September 1, 2021  •  By Christine Pasalo Norland

On Peace of Mind

This is new to me.

I’ve led projects and teams before, but I was insulated. There were managers and directors I reported to, who reported to vice presidents and CEOs. Other departments and teammates shared the workload.

Now, I’m the Founder and President of an arts and culture organization where I’m the only employee. My 10-year-old self never imagined this trajectory. Shoot–neither did my 40-year-old self!

I'm bound to make mistakes. 

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve already miscalculated. Leaving my position at a nonprofit centered on the popular arts wasn’t good economics. The job provided me with a modest yet steady income, paid vacation and sick time, and health benefits for my family.

Then I remind myself that leaving felt right for me. Over the last year and a half, I'd asserted my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I developed work that intentionally centered creators from underrepresented communities. As I did, an unsettling climate formed around my ideas and contributions:


These and other instances left me frustrated and spent, not least for what felt like an undercurrent of accusation. 

After a lot of reflection, I looked beyond and remembered there are people who regularly operate from the same basis of understanding as I do. There are educators, creators, and gatekeepers extending paths and forging new ones, in parallel and in convergence, for we on the margins. I’ve worked with them and for them. If I continue to work with them, we take up more space. If I continue to work with them, we will develop more ways to thrive.

Hello Barkada will start as a virtual space hosting artist profiles, news about the arts, and career and educational resources. I will find a way to produce virtual programs as I dream up how (and when!) to host in-person events. Yes, what I’m starting will require a lot of asking and a lot of breaking through: I’ll still be pitching my ideas, my abilities, myself. 

But giving permission to prioritize, center, and celebrate artists and works from historically oppressed communities, of which I also belong? To openly work and advocate for a socially and racially just future via arts and culture because it’s the right thing to do? To do this work with and for allies and accomplices? I have that power. I just had to claim it.

I'm bound to make mistakes, and I'm okay with that. I'm ready to learn from them. It's for the mission.


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White text says, "Collectively 2023. The second annual, month-long celebration of artists, writers, and creatives from historically marginalized communities is hosted throughout September, Hello Barkada's anniversary month, and features free online and in-person events, and the release of new content." Text on a darkened graphic of the tan Collectively logo repeated on a slight diagonal down a brown background.
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