BWW Blog: Living With Artists
Whether you came into college with someone you know or let your university work their roommate matchmaker magic, odds are you are living amongst people with a lifestyle and interests similar to your own. Going into my third year of college, I opted for a random roommate in an on-campus apartment. When I got my roommate assignment, I stared in total disbelief at my computer screen: my "random roomie" was my good friend Kate, who happens to be my co-editor at our university news publication. I immediately snatched my phone off my bed and called her, rambling in absolute jibberish the second she picked up about how she needed to check her email. Before she could even open the email, I blurted out, "WE'RE ROOMMATES," and for the next three weeks until move in, we couldn't wait to decorate our little apartment. Kate is an art major, a photographer, and a writer, and if I'm being completely honest, I've never lived with another artist before. I love it, but I know many of my other friends have not been so lucky, and I believe that living with artists is a delicate balance rooted in respecting the creative space of the other individual.
Here's the thing: sometimes the most creative minds have the most untidy of living spaces. Fortunately, Kate and I both enjoy having clean living spaces, but she always jokingly warns me, "it looks clean now, but just wait until I have to paint something for a class and bust out the newspaper and acrylics!" But that's precisely it for artists: in order to create, everyone has to be in a different headspace as well as physical space. For a painter, they will need to have their supplies spread out, while a singer may only have their sheet music neatly stacked in a perfect, pretty pile. Everyone is different, so before you walk into your dorm room and roll your eyes at the art supplies on the floor, think about what their art may require of them in their own personal living space. Also take into consideration that most artists are not granted the space that they need to create, especially in college. If they're in a studio class and are given opportunities to paint or draw or sculpt daily, they still probably only have a small space deemed "theirs," still surrounded by the watchful eyes of their classmates. If they're studying theater, they may not get a chance to go over their monologue in private during class, and they may not have access to rehearsal spaces on-campus. If you and your roommate have serious issues, it's always better to talk it out instead of leaving resentment to fester and grow out of control, but I'd encourage first taking a walk in their shoes and considering what may be necessary for them in order to keep creating.
Sometimes creative space is not a physical space, but instead, a state of mind. I know that many days, I come home mentally exhausted from my 8am acting course, and what gives me the energy to recharge and continue on through my day is popping in my headphones, turning on some good music, and enjoying a cup of coffee on the couch for 5-10 minutes before going through my daily to-do's. Sometimes my art form will put me in an exhausted state, and even as an extrovert, I enjoy that time on my own. It's important to recognize that sometimes your roommates will need their space when their art form is draining. It definitely comes with time, but understanding the person you're living with and how their art affects them will help both of you understand how to best support each other.
Living with another artist had been one of the best experiences for me. Kate and I edit each other's articles and projects, bounce ideas off of each other, and occasionally lament about the trivial struggles of being freelancing artists. When I told her I needed a photo for my article this week, she immediately busted out her art supplies and staged the photo you see above. We giggle over nutty professors and share our ridiculous homework assignments, but most importantly, Kate has never made me feel like a weird artsy girl while living with her; she gets what being a student in the arts is like. I thoroughly believe that the key to living with artists is respecting their creative space, and with that understanding, you can coexist in an environment that enhances the creativity in each of you. So even if there are days that I will walk in the apartment and see the floor littered with newspaper and acrylic paints, I know I will smile knowing Kate is probably creating something truly incredible.