We Are All Artists On The Community’s Canvas: Life, Leadership And Leisure Time

Your community needs you as much as you need your community. What is the paint without the painter, the painter without the paint? We are all artists on the community’s canvas.

“You can’t be what you don’t see.” Marian Wright Edelman

What message are you sending to your current and future community members? What values are portrayed in your community’s portrait? In towns like the one I grew up in, there was not much for people like me to do. I knew I wanted and needed interesting leisure options and outlets. We all do.

Leisure is not a privilege for a few but critical for us all. Leisure experiences address our holistic needs and provide life satisfaction through sports and fitness, education, entertainment, art, music, dance, culture, travel, spirituality and social interaction. Leisure need not be taken lightly. Leisure can give life meaning. Leisure can be life changing. A lot happens there in terms of meeting people, making connections, making the community better, making yourself better, self-discovery, self-esteem, learning, growing, sharing, communicating, advocating, team work, the pursuit of passion, the pursuit of excellence, and the emergence of leadership.

Lately, I have been lending my leisure time to help support and shape Ankeny, this growing community I now call home. Ankeny offers a good quantity of opportunities. Yet it is my hope that we place our value on both variety and accessibility to meet the leisure interests and needs of the people here.

Speaking of value, here are some exciting examples of leaders using leisure as an imperative link to life satisfaction and the success of the individual and the community overall:

1. Ankeny Unplugged is an amazing music festival for everyone in the community made up of unique acts, local arts, crafts, food and beverage vendors and a free bicycle valet. The Ankeny Jaycees, a non-profit volunteer organization for young adults providing opportunities for personal development and community engagement, puts on the event. It takes place on Saturdays in June and costs just $3.00. Any proceeds are donated back to the community. I love this event because it makes leisure and the arts affordable and accessible. We give musicians and artists a platform to share their gifts, their message and people of different backgrounds and economic groups the chance to hear it, enjoy it and be inspired by it. (Photo: Des Moines Metro Mix)


2. Art for Ankeny is a community service initiative by members of the Ankeny Leadership Institute Class of 2012-2013 dedicated to enriching the community through public art with Iowa roots. Ankeny is currently lacking in the arts, both in expression and support. We want to capture our identity, values, culture, history and vision with a landmark or icon. To maintain and grow our community’s vitality, we must attract talented creative people that in turn attract entrepreneurs and businesses.

3. Ankeny Miracle Park is the All-inclusive Playground & Miracle League Field of Ankeny. This is a community-wide initiative with the City of Ankeny with Ankeny Kiwanis Club, Miracle League Steering Committee, and Ankeny Parks Board that will provide a place for meaningful interaction among people with and without disabilities. The Ankeny Miracle Park will contain an “all-inclusive” playground with equipment for children with special needs, equipment that appeals to children who do not have special needs, and equipment that actively encourages children of all abilities to play with one another. Finally, the power of play will be available to children with special needs to experience on the equipment and as part of a ball team.

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” Rabbi Hillel

When leaders understand the virtue of leisure, collaborative change occurs for the community and the individual. With the courage of one to communicate an idea and the coming together of many, Ankeny is shaping up to be a pretty cool work of art. I love being a small part of the process, which often means as much as the end product. How we spend our time is how we meet our truest selves, make meaning and leave our mark.

laura-houselLaura Housel is a graduate from the University of Iowa with a Health, Leisure and Sports Studies Degree and Nationally Certified Recreation Specialist with a background in Art. She works in the non-profit world as the Leisure Manager and Volunteer Coordinator for Link Associates, serving individuals with intellectual disabilities. She uses a variety of modalities such as the arts, sports and leisure education to help people improve their functioning level and quality of life. Laura enjoys using creativity to help others, her field and the community by volunteering and serving as the Iowa Therapeutic Recreation Association Board President, DOVIA of Des Moines President, Ankeny Unplugged Market Coordinator, Ankeny Jaycees Vice President of Community Development, Ankeny Young Professionals Board Member, Ankeny Miracle Park Steering Committee Member, and Art for Ankeny Steering Committee Member.
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