Friday, December 3, 2010

Art Begins to Surface

Buoy #15
Here it is, my ger (yurt), right and front, with the round brown roof (deever), and the cover on the roof ring (urkh), wrapped up in tarps like everything else. Behind it stands a row of tall blue smurfs, shared tents into which newcomers go. On the left is a couple's tent in brown tarps. I made this sketch on Thursday morning and colored it in with a tiny German watercolor kit. A few people were gathered around, Linda and Stan and Michael and John. I gave John some paper and pens and he began working at once on his own drawing.

a cold &kind confused
my role is to map the birds to imitate the rain to see the spirits inside the spirits to accept the weather in all directions to soak up the pools to be informed &gentle &raw &temporary &here i am head in the heavens &the sirens drift by &i'm a bit in a bivy sack my blankets are wet but i'm stuffed in deep with two hats on &two socks &a down jacket with fingerless gloves we don't call them armless jackets &two pairs of long johns &snores on both sides like a breakwater &plastic wheels rolling into the night laying down new paths to the universe here swims a sour smell from a bivy stored too long in a trunk to what will we wake if we decide to a phone call from a bill collector a voice in the kitchen cackles of laughter constant coughing &at last warmth warmth at last in a loose knot &wanting to hold that

Bye Bye Gray
Here it is, after so much rain, the big blue with whispering clouds. High in an eagle's nest, we're perched,  atop Meadowbrook hill, nestled in the trees. The sky, the sky! it said. The people, the people! we replied. The song, the song! It was sung. As a new mood drove through. And on and on. And out and out. Hot showers were discussed. And the Stan bird sang a song about love and moving on then did with a walking stick. I'll pay you to sing, I said. Pay me in cigarettes. No, no, something healthy, I said. Smiles he said.

Posted, on the board by the front desk, a sign: "No dinner today or tomorrow." It's down to canned food, chili and beans and soup. Someone organized the kitchen and it looks beautiful and well-stocked, but still those old sandwiches on the shelves. The shelves made of milk crates, stacked and zip-tied together. Loaves of bread. Tubs of peanut butter. Cartons of fruit (apples, bananas, grapes, oranges). Cakes and muffins.

The door to SHARE/WHEEL (Seattle Housing and Resources Effort, Women's Housing Equality and Enhancement League) is in an alley in downtown Seattle, on Stewart between 2nd and 3rd. SHARE is an organization sponsoring fifteen shelters and two tent cities in Seattle, including the one I'm in (Tent City 3). I went to the Safe Haven Site Search meeting to earn my community credit and represented Tent City 3. I arrived half an hour early and waited 15 minutes. At a quarter to, I was let in and sat in the basement room until the others arrived. Eight people gathered, everyone representing a different shelter or Tent City, also getting credits. Lunch was Capn' Crunch and Fruit Loops with 2% milk. I didn't have any.

Then came the meeting, most inefficient. But there are many obstacles to efficiency. This was a first meeting for most. One, maybe two, had a history of the project. It took the entire meeting to get that on the table. And maddening the use of Robert's Rules of Order. We were required to raise our hand to talk and to answer and to redress and to... We were a small group at a boardroom table, it seems an unnecessary precaution. Though our group had a scribe, there were no minutes issued from the last meeting so we were all starting fresh.

An hour into the meeting I asked how long it would go. It was never stated and I had another meeting approaching and a parking meter to feed. I was told meetings last, on average, an hour and a half, but that was up to us. How fast could we come up with an action plan? After another half an hour, I announced that I needed to leave and would return next week to work in whatever capacity was needed---online research, letter writing, organizational history-- and would even bring my laptop. In response, I was told I might not get credit for this meeting because I was leaving before the follow-up work was complete. That's fine, I said.

Hurtles arise whenever I am near camp. They are in every rule and every fence picket and in every inch of green fabric around the city. There is pressure to remain invisible (for fear of being put out at the least infraction). I was told, as a woman, I could not walk a neighborhood at night, nor fill the camp cooler at the church spigot. I have been a woman now for 43 years and have walked and bicycled and sailed and climbed all over my city at night and by day. I am capable and alert and what exactly is the fear? And who is being protected in here?

I've met a dozen artists in camp. Singers and musicians and actors and translators and writers and even poets! I've heard from the non-artists too that they have a story to tell and, from still others, i have heard a disclaimer. "I don't belong here. This is not who I am." I hope, for all of them, to offer a journaling practice, to whomever is interested, something that will feed into a public reading and perhaps a publication and maybe an exhibition. I see talent and time and interest. And so many still to meet.

SONG OF TENT CITY COLLABORATORS.........................

Amy & Dan Peters of Blue Begonia Press offered to publish what comes out of this project. No telling what that will be, but I hope for a mix of prose and poetry, created separately and collaboratively. Dan is a terrific poet and teacher at Yakima Valley Community College and co-editor of Weathered Pages: The Poetry Pole.

Inventor, costumer and supporter, Clinton Bliss, is designing and constructing a one-of-a-kind poet's cape from an old, dried-out deer skin and some high-tech, wind-resistant material.

Matthew Casey has been photographing street artists and street dwellers for years. He offered to photo-document my project, but photography is a sensitive subject in camp so I'm holding off to see what Tent City might have a need for.

Arts reporter, Sarah Koenig, met with me twice, the second time on-site, at Tent City 3, the day after the move to Meadowbrook. We were joined by Andrew, a CityArts photographer, and given a thorough  camp tour by camp resident sage, Lantz. By the time the meeting was done, we were all, save for Lantz, complaining of the cold.

Circle of Friends has offered to lead a Cocoa Mix Gift Workshop for Tent City 3 to provide us with gifts for the holiday season.

Lyn Coffin, a brilliant poet, playwright, translator, performer and friend, sits in daily meditation. After sitting with Lyn one day, we got to talking and she offered to lead a walking meditation for Tent City 3. I suggested it to a camp resident and he seemed interested so that makes three and it's a go. Once it's started, I can continue weekly as a community event.

Maura Shapley and Jack leNoir of Day Moon Press donated a stack of beautiful, gray cover paper (Grandee Duplex) for the  journals I am making. In addition, Maura time-consumingly cut the paper to size on her guillotine and boxed it for me. Much gratitude!

Vanessa, co-founder of Project: Space Available and owner of Studio-Current (an active art space and laboratory for works-in-progress, reflective feedback and dialog), offered her tabletop press for my printing needs and, along with it, her love and time and ideas and utter brilliance for creative thinking and writing. What an force Vanessa is! What a resource! And how lucky we are to have her here in Seattle. She's been behind so very many artists and performances and projects and is a movement in and of herself. In the past two weeks, we've met five times, to purchase ink, sort type, run a test, fold folios and re-set the press. This Sunday, we'll print the covers and stitch the journals and they'll be ready. These handmade journals will go to residents of Tent City 3, after which I hope to provide some direction for a Tent City journaling project and offer to facilitate an ongoing writer's circle.

I met architect and artist Stuart Kleiger at the 2010 Tacoma Arts Symposium. I joined him for lunch and we talked about the architectural challenges of Tent City. It was an engaging discussion. Stuart brought up the use of porches and plinths and we talked about how such things would alter and improve the camp. Having spent some time in residence now, I see how these ideas won't work and instead see what is sorely missing and much needed. We spoke again and Stuart offered to deign a shared space for posting and reading work, perhaps a kiosk-like structure.

Tessa Hulls of Pilot Books asked me to speak at an upcoming Research Club Brunch.

Friend and new neighbor, Jim Roe, dropped in for a brainstorming session. He offered some sage advice and then some thoughtful ground support and assistance.

The very professional and admirable arts reporter, Amy Mikel, came to my office a week ago to interview me. She plans to follow the project in an ongoing series. Amy's most poignant question was, "How can I help you?" Stumped, I suppose, I tried to discuss my way to an answer. After an hour or so, I think I came to it. I want to place Tent City on the map, in the minds of the residents and, most especially, in the minds of the artists, as a place, a place of opportunity, a place for collaboration. If we can see it, perhaps we can bridge it?

Adrienne Anderson Smith shared her skill for making palm rings. She winds palms, on Palm Sunday, into one inch rings that, when dried, look lovely and organic hanging from a necklace. After a year of wearing it, she takes it off and burns it to make ashes for Ash Wednesday. I want to offer this ritual, with a slight variation, to Tent City. Our rings will be made from local grasses and worn by anyone living between homes. The ring is worn until a new home is found. It is then to be burned and the ashes smudged on the doorframe of the new house as a connection between the old and the new. We have all been unsettled. We have all been between places. Have experienced that search for a home.

Kristen Hoskins & Sarah Steininger of Sprout Seattle accepted "Song of Tent City" in early November for presentation at Sprout II. Sprout is an awesome, quarterly, sell-out, fundraising dinner featuring 5-6 artists, a home-cooked dinner and the chance to vote on which project to receive the money collected at the door. The event is supported by and held at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center. I was presented my idea to a lively room full of artists and arts supporters and was chosen to receive the $1000 award which is now making my work at Tent City possible. Nathan Marion, of the Fremont Abbey, later offered a meeting space in the cafe for my second brainstorming session.

KATIE TALBOTT of Present Sense offered to assist with the walking meditation and to perhaps bring in another healing or meditation opportunity.

Amanda Laughtland of Teeny Tiny Press offered to create a tiny welcome edition to be given to the residents of and then possibly one or more follow-up editions created by the residents. Her tiny zines are 8-sided and made from a single sheet. Amanda is an instructor at Edmonds Community College and an advisor to the literary/arts journal Between the Lines. She is also a wonderful poet and creates teeny tiny poems for her teeny tiny press!

Dan Smith of Tether attended the second brainstorming session at The Fremont Abbey and offered "Song of Tent City" a gallery show at Tether Design Gallery in Occidental Square in January 2011. A remarkable offer and extension of community and caring. We are thrilled and preparing.

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