Archive for the ‘History’ tag
Meandering through the farmer’s market on a lazy Saturday morning this past week, I stumbled upon a rare and always exciting find: peaches. Early in the summer they are difficult to find, so by August I had almost forgotten about them. But to see something again that you know is so good-in this case juicy and perfectly ripe peaches- you begin to wonder how you ever lived without it. I bought a ton of them, exclaiming their greatness to everyone around me as I paid, and continued on my way with a delightful snack in hand. As I continued to look around, I noticed many foods that I haven’t seen at the markets lately. The new abundance of squash, beets, and other new produce could only mean one thing- the harvest season has begun.
To many of us, autumn means school or breaking out our winter jackets, but there is a long tradition of harvest all around the world that we might not often think about. For example, in ancient Israel special offerings were made at Temples three times a year: first when seeds were planted, then when farmers reaped the first crops, and finally when the harvest was in full swing. Who knew that holidays such as Passover had some association with the harvest season? And while it seems logical to think of the sun when we think of crops (the sun does help produce grow, after all), long standing Chinese traditions rejoice in the harvest moon instead. Harvest moon celebrations occur in mid-August, when the moon is said to be at its brightest, for it is s symbol of abundance. There are so many different ways to think about the harvest season. How do we celebrate harvest in our own community, here in Fort Collins?
We are certainly fortunate in this city, where fresh produce is farmed nearby and delicious peaches are available as soon as they are picked. But the idea of harvest seems to go way beyond food. A great example of this is a Fort Collins based company called the Northern Colorado Food Incubator. The name suggests something very technical, and also very food-centered. However, browsing their website, I surprised at all the Food Incubator does for our community. They are dedicated to a “Living Economy,” which means that they “support independent community- and land-based businesses and advocate for a whole, resilient community and bio-region.” This mission statement says little about farmers specifically, but rather emphasizes encouraging independent and entrepreneurial local endeavors. I was also excited to see how much of their website was dedicated to local events and community building projects. I found out about that Lyric Cinema Cafe, a local independent movie theatre, is showing a series of films that highlight food and sustainability, and that author and food activist Gary Nabhan will be giving a free lecture at the Lincoln Center next week. In supporting local food-bases businesses, the Northern Colorado Food Incubator helps boost the Fort Collins economy, while at the same time engaging the public in fun and interesting ways. What first appeared to be a food-only business is actually affecting the entire community.
The Northern Colorado Food Incubator shows us what an impact the harvest has on our lives here in Fort Collins. When you think about it, this is true for all cultures as well. The offerings at harvest time, or the celebration of the wondrous moon, are all activities that bring people together.
So as the harvest season comes to our city, think about how our community celebrates and what that celebration really means to you. At Beet Street, we want to help commemorate not just the harvest but its effects on Fort Collins. Beginning September 25th, Beet Street is bringing Homegrown Fort Collins to our community. Homegrown Fort Collins celebrates the harvest season and its contribution to community and local culture. Beet Street will be featuring events ranging from Downtown Tasting Tours, to VIP chef’s tours of the local farmers’ markets, to cooking competitions and demos (all using local produce). Bringing people together is a cornerstone of the Fort Collins lifestyle. Enjoying good food with friends and family while engaging in the unique elements of our community is one of the things that make living in northern Colorado so special.
Fort Collins is one of many cities around the world where citizens and economic development initiatives such as Beet Street work to distinguish a city as an “intellectually vital community that fosters, celebrates, and inspires human creativity through diverse cultural experiences and programming.” These endeavors have wonderful implications for present and future citizens and economies where cultural events and programs provide opportunities for intellectual and business growth. But growing a vital community requires continual mental work and the kind of creative thinking that asks us to stretch and reevaluate what we think we already know and understand about ourselves. Diverse cultural experiences and programs ask participants to see things from new perspectives, because seeing things from new perspectives is fundamental to inspiring human creativity. Multiple approaches to history, ideas and living together lead to multi-faceted, individualistic or even idiosyncratic points of view that complicate ideas about who we are and who is allowed to define the parts of our collective culture. When opposing histories and experiences are routinely acknowledged and valued, it is more likely that people will become involved, more interested and more active in the cultural life of a city. So what happens in a city where past economic and historical experiences create seemingly vast divides in how individual citizens create a sense of place?
Linz, Austria is an interesting example of a city where history could create seemingly irreconcilable differences. Since 1985, one or two cities across Europe have been selected to represent Europe as “European Capital of Culture” for a year, with the list of future capitals until the year 2019 already named. The aim of this program is to “showcase the richness, variety and similarities of European cultures and help European citizens to gain a better understanding of one another.” This year, Linz is the European Capital of Culture and in its efforts to attract visitors and host diverse Europeans, the city has chosen to openly address the fact that it does not exist in a social, historical and political vacuum. This means that although arts and cultural events are part of creating exciting and memorable celebrations, Linz is consciously addressing the fact that how it promotes itself as well as who is considered important in the city will have lasting effects. That is, Linz is actively preparing for the future by coming to terms with its past rather than passively letting “history repeat itself.” In the past, Linz existed as a “Führerstadt” or “Führer City,” encircled by the extermination camps of Mauthausen, Gusen, Ebensee and Hartheim. Today, architectural evidence of the crimes of the past mingle with contemporary life in Linz and its vicinity. For example, “Hitlerbauten,” the industrial facilities of the VOEST built on the foundations provided by the “Hermann Göring Werke,” and other seemingly uncontroversial public buildings, were constructed from materials like granite—materials that concentration camp prisoners paid for with their lives.
Historically, the concentration camp Mauthausen was the final destination for deportees from all over Europe and this year, the city of Linz would like more Europeans to visit the area. They could have chosen to ignore the past and only focus on celebrating arts and culture in collective denial. Instead, they are attempting to find new ways of talking about the past that defy collective amnesia and are relevant to both the region and the rest of Europe. Projects are making sure that people have accurate knowledge of the past but go further than allowing people to merely evade guilt. Leaders in Linz have identified their task as that of encouraging discussion about the developments and social mechanisms that made it possible for historical events to occur in the first place. They want participants to question the ideology underpinning the Nazi era, and make connections to how it continues to subtly affect and inform European societies to this day.
For example, the mission statement for Linz09 identifies that history will be dealt with by using different narrative styles, including “the polemical, factual, sober and provocative.” Different projects throughout the year are intended to encourage diverse audiences to engage with the area from new perspectives. The idea is that cultural discourse can exist in multiple forms that include dissent or feeling uncomfortable. One project supported by federal and national funding, “The Invisible Camp,” is designed to reactivate the hidden memory of parts of the region where citizens now live and relax. Using an i-Pod, visitors walk through residential developments listening to a soundtrack of reminiscences from survivors and witnesses as to what happened there. The voices include present day inhabitants, soldiers and even members of the SS who were responsible for sending people to concentration camps. The stories bring to life what is normally left unsaid and visitors cannot ignore what they can no longer physically see. You can visit Linz, the city that Hitler wanted to make his cultural capital, to explore its museums, cyberart Ars Electronica center, street celebrations, cultural and religious sights and even tour the city from above on rooftop scaffolding. You can also be asked or ask uncomfortable questions.
Another project in Linz uses signs to make a point. During 2009, the most important access routes leading into Linz will be relabelled. The new street names use languages that are “foreign” to many of the city’s citizens in order to bring attention to the present day ethnic complexity of Linz. The proactive goal for the signs is to point out that the reality of living in Linz demands the “kind of democratic attitude that is so needed and so necessary in all areas of a life lived together rather than merely side by side.” The project also works as a test case to determine how cosmopolitan the majority of Linzers really are as hosts to the rest of Europe. It’s an exciting examination of cultural identity–real and perceived! You can read more about Linz09 here. If Linz can combine tourism and address conflict while celebrating contemporary life, do you think cities of all sizes and in other parts of the world can put their model to use?
Art and community make life!