July 10, 2015
the round table
Last Friday, I have been invited to attend a pretty interesting meeting. The round table on culture and inclusion at the office of the Federal Government Representative for Culture and Media. Sounds already impressive, right? And believe me, that has been exactly, how it felt like.
A couple of weeks ago, a colleague had sent me a note about such a meeting, basically saying, they were looking for artists with a disability. Usually this disabled thing isn't something, I would put my main focus on. It is simply one of the many different pieces, of the person that I am. No more, no less. And so, I went thinking about the note for several days, not sure if it would be right to jump in or rather stay in the studio and paint. The husband finally pushed me over the edge, reminding me how often I had been angry lately, about politics and especially about the way Germany is not handling the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities very well. To be honest, we might have to say, my country hasn't handled them at all.
So, finally I've decided to give it a chance and sent out an email.
Only minutes later, the phone rang and a nice lady told me, they would be very pleased to welcome me at their table. I was pretty thrilled, when minutes later, I was starting to regret my move forward. During the following conversation with that lady, it occured to me, how difficult the meeting would going to be. Many different perspectives, even more opinions, let alone interests about money and funds. It wasn't at all like I would meet twenty people with a broad smile on their face. Some of them even believed, the idea to actually include artists with a disability, would lower the professional level and could end in sobby stories alone.
You've probably guessed, I was infuriated, as who else could be the most perfect expert, but the people who live the life of an artist with a disability. And what did they mean, with less professional after all? I couldn't believe what I had to listen to. And I was very close to chicken out. Very close.
After another two days and even more complicated positions made clear, this time in form of quite insulting emails, I was finally able to let it go. And surprisingly, to find a calm spot to focus on. None of them knew me yet, I didn't know them either. It would have been just plain silly to come up with a final verdict, without at least trying to convince them otherwhise and to tell them what I had to say.
When Friday arrived, I was all fine. It was incredibly hot that day, which appeared to be much more of a hustle then anything else. Therefore I did concentrate on enough water, on fruits in my bag and I did enjoy the ride to the meeting, with the windows of my brown beast rolled down. Listening to loud music. When I've arrived at the place, the first thing I did find out, and hey we're talking government building, they didn't have a disability parking spot (they'll get one now. strike!), but the atmosphere, when finally entering the conference room, was really friendly and nice. Everybody personally greeted one another with a hand shake and we took place around an endless table, after sharing water and pouring coffee for each other. That kind of atmosphere.
You would have probably laughed a little, when I did start talking during the short round of introduction: "My name is Annton Beate Schmidt, I am a fine artist with no institutionell background. And I am here for myself." (Most of the others came from huge organisations, from political parties, universities or charity clubs. And apart from me, there really was only one other artist with a disability). The people around me at least did, they'd looked up in short astonishment. I might have sounded a bit funny, but it helped to gain all the confindence that was needed and to make it absolutely clear, from where I was coming from. From that moment on, I felt totally free to say whatever came into my mind, I took a stand on all the positions I believed to be important, even respectfully argued with the government representatives.
Something really important had clicked in my the back of my mind suddenly, something I've always had known rationally, but this time I did actually feel it as well; it was absolutely not important how I would appear or what the others might think about me, as long as it felt, like I was sticking to the person that I am and as long as I would keep things authentic. That and no other rule was there to follow.
And tell you what, at the end of the day, I was invited to become an official member of the round table from now on. How is that for a reward?!
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