you on the shoulder, and suddenly you're like, what? And you turn and now the bow is going like into the ground, five feet from you instead of hitting the target. That kind of the vibe, that's what I, I'm thinking about with this season. 

And I also think season six or seven, hell, maybe even now, I feel like there's this moment of like, oh, I'm an entrepreneur. Which sounds silly, perhaps to say, but there's something about, there's something about this season six, having been that first year where like, I didn't get a W2 from anyone. I didn't get tax information from, well that's not true. There's something about this season of, you know, not being attached to some other institution of higher education or just like for work that I think it was like, I'm, I'm just like doing it - I'm just out here on my own doing a thing. And I do think it's important to note, like there's a lot of groundwork, I think that was laid for me personally to be in season five to allow me to really step into this in season six. That's one of the things that as I was putting this series together, I was just thinking about how I can see the echoes - I can see the thoughts that I had at the end of season seven coming into reality at the beginning of season eight, right? So there is always this kind of fluidity happening, and because I was actually planning on leaving higher ed and doing Grey Box full-time a year prior to me actually doing that. I think there was a lot more in my mindset that I had really planned for and yeah, planted the seeds for. So it was, it was overdue that this was the point where I was able to step into it. It wasn't like, oh, what happened in surprise? Like, no, no, no. This was a methodical process-ish, minus the whole like pandemic. But there were, there were steps and there was a plan to eventually come into this full time. And I think what I was working through for myself in season five, like as much as I could while I was still working full-time in other ways. I don't know, it was a lot of getting out of my own way and I needed to get out of my own way in season five so that in season six I could be asking for intentional help and support, right? And I think I mentioned in season five it was kind of that like throwing spaghetti at the walls and seeing what stuck. And that also was like with asking with help, and so because I had kind of worked that outta my system in season five -  in season six I was able to really ask for intentional help and support. I think I hadn't really worked out discernment in that help and support, or at least got better at seeking it out deliberately in terms of business coaching and legal advice. But because I was also struggling with my own mental health and in my personal life, I was really also struggling with following through on those things. So like, yes, I was getting the help and I was getting the kind of help that I think I really needed at that time. However, because I was also in that collapse kind of state, I wasn't able to like really work through it.

So a lot of the things that I was hoping to get done in season six or like kind of milestones to achieve or just like mile markers, in the structural reorganizing and such that I had hoped to work through in season six and have ready for season seven - didn't really happen. And then season seven, you'll hear about it in the next episode, I call it the Murphy's Law of a season. Everything that could go wrong did - that was season seven. So like, again, shit didn't happen that I was really hoping to, that is now happening in season eight, right? 

But I think it's so important to have that like season six, yes, the show was called PAUSE... The creative work was about pause and grief and loss and transformation. And I think for me that was like when art imitates life and life imitates art - season five and six kind of was that pause. It was a very chaotic pause, but it was a pause nonetheless, and it was that moment to slow down. And I mentioned the butterfly and we talk about in rehearsals, like the butterfly turning into goo, or I guess the caterpillar turning into goo, and season six kind of felt like that goo kind of felt like maybe the end stages of that goo. 'Cause I think I was still also working up because I was on my own kind of personal journey and growth and doing, you know, “the work”. I think it was still like, how am I showing up in this space and how am I showing up authentically when I'm not really sure who I am authentically anymore, right? And then there's also just the factor like navigating COVID as this like tiny ass company with tiny ass grant funding. You know, there's only so much that can happen, and because of all of that, I was really beginning to, I think this is part of me stepping into this entrepreneurial journey more fully. I really began to reorient myself to the work that Grey Box Collective was producing to the body of work that I was, you know, moving out into the world. And what it means in the context of, you know, capitalism, of the context of the various systems that we exist within in the US. And it was that summer - so summer 2022 I discovered Clarinda's work around the Matriarchy Business School and decolonizing business. And that was like, Clarinda, the way that she kind of set it up was like, this is the kind of work where like you need to get your affairs in order - and I was like, oh, my affairs are not in order. They are not even like close. But that, right? Like, so this journey of getting out of my own way and laying a foundation in season five and six allowed me to finally step into that work and reorient myself. And because of that, and this, like, when I think about reorienting, I think about how proximity changes to, to other people. Yes, but I think mostly about perspective shifts or like if we're facing one direction we just pivot ourselves to face a different direction. That to me is reorienting, and there is a certain amount of stillness to be like, oh, I want to change directions. And that's the misfired bow and arrow, right? And maybe it's actually not misfired. Maybe it was like a really happenstance, serendipitous kind of a thing of like, this is where I thought we were going. Someone taps me on the shoulder and I misfired in a different direction - sorry to keep using some violent language there, but yeah, like, the trajectory of the arrow was not where I thought it would end up. And reflecting back now that that's okay. In the moment I think I was holding on a little too tight to it, but yeah. 

So, yeah. And I'll kind of switch hats for a moment and bring in like that Somatic Movement Educator/Therapist lens that I also move through my professional life now with - and I mean, even when I was teaching at the colleges I would talk with students about this, like, getting out of our own way is so important. The wisdom that we hold is just like bottomless. If we allow ourselves to find it, feel it, see it, embody it, you know, embrace it. But like everything I think we've been taught, I mean, not everything - I think a lot of what we've been taught is how to get in our own way, right? I even think about how in school, did I talk about this, on this? I talked about this somewhere. In school, you know, you learn to, that, you learn that if you got your work done really efficiently then the teacher would give you more work. So you learned how to kind of stretch it out, you learned how to like dilly-dally a little bit so that you didn't get handed more work as a reward for doing the work that you were supposed to do in the first place. And I think that's kind of like the start of where we get in our own way, 'cause we learn how to cope, how to mitigate and avoid the things that we don't want. So much of this process is unlearning those things and yeah. Getting back to the wisdom that we hold. 

Yeah, I will leave it there. Thank you very much for your time and energy and thank you for listening to this, I greatly appreciate it. To check out dear listener, how are you doing? What are you thinking about? I hope that something clicked for you, I hope that something made sense. Yeah, let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to reach out through the various avenues of communication that we have available to you. Again, greatly appreciate your time and energy. I appreciate you being here, and until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.

Hey listener, thanks so much for listening to another episode of Any Other Anythings. Be sure to check out the show notes for links mentioned in the show as well as how to stay connected and learn more about Grey Box Collective. Thanks so much for your time and energy. Please take care of yourselves and each other.

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