Edmunds, ‘Isms’ and Ideas to Ponder

If you’ve spent much time with Kristy Edmunds, our artistic and executive director, you’ve obviously witnessed first-hand her charm and eloquence. Put simply, lady has a way with words, you know? (Yeah, you know.)

This is why she’s often asked to speak on panels and at confabs and gatherings around the country, most recently yesterday morning delivering the keynote at New York Public Theater’s annual Under the Radar Festival.

You can watch the whole speech here.

She was her usual articulate and engaging self, but she shared a story I hadn’t heard from her before.

Working daily with Kristy, we get a front row seat to her rigorous mind, attention, curious nature and there are some sentiments and phrases that come to bear often in conversations with her. These are not glib catchphrases, or simply “isms,” though. They are things she repeats often because they are deeply held core values. They are integral to how she does what she does and how she seeks to impart and explain her process and ideas to others. If you’ve spent much time with her, you’ve likely heard her talk about “persistence of vision,” “integrity of purpose,” “expanding the fence line of the familiar” and an expressed commitment to providing “a safe harbor for unsafe ideas.”

One of the themes of her speech yesterday took another compelling ideological tack—“evidence of care.”

In the aforementioned story she shared with the New York theater maker audience, she spoke about a time in her youth in the Pacific Northwest, when she was taught how to properly pluck an apple from a tree—harvesting the ripe fruit but leaving behind exactly everything the tree would need to flower again. This is a clear and lovely metaphor, I think.

Obviously, when it came to apple-plucking, there was an endgame, an outcome at hand—get the apple.


(Image by Photo Dean)

But, also, the how of the getting the apple held as much import as the final goal. In fact, the how of it, was part of the final goal–the leaving behind an evidence of care that physically allows the tree to continue to bear fruit and thrive. I like metaphors, but I like this apple tree one in particular, because I often jokingly call Kristy’s approach to life and human contact “Johnny Appleseeding.” She plants seeds of thought and inspiration wherever she goes, so the apple imagery is especially appealing to me. (And is what inspired me to write this piece).

At any rate, this concept of evidence of care is increasingly important in the arts. So many times, a work, an idea, an artist is at a precarious place and it takes a cadre of individuals devoted to it to bring it to healthful and robust expression.

It also makes me think about something my yoga teacher often says: “How you do anything, is how you do everything.” And that’s not to say that you’re stuck because you typically do something a certain way. It means you can choose to show up for any given situation in a way that is abounding in care and intent. And your approach, your intent, can serve as template for how you choose to show up for all things. And that approach and intent not only serves the desired outcome, but serves a purpose in and of itself.

This apple-tree metaphor also makes me think of the idea that there are two ways to grow and thrive—you can seek to hive off a larger portion of any given pie/market/audience share/tree/etc for yourself alone, or you can seek to grow the pie or hearten the tree for everyone. It’s probably pretty clear which method we believe is most beneficial to a thriving arts economy and community.

And it’s community that helps us leave behind our greatest evidence of care.

We see evidence of care in our most passionate community, our members– and particularly our Board Members. Every time a CAP UCLA member shares an idea with us, shares a note with a friend about us, writes a check to us, attends a meeting, plans an event, hosts an artist in their home, attends a performance, they leave behind an evidence of care that keeps us thriving in so many ways.

I’m not sure you all know just how delighted we are to see your faces again and again at the performances. You bring yourselves to this place so often, and with such curiosity and attention, and we know we are not the only local purveyor and protector of arts that you care about or are passionate about. We know how often you are doubling up and tripling up on a performance weekend.

You are a big part of the larger footprint that we are attempting to create, deepen and leave behind in this city.  And we know you’re out there doing your own ‘Johnny Appleseeding’ on our behalf. It doesn’t go unnoticed even as we are basement-bound and furiously focused on our own specific patch of seedlings at any given moment.

It’s good to pause every now and then to think about not only what we are trying to accomplish together, each in our own particular ways, but also to appreciate how we’re all doing what we’re doing and be grateful for one another.

So as the New Year begins, we thank all our members and Board Members for the care they have already brought to this season and are looking forward to more to come.

Here also is a little more video fodder for Kristy-isms and ideas that help examine and how she does what she does and, by extension, how we all do what we do. Kristy has been serving as “Catalyst in Residence” for the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage in Philadelphia over the last year or so and participated in several conferences and events there.

Watch, listen, enjoy, share…and here’s to much much more to come.