Archive for the ‘sense of place’ tag
We typically hear stories nowadays from movies, radio songs or television shows. Long gone are the days when stories were read aloud to us- now we have “Previously on Lost…” As children, stories were everywhere. We made up elaborate imaginary worlds with the help of our friends, or maybe even snuck in a daydream at our desks in class. It seemed that every little thing was a new story, inspired by a stray dog in the street or a cloud in the sky. And while T.V. plots are entertaining, and can be considered art in themselves, they sometimes do not feel real. We may find ourselves jealous of today’s children’s vivid imaginations, and their ability to take common images and turn them into stories that seem so real. Here in Fort Collins, artists are tuning into the connection between what we see and what we experience, creating ways to display stories all around us.
After attending the Center for Fine Art Photography’s exhibition titled “Documentary,” the concept of visual storytelling become better defined. A form of photojournalism, documentary style photography seeks to capture objective, truthful moments with little or no embellishments. The goal of the image is to create the sensation of being a fly on a wall, so that the viewer feels like they were actually present in the moment. On the Center for Fine Art Photography website, you can preview just a few photographs from the exhibit. One picture that reached out to me was a photograph of something so simple- a gun lying on a carpeted floor. You can see how the rug lay just off center in the room, such a typical human error, and the composition of the photo makes it feel like you are glancing down at the object, the only person in the room. All the images from this exhibit may not look like your own home, or even reflect your own experiences, yet they seem so natural that you are automatically transported to that place, and you are part of that experience. In essence, they tell a story that you inherently play a role in, much the same as a book or a movie.
Ed Kashi, a photojournalist, filmmaker and educator who judged the “Documentary” exhibition, notes that to their subjects photographers have “a tremendous sense of responsibility to tell the truth but also to also honor their stories.” It is clear that the artists displayed in this exhibit have fulfilled that obligation. “Documentary” is now closed (online exhibit still available), but look for other opportunities to see forms of visual storytelling at future exhibitions.
At home, in my own environment, I can see the objects scattered about my house, like my dog’s tattered lounge bed or my favorite DVD sitting on a shelf in my entertainment center. There are already so many memories associated with these things, and I have many more to create as I move forward in the future. Storytelling comes in the most commonplace images, as well as the most complex ones. If something can be said for storytelling, it should not neglect the stories that can be seen all around us. Whether a story starts as a visual adventure, or through spoken word, we can all find ways to see ourselves through the interpretation of art and experience.
Every morning I throw an apple into my bag for a midday snack, and I am always reminded of that old phrase, “An apple a day….,” but in reality I just like the taste of apples. I never really think about the health of my one serving of fruit, its vitamins or its nutrients. In truth, while I am aware of things that are deemed “healthy,” I never stop to think about what it really means to be healthy, and the amount of work that sometimes goes into the health industry. Health can improve life in many more ways than by generically “being good for you.” In fact when you think about it, so many of the great things in our lives come from staying physically healthy.
If anyone knows what hard work health can be, it is Dr. Simon Turner. His career is focused on working with sheep to reach the goal of what he calls “benefitting human health and ending suffering.” It sounds far-fetched, but the technology is very real. Because sheep have similar bone structures to human beings, Dr. Turner can use them to test techniques and devises that help with human orthopedic problems. His research has improved treatments for injuries, osteoporosis, and even cancerous bone.
What strikes me most about Dr. Turner and his work is his focus on human suffering. His work helps to ease physical pain, but really it does much more. Imagine what it must feel like to be debilitated by injury, always stuck in bed or on the couch, then finally being able to get up painlessly and enjoy a jog in the fresh summer air. Or what a big step it must be for a patient in a long battle with cancer to learn that their bones are disease free. Wounds are just as mental as they are physical, and the ability of research to battle difficult health issues has wonderful emotional side effects.
Dr. Turner will be explaining how his work serves the health of others, and how that work fits into a long historical relationship between animals and science, at Beet Street’s Science Cafe tonight. His talk will begin at 6:00pm at Stonehouse Grille, but be sure to come at 5:30pm if you would like to grab some food, drink, and a little social time beforehand.
Now, we can’t simply rely on doctors and researchers to make all medical miracles happen. There are so many little things that we do in our day to day lives that can nurture our bodies and souls. Just taking a stroll around one of Fort Collins’ gorgeous natural areas will put your mind as ease and get you in tune to the outdoors after working hard all day. Besides being a great physical exercise, walking has been shown to memory and even brighten your mood To double your positive mind/body vibes, take a friend with you. They will enjoy the benefits while you both build a stronger relationship. Locally grown produce gives you many of the the nutrients you need without any chemicals or additives, and when you pick it up at the Farmer’s Market over the weekend you also know that you are supporting your community (and we know that giving has great spiritual benefits as well). You probably do many of these things unconsciously. But I think that being aware of ourselves, of our minds and bodies, gives us more opportunities to take care of them.
As silly as it may seem, taking a bite of that apple really does make me feel better. I may not see the effects, or even think about it every day. But I am sure my body is affected, and so is my soul.
If you are looking for more Fort Collins events that boost your health, check these out:
Six Day Races at the CSU Oval
Nutritional Health Series at the Library
Preserving the Summer Harvest at the Gardens at Spring Creek
Free classes at Old Town Yoga
This week’s classes and festivals at Whole Foods Market
Fort Collins Parks and Trails
Public art can briefly be defined as art that is accessible to the public for their enjoyment. The range of possibilities for materials, the scale of the art, whether it is permanent or temporary, and whether it is situated in an indoor or outdoor setting, is limitless. Public art projects usually involve citizens from a specific community in the selection process, and their decisions come to reflect communal values and identity. So when art is collectively selected for a specific site, individuals have to agree on what represents their history, their interests, their endeavors, their community, and themselves.
Because communities are involved in both the selection and the enjoyment of public art, it becomes art that defines a location, and works to tell the story of environments across time—public art signifies place. So, public art helps a community create a “sense of place,” and it helps individuals define how they exist within that community. Together these factors contribute to and enhance quality of life. As a result, installing public art is a community’s investment in its own imagination, a commitment to its present, past and future. Some powerful (and difficult to miss) examples of public art that help define places, are the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., and the Saint Louis Arch. We immediately associate these large sculptures with specific cities, their citizens, cultures and histories. These highly recognized symbols represent where they are located, give it character, and make it interesting. At the same time, they create ambiance and transform their surroundings.
No matter what its scale, all public art helps define its location and adds to a city’s reputation and visual footprint. Public art also contributes to a community’s economic vitality by drawing customers and tourists. A place that is visually appealing has much more draw than a dull unappealing destination. So public art can also contribute to economic goals.
The City of Fort Collins has a number of public art projects that work to help create our sense of place and community. The Art in Public Places Collection includes over 50 public art installations around the city. The Pedestrian Paver Project includes drawings by youth ages 3-18 which are sandblasted into granite, and placed in sidewalks around our city. Fort Collins residents can also submit proposals to paint trashcans for City Parks. On a larger scale, artists and designers are in the process of submitting proposals to develop the artistic vision and concepts for renovations at Lincoln Center.
This summer, the Transformer Cabinet Mural Project continues to work its magic on transformer cabinets around town. The transformative power of public art is literally changing the face of local transformer cabinets to enhance our city! Artists submit proposals and when selected, carry out their proposals in alleys and along the sides of streets. Keep your eyes open for new examples and you might even see an artist at work! You are also invited to take photos of friends and family in front of your favorite Fort Collins art and share them online at the City’s website. Which ones are your favorites? Which ones help you feel that you are in a distinct space? It would be great to hear the community’s choices!
Art is Everywhere!
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!