Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A new reality

Slowly, but maybe quickly, by historic standards, a new reality is taking shape. Monday, I got word that our own Chatham is embarking on a world class development. Solaqua, a 100,000 sq. ft. abandoned factory here, will be transformed over the next 3 - 5 years into a thriving arts community powered by solar, water and wind energy. Artspace, a Minneapolis based arts organization with 30 years experience revitalizing factories, warehouses and the like around the country gave the nod to our project. Artspace has the muscle to raise millions of dollars for the project and will also help work out the logistics to maintain affordable work spaces for artists.

The Columbia Berkshire Craft Guild, an organization I am part of, will be one of the first tenants of the newly refurbished facility. Soalqua is a long time vision of the owner, Jody Rael, whose steadfast intention of turning the old mill into an arts space goes back a decade.

Richard Florida, in his brilliant "Rise of the Creative Class" discusses how the creative people in any community give it its soul and its economic potential. A project like Solaqua, in a rural community like Chatham, 2 hours north of Mannhattan, will prove to be an amazing magnet, both here and further afield. It has already begun to galvanize the imagination of both artists and environmentalists alike, sparking energy to create a place that can show how alternative energy can and will fuel the future.

I hope to move my porcelain production there eventually. The promise of firing my kilns with solar power lifts my spirit no end. Artisanal production of all sorts will have facilities there.

This all brings me to this morning's rant. I woke up to fierce winds this morning, last week a 60 degree thaw followed by a freeze and snow. The quickly shifting climatic changes happening here now, maybe at a micro level for now, make me very nervous. As an environmentalist, I am keenly aware of global warming and the danger that it poses. I have taken the stand, in my need to remain focused within the vast amount of work, change and projects that are happening in regards to shifting our world and our consciousness toward gentler living on this earth, to support art as a way out of this mess. Art and the production of local artisanal goods to satisfy our need for stuff. Revitalizing regional, smaller scale farms, reclaiming land, cleaning the water and basically learning to live in greater harmony with all that sustains us, the earth, is a vital part of my generation's work.

Business as usual is no longer good enough. We need to refit our imaginations with a broader way of seeing, a broader way of listening to each other to find ways, though creative thinking and doing to find ways out of the old ways of thinking. We must change course and live as if there won't be a tommorow unless we change course. Gandi had a vision for India during the time England had colonized the country. He called it Swadeshi. This is not a new idea, but an ancient way of being, that in today's world can fire the imagination and create lives for everyone on the planet that reveal right work and social justice.

This blog will act as one platform and a channel for this conversation. Please comment.

1 comment:

CarolGert said...

So good to know what is doing in Chatham, NY. Here in Tennessee it is much harder to develope a small Art Center. In Fairfield Glade, TN
the community is trying to build an small Art Center for the county.
Your developement could help us.