Is this award for me?... Seriously?
This summer, I received an award. It’s from the Tanne Foundation. The foundation identifies artists and supports them with the award. It’s been extraordinary and a bit surreal to receive this. The foundation does not accept applications. You cannot apply for this award.
Along with the award came a handwritten letter from the trustee of the foundation. When I read this letter, tears filled my eyes. I could not finish reading it because I was getting choked up. Marcia, my wife, and Grace, my daughter were there to finish reading the letter for me. It included these words.
Art extracts a price. It demands that you open yourself, listen, see, be both adventurous and willing to fail. It asks that you venture towards what is not known, but is there and to reveal it to the community which needs to know but is not able to make the journey. Art extracts a price from the artists. One’s personal life, family life, home and income pay the price…..
In recognition for your achievement and dedication as an artist, the Tanne Foundation is pleased to award.you...
Two thoughts came to my mind as I read this letter.
The first is how the trustee wrote about the need to be vulnerable. “ Art demands that you be adventurous and willing to fail,” he said. He talked about the price art extracts on the artist. For me, this was notable because I have always seen this type of vulnerability as necessary in clowning. As a clown, I must be vulnerable and open to change. I have to be willing to take a risk and sometimes fail. Some of my favorite moments performing as a clown have been when I’ve done just that. Fail. And when I fail. It’s important to let that failure affect me and to share that vulnerability with the audience. I wrote about this in a blog post here in a previous post called “Put on Sinatra and start to cry.”
The second thing that came to mind after reading the letter was about being “good enough.” I striving to be better. This desire to always do better sometimes morphs into a feeling of not being worthy. So there I was holding this letter with an announcement of an award which I didn’t ask for… and my first thought was … I am not worthy. I don’t deserve this. I asked myself, “Do I belong in this group of artists who have received this award”? Since I’ve received this award, I’ve received many notes of congratulations from friends and associates. However, there always seem to be a lingering feeling in my mind that I am not worthy. I noticed that feeling when I read one of the emails I had exchanged with Vincent Murphy. He is on the board of the Tanne Foundation. He is responsible me for receiving this award. He closed one of our email exchanges with three simple words. Words which were hard for me to read. he wrote, “You deserve it.”