Today’s interview is with Sherry Truitt. She may not know it, but I consider her to be a mentor of sorts. Her calm and reasoned demeanor resonates in matters both personal and professional. She has been an artist for many years doing fine art and production work. She comes from a family that reveres craft, but her path to the full-time art world was circuitous – she began as a social worker. (I remember relating to her story as my own path began in education.)
I asked her how her creative life has changed in light of recent events, and her thoughts on the role creative professionals play in times of crisis.
As a social worker, I ran employment and training under two different mayors in Philadelphia until my heart wasn’t in it anymore. It was when our little boy came into our lives. Change had come.
Paradigm shifts usually happen to individuals. Even when there is a collective tragedy, people respond in vastly different ways. My first shift was when we traveled to El Salvador to adopt our son. The war had just ended and it was a week of sleepless nights and no electricity, men with Ak-47’s on every corner, and visits to the American Embassy whose top three floors had been blown off. That the three of us got home safely still makes me shudder two decades later.
Those experiences, whether I realized it at the time, have prepared me for anything that will come my way. I can never unsee those images, but they define how I think and dream and act.
So, while I see the current world and what has happened, I am not acting much differently. Creatively, I have always had a studio with two diverse objectives. I designed a production line, custom and handmade, for special occasion gift giving. I also have an original creative side, work I do not always show or sell publicly. I am just beginning to step out with this work as the other side wanes. I have no idea what it will look like a year from now.
While the production side sometimes makes me weary, it pays the bills and allows my husband and I to support amazing organizations. We are currently working with Together Rising to provide lunches that 22 million kids used to get in public school. For some, it was their only meal of the day. And always, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We couldn’t do this otherwise.
In the midst of this great worldwide epidemic, I hope for change, but my anger is swelling. It brings to light the inequalities in income, opportunities, lack of leadership and compassion. Then, I remember, I am just one person. A drop in the bucket of change has a ripple effect. It’s what I count on and what gets me going every day.”– Sherry Truitt