Tuesday, July 6, 2010

From Point A to Point Beyond...

"…there are no organic transitions, only edits. The idea of A becoming B, rather than A jumping to B, has become foreign."

Esa-Pekka Salonen

Though Salonen was talking about transitions in music, this quote also resonates in a larger context. The problem is that in life, some transitions, even ones we should be prepared for (where "A becomes B"), are extremely hard to understand, interpret, and read meaning into.

I recently wrote about three important arts administrators who had decided to retire (with at least two more that I know of in the coming year) signaling a huge generational shift in arts management. But in the past week we have lost two people whose passion for life, for their family, and for their community touched all of us at the Arts Council.

Mary Prior was a fighter; a truly engaged community activist who loved her Danville community with all the fire and brimstone she could muster (and, boy, could she ever muster!). I knew her initially as the proprietor of the Danville Historical Society, and a very committed member of the local arts review committee that oversaw the Danville Route 2 transportation enhancement plan. For the past five or six years, however, she became more and more aware of the Transportation Agency’s inability to break ground on this award-winning project, and instead of getting depressed and throwing in the towel, she’d call me up to strategize as to what other political tack we could take.

About a year ago she told me she was dying and probably would not see the Danville Project through to completion. She made me promise not to compromise, not to forget that a really great group of people put together a great plan back in 2000, and not to waver in my commitment to see it through to completion.

Craig Byrne was a different kind of community activist. I didn’t know him as well or for as long as I knew Mary, but it was clear from our first conversation, that here was a man cut from a different sort of cloth. It was through his constant but gentle reasoning that our collaboration with Lyman Orton and Janice Izzi around the Art of Action got off the ground and became what it is today.

Where Mary might use facts fearlessly to make her case in Danville, Craig would use persuasion and humor. Where Mary might cut right to the chase, telling one and all what needed to be done and what her strongly-held opinions were, Craig was full of empathy and willing to listen completely to all the viewpoints around the table before helping us all to reach consensus about how to move forward.

I don’t believe Craig and Mary ever met each other. But wherever they are now, if they discover each other and compare notes, I imagine them coming to consensus (thanks to Craig) that Mary was someone who liked A to jump to B, while Craig liked A to “become” B.

In the end, and in their own way, they were a pleasure to work with. On behalf of everyone at the Arts Council staff who worked with them in one way or another, I send my thoughts and prayers out to Mary’s and Craig’s families. These are two transitions that will be hard to get used to.

Requiescant in pace

No comments: