#ValleyArtsDistrict10 : The Kick-Off

I wanted to give myself time to write about the celebration ceremonies for #ValleyArtsDistrict10. I wanted to talk about the day’s event in a way I have not done before.

Last Thursday, May 14th was a celebration of the work Pat Morrissy, Richard Bryant and the vast amount of special and dedicated individuals have done in the community of the Valley Arts District.

I watched as we kicked-off the tenth anniversary year of the district with not one but two groundbreakings (The Powerhouse and the Valley Arts Creative Co-op), and a building dedication (Kelli Copeland Artist Lofts).

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I made sure to take lots of photos and videos of the remarks given by Elliott Lee (chair of HANDS board of directors), Dwayne Warren (City of Orange mayor), and more “important” people affiliated with the community. I noticed my hand could not stop shaking.

I was feeling a complex mix of emotions, I can not exactly identify them but it began to become overwhelming. I looked around at everyone and wondered if anyone might be feeling remotely close to how I feel. I thought of another time I felt this way.

It was 2012, I sat in a staff meeting listening to the HANDS’ staff discussing progress on project and real estate developments in the neighborhood. I was in the second half of my AmeriCorps VISTA year, brimming with inspiration.

At this point I had come to work at HANDS, Inc. in Orange, New Jersey , a lost post undergraduate at 21 years old. I always wanted to live and work in a creative environment but did not know what my calling was or what exactly I was supposed to do. I did not ever consider myself an artist, or a creative.

However, I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of something developing, and for me a New Yorker it was something completely new. I could actually play a role, I was seeing it all happening. I felt so lucky.

My VISTA year was coming to an end soon, I know I can take the train to the Valley anytime, but I was being haunted by the question, “where do I fit?”

As the staff meeting progressed I continued to doodle to release some of my anxiety. I looked around the room at faces of seemingly professionals. I wondered what it took for adults to find a “real job” and feel established. At the time I had no idea the journey I had ahead of me, one that I have learned most people are on for most of their lives.

I looked on around the small conference room walls at glossy designs of past, present, and current HANDS projects. My gaze brought me back to Pat Morrissy.

At that moment I felt a tremendous sense of admiration for him, HANDS as a whole and everyone involved at that point in the community, working towards the mission of the Valley Arts District.

Without thinking (like most of my doodles during those staff meetings) I wrote on the top of my notebook page the following phrase, “it all starts with a vision.” At that moment is when I felt the feeling I mentioned before, I almost wanted to leave the room. I felt like I was about to explode. I was completely detached from the meeting, I had no idea what Andrew, Derrick, Robin, Jessica, Molly and Pat were saying.


Now fast forward to Thursday, May 14th, I am standing in between two other twenty-somethings Courtney and Rachel who also volunteered with AmeriCorps at HANDS, Inc. Courtney, the current VISTA, and Rachel was at HANDS before Michelle who was before me. We stood in the beautiful outdoor space in between the Kelli Copeland Lofts, and ValleyArts Creative Co-op. What was once sketches on the wall was now right here.

This is real life.

I made sure to hold my phone as steady as possible as while Richard Bryant took the microphone, knowing he was going to say something memorable. I tuned back into to his speech and at that moment he called all of the artists that work with one or more local organization and live in this neighborhood to the front.

This was one of the first times is this community where I did not have to question whether or not I was meant to take the stage and feel genuinely proud and secure. I beamed with pride and casually smiled for the cameras. I am so glad I chose to wear a cute outfit today.

I have gone to a many of community events but today was different. This day symbolized what I have coined this recent chapter of the Valley, “the tipping point”. Which once agains leads me to ultimate question, “where do I fit?”

This time I used the ball of anxiety the lack of answering gave me, to motivate me, and re energize me. Unlike my 21 year old self I was a tad bit closer to figuring it out. In the last three and half years I have moved from the Bronx to the Valley (twice), became an artist-in-residence at ORNG Ink (Ironworks Gallery), work at Hat City Kitchen, and started a little thing called Masconsumption.

The day’s events was a celebration of the past, present and future. RIP Kelli Copeland, continue to watch over our community as we push towards 10 more.

Written by P.R.
editor, creator of Masconsumption

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