Friday, June 5, 2015

Our Rural / Urban culturesheds

As much as I enjoyed the Rural Arts and Culture Summit, it was nice to get home yesterday, to be greeted by the woodcock which seems to have decided to stick around, because s/he was in the driveway puddle again as I pulled into the yard.

the new neighbor, a woodcock
the new neighbor, a woodcock
Photo by J. Harrington

Although each of the sessions I attended at the Summit was really good, there are a few high points that I want to share. First, I got to meet Jay Salinas, a founder of the Wormfarm Institute in Wisconsin. Way back in the last millennium, in 1998, he coined the term:
cultureshed (kul’cher-shed) n. 1. A geographic region irrigated by streams of local talent and fed by deep pools of human and natural history. 2. An area nourished by what is cultivated locally. 3. The efforts of writers, performers, artists, scholars, farmers and chefs who contribute to a vital and diverse local culture.
That definition provides wonderful overlap with the concept of bioregion. It could well be the Heartland’s term for what the west coast has termed a bioregion. It leaves out specific reference to hunter-gatherer-foragers, but then I don’t recall having yet seen any of those terms in the bioregional writings I’ve encountered. (I'm particularly interested in heightening awareness of indigenous and native contributions to the conversation on bioregions.)

From the Ground Up Summit
From the Ground Up Summit
Photo by J. Harrington

Second, my apartment roommate, James Godsil, has been doing some very interesting and creative work in regenerative development and urban agriculture -- hydroponics in Milwaukee. It turns out that he and I had more in common and more shared interests than I had any reason to hope for in roommate assignments. Much of what he’s done can be found on the website of a nonprofit organization where he serves as president, the Sweetwater Foundation.

Third, Dana Johnson, an award-winning producer at the Appleton, MN Public Television Station, made a comment during a Thursday morning panel to the effect that some of her friends from the Los Angeles area ask when she’s coming back. (She went to college there.) She said that she can accomplish more and have a feeling of greater impact right where she is. She said, as far as she’s concerned, big cities don’t always lead to a better life. Her observation was reinforced later that day when I heard Joe Dowling’s (Artistic Director of the Guthrie Theater for the past 20 years) observation on Minnesota Public Radio that some of the best theater he’s seen during the past two decades has been produced by “regional” theatres and that regional no longer can be assumed to be amateurish or second rate. The same is true for rural arts and culture, as the Summit clearly documented. I may be a recovering planner, but I'm an unreconstructed regionalist whose heart belongs to the city and the country. It's wonderful to encounter others with similar perspectives and a love for intrinsically sustainable values based on quality more than quantity. Bigger is bigger, not necessarily better.

Eagle Affirmation

By John Kinsella 
You’ve got to understand that sighting the pair
of eagles over the block, right over our house,
not more than twenty feet above the roof,
so massive their wings pull at the corrugated
tin sheeting even with gentlest tilt, counteracts
bitterness against all the damage I see and hear
around me on an exclusively crisp blue morning,
when clarity is pain and even one small missing
wattle tree, entirely vanquished since I was last here
at home—I still find this hard to say—is agony;
a region is not a pinpoint and a different compass
works in my head, having magnetics for all
directions and all pointing to one spot
I know and observe as closely as possible;
and even one small vanished or vanquished
wattle tree is agony close to death for me,
where I find it hard to breathe to feed myself
to get past the loss; but the pair of eagles
still appearing and keeping their sharp
and scrupulous eyes honed, overrides
this ordeal, though I wish their victims
life too and their damage is traumatic
as anything else; that’s as much sense
or nonsense as I can make in such blue light.


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