We had the good fortune of connecting with Desiree Brothe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Desiree, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to maintain a work-life balance, and there was a long period of time where it wasn’t even a balance and was just work. While the work was rewarding, I was exhausted, burnt out, and irritated everyday. It was during that period that I realized where my priorities had fallen to, what I was choosing to value, and I started making decisions to move towards a life that felt more like me. It took two career changes and a lot of learning how to say ‘no,’ but I can finally say that what I do for work and what I choose to do on the side are all about art. And art is a big subject, so I had to break it down to a few loosy-goosy “rules” for myself. My job-job is in community development and I focus on leveraging community and economic resources together to make meaningful impacts. Thankfully my job is in a creative industry where the focus is already on art, design, and tech. The volunteer activities I’ve parred down to are several formal and informal art groups, where the focus ranges from serious arts advocacy and programming, to a makers environment, to an ad-hoc visual arts coalition. The primary goal for each of them is about how to make our arts community thrive and succeed together, and I get pretty excited and inspired about that.
Then there’s my personal art-making. Choosing to turn something I liked doing for fun into a legitimate way to sometimes make a buck, was a way for me to create a better mental space to take the time for making art. It created a sense of purpose and a higher goal to the process of making things. And here’s where a balance comes into play; nothing I make is about the money. I obviously have a threshold for comfort that I’m interested in maintaining, but making art is more about strategically thinking through the why’s and how’s behind creating a piece, what it means in the long term, and what I get out of it. I don’t care if I sell a few pieces, it’s a nice surprise when it happens. Often for me it’s because I have an idea of some weird thing I want to make, and I just make it. I struggle with what to do with the art once it’s done–there’s only so much room in my studio, but if my weird thing that I made creates a connection point for someone else and I can sell that piece to them, then that makes me happy.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
All of my art exploration in the past couple of years has been about regrowing skills and finding a voice within my images. I was always a little eclectic in what I wanted to make, jumping from painting to drawing to sculpture and jewlery, and my degree in art education only intensified that. This meant that for a long time I didn’t have a solid look or feel that anyone could distinctly say ‘this is Desirée’ when they saw a piece. That bothered me, because while I loved learning and trying new things, I also felt like my portfolio was an unsubstantial mess.
I’ve since come back to my roots in drawing and painting, and that drives what surface an image idea goes onto. It’s helped me to refocus and find a love for the fluidity in ink and watercolor (that also subdues my need to create quickly), but to keep the line quality, shape and detail intact. I’ve recently come back to working in 3-D as well; that need to make things in-the-round is important to me to learn and think through the interactions between the physical world and the two-dimensional. I have a few pieces I want to play with this year, that might set the pace for how to better incorporate physical objects into a larger, cohesive body of work. Through all of this exploration, I’ve started to pick out a style that feels like my own, though putting words to that is still somewhat fuzzy. My anticipation is that both of these areas will continue to grow and within a year or two, I’ll know what sets me apart and be able to work more quickly.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh I love doing this! Cheyenne is such a hidden gem, particularly in the summer, and I love showing people who aren’t familiar with the area or who have preconceived notions what it’s really like to live here. If this was a week-long thing, we would pack our days between activities and relaxing. There’s plenty of touristy-things to see: between museums, historic areas, and our western-heritage, but there’s lots of other, less-western things to do too. There’s always music events happening outdoors during the summer, and we have a brand-new music venue called ‘The Lincoln’ which is working on programming regular shows as we come out of Covid. During the summers, our prolific winds calm down and we hit a perfect temperature of hot, but not too-hot and being outside is great! There’s plenty of areas to do light walking or even hiking, but also just to be outdoors and wandering around downtown. Downtown is my favorite and we have a great blend of retail and experience-based businesses to find cool things. This includes home and gift shops, small-scale manufacturing businesses, and all of the antiques. My favorite local restaurants and breweries are downtown, and it’s easy to take a few days or nights to hop between them and experience them all. My favorite activity is to hang out at a brewery and talk with friends for hours. We also have an awesome arcade that I’ve yet to find a better one when I travel. Since food is one of my biggest motivators, this visitor better come ready to eat; I’m pretty partial to our bagel place, several of our pizza places, and some really great sushi. If we want to see something different, then we’re less than an hour to Greeley, Fort Collins, or Laramie, and two hours to Denver or most things in the Rocky Mountains are near us. Day trips are a great way for a quick, inexpensive escape.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I owe a lot to all of the people I’ve served with in arts advocacy and programming here in Cheyenne. For the past 7 years, I’ve watched all of us come together on various boards, committees, groups, and events to just make cool shit happen. Through all of that, I’ve made so many ‘art friends’ that have supported and grown with me. We’ve worked to make a network for other arts activities to take place, and managed to scrape in some personal satisfactions with our own art goals in the process. And while I dearly love everyone and can attribute so much to each of them, I think that one person stands out as being the biggest push in continuing to ensure that I was taking time to make my own art: Steve Knox. He started asking me about making art in 2016, when we first started working together to get art shows up downtown and on a creative collective concept. He would always gently suggest that I try something, always encouraged me to keep up with it, or to look for the next thing. Those little seeds have stayed in my brain and have grown themselves into full-fledged leaves and stems as I continue to explore what’s next.