Tag Archives: art as activism

What comes next?

As I have mentioned, little snippets of Hamilton just seem to hit the nail on the head when it comes to recent political events here in this divided country of  ours.

“…You were mine to subdue
Well, even despite our estrangement, I’ve got
A small query for you:

What comes next?
You’ve been freed
Do you know how hard it is to lead
?

You’re on your own
Awesome. Wow
Do you have a clue what happens now?

Oceans rise
Empires fall

It’s much harder when it’s all your call….”

Yesterday here in this fair Queen City of Cincinnati, Ohio, we marched.  I must remind my more conservative readers (if you are even still with me here) that this river town is not an ‘elite coastal city’ which some claim are the only places in which  marching and peaceful protesting are happening.  We are an average blue city amidst the VERY red state of Ohio.  And like many cities around the world we marched en masse in the thousands.  It was remarkable and emboldening.

And here is why we marched.

(if anyone knows the source of this meme, please let me know so I can link to it. And if you are unfamiliar with what this image is referring to,  here’s a brief start: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Treachery_of_Images)

We marched because this election was so much more than Democracy gone awry for our ‘side’.  Shear human decency was pulled through the proverbial ringer this past election season and we did not come out of it the better for our efforts.  Many were shocked.  But some of us saw it coming down the pike.  And now here we are.

It’s important to have water to drink at a march because it can go on for hours. This sticker was designed by my friend Kim Rae Taylor and you can get yours in t-shirt form here
From the Scottish TV pages. Sometimes the very best commentary comes from across the pond!

We are, it would seem, in a very strange ‘interactive virtual reality project’.  And so we marched.  On the shoulders of giants.

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

– Maya Angelou

Protesters crafted clever signage to carry along the route.

Saw this version on Twitter, but many like it here in our own march
This sign was posted on Brene Brown’s Instagram feed and as a card carrying introvert who loathes crowd energy, I for one couldn’t agree more.
My step-mama Sue, an activist and extremely politically engaged at all times, is an inspiration to follow.
This amazing design has been doing the rounds and I saw it on a number of protest signs.  Far as I know, this is the source… http://ladieswhodesign.com/
I sincerely hope JK Rowling knows she has inspired a new generation of activists. Harry Potter is so relevant. It makes my heart happy.
And the other side of the Harry Potter inspired protest swag.
Even the little’s had something to say. The other side of this sign had this child’s scribbles in marker. Her parents translated her scribbles for all to read and understand.
My friend Julie Persons got Claudia involved too.  Will you look at that tiny hat!?  https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/adventuresofclaudia

This day was billed as a day for ‘Women’s Marches’ all around the world.  But, as the protesters did chant, “Women’s rights are human rights.”  The day was more than just for or about women.  We were protesting everything the Trump administration stands for.  Black Lives Matter activists were present and marching in solidarity, as were those standing up for the rights of Muslims here in our community, and the rights of those with disabilities.  Those who are worried for the future of public education under the person nominated for Education Secretary were there as well with their concerns and signs. Entire families were present.  My own included three generations.  There were tiny babies and the elderly in wheel chairs or with canes.  We all helped each other along the cobblestones of Over The Rhine.  It was beautiful.

“The thing about “snowflakes” is this: They are beautiful and unique, but in large numbers become an unstoppable avalanche that will bury you.”

~George Takei

We marched this day to build one another up for what will be four years of chipping away at the rights of many, in favor of lining the pockets of those already too rich for normal people to even conceive.

A t-shirt design I did awhile back for the beautiful song above by my dear friend Kim Taylor. (yes, another brilliantly talented friend called Kim Taylor.  I adore them both!)

Just last night I attended a musical birthday celebration and in the wings we whispered about the success of the marches around the world, while simultaneously lamenting the changes already affecting those most vulnerable in our community.  One friend, a physician, works with many immigrants and desperately poor folks on the fringe who are frightened to even show identification to their medical caregivers under this new administration.  Her office is mostly federally funded.  They may not even be present to give care if the promised cuts come along.  Another friend, recipient of an FHA loan to purchase her home was emailed that very day of an increase in her mortgage of $150 per month.  With a swish of a pen stroke, Trump signed away Obama’s 1/2% tax break, meaning many families will have to scramble just to pay for their homes now.  $150 is a ton of money for a working family.  But what would Mr. Trump know of such troubles as a billionaire, eh?  Sadly, many folks who voted him into office will get a similar email.  I wonder if they can make ends meet.

Which leads me to my original question.  What comes next? Marches are all well and good and definitely were a shot of desperately needed hope for many of us who lean toward the progressive end of the spectrum.  But they are not enough.  We have a lot of work to do.  I will not say that marches don’t make change.  I believe they do.  And so does Rebecca Solnit.  I recently read her book Hope in the Dark and in it she makes a case for the fact that even the smallest acts of protest can go on to have lives of their own and spark other action elsewhere which we may never witness.  Yesterday’s protests may possibly not yield the large benefits we all envision until generations from now, but we mustn’t sit back and wait and see.  There are things we can do here and now – ways we can ride this wave of rebellion.

There are concrete things we can do to stay engaged in this protest and not lose steam. More info here

Local government is where seeds of change begin to unfurl and grow and so we can begin there.  We must also stay on our national and state level representatives to remind them we are watching their every political move.  Post cards, phone calls.  Conversations with our neighbors.  We must continue to rise up as one voice in defense of the defenseless.

“Rise up
When you’re living on your knees, you rise up
Tell your brother that he’s got to rise up
Tell your sister that she’s got to rise up.”

~Lin Manuel Miranda

And through all of this, we artists must continue to find balance amidst this chaos in order to tend to our own quiet work, equally as powerful in making change as all the political actions.  In recent days, two of my past Taos Workshop participants told me that taking my sketch journaling class had literally changed their lives.  I don’t share this here to brag or even to market the class, but rather to marvel.  To remind myself how important the work is.  To remind myself, and you dear readers, how crucial our individual voices are in this tumultuous time.  Even if they feel small or quiet.

“I also wanted to write to let you know, ( months after the fact) how your workshop in Taos last summer transformed my life. At the risk of sounding corny, it lifted me out of the cocoon that I had been hiding in for so long. After coming back from Taos, my sense of adventure and joy was restored. I’ve got to tell you how major this is especially for a girl who struggles with depression and anxiety. You are making a difference. You certainly made a difference in mine. Your workshop is so reinvigorating and life giving to the soul. Friends and family have even taken notice of how I’ve taken flight after the workshop. It fed the starving creative in me which is who I am in my deep core. Fast forward four months, I finally quit the job I hated and decided to go back to school full time to pursue my dream of becoming a web designer and user experience guru. Butterfly effect much?”

~2016 Taos class participant.  <3  quote used here with permission.

So go forth and doodle.  go forth and write your poems of love and rage.  go forth and run for local office.  go forth and get to know that Trump loving neighbor or family member, and if they are open to it, (and you can stomach it) engage them in conversation.  go forth and build this great nation (who is still, “young scrappy and hungry” compared to most of the rest of the world) with liberty and justice for all.  

Musical Activism

“Sing and you shall defeat death; sing and you shall disarm the foe.” – Elie Wiesel.

Pavilion Wedding at the Swanannoa Gathering

I am returned, once again, from the magical world of the Swannanoa Gathering, which this year celebrates it’s 25th anniversary.  And once again, it was quite the week of music and mayhem, tunes and tricks, laughter and love, friendship and food, beverages and beauty.

There are many ideas floating around in my head for drawings and illustrations seeded by this past week which I shall soon share here of course.  Art begets art and by spending the week with so many talented and creative folks, I am fairly swimming in artful thought-glitter!!

As you can see, there is much joy to be had in a week at the Swannanoa Gathering.  This is so very sorely needed in this heavy world at what feels like a very dark time.  I was keenly aware of the bits of the outside world which seemed to follow us beyond the mists into this special place.

mists of reality closing in

But in spite of dark times and a world awash with so much hatred and violence, we came together, once again.  A dear friend of mine from Swannanoa overheard someone say one night at a ceili where everyone dancing seemed to have a smile on their shining faces, “Why can’t we be like this all the time?  All of us?”  I don’t think he meant just us at the gathering, but maybe more the world at large.

ceili fun
Yes, for a brief second, Cillian Vallely was a dancer.

So hard not to smile in the midst of this music.  Heartfelt, Joy-filled….

And in the midst of all of the fun, we were there to learn.  Everyday, we went to the classes available to us to soak up all the tunes and tips we could from our multi-talented instructors.  For me, this was Nuala Kennedy in the morning, and Kevin Crawford in the afternoons.

The rapport and sense of play these two bring to teaching and playing and performing is simply infectious and I find them both incredibly inspirational in my own teaching work as well as of course, the music itself.

class begins

Nuala teaches

in which kevin hunts down a roving F #
“who’s playin’ that F sharp lads?? it was over here somewhere…”

Neither one of them lets us get away with anything but our very best work and so on the edge of our seats, we huffed away on our flutes and learned so very much.  My mind is still quite thick with all of the information we gained over the week!

The week was not all classes though….

There were concerts, lectures, opportunities to play more slowly on a new instrument.  There were sessions till all hours of the night.  And of course lots of laughter and community with friends.  Here is a small sampling…..

slow real slow
Slow, real slow. Slow session needs a reminder to slow down sometimes, so a sign was placed to much laughter!

 

peaceable kindom
John Skelton cracks up at a flute ‘truce’ between Nuala and Kevin, who often are seen as camp rivals. All in good fun!!
A highlight of the week was this blast of flutes playing all together. This sound is one of main reasons I got into playing flute in the first place.
A highlight of the week was this blast of flutes playing all together. This sound is one of main reasons I got into playing flute in the first place.

 

clash with the fiddles
The fiddles didn’t take too kindly to the notion of ‘Rejecting the tyranny of the fiddle’!

 

Ellen and I attempted to stay dry whilst at dinner one night. We look rather sweet and somewhat Parisian or something I believe!
Ellen and I attempted to stay dry whilst at dinner one night. We look rather sweet and somewhat Parisian or something I believe!

(side note: during the storm, a huge lighting strike occurred on campus.  it hit a tree and out went the power.  it was captured in this amazing sound byte by my friend Mary….. listen for at least 40 seconds…..)

 

Love walks
These two celebrated their second anniversary this year at the gathering where they were married. (click!  It’s a link to the post about the Swannanoa Pavilion Wedding.)

 

misty selfie
So steamy at times there in the North Carolina mountains!

 

last night's songs
A song between old friends.

 

In which we concertina beginners hang on by any G we can grab onto!
In which we concertina beginners hang on by any G we can grab onto!
Nights in the breezeway provided lovely acoustics and a break away from the crowds round the regular session tents.
Nights in the breezeway provided lovely acoustics and a break away from the crowds round the regular session tents.

 

The walk from our living quarters to meals and other things over on campus.
The walk from our living quarters to meals and other things over on campus.
Woodland wildlife
Many folk saw bears around campus, but all I got were some tree-giraffes….

 

The food served up by Osborne and Pei En is so scrumptious! They treat us so well. Thanks for this snapshot Bob!!
The food served up by Osborne and Pei En is so scrumptious! Over the years they’ve become good friends who welcome us back kindly. Thanks for this snapshot Bob!!

There is so much more in the world of sweet snapshots I could share with you here.  Special thanks to my flute friends Kate, Bob and Colin who generously shared their pictures for this post.  And I could leave the update here and that might be the end of it.  But while we were at camp, the world was continuing on its crazed path of recent self destruction.  News was leaking in.  The music we were making took on a whole new gravity.

As is often the case, the ‘Flutilla’ was planning some mischief for the end of week student showcase.  In years past we had made fun with the ‘rivalry’ between Nuala and Kevin, as our allegiance to them both made them often wonder, ‘hmmmm, who do the flute kids like best?’  But of course we love them both equally and we get something different from each.   So this year, we took on the fiddles.  Which seemed a fun direction to go, based on the hijinks at the concert the other night.  And so I drew up a little drawing, and we made a plan for take over in the form of wearable art…..

 

 

Reject the tyranny of the fiddle!!!! (coined originally by Kieran O'Hare)
Reject the tyranny of the fiddle!!!! (coined originally by Kieran O’Hare)

Update!!!:  Due to the high level of interest in this design, I have created a tidied up version of it to put on products such as totes, shirts and the like which you can order from the link below.  Proceeds will go toward a scholarship to Celtic Week at the Swannanoa Gathering.  Viva la Flutilla!!!!

Resistance is Flutile

Visit my Society6 page HERE (click on ‘here’)  🙂 

But then we awoke the next morning to read the dreadful news of Nice and beyond and we approached the day more somberly.  I had the feeling that my blog post from before leaving for camp was even MORE important and we all talked about how important and actually ‘serious’ the ‘fun’ we were having at camp truly is.

My dear friend Joe Bly wrote a gorgeous poem, in true mythical epic poem format that had begun with the ‘let’s take down the fiddles’ sort of approach and idea.  But as he wrote it, it changed.  Into something bigger and better than all of that.  With his poem, the ‘tyranny’ we speak of became all that is evil in the world at large.  All the violence and negativity.  The work and fun we embarked upon at the Swannanoa Gathering is the rejection of all of that.  The folks I know from the gathering go back to their real lives as doctors, teachers, paramedics, therapists, healers, parents, lawyers and beyond.  They are bright and active in their communities and keenly aware of the news.  And into that work in the outside world, they bring the laughter and creativity that a week of music camp can ignite.  I simply marvel.

Cloaked in the mists of Tír na nÓg, the Otherworld of Swannanoa, Where three hundred days pass as three, Rival Clans of the Blackwood vied in feats of strength and skill, Lost in the Loop of myths and legends.

Come! Ye Fianna of the Flute! Daughters of Méabh, Sons of Cúchulainn! Come forth from the mists and meet in the ford of the river that divides us, For now is the time to cast arms beneath the waves And in Friendship and Honor Unite.

We are reborn as warriors anew as we march forth into the shining day.

For are we not free? For do we not face the shadow of a common foe, Hearts and eyes open wide?

For we shall not grovel in fear of the Darkness But serve the light of the clear morning.

Behold! The fog lifts! We shall Behave the Bravest, as we find Common Ground, Carrying the Tune before us as the new standard of peace and fellowship.

We are the new Druids, raising our staffs of

Blackwood, Horsehair, Silver Wire and Skin.

We cradle the sacred rite passed down through the mists of legends, And it is our sworn honor to push together against the night, With our strength and our weapons of music and laughter.

Now, more than ever.

I do believe that Joe may have channeled something divine in this poem.  He read it  aloud at the showcase before the flutes came together as one and played a jig together in unification.

The shirts and our grand plan were secret so we handed them out 'trunk sale' style in back of the pavilion. Great fun!
The shirts and our grand plan were secret so we handed them out ‘trunk sale’ style in back of the pavilion. Great fun!
There are so many of us when we band together!!!
There are so many of us when we band together!!!
star teachers
Everyone flutey wore the shirt. It was grand!!!

The evening wore on and there were so many gorgeous tunes and songs put on by everyone….  We soaked up and steeped in the final evening together.

Jack played in the showcase with his fiddle class taught by Martin Hayes, the Buddha of the Fiddling world
Jack played in the showcase with his fiddle class taught by Martin Hayes, the Buddha of the Fiddling world

As the week came to an end, we all talked much of not only the music we had experienced, but also of the wisdom we were given by those who light this musical path.

martin speaks of presence
Martin Hayes is a font of musical life wisdom and I love him for it!

A highlight of the week for me was a ‘potluck’ lecture-talk put on by Martin Hayes who is a great fiddler, not only in the traditional sense but also as one who is constantly pushing the boundaries of the music itself.  He spoke of being truly present in our music and that to do that we must be present with ourselves.  This notion of presence really struck me.

When I play music, or make art, I am most truly present.  And the doing of these things over the years has enriched my life and caused me to be more present in all aspects of my life.  Presence.  It’s crucial.  Presence in ourselves.  Presence with each other.  This alone could help heal a lot in this world, I do believe.

some notes jotted down from martin…

“…raw beauty of a melody.”

“simple music, heartfelt.”

“connective tissue between musician, instrument, and player”

“anything that further releases inner expression is valid”

“allowing.”

“trying is an obstacle”   (yoda??  is that you???)

“presence”

“leave the safety zone behind”

“trust the unknown.”

“create a spell.”

Last week at Swannanoa was more than just music.  It felt a lot like activism.  Pursuing creativity and kindness, music and beauty in a world so hell bent on the opposite seems like an insurmountable challenge at times.  But I accept this challenge.  As best as I know how to.  I share my approach to art work in the form of teaching and I’ve been told it has changed lives for the better.  Much in the way my instructors at Swannanoa and beyond have changed mine.

I am deeply grateful to be on this beautiful planet at the same time as these people.  These musicians and friends of mine.  The world needs their beauty.  My beauty.  and Yours.

“Sing and you shall defeat death; sing and you shall disarm the foe.” – Elie Wiesel.

It bears repeating.

 

NOPE. My little patch of paradise

nope

I went for a long, hot, humid run today.  Not my favorite weather in which to hit the roads, but I have been a bit of an anxious mess lately, and running indoors would only have exacerbated that sensation.  You see, my neighborhood, and many others near ours and like ours (some of which I’ve resided in in the past) is under assault by the big bully energy company who is supposed to be providing ‘service’ to our community.

Last Wednesday I skipped the churchlike regularity of my weekly Irish music session to attend a community forum…

IMG_3937

At this meeting, light was shed upon the whispers of a tragic injustice potentially headed our way, courtesy of the fracking movement and spearheaded by the very company which is supposed to bring us ‘service’, Duke Energy.

I sat at this meeting, horrified, filled with dread, my ears fairly bursting with the news of this plan to bring an industrial strength, highly pressurized ‘natural’ gas pipeline straight through our back yards.  I’ll fess up that I thought I was headed to this meeting for a bit of ‘not in my back yard’ tete-a-tete, and just to see what was up.  This isn’t about my back yard.  This is about all of our back yards.

For the first time,  a pipeline of this magnitude is being considered for a path straight through the middle of a densely populated neighborhood area.  A path that navigates it’s way not only through quiet suburban backyards with mature trees and woodlands such as ours, but also through neighborhoods with houses whose closer fence lines provide much more day to day contact.  And right by schools where our neighborhood kids learn and play and live their little lives.  And just near nursing homes, day care centers, hospitals and houses of worship.

This is no ordinary pipeline, I learned at last week’s forum.  This is not about service to us from our local energy provider.  This pipeline is a highway.  A 30″ transmission pipe headed south to make money for Duke Energy.  This pipeline has nothing to do with us, if I understood the information I gleaned from the meeting.   Sure, it might be part of the overall ‘system’  ‘needed’ to be in place for us to get the natural gas we use so thoughtlessly utilize on a regular basis.  I do not know.  I am still in the process of researching it all.   But I am no Erin Brockovich .  I am just a quiet artist, trying to lead a good life.  Trying to stay one step ahead of my anxieties about the world.

And so we went to our local forum.  We sat riveted and horrified.  And we came home to think about it all for a day or so.  And now, we have written heartfelt letters to our local politicians, and to our local utility company (which feels laughable, considering their confidence in making this pipeline a reality).  And today, I knit socks in my little patch of paradise while no one else was up besides me and the dogs and our last, lone chicken.  And I pondered the kids and older folks by whom this pipeline would pass.   And I thought about how vulnerable they all are.  How vulnerable we all are.

When something goes wrong on one of these lines, there is no warning.  No evacuation.  Folks are just in the blast line.  Or they are not.  Currently, for at least one path this line is considering, we are in a fairly direct path of a potential blast.  I don’t want anyone to be in this blast line.  A line of this caliber belongs in industrial areas and along interstate routes.  For in the long run, what is traffic and re-routing, if countless lives are potentially saved?

I sat in a state of endless anxiety for a good while.  And then I went on that run.  Due to the heat and humidity, I had to stop here and there.   I chatted with a dear neighbor who has a new (to me) dog named Rocket.  I wandered my streets filled with love for this place.  This isn’t necessarily my perfect place.  That might be nearer to the ocean perhaps.  But for now, this is our place.  And I am fiercely committed to it.  I ran and ran and ran.  Just one step ahead of the elephant that loves to take up residence upon my chest so often.

and then I saw it.

A little wild rabbit.

The morning sunshine was slanted just so that the creature’s ears were lit up like little rose petals.  I stopped.  Caught my breath.  And got an idea.

IMG_3950

I almost can’t handle the idea of older folks, school children, and my own home being in an explosion caused by a highly pressurized natural gas pipeline in a densely populated area.  But I can escape to my imaginary sphere.  And wonder what the animals might think of it all.

After all, regardless of property values potentially falling due to this pipeline, or dangerous safety concerns for our most vulnerable citizens, the environmental issues surrounding this project are absolutely staggering.  Changes to storm run-off patterns in place for generations,  construction run-off into the millcreek watershed, mature trees and woodlands decimated.  I could go on and on.

But here was this rabbit.  And here was myself, in a state of agitated anxiety.  So for the afternoon I escaped into my imagination.  Where the woodland animals were banding together with their own social media campaign.

IMG_3951 IMG_3952 IMG_3953

And I made a little drawing.

Because besides chatting up my neighbors on both sides of the party line, and sending letters to my governmental representatives, this is all I know to do.  I mustn’t cave to endless fear and anxiety over this notion.  I must act.  And today I acted.  And I will continue to do so when I can.  There have been stories of communities able to stand in the face of these environmental atrocities and make change.  And lord knows there are others with a less happy ending.

But we are at the beginning of this struggle.  There is a core group of citizens comprised of a variety of affected communities who have banded together to make some trouble and spread the word of this project so very inappropriate for this area.  It seems the energy corporations are getting more and more desperate to make a dollar (or billions) and they are putting the very communities they are supposed to be ‘serving’ at risk.  I really expected better community stewardship and responsibility from a company I, until now, trusted.

NOPE Cincy is a group online providing the latest updates on this tragic idea in the hope that we can get things rerouted.  At the rally they put on which I attended, many local representatives were on hand ready to speak for their constituents.  (shout out to Todd Portune whom I last heard speak at my friend Tina’s mural opening last fall.  He is a politician who shows up.  I find that tremendously admirable).  In the current political climate so often filled with vitriolic mayhem, this all feels like a breath of grass-rooted fresh air, in spite of the horrific issue at hand.  And it is just this notion of neighbors working together from ‘both sides of the podium’ as they say that gives me some real hope for where we are headed.

I made this little drawing today.  This is all I know how to do besides writing letters and talking to my neighbors.  It is putting my head in the sand where I feel safe, while not truly doing so.  It is my form of activism.

nope