what’s your creative legacy?

I listen to a lot of NPR. Not as much as I would like – but a lot. Specially, I’m a member of WHYY in Philadelphia. This blog would not be nearly as interesing (and I sure hope it is interesting…) without them.

This afternoon, I caught a story about the new Renoir exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Really, what more can be said about Renoir? So instead, the story focused on the people setting up the exhibit: the art handlers. It is the job of an art handler to put up the exhibit with the utmost care, knowing that these works must be preserved for as long as possible. They are the legacy of a great, great painter.

Many of these art handlers are also artists. One compared handling the museum’s art to handling his own:

“You don’t really think of your own work as having to last an eternity,” says Griffin. “Most of us don’t think of it as a lifetime. But everything here, this is going to be in our collection forever.”

And it made me think: what have I created that I would handle with that kind of care?

Am I creating something that will represent me for eternity?

Whether you consider yourself an artist or a creative professional of another ilk: teacher, engineer, consultant, writer, academic, etc… I think there’s real value in considering if your everyday work has the potential for becoming your legacy. Do you create “average” things on a daily basis with the false hope that someday soon you’ll be able to create something truly remarkable? Remarkable doesn’t have to be world changing it just has to be one-life changing, even moment changing.

If your work creates a shift of consciousness, even for a moment, it might last forever in someone’s heart & mind. That’s your legacy.

{image: girl braiding her hair by renoir}

16 thoughts on “what’s your creative legacy?

  1. The timing of this post is perfect Tara. I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to things like legacy, heirloom, and lifetime items. It has been a shift of consciousness for me.

    Most of the journals I’ve been making, while made to last, will eventually be used up. I’m now developing some new lines of “lifetime” items such as refillable journal covers, and some other accessory pieces. A lot of time and great care goes into making these pieces. The thing that keeps me going is the happiness I feel knowing that someone will still be using this item in 25, 50… years. I love thinking that this one thing I took the time to make will become a part of who they are, and they will get comfort from using it.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    1. LOVE that you’re working on refillable journals. I think we’re moving towards a time in our society where heirlooms & really special things will be really important again.

      I’m sure your work will be a part of it!

  2. i sort of work from the opposite perspective with some of my art by creating functional works that can be recycled, repurposed or reused if my client so desires thereby extending and altering their legacy. i hope to elevate our perception of the usefulness of average and overlooked items and *hopefully* that will be my legacy.

    1. yes! I hope I made the point that your legacy doesn’t have to be a “thing.” Just so that you’re thinking about what idea or innovation you can bring to the world that changes someone else’s perspective in a meaningful way.

      Kudos to you!

  3. Great post as always Tara. I don’t always think about the legacy of my pieces (thought I am starting to think about how I can incorporate cradle to cradle thinking in my production line.)

    Where I really think about my creating legacy is when I teach. I love thinking about how I’ve changed my students perception, and I love the idea that some of my students will go on to be more successful than me. (In fact, that is my hope for all of my students – so that I can say, I was their teacher.) It may not be a physical legacy, but the emotional legacy means so much more to me.

    1. I think that’s my favorite part about teaching – and why I might like to pursue it a little more formally that I currently am. Your students stick with you and you with them. It’s a relationship that doesn’t fade with time – there will ALWAYS be what you taught them and it will always be a part of them!

      1. tara – one of the most important things i’ve learned about teaching is that you don’t have to be in a formal classroom to teach. i think you do a wonderful job of teaching through all your online venues.

        that said, there is something totally different and fun about teaching in a classroom!

  4. I know it is a very human concern that something of us lasts. There are many sympathy cards with verses that express how people “live on in our hearts”. Memories are as permanent as the people remembering. Objects are as permanent as they are intrinicially meaningful, so unless they are accompanied by notes or inscriptions or someone who is careful to establish an ongoing history, it might be a little touch and go as to something becoming a legacy. I think a measure of an authentic legacy is that is stands alone over generations without needing any explanations. If my take on the lives of legacy producing artists is somewhat accurate, they are never focused on the future, but rather the PROCESS. And would make art if they were the last person alive. What I process is stuff that by its very nature is temporary – cardboard boxes. I like to transform them into useful vessels that furnish a few moments of appreciation or wonder. For me, the future of a work is not the focus.

  5. The obvious answer for me is: my children. They won’t last for an eternity, but the values and lessons that I try to teach my children will (hopefully) percolate into their children and so on. In thinking about art – and sometimes a piece can feel like a child – I’ve recently switched mediums from fiber to glass and within glass more of a focus on using recycled materials, because I know that I leave a legacy not only of the art, but for the Earth. That goes back to that values and lessons doesn’t it?

  6. I seem to have chosen professions which attempt to create some kind of legacy due to the durability of the materials each one is executed in – first architecture and now jewellery – stone and metal seem pretty permanent – although it always amazes me how quickly nature begins to take over an abandoned building. I wonder if the explosion of text and images and ideas on the internet will be our collective legacy? Well, it will be until some pesky dandelion starts growing up inside the servers!

  7. Legacy is a constant consideration for me. My Dad died of a terrible illness when I was 5 and he was 28. All I ever had for his legacy is photographs and I believe that is why I became a photographer. I would stare at photos of him and create stories about our life together and I would dream about what it might have been like if he had lived. It was very difficult to get any stories about him from anyone so the photos kept him in the present for me. Who knew he would die so young. I think about my legacy and what I leave behind and I hope my photographs are part of that legacy as well as my amazing children

  8. My day job is actually working at a museum. We have a focus on state history but we also have a lot of visual arts, decorative arts, etc, in our collection, as well as costumes and textiles. I actually have an outfit/costume that I made for a local recycled fashion show competition last year that I plan to donate to the museum, and it was a little strange, fixing up the outfit as the curator asked so that it is more durable for long-term storage and preservation. Yes, obviously anytime I make something I want it to last a long time, but I found myself being even more delicate and careful with this piece, knowing what I do about the museum world and the long term preservation of objects. (Especially those as delicate as textiles.)

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