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  • Writer's picturePatrice Drago

I’m back. Actually…I never left.

Hello all- I’m back, and it feels great!

Where was I? Right here. It’s just that here has looked a lot different these first three and half months of 2017.

Like many of you, I was deeply affected by the turmoil our country experienced throughout 2016 up to an including the election. I drafted about ten or eleven different posts to chime in with the chorus of dissonance and dissension. I felt like I had to speak out. I knew I had to add my voice. Words have always been my thing; my comfort zone, my safety net. I wrote and edited; and edited and wrote; never satisfied, I just couldn’t hit “publish”. In the long run it just didn’t feel like enough.

How could I make a difference?

For only a moment I wondered: Should I make a statement with my art? I’ve never used it as a vehicle for social or political messaging; other amazing artists do that so incredibly well. My mission is clear:  my art is rooted in the message of spreading beauty and love; no place for heaviness. Here and there I’ve created something that is a metaphor for the times. A few years ago, I created this painting, which I will now publish as a poster with this word in bold underneath: Welcome. Timely.

Welcome Poster, available June, 2017

One poster is not enough.

I consider myself a responsible citizen, always voting. Like so many of us, I took for granted that the American way of life I know and love would never be in jeopardy. It was becoming increasingly clear that may not be true, and simply voting just isn’t enough.

Since high school, I have been on the periphery of politics in one way or another, starting with working for the Governor of Maine and a special agency of the Governor’ office. My brother-in-law was in politics in Washington for many years and Congressional politics and players became a part of my life and I always found it exciting. Originally, I went off to college to be a political journalist. (Yes – I took a major detour!)

I’ve done a lot in my life; always seeking balance between making a difference and having fun.  I was blessed to have an amazing career with Marriott International (a natural transition from a childhood of growing up in hotels).   It was exciting; I/they were always upping the game for me. It was rewarding, because I kept moving into positions that gave me purpose. I moved around the organization, gained certifications, knowledge and skills that are invaluable, allowing me to use those skills to make the work-lives of employees more enjoyable, and create a better experience for customers. I went from a single hotel to a regional capacity to North America and ultimately worked on projects that affected the employees and customers worldwide. I traveled, met lifelong friends and had a blast.  A dream career. Most importantly, I felt what I did mattered.

Throughout it all, my art sustained me, and kept calling to me. Painting or drawing since I was 14, it had always taken second place. Eventually, my painting hours increased, and I gradually reduced my corporate hours with Marriott and other consultant work. Which brings me to now: for about five years I have been in the art world full-time, giving 100% of myself as an artist, curator, arts journalist, serving on Boards of Directors for arts organizations; hopefully making a difference creating art, sharing beauty, helping expand art in the community and instigating discussions about the value of art. I love what I do.

So how do I do more without giving up my dream? The thought crossed my mind: Should I consider at some point in the future running for office? Where do I begin?

One conversation with a friend led to an amazing opportunity.  In December, I was exceptionally blessed and lucky enough to become the Legislative Aide to a Maryland Delegate (Representative); Delegate Ned Carey from Brooklyn Park, District 31A. (One of the good guys – the best.) Part-time for 9 months, and full-time for 3, a perfect job that allows me to continue my existing art/writing schedule…though with considerably less sleep!

From January 10 until midnight April 11, I worked full-time in Delegate Carey’s office, coordinating his schedule, communicating with his constituents, managing two interns, helping with his legislation and even testifying on his behalf in committee hearings… all while working in studio on painting commissions, hanging a small show and a large solo show (now on display at Annapolis City Hall), teaching, writing my column and fulfilling my other journalistic responsibilities. My car died – for good. And when my dog got sick (she’s fine now), the thing I had to let fall away was social media. Overall, I had to ask for a few concessions from my friends, and for the most part everyone was accommodating. Bless you!

My view of “Sine Die” – Midnight, April 11 in the House of Delegates… Confetti & Cheers!

I made it.

There were moments I didn’t think I would last another day.  Getting up to go to work for someone else was something I never thought I would do again, and it was a sharp adjustment. The whole dead-car, borrowed-car, new-car scenario is a story for a post all by itself. What kept me going was that I found the General Assembly process interesting. Very.

I helped. In this crazy, political environment, I helped. A teeny, tiny bit, but it was action and not just words. I plan to continue. For now, we get a breather from the crazy pace of session and turn back to focusing on assisting constituents. I go to part-time in his office, which allows me to continue painting and writing at a less crazy pace. A huge relief; I’ve missed the blissful cushions on either side of production – the tandems and detours that feed my creative soul and lead me to a new artistic discovery.

So now what?  

Painting and writing are front and center once again, and will always be.  I have some commissions coming up and I’m excited. But… I learned a lot. Stay tuned for the next post and I will let you in on some surprises and what lies ahead.

Thanks for staying with me, and I’ll be back in touch very soon – now that I have a few minutes to breathe, I plan to do weekly posts.

Happy spring!!

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