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Finding Inspiration in the Mundane

by Alexandra Rasic on

I’m no Grinch! I do not self-identify in the slightest way with Scrooge. I love the holiday season (even glitter!), I love my job, and I love working with the public. But by the time the last official holiday program is over, my team and I are pretty fried. Some of us happily hold down the fort while others (smartly) take time off. A few of us left in the office find it hard to concentrate, let alone dive head first into 2014’s calendar—but programming never stops. It can’t.

So there I was on December 27, walking into our micro kitchen to make some much-needed coffee, when I saw it: a painting on our fridge that I’ve looked at hundreds of times, but this time found inspiring. It’s a watercolor painted by a very talented woman named June Kolbe Smith at least 10 years ago. It shows a corner of our very plain and simple Gallery: our podium, some pictures we use to introduce the site to visitors, and a potted plant.

A simple space transformed into a work of art.

June had attended a watercolor workshop at our museum, and for well over a year afterward, she’d pop in here and there, spending hours on her watercolors. She painted exterior views of our historic structures (from the north, south, east, and west!), our pond, trees, flowers, and the gate that surrounds our site. You name it, she painted it! And then she was gone. She stopped coming and we were left with her artwork. I kept thinking she might come back, so I saved her paintings. Fast forward to earlier this year when we were cleaning storage areas. Up pops the stack of June’s paintings. I saved each one without hesitation, except for the Gallery. I remember debating whether or not to keep it, and ultimately decided that it was too good for recycling, so I put it where a lot of prized artwork goes (at least for parents): the fridge.

So why, all of a sudden, did I find it inspiring? Because I was in the midst of doing some tedious things to get our team organized for the new year. We can’t escape tedious things, but we can approach them in a different manner. Sometimes things like quotes, pictures, drawings, chachkies, and yes, even watercolor paintings of the corners of rooms can help reenergize weary souls!  June took a mundane space and turned it into a beautiful work of art. How much am I overlooking by always working at such a rapid pace? June’s painting inspired me to slow down and to think of the things that are within my control that I can do differently to make juggling all the things we do a bit easier (such as setting aside more time for thoughtful planning and tweaking some target completion dates). How have you found inspiration when the going gets tough or when you’re feeling zapped? Do you have end-of-year or mid-year rituals? We’d love to hear about them.

June’s painting is now next to the master calendar in my office. Here’s wishing you a happy and productive 2014!

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The Homestead Museum's Tepee, a walkway, and courtyard as seen through the eyes of June Kolbe Smith.

The Homestead Museum’s Tepee, a walkway, and courtyard as seen through the eyes of June Kolbe Smith.

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