Our Life in The Arts

Questions, reality, and musings on a life of joy and wonder

Vol. 2, No. 10

October 14, 2022


By Rich Holly

Readers of my posts know that I often find a way to work the subject of mental health into my musings. I firmly believe that the medical establishment and societal norms placed little to no emphasis on mental health for far too many decades/centuries, and we’re just now starting to come to grips with how important it is.

As artists, not only do we have our own nourishment needs, but it also behooves us to provide nourishment to others through both our artistry as well as our daily actions and interactions. As a performer, I get great nourishment from audience members, and vice-versa. And there are other relationships I get great nourishment from, as well.

Rich getting nourishment from the audience. Photo credit: Oliver White.

One of the reasons I moved from full-time professorship into full-time administration was because I realized I was getting extreme joy from watching students and my colleagues attain their goals. As an administrator, I could (and do) make decisions and take actions that would allow more students, faculty, and staff members to attain their goals than I could as a faculty member. My actions nourish them, and their goal attainment nourishes me.

Of course, nourishment also includes our eating habits. I know a few people who can eat anything they choose, and they stay healthy year in and year out. My genetics didn’t allow for that. I was sent home from school 2-3 days a week in elementary school for upset stomach, had an ulcer at age 9, have been on several medications and doctor-prescribed diets over the years, have had a sizeable handful of surgeries and procedures on my digestive tract, and so on. Finally, after many years of experimenting and following doctors’ orders, about ten years ago I hit on a way to eat that has greatly reduced this distress. Some of you may be in a similar position, and I urge you to not give up – keep working to find what way of eating makes you feel the best and keeps you the healthiest.

But, back to artistry: What is it that nourishes you, so that you can be inspired to continue creating, to continue honing your craft, to continue seeking new dimensions for your artistic media? I suspect that any artist at just about any age can name a few of these things. Yet I’ll encourage you to give this great and deeper thought, with the hope that you can list several items and use that list to remind yourself to seek out those nourishing moments/events as often as possible.

And how often do you reach outside of your comfort zone? It’s fine if you experience something and don’t enjoy it: that’s good information (to know you should never spend your hard-earned money on that kind of experience again!). But I also suspect you’ll come across some if not many new experiences that provide nourishment to you, making your list even longer.

I’m a huge fan of breaking tasks down into small chunks. In too many cases, looking at and thinking about the totality of the task in front of you only leads to anxiety. But what is the smallest, simplest step you can take to get started? Once that’s complete, reward yourself by stretching, a short walk, a few sips of a favorite beverage, a minute of a favorite piece of music, or even just a smile on your face. Then, what small part of the task can you tackle next? Numerous rewards of this nature to yourself daily will provide you with your own nourishment, which I maintain will lead to you having better ability to provide nourishment and to accept it from others.

In most cases, being an artist isn’t what we do, it’s who we are. We MUST continue to create and evolve as artists in order to feed our souls. Whether it’s edible food or food for the soul, make sure you’re getting all the nourishment you need to be successful at those endeavors, and remember – the more you nourish others, the more you get in return.

Rich Holly serves Arts NC State and the NC State University community as the Executive Director for the Arts.

All posts in the “Our Life in the Arts” series are available here.