Darlene Becker, 43, at Base Camp Studio

Erin recommended Darlene to me. And, again, I am so glad she did. I find very few things more gratifying than meeting a stranger and then becoming acquainted and sharing stories and laughing (and sometimes crying) with them. That happens organically here and there, but I have the privilege of experiencing it quite often with this project. I don't take it for granted. In fact, I consider it my responsibility to reflect that connection so that you might get a sense of the power of open communication and listening and honoring vulnerability. I am sure we all do this with our friends and family, but it can be done more regularly with folks we just happen to meet, too. Here's another example of that. Darlene was immediately wonderful. Immediately present and raw. Immediately honest. I got the sense that she consistently brings a lot to whichever table she happens to be sitting at. I encourage you to look into this lovely space she has created in which people can play and experiment with creativity and laugh at themselves and loosen their inner child. 

Who are you and how would you describe yourself?

That's a big question. (Sighs) I am a mother, which is pretty important to me. I have a six year old son. Married to Eric - that's pretty important to me. I'm a daughter and actually I just lost my father about a week and a half ago, so that's pretty fresh to think about. My mom's still here. And a sister to an awesome sister and a new little niece. And I'm someone who cares a lot about everything. And I'm an artist and I see that come up in more of how I see the world. I love to make things and I love to do things that are really hard for some reason (laughs), which has brought me to Base Camp. This has been so much of who I am for the last couple years - trying to create this community art studio. That's, you know, so much more than a job. And I'm an art therapist, which is that passion that I bring to Base Camp of how I see the ability of art to change us and our world. I love to be outside - that's a huge part of who I am. I like to play outside. Those are some big pieces, I think, of what makes me me. 

What motivates you?

Working with people excites me. And I think what I've been able to figure out with sharing art with people - that excites me and I see them get excited and then I get excited. I like to help people, inspire people, and make people laugh and have fun. That really inspires me. My son inspires me (laughs) every day. Watching people learn and be excited about things excites me. Being active, being out, skiing, being out somewhere outside in the woods doing something and getting your heart rate up and being just alive in that environment really excites me. I worked for a long time as an art therapist in the woods and just that combination of the art and being creative and being in nature is just an awesome combination. 

What does community to mean to you?

Feeling a part of something. Feeling that sense of belonging and support - feeling like we can support each other and understand each other. Meeting people, bringing people together who wouldn't otherwise connect or meet and then building that shared understanding, I think that sense makes our world so much better. So, starting small and then growing that - that's what I want. I want to be in a community where there's acceptance and support and people can have fun and laugh together. That's the kind of place I want to be and I want to help create. 

What do we mean to each other and why is our connection important? 

Gosh, I don't know why! (Laughs) The more you meet people just kind of in random places and hear their stories, we're all so similar in what we... like everybody wants to be loved and have fun and be healthy and have a good life and provide for their children. You know, those commonalities. I've always seen people who don't have something, whether it's they don't have a home - which I know I was really struck by when I was a child. It felt wrong to me and I just felt like I wanted to do something about that. I've always gravitated towards working with children and teens who have had some bad experiences in their lives and sometimes act out and act horribly and wanting them to feel supported, as well, and that they're not bad people. I think about some students I've had in the past who, you know, they're problems in school - they've had horrible things happen - they just want to be loved. They just want to play. They just want to have fun. And they don't necessarily want to do bad things. I guess I just believe that everybody needs someone to believe in them. And I'm good at that (laughs). I'm a good champion for people, I think, and feel like I can bring that goodness out. I don't know. That grows. It starts in one place - with one connection, one person - and then it just kind of goes from there. So it helps everybody - helps the world we all live in. It feels daunting right now (laughs). It doesn't feel like a very friendly world in a lot of places in a lot ways, but I just - I don't know why - I just have always had that desire and that need. I guess we all want to feel like we have a purpose and we have something that we can offer and bring and I guess mine is that connection that I have with people. And I don't have it in a big sense. I'm very much like that one-on-one connection - that little kernel, the little seed that I hope grows. 

Where does social injustice come from? Why is it there? And what's our role in the fight against that?

I have no idea. You know, with the passing of my father there's so much - so many people say - you know, you hear all the time, Everything happens for a reason. Or a lot of religion talks about this better place. I can't imagine why sickness exists, why people treat people the way they do. I have no idea and I wish I knew. And it's just through those small, personal connections and interactions that there's goodness. And, gosh, I think I used to be a total optimist and maybe there's that little piece of me that's still there. I'm a cynical optimist - I don't know if you can be that (laughs) - but people frustrate me a lot and I can't imagine why people do the things that they do and why there's all the sickness. And even all the knowledge we have about things that actually aren't good for us and then a world where money drives - these big industries drive - what we are able to put in our bodies, our foods, our mattresses. It's ridiculous! Because we have so much knowledge going against all of that and it's extremely frustrating. I think you could get so bogged down with that. I think it's working with small children - man, that's refreshing because they don't know any of that, they don't care about any of that, and they just find joy in the smallest things and then they share that. And that fills me up, at least, to kind of keep going and hoping. I see these horrible movements and then you see these other movements that you're like, Okay, there's good people out there. I'm trying to do good things. I don't know. I just hope that - I don't know what I hope for - I think just that well, we could have a new administration. But I think it's so much bigger than that. It's awful how awful people are to each other. I don't know. 

What do you want more of in your life?

More fun, more travel. I used to travel a lot and, good and bad, this Base Camp Studio project has been great, but it also has left me with less money for those types of things that I like to do. I never had money as a goal, but the reality of that's the one thing that not having money keeps me from doing is traveling. And I want to travel with  my son. I want to take him everywhere. And he wants to go and do everything and he wants to go to Antarctica and I don't know that I want to go to Antarctica (laughs) but I want to be able to travel with him and have a lot of experiences around the world. And I want to be outside more and ski more and play more and ride my bike more and do all of that stuff more. 

What happens here at Basecamp?

We're a community art studio and, really, our goal is to help people use art and their creative expression to make connections, to build their own self-awareness, and also just to play and have fun and find a passion. I think we all need something that we're really excited about and, you know, art isn't that for everyone. Often times we look at art as you have to be really good at drawing or painting, which are not things I'm good at. And it took me a really long time to appreciate or accept that I was an artist because I didn't do those things. And I think just having a place where you can be creative and play with materials and the things that can happen through that I think is so important for our young children and for adults. So, that's what we do. We have programs for little ones and for elementary age and teens and adults, and want people to enjoy being creative and find something that they're excited about or even just connect with other people through the process.