I always hated group projects in high school and college. It made me cringe every time an instructor mentioned it would be part of the class. I know I’m not alone in this reaction. What made them so terrible? There’s more than one answer to this of course, but the main one is that no one wanted to be there and no one really cared about the project. If you were the only one who wanted an A, you did all of the work. While this can still be the case as an adult in the professional world, I’ve come to appreciate collaboration.


Group projects have now turned into boards, departments, or teams, but I look at collaboration with a broader scope. From the point of view of an artist, collaboration is essential whether it is an intentional team or partnership or the unintentional participation of a random stranger. Collaboration can be a beautiful thing and lead to something amazing.

A theater production involves a director, writer, actors, lighting designer, set designer, venue coordinator, stage manager, and the list goes on. Even if you pare this down to as few people as possible, it’s still a collaborative effort. Painting, drawing, and photography are collaborative as well, even though we think of them as more solitary pursuits. Inspiration comes from somewhere and while nature is amazingly inspirational, I think most comes from other people.


You tell a story in your painting about your life and the people in it or you share a piece of someone else’s story. You brainstorm with a friend. You get feedback from other artists. Sometimes you pick up a piece of conversation in a restaurant, witness a stranger’s interaction, or notice an odd face, and it sparks an idea in your mind or connects otherwise random images. In a very simple sense, this is collaboration, however unwitting.

It is nearly impossible to run a business without collaboration and the same is true of whatever our endeavors in life are. Collaboration is key and the people around us are important. I encourage you to take a look around and appreciate those who work alongside you.

~By Melissa Blakely

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