Category Archives: Writing

Re-treat the Voice of the Artist

Photo Courtesy of MasterDabblers

By Glendalys Medina

Retreats can take many forms, so I ask myself what are they essentially? Aren’t they just structured moments to allow the flash of inspiration to strike? All of us need time alone for reflection. To ask ourselves such questions as ‘Who am I? What do I want? What does this mean?’ and ‘How am I going to achieve my dreams?’ We all seek our inner being, whose voice can be easily drowned out if not cultivated. To keep in touch I have learned to slow–down, to think and listen before I speak, to keep a close eye on what I let out into the universe. A mind with mental clarity and focus is a powerful tool, so it can only help to learn to control it right?

So let me ask you this, have you ever been creatively stuck, emotionally stuck, mentally stuck or any type of stuck? If you are alive then the answer to this question I assume is yes. Life is a beautiful adventure and the best adventures have great challenges. One must collect an arsenal of tools to overcome these challenges and reach the mountain of inner stillness, to become the vehicle of purposeful creation. I write this post today to share with you a tool that came to me when I was all of the above STUCK. The tool is simply silence.


This practice was introduced to me by Jessica Kung Dreyfus and Stephane Dreyfus in late 2012 while I was a visual arts fellow at the American Academy in Rome. I was in my 4th month of an 11-month residency and I hadn’t made a thing. I was completely overwhelmed and emotionally and mentally exhausted. I had all this time and space and inspiration was on a vacation. I couldn’t hear myself and I craved solitude. So I gave it to myself and with written instructions from Jessica and Stephane I went on a silent retreat for four days in my very own studio at the Academy. I kept a schedule, gave myself some basic tools to make artwork, had meals brought to me, said no to my computer and started playing. In those four days I learned a lot about myself, I felt completely free and energized, everything calmed down and I began a completely new body of work that I am still working on today. Inspiration finally struck!


Glendalys Medina “Alphabet Series: #6 of 26, (F)” Pencil and marker on paper. 126cm x 172cm 2013

Since then MasterDabblers has been working with Jessica Kung Dreyfus and Stephane Dreyfus to bring and share with you this transformative gift called ‘Unspoken’. ‘Unspoken’ is a silent retreat-in-box that contains everything you need to begin your retreat today.  I must tell you that this practice has been a godsend and has become a frequently used tool in my arsenal. So, if you are in need of this priceless gift today or you want to arm yourself for the next rainy day  please visit


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Artist as Entrepreneur: Conversation with Betsy McDermott Altheimer

Betsy AMcD ltheimer

This week MD chats with Betsy McDermott Altheimer, writer, visual artist, collaborator and strategic advisor about having a supportive professional network that lets your creative practice thrive. Through her consulting business Table Fort she catalyzes transformational change in individuals and works to shape vital, responsive, healthy organizations and communities. She has worked at Springboard for the ArtsIntermedia ArtsMilwaukee Symphony OrchestraLight House Youth MediaThomas Jefferson FoundationLoft Literary Center, and as a freelance consultant for education, design, art and health organizations. Table Fort is based in Minneapolis but highly portable. Right now, it is set up on a hill overlooking the city of Rome, Italy.

What is Table Fort?

Table Fort is consulting and strategy for creative visionaries and creative leaders. Some of the things my clients call themselves include Executive Director, Artistic Director, designer, CEO, innovator, academic, media producer, artist, creative entrepreneur, cultural manager and changemaker. Most people I support are in the midst of radical transformation, personally or professionally. I help people find the right tools and processes to thrive through their change and work with them to pause and refocus before the next big push.

How does it work?

It works just like throwing a blanket over a table: we make room for imagination, collaboration and possibility. We do this through strategy sessions – in person or on Skype – where I help clients clarify their purpose, map and strengthen their networks, do deep research, develop new language, clear debris and create the optimal environment for change. Usually I work with clients between 3 months and 3 years, depending on the scope of the project and how much support they need.

What made you want to start it?

For the last 15 years I have been in development for the arts and creative projects. Development in this sense usually means fundraising – but I take the largest definition of the word – which means GROWTH. Brain development, personal development, organizational development, community development, relationship development, leadership development, fund development, developing confidence and momentum.

I see a lot of the best creative leaders doubting themselves or burning out because their leadership approach doesn’t fit the traditional model of ‘lone genius’. They are collaborative, lead by mentoring and serving others.  These efforts need illumination and support. I help them develop resources and get recognition for what they’ve done.

I’m really interested in networks, complexity and emergence. If you zoom out and see the much larger system you are operating within, it is easier to see where exactly to exert effort to get the maximum return. Often the tiniest adjustments in language and positioning make things flow more fluidly.

What are the popular issues your clients deal with when they come to you?

Most creative leaders push themselves too hard – whether they are running an organization, managing a team or launching projects. The biggest thing they struggle with is learning when to let things go. We get very attached to roles, projects and identities that no longer serve us. Creatives need time and outside perspective to both recognize their accomplishments and honor their failures. I love helping people design a way of working and being that connects them with real joy.

How do you determine if a client is the right fit for you?

Usually people find me when they are right on the brink of major change. They are considering a major launch or a new direction that involves great risk. Their organization is shrinking, growing or reinventing. They are considering a job change or want to become entrepreneurs, start their own projects or step into leadership positions. I know they are right for me when they say: “I’m not sure I’m ready for this” but I can actually sense their heart learning towards it.  I know that I am right for them when I can see a clear pattern of next steps – like dominoes all lined up – and I know all we need to do is flick the first one and then watch it go.

Photo courtesy of Betsy McDermott Altheimer

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