The fixed notion of Community Art is elusive, and yet, community art has been around for centuries. Artists are intrinsically drawn to the world they live in, and for many that means not only viewing but participating in it. As I start my personal journey with Community Art, I intend to find out what exactly it means, how exactly it can be defined, so I can help spread this creative fervor and transform the general public into the creatively passionate.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Community Part of Community Art

For a long time I didn't have very good friends. There were people I was close with, people I spent time with, people I saw everyday, even people that I thought I would know for the rest of my life, but it wasn't until college that I truly began to build my community.

My college years created the two closest friendships that I have, that I have ever had. Through the past four or so years with these two wonderful women, and with the many other incredible people who have helped to shape who I am, I've learned what it means to be close to someone. For me, the closest form of intimacy doesn't come from sharing secrets, sex, or history. It comes from the exchange of ideas.

There comes a point when I'm so deeply wrapped in a conversation that I lose track of where my thoughts end and my companion's begin; when the idea forming in my mind comes out of their mouth. It is through these discourses that I discovered my passion for human connection, through whatever means available to me, and then came up with a way to channel that passion into an actual life.

I've lost count of the number of times that a new idea has formed while my mouth is moving, butting its way into whatever conversation that inspired its birth. That's how I first came up with my plan to start a community art center, one month into the fall semester of my junior year of college. I pulled out my notebook just now and flipped to September 9th, 2009, the day the idea was formed. A single page of notebook paper is covered in messy pencil with The Salon (the original title of my center) scrawled across the stop. I can still remember my hand moving across the now familiar page as I sat in the dining hall of my college campus, waiting for my closest friend to get out of her art history class so I could explode my new idea, that I got from talking to my own art history professor, onto her.

I do indeed tend to explode when I have an idea. My sister calls it "bubbly Miranda" which, despite not carrying the gravity I would like, is the most accurate description of the state I enter when a new idea is forming. Words and phrases bubble out of me, bursting into the world through the conversation of whoever I am talking with at the moment. My eyes become cartoonishly wide and my hands, or rather my entire arms, swing from place to place as if I am preforming as a storyteller.

Since the birth of The Salon, I have talked with what must be over a hundred people about it, always expanding and developing both myself, my idea, and the person with whom I am talking. Through these conversations, which increased dramatically when I moved to Boston and began my master's degree at Lesley University, The Salon has evolved into Creative Spaces and, most recently, CATCH Art: the Creative Haven. (Get it? It's a self-retaining acronym! Eek!)

I've spoken with friends, family members, mentors, strangers, even people I don't like all that much, and they have each added their own flavor to my idea, if only by listening as I talked to them. I've read books and articles, started writing this blog, filled up countless notebooks, and created endless files on my computer as I continue my external thought development. Currently, I have a ten year plan for my art center. I have no idea what it will look like in the end because I have no idea who I will talk to in the time between now and then. All I know is that every conversation I have continues to build the community of people who have heard and helped with my idea and with the development of myself.

For the past few weeks I've been thinking about writing this post, drawing attention to the people part of community art. I spend a lot of time writing and thinking about the children I teach and the teachers I learn from, but just as important, if not more important, are the people who I teach and learn with. The people who listen to me, who talk to me, who dream with me.

There was quote at the beginning of one of my classes this semester which I have not been able to get out of my mind; "I write so I can find out what I am thinking" by Jerome Bruner. Obviously, just glance down the page, this is true for me. But I would have to say, more accurately, I converse so I can find out what I am thinking, and once I know what I think, I know what I am going to do.

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