Editor’s Preface: Diné aerialist and poet Meek Watchman was gallupARTS’ summer 2022 Social Justice Creative-in-Residence. Her residency entailed researching and writing a youth development-focused Indigenous social circus curriculum. It encompassed an 8-week intensive course, a half-day workshop, a youth performance, an artist talk, and an aerial arts demonstration. It culminated in a published curriculum. Upon the conclusion of her residency, we asked Meek to share her reflections. Here they are.

This is my third blog post draft. The first draft was babble, and the second draft I didn’t like what I wrote. And here we are at three. I’ve been thinking for weeks about what I want to write and share about my experience working as the Creative-in-Residence for gallupARTS. Initially, I wrote about reflection. Then I wrote about the joy and healing that comes with circus. Now, I realize I am putting way too much pressure on myself for this blog post.

These words should be fun, joyous and merry. And I want them to be. But today, nearing the end of September, I am exhausted beyond recognition. I had a great summer doing many things I’ve never done before and was in constant commute. This week I can finally rest to write these words.

I am tired because I had the best summer—teaching aerials twice a week in downtown Gallup, eating well and enjoying the off days with my son. Every week since May has had a detailed schedule, and I am thankful for it. When I wasn’t teaching or researching, my son and I were on the road, swimming, painting in the sun and soaking in all the bliss of a hot summer.

Considering exhaustion, I will keep this brief. It feels like the entire summer flashed before my eyes—yesterday was April, tomorrow will be Christmas. What I am saying is, it’s very simple to lose track of time when you’re working very hard. I didn’t realize how much we all gave until space opened and I no longer had to travel to Gallup three times a week from Window Rock. And I no longer had to plan every day of the week to revolve around my residency.
I am not complaining by any means, I am writing this to remind myself of all that I was given—all that I was awarded—with the deep intent that I would grow and earn the feeling of accomplishment and success in a short amount of time. And as I continue to reflect on the past three months with gallupARTS, even with the unexpected (COVID, family emergencies and mothering of a toddler), this summer was the best that I could have ever asked for. From the start of June until the end of August, every week was meaningful and filled with exciting challenges.

Among the many highlights during the residency, the most notable is my student, Jade Bowman. Initially, I proposed to work with two youth. Unfortunately, that did not go as planned and I recruited only one student, Jade. As time unraveled, I realized the absence of one student afforded another and so Jade became present in all the times marked available for aerial classes at ART123 for eight whole weeks. I am grateful it worked out this was, because Jade worked very hard and used all her time in the best way possible.

Overall, I am proud of all involved in the residency, especially Jade. This type of creative work is not possible without the support of loved ones and those willing to stand with you, alongside your creations—no matter the outcome. This outcome was earned for all, and I am thankful for everything. Please enjoy photos captured throughout the duration of the residency. Again, ahe’hee gallupARTS for this tremendous opportunity that has catapulted my artistic career and endeavors.

Timeline of Residency Through Photos:

  • First day of aerial rig set up at ART123 (Photos 1 and 2)
  • Jade in weekly classes on the silk and lyra (Photos 3, 4, 5,6)
  • Silk workshop with student Love and assistant instructor Jade (Photos 7, 8, 9, 10, Photos by: Jordan Bowman)
  • Jade’s Performance (Photos 11, 12)
  • B&W photo of Jade on silk and lyra (Photos 13, 14, 15, 16 Photos by: Meek Watchman)