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Exploring the 'Art of Failure'

Last night, a crowd gathered at the Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville. Not to celebrate faith, but to explore failure. The event was the latest installment of a popular speaker series focused on Charlottesville artists and sponsored by the New City Arts Initiative and the Garage. Emily Richardson-Lorente was in attendance.

SAM BUSH: I know a lot about failure. I know a lot more than I wish I did.

That’s Sam Bush. Twice a year, he helps organize the “Makers Series.”

SAM BUSH: We get three artists to come and present on their process. It’s a chance to kind of see what goes on behind the scenes when people make things.

For this 8th Makers event, the subject was “The Art of Failure.” And one of the artists was Lulu Miller, co-founder of the wildly popular Invisibilia podcast …

LULU MILLER: I was sort of hesitant to give a talk right now because I was kind of feeling busy, and then Sam said, “Oh, it’s about failure,” and it was just like the ideas poured out!”

LULU on stage: “I would often think like, am I going to reveal that I didn’t read enough, and either that’s going to be offensive, or I’m just going to look dumb and then I’m like so fear spiraling, I can’t even hear what they’re saying.”

DAVID ZAHL on stage: “When I was telling people I was coming to speak at the Art of Failure, they said, ‘Great, just go up and be yourself.’”

That’s the second artist: David Zahl. He’s a preacher, writer, and Executive Director of Mockingbird Ministries. He’s also thought a lot about failure.

DAVID ZAHL: People want to present it as a strategy: go out there and fail. No one wants to fail, but you can learn things through failure that you can’t learn other ways.


And THAT was the night’s 3rd artist, singer-songwriter Devon Sproule. In addition to performing for the audience, Devon spoke about a failed move to Germany.

DEVON SPROULE on stage: But it had only been a few months since our big farewell show at the Jefferson, so we weren’t too proud to put our tail between our legs and be like “we’re back!”

According to Sam Bush, these Makers Series events generally attract around 90 people. This one — by a rough headcount — had more than twice that many. So, a talk focused on failure, was — as it turns out — a rather big success.