Digging deeper

Digging deeper

Arts Council forum kicks off series on art, creativity, and the imagination

BRATTLEBORO — “We want people who will come and demystify the idea that art and creativity are things that are done by the chosen few... [Instead], it's something that's endowed to us by the act of being human,” said Shanta Lee Gander, former president of the Arts Council of Windham County.

Gander and Sarah Bowen, current Arts Council board trustee, co-created a series of forums that will kick off on March 22, followed by two others on April 26 and Oct. 18.

The series, titled, “Nourishing the Inner Artist: Conversations about Art, Creativity, and the Imagination,” will provide a space for participants and presenting artists to explore three areas: the ways in which creativity can be nurtured; what it means to “feed” the inner artist; and how one's own creative work contributes to the community and world at large.

Bowen is a visual artist who also has collaborated with people in film, dance, theater, and music. Gander is a photographer and writer, has participated in the Brattleboro Literary Festival, and recently won a one-year seat on the Brattleboro Selectboard.

Bowen echoed Gander's sentiment that art is something that can be universalized and made accessible to everyone.

Deepening prior discussions

The Council had previously held a series of forums that explored the healing capacities of art, connected artists and art therapists, and had a successful turnout.

“As we were coming to a close,” Gander said, “we thought it would be disingenuous to not have other explorations of [similar themes] ... We wanted to dig deeper. We were looking at ways that artists and creative individuals [can] explore this part of themselves; how the maker or creator of the art is nurturing [themselves].”

This led to the proposition for 2018, of “nourishing the inner artist.”

In addition to the health and sustenance of artists and their creative processes, Gander explained that the forums also provide a potential model for sustaining a creative economy.

A creative economy, as defined by the New England Foundation for the Arts, is a system where “artists, cultural nonprofits, and creative businesses produce and distribute cultural goods and services that generate jobs, revenue, and quality of life.”

The health of the cultural sector can give way to the thriving of communities. “Community engagement and the possibility that we can co-create through partnership and ... hands-on exploration workshops ... could help inspire and provide this model,” Gander said.

She explained that this could be invaluable to young people, who will witness examples of community art and not feel unnecessary pressure to move to larger cities to pursue their careers. Instead, they can help nourish their community's artistic and cultural well-being.

Keeping our vitality

“I hope that conclusions can be drawn from this, about how if you live a consciously creative life, you're engaging in the world in a more dynamic way,” Bowen said. ”Thinking out of the box is really important in this time we're in, for all of us to be able to come up with solutions that are effective and needed.”

The March 22 forum, “Enchantment and the Inner Child,” explores engaging with a child-like approach to creativity, such as discovering the magic in simple everyday materials, as a way to animate and deepen creative expression.

It will be led by artist William Forchion, U.S. Cultural Exchange Ambassador for Circus Arts and co-founder of Dreamcatcher Entertainment.

William's diverse career history includes circus performance, voiceover work, stunt work, acting, and writing.

“A lot of times with adult responsibilities we lose [our inner child]; we lose the inquisitive innocence and exploration; we get stuck in life, [and] a lot of times frivolity gets lost in that sort of space,” Forchion said. “The closer we are to that inner child, the further we are from dying [in the sense of] getting so stuck and mired in the minutiae of surviving. [It] wakes us up to thrive.”

In addition to Forchion, artists in this conversation will include puppeteer Ines Zeller Bass and glass artist Marta Bernbaum. There will also be time for networking.

In support of the “Nourishing the Inner Artist” series, the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro is sponsoring a film showing as a fundraiser on Saturday, April 7. More details will be shared on the Council's Facebook page and website.

Additionally, an exciting series of hands-on workshops has evolved from the three “Nourishing the Artist” forum themes. A full listing of the activities and additional forums can be viewed at www.acwc.us/forums.

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