"I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing." - John Cage

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Creativity in Tahoe Part 3: Building Community to Strengthen your Creativity

What can creativity offer a community? What can we do as individuals and members of our society to support and strengthen creativity? There’s an idea writers call “literary citizenship” that describes a responsible way to live within a community.  “Literary citizenship is the importance of remembering that no one is alone in the writing world,” wrote Roxane Gay in the Writer’s Chronicle last November.
I gave a talk at Sierra Nevada College’s MFA Creative Writing residency in January that outlined actions writers can take in Tahoe (and wherever else their community exists) to promote and support other writers and artists, to engage in their community in a way that gives back, and to also seek and develop the support they need for their own work.  
But this idea is not limited to writers and artists – the value of building community can enhance each person’s ability to live their life creatively. And with the lack of snow this winter, everyone being creative in their efforts to discover replacement recreation.
What are our creative resources in Tahoe? We are surrounded by 5 colleges and universities, 3 here in Tahoe: Sierra College, Lake Tahoe Community College and Sierra Nevada College.  Wow! So much opportunity available to us here – and open to the public are readings, talks, publications, and the seething raw materials of new ideas, new connections. One thing creativity offers community is this potential of making new relationships between what has always existed.  The excitement of originality is creating a new relationship between these concrete and abstract things that make up the world.
Riverside Studios has a call for submission right now for art to be included in the Lion Heart show benefitting High Fives, a local nonprofit.  Northstar just sponsored a ski competition between nonprofit board members and volunteers that creatively served two purposes: inform key community players of Northstar’s marketing plan and other efforts, and offer nonprofits the opportunity to win $15,000 in prizes. Squaw Valley just wrapped up a call for submissions for creative entries answering the question what is the soul of skiing.  Many opportunities exist to creatively participate in community - seek them out.
With the New Year come resolutions to start something new. This practice keeps us young; here are other local resources that will support your creativity: Riverside Studio’s First Friday Art Opening. Uncorked Truckee Third Thursday literary reading. For Goodness Sake, downtown Truckee. The Bookshelf, Truckee’s independent bookstore. Kindred Art and Folk Institute of Truckee. Community Arts Center.  T Pots Pottery. Thursday night trivia at Pizza on the Hill. I could go on. Seek out new venues and events and breathe their freshness into your own creative endeavors.
Conversations at my talk led to the questions What are our creative resources in Tahoe? How can you generate the support you need for your art and your life? Who and what can you help with the gifts you have to offer this community? Ask yourself these questions.  Here are some actions you can take that make a difference to yourself and the people you share your community with:
1.      Attend an art opening, theater performance, or literary reading in your neighborhood.  Contribute your presence at an event, even if you are tired and want to stay in to watch Madmen on Netflix. Consider the idea that you are participating to support creativity in your community as much as you are going for entertainment.
2.      Promote and support other artists.  We are all contributing to the same big work.  Our community is small – everyone is on the same team.
3.      Buy a book from an independent bookstore. Wean yourself from Amazon.
4.      Drop a note to an author you admire.
5.      Closely observe and absorb the beauty in Nature as you hike/ski/bike.
6.      Often creativity lies in the little nuggets of honest exchanges that present themselves throughout our community on a daily basis. Greet that person sitting at the cafĂ© table next to you.
7.      Drop a note to someone who has given you support.
8.      Ask yourself, what are your gifts to offer your community? Who or what can you support?
Becoming a person who cultivates their own creativity will grow a community more creatively vibrant. While being inspired, you will inspire. What creative thing are you doing today? (Published in Northwoods Magazine 2014)

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