Archive for the ‘cocoa’ tag
” all our knowledge has its origin in our perceptions.” Leonardo da Vinci.
Creative people, be they focused in arts, science or both, are grounded in synesthesia or a synergy of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting and sensing things. To create is to extend knowledge, rough up the edges of a form, send practices in new and divergent directions. Creativity, creating minds and creative people remind us to focus on how we relate to each other, carry out our work and contribute as citizens. It’s about the process. Like scientists who conduct many experiments around a single problem, artists often work in series, completing variations around a theme until the artists feels she has exhausted the idea for a while. Revisiting, revising and rethinking are part of an authentic creative experience, as is generating many ideas then choosing among competing priorities.
These processes of revisiting, revising and rethinking are community processes. Like artists who form studios and collectives such as those involved with CoCOA, scientists form research teams and laboratories. The creation of scientific knowledge as laid out by Thoman Kuhn, is dependent on the culture and historical circumstances of groups of scientists rather than on their adherence to a specific, definable method. In describing scientific knowledge this way, Kuhn argued for a blurring of the boundaries between what was considered science and what was not, arguing that there was no such thing as the idealized scientific method. His position was contentious and ignited the scientific community in fierce debates over the nature of their collective enterprise, but also hinted at what a lot of modern and postmodern philosophers now argue, that our creative products like our creative selves, are deeply infused with the contexts and the communities in which we exist.
Over the last few months we have discussed the importance of art in public life, from its ability to communicate place, to its ability to transcend our individual differences and touch the divine human spirit in all of us. Yet it is rare for us to talk about science in the same way. In many ways, ‘art’ and ‘science’ have become separated in our imagination, set against each other as opposite competing poles in ourselves, our minds, our schools, our occupations and our communities. Our capacity to institutionally encapsulate both of them however, (with different intents — one to preserve access and the other to reserve access), lies in common. We create art museums and natural science museums in the interests of educating and serving the public but what if we were to take an ‘art in public places’ approach to science? What would that begin to look like? Moreover, what if we were to recognize the science that lies behind the artist’s ability in terms of technique and the artistry that lies in the scientific life, in terms of creative possibilities? How might our ways of understanding these immensely consequential realms of human activity change?
Here in Colorado, we are lucky enough to have monthly gatherings where we can explore these issues of science, creativity and community process. Science cafés or ‘Cafés Scientifiques’ meet regularly in Colorado Springs, Denver, Boulder and right here in Fort Collins. The first Cafés were held in Leeds, England in 1998. From there, the idea spread to other parts of Europe, North Africa, North and South America, South Asia, Australia, and the Pacific (http://www.cafescientifique.org/world-links.htm). In all these places across the globe, diverse audiences regularly gather to join scientists and writers in discussions that are designed as forums for debating science issues, promoting public engagement with science and making science accountable. Participants meet in cafes, bars, restaurants and other public locations to make scientific discussions accessible and lively. If you’re thinking that a science discussion requires an academic science background, that’s not the point. Many questions and ideas are entertained at the Café Scientifique and people who are not specialists often provide thoughtful perspectives and insight. Gatherings take place to foster an atmosphere where “no question is considered stupid” and science is brought out of the lab and into the public arena for deliberation.
It’s about the creative process!
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On Monday morning, we had the very distinct pleasure of speaking with Mary Harnett, past Secretary and Director, now Education Coordinator for CoCOA, the Colorado Coalition of Artists. Mary herself is a fine artist, an oil painter of southwest landscapes here in Fort Collins, and has been with CoCOA from its beginnings as an artist cooperative in 2003.
As with many art groups, CoCOA is relatively unknown in our community, despite considerable outreach efforts into our community. However, this week, they are holding their annual member’s exhibit with their first ever People’s Choice Awards, where visitors to the exhibition at the Poudre River Arts Center Main Gallery can vote on different pieces. If you have time this week, the exhibit runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10-5 each day and CoCOA members will be on hand to answer any questions about the art or artists that you may have. The winners will be announced June 16 at the general meeting.
CoCOA is a non profit, volunteer led and run organization, dedicated to supporting a community of artists in the area. CoCOA was originally a small group of artists who came together at one artist’s studio to do live drawing together. Through this experience, some of the artists, particularly Rachel Herrera, a well known artist in Fort Collins, started the organization and obtained a separate building on Mason Street. From there, CoCOA rented out studio spaces for artists and a space for artists to give workshops and classes as well as continue their core work in live and figure drawing.
CoCOA, as a cooperative of artists, is one tribe of our larger community of artists here in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado. Most artists, are individuals, creating individual pieces and yet, far from competing with each other, in order to survive, artists tend to gather together to support their work. Mary discusses many of these groups in the podcast moving across diverse forms of art – visual arts, music, crafts, theater, fly fishing etc. While it is not common for a diverse range of artists from these groups to perform together in an interdisciplinary fashion, they do tend to enter the community to share their works in similar spaces and events.
In this respect, community partners, especially businesses, are extremely important to such creative groups and communities. Donations, be they financial or products, are important, but CoCOA also uses creative techniques to encourage artists to continue their work. One program invites pledges from individuals for hours of artist time, while another, like the support of Everyday Joe’s, donates space and a portion of sales from a drink named after CoCOA back to the cooperative. Finally, CoCOA has a lecture series for the public featuring artists, psychologists and City representatives who will discuss their Art in Public Places Program.
In the future, CoCOA would like to hold a wildlife exhibit and partner with the Division of Wildlife to continue their community outreach. Volunteers have also gone to schools and the Drug Courts to teach art and these activities are projects CoCOA would like to continue. Perhaps most importantly, like most creative community organizations, CoCOA will need to become more formalized and supported operationally through grants so that they can manage themselves with paid positions as well as volunteers. This is a crucial transition point for such organizations, and as a result, for the sustainability of a creative community and economy.
We hope you enjoy our conversation with Mary about the past, present and future of CoCOA, its partners and like minded artists groups, as well as the actions necessary for supporting a creative community. Please pay a visit to the exhibit at the Poudre River Arts Center to vote in the People’s Choice Awards if you have time this week and check out the beautiful work of our community. As we move through the rest of the year, keep an eye out for opportunities to explore, experience and contribute to our creative endeavors here in Fort Collins and Northern Colorado.
Remember – Art is Us.
Entrancing. Provocative. Celebratory. Poignant. Mythic. These are just some of the ways I have heard people in the community describe their engagement with the ideas and performances shared by the Imagination Fair and Laurie Anderson this past weekend. My family was downtown on Friday evening to capture the performances and music there on an early summer evening and witnessed the atmosphere created by That 1 Guy and others on the Oak Street Plaza. So caught up were we in the relaxed, fun filled atmosphere, we did not even make it to see what was happening at Opera Galleria! Others, however, journeyed on to be captivated by the Laser Harps and the works of local artists presented in CoCOA’s annual member exhibition at the Poudre River Arts Center as they voted on the People’s Choice Awards and celebrated our own local art community at the First Friday Gallery Walk.
Then on Saturday, a close to full house at the Lincoln Center witnessed the extraordinary talent of Laurie Anderson as she mixed music, metaphor, social commentary, light, life and air to fill that space with imagination, laughter and reflection. With stories ranging across the continent and beyond, Anderson enthralled the audience with accounts of small Amish boys learning to kiss without affection, hitch-hiking to the North Pole, staying in bed all day and teaching adult students at night school, narrowly escaping a hatchet and more successfully escaping the burn ward as a child, not to mention the precise performances of working at McDonald’s. She, the “ugly one with the jewels”, also spoke on indigenous people’s encounters with that strange tribe that calls themselves ‘anthropologists’, all the time reminding the audience of the ways we learn to be with each other and the multiple and diverse motivations for our actions, be they money, salvation, education and of course, self-preservation and identity.
Outlining “the stories of stories”, Anderson asked the audience “what are days for?” and to reflect on what some have described as the end of ‘American Empire’, when the people realized, like her little dog, that “attacks could come from above as well.” It was an evening of remembering (re-membering, or the ways in which we bring people from the back of our mind to the forefront of same) and forgetting, not to mention reflecting on what we choose to remember and forget in our stories. As I watched her skip lithely on stage to acknowledge her standing ovation for the third time, I dreamed that I might find myself at her age, capable of such wit, energy, art and love of life. It was an evening that will stay with me for a long time.
Tomorrow, the Science Café presents Dr Arlyn Andrews of the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Laboratories) in Boulder. Dr Andrews’ presentation is entitled “Carbon Detectives” and discusses her colleagues’ efforts to monitor and understand the global carbon cycle and the importance of taking quick action to reduce carbon dioxide pollution. The event is free and starts at 5:30pm at the Stonehouse Grille - we hope to see you there!
Don’t forget to leave us a comment on your experiences of these events – it would be great to hear from you!
Community… from the Middle English comunete, Anglo-French communité, Latin communitat-, communitas, from communis, first appearing as a word in the 14th century. Defined as a unified body of individuals with common interests living in a particular area; an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location; a group linked by a common policy; a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests exercising joint ownership or participation, a common character, a social state or condition.
Over the last couple of months we have been sharing some of the more interesting ways communities around the country and the globe sustain their members and themselves. Grounding community is not just about gathering a group of people who have common interests, as we see in the definition above, but also about having those people share a common experience. It is the act of being together that keeps us together in some very fundamental ways.
Last week, Deborah discussed the ‘dinner with a stranger’ experience Franke James and Mark Shouldice of Toronto engaged in, getting to know each other, for a charitable purpose. This started me thinking about the other ways in which communities can come together around common experiences. Starting this week for example, our very own CoCOA (Colorado Coalition of Artists) will be hosting their annual 2 week members’ art event through to June 16at the Poudre River Arts Center Gallery on North College Ave. The event is open to all current and new members of CoCOA with a $15 entry fee for up to 3 pieces! There will be three “People’s Choice Awards.” If you are interested in participating, drop off your work tomorrow Wednesday, June 3 from 10:30 to 2pm. If that time does not work for you, please feel free to email CoCOA to make other arrangements — email@example.com. Even if you have no work to share, drop into the Gallery to see all the wonderful work people are doing in the community!
From art in the community to books in the community– for the last 5 years, Mayor Hickenlooper has supported the One Book, One Denver program where the entire city reads the same book over one month, September usually, followed by another month of events around the book’s theme. One Book, One Denver is a citywide book club. The goal of the program is to cultivate a culture of reading in Denver, with objectives to build community and stimulate people to read. Denver and Colorado citizens, young and old, are encouraged to join others in the shared experience of simultaneously reading the same book and participating in related events. This year, instead of the mayor choosing the book, the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs (DOCA) has created a list of 27 options, ranging across genres for the community to vote on as the Book for Denver in 2009. There is a website where voters can read a summary of each book, hear the first one or two paragraphs read by Denver’s own Poet Laureate (I didn’t know there was one!), Chris Ransick, learn about the authors and vote (voting is open until June 15). Once voting ends and the winning book is determined, the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs will begin laying out the 2009 One Book, One Denver program for a September 1 launch. On that date, Mayor Hickenlooper will announce the winning book at a news conference and the associated FREE and FUN programming that will carry through October.
Here in Fort Collins, Fort Collins Reads has selected Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle for its 2009 one-city, one-book program. Boyle has written 20 books and will be touring internationally to promote his latest work, The Women. His visit to Fort Collins on Nov. 7-8 will be the culmination of numerous events focusing on his book and its message about immigration. Pick up a copy of the book, take part in the discussion, and hear the author speak. Moreover, for the first time in 2009, there will be a companion book for this event — Red Glass — by Laura Resau (of Fort Collins!!). Contact Fort Collins Reads at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and suggestions on how to get Fort Collins reading and talking. I am hoping to read both!
If book reading is not your scene, how about a Six Word Memoir? Yes, your story in 6 words! Apparently, Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only 6 words. Here is what he wrote — “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” In 2006, SMITH magazine reawakened the idea of 6 word memoirs and asked their readers to contribute their own. They sent in short life stories by the hundreds, culminating in a blog, a series of books and a huge community of aficionados. These memoirs ranged from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah”) and hilarious (“I like big butts, can’t lie”). What would you write for your memoir if only given 6 words?
Finally, music. Last month, I was reading Dan Pink’s blog (the author of a Whole New Mind amongst others…) and he was discussing the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Yes, YouTube, that web video mogul, has an orchestra! Basically, late last year YouTube issued a musical casting call to all professional and amateur musicians of all ages, locations and instruments to audition for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra by submitting a video performance of a new piece written for the occasion by the renowned Chinese composer Tan Dun. A panel of first-class musicians selected the finalists and the 90 winners, who come from more than 30 countries, assembled in New York City to perform together at Carnegie Hall. You can see the results here…. it’s a beautiful thing!
We hope to build from some of these ideas over the next few months to create an engaging and engaged Fort Collins community. We would love to hear any suggestions you may have for events and activities in which we could all participate – please feel free to share below!
Art for all, all for art!