Archive for the ‘home’ tag
Last week, I wrote about creative economy, and although there’s a lot more to say and think about, today, I’m wondering about the products that make up the creative economy. The United Kingdom’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport defines creative industries as, “those activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property.” While a creative product may exist as a physical entity (think paper, film, computer disk…), its value is in its meaning and what it represents—its content. The content/information of a creative product is boundless, but that content/information defines its value. Creativeclusters.org offers a good example, “Even with a designer T-shirt or a piece of [jewelry], it’s the style, the design that counts, not the cloth or the metal.”
This past weekend, on the Lower East side, New York, several artists and community organizations opened an exhibition, that puts this concept to the test. HomeBase IV, is an exhibition in a vacant medical clinic. This is not an exhibition of art created somewhere else and then transported into a pristine, neutral gallery for contemplation. A lot of what you can see in HomeBase IV, was created from materials found in the existing space. The creative product, the process, the content, and the experience of visiting the site give the project value.
“’When we arrived, it had nothing in it,’ said Leor Grady, the curatorial and programming director of the project. ‘It smelled like a combination of mildew, chemicals, medical waste and sheet rock.’ Even after a cleaning, the worn peachy-beige walls, industrial carpeting and fluorescent lighting retain a sterility that serves as a palette for the sometimes unsettling works.”
A variety of artists collaborated to explore the notion of “home,” in this specific space (unused clinic) and to engage the residents of a changing neighborhood. This means that the artists met together, talked, read, and interacted with the public to determine what would happen in the space, as well as worked to design what a visitor can see. (See images) All at once, the meaning for the project/action is in the process and its space–the product becomes spatial, as it connects people, place, and time. Gone is the presumption that art=object, or that art can only exist isolated from community in a building labeled as gallery or museum. As reported in the New York Times, one of the artists, Paul Sepuya, a Brooklyn photographer of Ugandan descent eloquently describes his reality and makes his experience tangible. “I thought it would be interesting to apply the idea of home as spatial,” he says. “When you’re not at home, it’s constructed by your family’s stories.” His contribution to the exhibition includes portraits of friends and neighbors who like him, have some association with Uganda—a “home” that Sepuya has never visited! Another artist, Dafna Shalom took photos of men in the neighborhood who reminded her of her father — a hand here, a hairstyle there. Our realities are often constructed through small gestures that we don’t notice, but become intriguing when we stop and think. If a smelly, unused, and dingy health clinic in New York, can be reinvented as a site for building community and thinking about the meaning of “home,” what are we overlooking?
Creative economy is driven by creative industry. Products are reorganized from seeming non-existence, although the ideas and materials may already have been there. Ideas are what transforms materials and what can transform people, neighborhoods, cities, and towns! There are lots of creative spaces and events that promote thinking in and about Fort Collins. This week we can think about caring for each other by simply eating out to help United Way of Larimer County. Later in the week, think about places that used to be here but only exist as fading away signs painted on buildings in Old Town, or join others to think about an area of Fort Collins that will grow in the future. You can contemplate exhibitions about Dreams, Floating Worlds, and art made by senior citizens. Perhaps you’ll ride the trolley and think about public transport, or learn more about the public art that helps create a sense of place in our city. All the details are at www.visitfortcollins.com!
The whole world is a museum without walls!
If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any farther than my own backyard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.
Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
Our language tells us a lot about the complexity of how we construct meanings of home. Dictionaries provide long entries for the word “home,” which can be used as a noun, adverb, adjective and even as a verb. We talk and think about home towns, home states and home countries since “home is where the heart is,” and “there’s no place like home.” Home base is where we are stationed and from where a mission starts and ends. In games like baseball, home is a rubber slab that we dodge towards, avoiding being tagged “out.” Homing pigeons can return home by accurately finding a starting point from a long distance, and when we come to a deeper understanding we say a “point has been driven home.” Most of us would agree that a mere dwelling or house does not define home, although we interchange the words. Home is not always where you live, it is also a safe space, where you have the right to be—without question.
Decades of immigrants to the United States have created mythic narratives about finding home in America in numerous media forms. The archetypal hero quest is replayed in movie homecoming after homecoming. One of the best loved versions is The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy begins her journey by dreaming of distant lands, “somewhere over the rainbow.” When Dorothy loses her home (through an overwhelming tornado that she didn’t see coming) she journeys to a land that mirrors her home. Dorothy loses her home, and her understanding of her place in the world, only to realize that she had found it all along!
In the United States, at the time that The Wizard of Oz was made, the family farm had come to embody the ideal of home, and Americans were literally losing their homes. The Great Depression destroyed financial institutions, wiped out family fortunes, shattered the American Dream of family homesteads, and forced millions of Americans to become homeless. Currently, many Americans face similar conditions. Can we draw comfort by thinking about how to salvage our dreams together?
In The Hero and the Perennial Journey Home in American Film, Susan Mackey argues that the purpose of the hero quest is not limited to the discovery of a holy grail. It is also about finding oneself and finding a home in the universe. This ultimate understanding of home simultaneously includes the hero’s literal home at the start, as well as the personal growth he or she experiences during the journey back. Mackey-Kallis shows that an outward journey into the world of action and events is what propels the hero towards a journey inward. The journey outward is what creates an interior journey of growth and ultimately allows the hero to find and define home and then share (with the culture at large). Dorothy can’t wait to get back and tell her family about what she has learned!
This month in Fort Collins, we have the opportunity to really think about how we define home by attending Finding Home: Sharing the Collective Journey of Immigration events and discussions. Whether you have called the United States home for generations, or for a shorter time, current events and economics ask us to all really think about living together. The journey is not always easy, and we won’t always agree. But, if we are brave enough to question our personal definitions of home, we can collectively shape our future home. All of us long for an environment of affection and security—and we can embark on epic journeys of self discovery without leaving Fort Collins!
The next two weeks include opportunities to attend Anon(ymous) at the OpenStage Theatre & Company or the open house series at the Museo de las Tres Colonias which hosts Dr Norberto Valdez of CSU on April 21 and Toni Natale and Robert Lujan on April 28. Both of these events have been running through the month of April. Then this week, on Tuesday, April 14, Bas Bleu presents Immigration Tales: El Latino Experiencia followed by a showing of the Milagro Beanfield War on Wednesday April 15, at the Lyric Cinema Cafe. The weekend opens with Impact Dance’s presentation of BORDER/Lines happening on Friday and Saturday evenings and then also on Saturday, the Fort Collins Museum presents their Archival Workshop: The Memory Project where you can reserve a spot to create a digital album of your own stories for your family and friends!
Next week brings the first of our thought leader speakers — Frank Sharry will be at the Lincoln Center on Tuesday April 21 to engage us all in some earnest discussions of the controversial issues around immigration reform and then the weekend sees Dan Zanes entertaining us all on Sunday April 26 with his show Nueva York!
There’s more still to come — Check out the beetstreet calendar for all the details, and I’ll see you in our neighborhood!
I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.
Maya Angelou, American Poet
Last week when I interviewed Tom Borrup and he discussed the impact of globalization as well as the ways in which all communities have often untapped and obscured pockets of creativity, I was reminded of the ways in which my own community manages to surprise me on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
Recently I read a research brief by Maria Rosario Jackson on the impacts on arts on communities. Sometimes we think that the creativity of a community lives in artist neighborhoods, amateur arts practices and companies, even audience participation in downtown venues and events; but in fact, creativity lives and runs through not only these events but some more ‘mundane’ places and practices as well. For both Tom Borrup and Maria Rosario Jackson, these pockets of everyday cultural creativity are reservoirs for the creative spirit and presence of multicultural diversity in ‘our homes’. They can be festivals, gatherings, community celebrations, informal but recurrent gatherings in parks and community centers, church based artistic activities — anything that maintains and invents group traditions. As Maria Rosario Jackson puts it, these are ” often important aspects of communities that go overlooked and are missed only when they are gone.”
These simpler forms of community arts and creativity provide important grounding devices for newcomers as well — they communicate home, help build social capital and individual as well as collective efficacy in terms of making a home for one’s family. They also socialize newcomers into dimensions of work and the working life of the community, mitigate crime and improve public safety. I remember living in Japan and even in the early hours of the morning, there were always lights on in houses, people out in the streets talking and walking. You were never alone. Someone was always watching for you. You were always safe.
When we first moved to Fort Collins, we lived in Colorado State University Village where many international families make their homes. The same sense of community prevails there also. Residents attend multicultural events, celebrating all their diverse cultures; children learn new games and ways of working with diverse others and languages; residents share belongings, food, toys, children run around all day between the buildings, in and out of homes, gardens and communal spaces. Everyone shares in the responsibility of the community.
This weekend I went to the International Children’s Carnival and as always, I am amazed at the diversity of people present. Sometimes when I attend these events, I can barely believe that this is the Fort Collins in which I live. The rich tapestry of peoples, languages and performances that surrounds me at these events ground myself and my family in what we consider ‘our world home’ and remind us of the often unseen gems of our community. Over the course of April, we encourage you to take some detours in your everyday life and walk some less familiar paths, sharing in some diverse celebrations of art, crafts, narrative, architecture and performance. Just this week alone, the Traveling Heritage Quilt Project presences itself in our community, there is our usual First Friday Gallery Walk on the 3rd, the Fort Collins Museum and Open Stage Theatre present “The Move to Fort Collins – Local History Stories of Immigration” and we celebrate the first open house of the Museo de las Tres Colonias this Saturday. Finally, OpenStage Theatre & Company begins their season of Anon(ymous) which will run over the course of this month.
Remember…Wherever you go, there you are!
What does “home” mean to you? Does home mean a building, or somewhere that you feel comfortable? What tastes or smells like home? Collard greens, tortillas, steaming rice or noodles–green bean casserole? How long has your family called Fort Collins, or Colorado, or the United States your home? If you are Native American, the Americas have always been your ancestral home, if not it’s likely that someone in your family’s past journeyed from somewhere else–to what today we call the United States. Some of our ancestors were forced to cross the Atlantic, others made epic journeys and stayed, while many others did not. (According to Irving Howe, for example, one-third of European immigrants who came to North America between 1908 and 1924 returned home).
Since U.S. schools have traditionally framed themselves as agents of assimilation, we have been taught that immigrants who assimilated were successful, although researcher Richard Rothstein shows that during the immigration period from 1880 to 1915, very few Americans did well in school–immigrants of all backgrounds did poorly. The myth of “first generation” immigrants making it in their new home is not supported by research; indeed, it shows that only successive generations achieved more academically! The process of finding home is often tough and traumatic.
For generations, many Americans imagined themselves thrown into the melting pot, or in the case of African Americans they constructed culture while they were denied the opportunity to jump in. Not all Americans are the descendants of immigrants, and today, few people find the concept of a melting pot of culture appealing–the high temperature of the metaphor evokes the actual pain of assimilation! We prefer to imagine ourselves as a patchwork, a nation that is more like a quilt with different cultural traditions and contributions forming the pattern. Our eclectic foodways, as mentioned earlier for example, reflect the contributions of family dinners from around the globe, and should serve to remind us that finding home takes different ingredients.
Early immigrants are celebrated for laying the foundations of U.S. culture and economy, while new neighbors are often blamed for the inequity they face in our society. On one hand, we celebrate and mythologize European immigrants of the past, and on the other, we often stereotype or even fear people currently trying to find their way home.
Guillermo Gómez-Peňa visited Fort Collins last year–check out his Strange Democracy performance to get his take on anti-immigration hysteria. What part do you and your family play in this still unfolding story? Between April 2 and May 3, Beet Street‘s Finding Home Series celebrates our collective past–everyday our histories and lives make Fort Collins lively and vibrant. How will you participate? How will you celebrate your story? How will you celebrate your home?
These are important material questions. One half of the world’s population, for example, approximately 3 billion people on six continents, lives or works in buildings constructed of earth. Between 1927 and 1935, New Mexico immigrants John and Inez Rivera Romero built a four-room adobe house in Fort Collins’ Andersonville district. Members of the Romero family called that house “home” until the Poudre Landmarks Foundation purchased it in 2001. The Romero House stands as a monument to many immigrants who worked skillfully to create an inexpensive, yet sound, home in a short period of time. Finding home meant making adobe bricks–sand and clay mixed with water and straw, then drying them in the open air. The Romero House (renovated into the Museo de las Tres Colonias) serves as an interpretative center to celebrate the contributions of the Hispanic community in northern Colorado. Find out what’s planned for April in our home town and come and celebrate with us!
Thanks for the mouth watering photo by 水泳男!