We had the good fortune of connecting with Sherry Broyles and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sherry, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
This is such a great question. In the larger picture, everything proactive we do carries risk. The risk of failure, of rejection, of loss. But it is taking risks that keeps life vital, and that includes being open to all kinds of outcomes. It’s a dance of sorts, weighing risks and rewards. In terms of starting Inside Out Studio, I was investing my own funds in the project, and was also doing something for which I was technically unprepared. I had never worked with people with disabilities, nor had I worked in a business environment, much less started a business myself. However, I knew I wanted to create and work in a space that involved people who lived on the margins, because I find members of those populations the most interesting. This is in part because people with special needs live with risk in a very tangible way, and this fact tends to lessen the practice of pretense in a working environment. In terms of our day to day operations, we are very deliberately inviting people into an environment that is not only more accepting than the average social setting, but is also more challenging. We do not tell our artists what to draw or paint or build, we do everything we can to discover and nurture each person’s own artistic vision. We are asking them to that risk, and supporting them through that process. So we have to stay on our toes, to create our own definition of “success,” even if that means embracing an unexpected outcome. We joke about the value of creating “bad” art in terms the overall process of creativity. This is fascinating and rewarding work.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My professional life and career does not fall neatly into any of these categories. I have an undergraduate degree in Fine Art from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a J.D. in Law from Vanderbilt University. I have been in and out of practicing art throughout my life, have had my own art studio in the past, and have practiced on the fringes of the legal field. The most vital part of my life’s work has been raising a child and creating a home, something which a lot of women do not have the luxury to do. My legal background has been very helpful in setting up a 501(c)(3) and in navigating the grant application process. I have also been socially and politically active, and I consider Inside Out to be an extension of my creative life as well as a manifestation of my desire to further social justice.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would definitely take them to Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment, where our studio is located. It is a huge facility located in a refurbished cotton mill which was purchased by a local visionary and philanthropist for this purpose. We would also visit a number of coffee shops (shoutout to Gold Sprint) as well as my favorite local brewery, Yellowhammer. Huntsville is growing so fast that I find it impossible to keep up with all the art, music, and theater happenings, but I’m sure we could find some interesting events.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
We model ourselves after Creative Growth, the largest studio of its kind in the world. It is located in Oakland, California, and serves some 150 artists. Creative Growth has been in existence for decades, and serves artists who are internationally recognized for their work. They are a shining example for us. In more local terms, we would not exist without the support of Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment, the art center in which our studio is located. Lowe Mill offers us a space among other artists as well as small business which our artists can draw inspiration from. It is also a venue that practices a kind of radical acceptance. We also could not exist without the generosity of the organizations and patrons who support our work financially, since we do not charge for our goods and services. Also, we are continually grateful for the parents and other caregivers who entrust us with their loved ones. And, of course, the artists themselves are always offering us lessons in terms of vulnerability, courage, and beauty.
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