Two years ago I met Kim Ramey through a mutual friend who realized that we needed to meet. Kim had a dream to open a completely free art studio space for the homeless and others who might need such a space for self-expression but who were unable to afford it. I'd like to say I was instrumental in helping her work towards her dream, but I have to be honest and say that all I did was to meet for coffee off and on and give her whatever advice I thought I could offer.
Yesterday, Backstreet Arts opened its doors for its first open studio. I went down for a couple of hours, and while I was there I witnessed a young woman (whose family had connected to Bridging the Gap for services) create her first oil painting under the tutelage of artist Kim Wright. It was actually a very good painting, and even though she could scarcely bring herself to admit it, the young woman left a little changed.
Art Saves Lives. I even have the bumper sticker.
So, first, go to Backstreet's website and give them money. Drop by during open studio and see what's going on: Tue/Thu, 10–3. Make this work.
This afternoon, I will be there to start my journey as the coordinator for Backstreet Writers, a group for anyone who want to tell their story.
It's not a class, although I will be using all my teacher skills to teach what I know. It's not a workshop, where I will lead wannabe Tolkiens from first draft to megahit publication. It's just a group of people who want to write whether or not they "know how."
A year and a half ago I went on an overnight camping trip/retreat and began thinking about this venture and what it might look like. Here's what I scribbled in my WASTE BOOK:
[Note: at the top of the page, I wrote ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS.]
It is my VISION to create a space where anyone in the community is comfortable enough to come and tell their story to the rest of the community in printed form.
It will be the MISSION of the Writing Project to produce printed material—books, booklets, pamphlets—that reflect the history of the members of the community, particularly those who have been marginalized by our society.
- The art of writing is a political act.
- Storytelling is innately human.
I CONFESS THAT
- In my privilege, I have no idea who the writers may be, nor what their stories are, and therefore
- I have as much to learn as anyone who comes to me.
- I have no idea what the needs of our writers may be.
- The quality of our publication may or may not be "worth" reading, but
- Every work we publish creates a new center of influence, the ripples of which may affect a reader or potential writer in ways we cannot foretell, and
- The more circles of influence we can establish, the more likely it is that we will produce works of real value.
Needless to say, we will be relying a great deal on the Lichtenbergian Precepts. Stay tuned.
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