The following is a personal letter I shared today with the Bleeding Heart Art Space community – a non-musical endeavour I've pursued for over a decade. Until now.
I have big, exciting, and difficult news for you today.
And the end of June, I will be leaving Bleeding Heart Art Space and my position with St. Faith’s Anglican Church as Arts Chaplain. I will step back for at least a year. I may then have the time, capacity and desire to return, but those decisions are for another time and context.
Today, I need to rest, recharge and refocus. I’ll be putting more energy into growing my music career and being good to my family. I’ll also be looking for some part time work that I can disconnect from when I go home.
For those who don’t know me, I founded Bleeding Heart Art Space (with a great team) and I’ve worn pretty much every hat at some time (I don’t look good in hats). Bleeding Heart grew from a smaller project called “I Love Artists” that I began in 2009. By then I’d been working and dreaming to weave together art and faith for years. I’ve done all this for over a decade for little or no pay and without a break. I’m starting to crack under the slow steady thud of pressure a project like this can put on a person’s head and heart.
Last year I began to lose excitement and focus toward the project. I wanted to give our team a version of myself that I could no longer summon. It is disorienting to feel your passion draining for something you’ve given so much of your life to for so long, but this was happening to me. If I didn’t change something, I’d burn out. Maybe I already had.
Last summer I made myself and my family a promise. If things did not change within the structure of Bleeding Heart Art Space so that I could be involved without being a leader, I would step down. I gave myself a year to work towards that goal.
Today, the heart of it is this; I’m tired and I may be in the way.
To survive and thrive, Bleeding Heart Art Space must be a team-led, community-driven, supporter-funded movement disconnected from any one person.
Over this past year, as so many years before, I’ve spent many Saturdays wondering who is going to open up our gallery or if we have enough volunteers to run a shift. I’ve run to Home Depot. I’ve cleaned up after events and I’ve painted walls. I’ve picked up printing and designed marketing. I’ve run to Canadian Tire. I’ve run websites and manned social media accounts. I’ve tried to support people well.
I have not done all of these things equally well, and the thing I’ve been least adept at is passing responsibilities on to others. It’s not for lack of trying, but so long as I’m around the ball seems to roll back to my feet.
There’s a history with me and this Space that I cannot ‘reset’ in any other way than by my departure, so I’m stepping aside. I trust that this will lead Bleeding Heart toward new strength, new ideas, new life, and growth.
I have hope.
Over the past year, Pam Baergen has spread her wings as our Artistic Director, taking us in directions I could not have.
Gou has taken on art administration with a steadfastness that’s hard to match. Mandy and Jennifer have been shining with hospitality. Heather has brought us workshops and a stellar retreat. Travis has dreamed with us and brought us into the larger family of St. Faith’s Anglican Church and the Edmonton Diocese. Julie has led spiritual seekers through art-fuelled meditations. Jim has signed, sealed and delivered our cheques. Ruth has given her wisdom and passion where she could. So many donors continue to give periodically and regularly to pay our bills. There are still so many good people at Bleeding Heart Art Space.
I’m so grateful to everyone who continues to contribute to this project, and for those who have pursued other goals since. Recently, Wenda, Lucille, Ashley, Bridget and Janae shored up parts of the project before moving on. Grace made so much of what we do with visual artists possible.
Thanks to these good people, I don’t leave with any negativity towards this project. Everyone I’ve shared this decision with has been overwhelmingly supportive and I feel cared for.
Bleeding Heart Art Space is a space our city and even our nation needs. I’ve done the research to know how rare the ground is where art and faith dance. This is a vital dream, and I am not the only dreamer.
Since we came together as Bleeding Heart Art Space in late 2011, we’ve existed in many forms, from pop-ups to a few different physical locations, with two different church families offering support and oversight. Bleeding Heart Art Space has a past and I believe it has a future.
As Bleeding Heart Art Space continues, my hope is for those in leadership to feel freed to spread their wings and those ‘waiting in the wings’ to step up and join them.
Perhaps you’d like to be part of that future?
Dave Von Bieker
Arts-Chaplain-for-one-more-month, Bleeding Heart Art Space