From Adventurers and Artists

Barbara Smith Coan during service in the WAVES, ca. 1943

There have been adventurers on both sides of my family, going back for generations. Old family photos reveal connections to vast landscapes, to choosing change and novelty and exploration over the constant comforts of home, and to art. My paternal grandfather, who passed before I was born, painted these tiny landscape paintings of the Arizona desert, a place he was so called to that he made it his home. My maternal grandmother was also an artist, and a very dear friend. She helped me to see the subtle beauty in the everyday, pointing out the color of this or the way the light falls across that. 

My parents, unsurprisingly, carried the perspectives of their own adventuring and creative upbringings seamlessly into my childhood. Though they’ve dutifully pointed out the benefits of a more traditional approach to career, they generally have taught me that I have the freedom to choose my own path. They have never questioned the value of artistic contribution to community, to society. And they encouraged a lot of time spent outside, together with them and on my own. 

I’m ever more aware of the privilege inherent in the freedoms available to me, a white cisgender woman from one of the wealthiest and most stable countries in the world. I’m aware of the privilege of the generations that came before me as well, illustrated in the very fact that there are photographs of my grandparents, that they had access to travel, that they had the mental bandwidth for hobbies like painting. I strive to keep this front of mind, as I take risks and venture into the world with relative confidence and trust, aware that this freedom is available to few.