Click here for the full-resolution mural. (16.9MB – Right click and “Save As…” to save).
Michael’s Story of Return
Michael Jones: I want to share a few reflections on my own experience of “return.” I don’t know as an artist that I can think about the return without also thinking about place. We just experienced, in my sense, “a place making.” This is the opportunity to capture, to document, to bring forth, the images of the place, the stories or narrative of place that we have gathered through our time here. As an artist, I’m always playing from somewhere. Music is not abstract. It doesn’t come out of nowhere. It comes from somewhere. Almost any piece I play has a narrative. It has a story line, that is connected to where the music has come from.
That became apparent to me once when I came back to Toronto from having been at University for four years, studying music. I was going on to do graduate work at the University of Toronto. I also wanted to find some opportunity for a place where I might play. I knew that there was a dance theater not far away from where I lived in downtown Toronto based on the Martha Graham School in New York. And so I was curious. I thought I might go over and see if they would hire me part time, so I could at least have a piano that I could play because I lived in a small apartment and had nothing to practice on. I went up these stairs overtop of an auto body shop in Cumberland Avenue in downtown Toronto and saw this marvelous nine-foot concert grand piano and knew I’d found home.
Place, I think, also speaks to home. It is place that just feels right and natural – where we feel that we belong. In a sense it is like a reunion – a sense that we’ve returned. And I thought maybe at that moment just seeing that beautiful piano and the natural light coming in through those floor to ceiling windows that I had come home. And so I said “My name is Michael, I’m looking for work,” I was talking to Patricia, who was the director of the school, and I said, “I’m doing some graduate work at the University but I’d like to find some part-time work playing the piano. Would you have some work here.” She said, “Yes, as a matter of fact, one of our regulars just left for Vancouver. We have an opening; Amelia’s class is in need of a pianist. Could you come by tomorrow morning? Let’s just try it out. Be curious to see how this might work out for you.”
Peter kindly allowed me to post this article of his on the Chautauqua site. If you are interested you can see more of Peter’s latest work at the Abundant Community website.
Art in Community or The Democratization of Art
by Peter Block
I just spent two days at a conference on education reform. While the agenda was to discuss schools and the ways students learn, what was unique about this gathering was the role that art played in building connection in the room and moving the agenda of the gathering forward.
Each day began with Michael playing piano to bring the sunrise into the room, awakening us with soft and gentle sounds of improvised music.
Mariah, Avril and Mary captured the group’s ideas on large white pieces of paper on the wall. They spent much of their time graphically displaying what was going on in the gathering. They are graphic artists making beautiful images as the conversation unfolds.
The center of the room was a collage of sacred objects. We had a circle with candles, flowers, artifacts of where we were meeting. Plus poetry scattered around for us to look at. Ken told stories as from the Arabian Nights. Skip read poetry as he truly knows how to do.
All this made the gathering unique from the start. There was more art present than in most. It would have been natural for the participants to sit back and enjoy the talent surrounding them and stay in the role of audience. Satisfied audience, but still audience.
What got my attention was that something shifted early in the gathering. The artists were not satisfied to keep performing, they chose to engage us in the arts. The singing, moving, drawing and speaking moved from being in the hands of the “artists,” professional and serious amateurs, to being in the hands of every person in the room. Read more…
2010 CHAUTAUQUA: REFLECTIONS ON ART/GRAPHIC FACILITATION
My (Avril) scribbled notes from what Peter said on Day 2, and my thoughts thereon: with notes from Mary Corrigan, and Mariah Howard and Peter Block
- Reframing the feelings of anxiety over our performance: perhaps what we interpret as anxiety is just a misidentified feeling of heightened aliveness!
- Making art in public is a way of inviting others into that aliveness. So really, what we offer is not a performance but an invitation to a gift.
- Creating art in public gives us permission to see each other’s work and show our own. This kind of art-making makes sense only in community, and is what’s needed here and now.
- Peter Block – “drawing takes us places we can’t get to any other way.”
- Typically art (of all kinds) is commodified. We’re judged on our performance, which scares most of us from making our mark because we think it’s all about skill and don’t want to be judged lacking. But commodification of art in the name of performance steals our uniqueness and our humanity and makes us afraid.
– My thoughts on the above: If art is a personal expression of our humanity, then turning it into a commodity repackages that expression into something deemed ‘acceptable’ by the marketplace. This in turns flattens out our uniqueness by pushing us to strive to fit a predetermined mold (à la American Idol, etc.) – and if we don’t fit, we’re out.
– The fear: of stepping outside the lines/going beyond the bounds of acceptability, of making “bad” art, of exposing ourselves in public, of going “splat”.
– Peter Block: “How do I bring my unformed self into the public space?”
What really struck me was, though we were all staying in one place, Chautauqua, in itself, was a huge journey. While we were learning about and discussing the concept of the Call, the Journey and the Return, we were experiencing the same thing in our experience of Chautauqua. It was so moving to me that we could all take this journey together. Sometimes I tend to feel like I’m alone in my quest to discover my call and it was so great to learn that everyone else in the room felt the same way. The people who were on the journey of Chautauqua, were the journey for me. For me, the journey was about exchanging stories, learning from each other, and discovering that nobody is alone. – Blythe Collier
I was struck by the power that drawing our own images of each others contributions had to building much greater understanding and sense of connection – moving from understanding to experiencing UBUNTU!
Goodness, a one-liner is difficult when I had to struggle to avoid astonishment at almost every moment. However, there was one golden thread that wove its way through the mosaic of this experience and that was the open-hearted generosity of everyone. “This time was good. Next time will be better.”
I, you, he, she, we…In the garden of mystic lovers, these are not true distinctions. Rumi – Sri Gyan
The work done here is urgently required. The call comes from a place I do not know. There is hope for our future for extraordinary children are being called to be extraordinary adults. – Mary Berry
“The mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it.” ~ Sri Nisargadatta
What a wonderful experience – Gary Petersen
The essential experience of ‘ubuntu’ through working in small groups and seeing who I am is affirmed, enriched and developed through the community of learners and seekers who I am privileged to work and live with. Ralph Wolf
I was most struck by Peter’s comment regarding how being overly ‘helpful’ is the behavior of paternalism, and ultimately empire-building. It was very powerful for me, and certainly highlights the huge importance of how we determine what others* actually need, and how we help (or don’t help!) them to get there. *‘others’ being students, our own children and people in general. – Rod Caborn
I was filled with a sense of belonging, immersed in a community, which honored every gift that was named or felt. Bob Caplan
The strength and positive reinforcement that comes from community is available to us if we do our part to remain open and seek it out – Tom Honig
Conversations alive with sparks of connection. Multiple
networks converging and amplifying.Bathed in music,
transcending through the collective breath of song. Nourished by
friends and colleagues courageously open to loveand beauty as pathways for social change. Cyd Jenefsky
Waking up together, i look around tenderly. – Kranti Mailliard
What really moved me was the enthusiasm with which people participated in the art-making when we turned it over to them, and the joy on their faces when it touched places in them that they couldn’t have reached by any other means. Especially moving were people’s responses to the collaborative drawing on the final day: Mara’s discovery that it wasn’t about artistic “talent” or making pretty pictures; Ralph’s transcendent “ubuntu” moment; the many moments of “Yes!” as people completed each other’s thoughts by adding something critical to the collective image and suddenly understood what they were talking about. WOW! – Avril Orlof
Our Chautauqua is our learning community’s Ubuntu. It is because of my experience and relationship with each person sitting in that beautiful space, created by our yearly Chautauqua, that allows me to enter my classroom as me. I am deeply grateful for my relationship with all of you. It is an experience of being that I do not have elsewhere in my professional life! – Jill Madden
THE CALL – I intended to use the Chautauqua time exploring possibilities and solutions to new challenges in my work life.
THE JOURNEY – I was surprised to find myself doing none of it, at least not directly. Instead I quenched my thirst for meaningful connection with others and began the process of naming what is regenerative for me.
THE RETURN – The return has extended beyond the Chautauqua’s close. Awash in metaphor, imagery and sensation I am rewriting my story and rearranging the boulders in the creek-bed. It seems that although I am still competent and able to rise to challenges, challenge alone no longer moves me. The call of ambition and accomplishment is silenced by the rush of deep water breaking through the dams built by previous stories. This is neither comfortable nor convenient and yet it is the most authentic sound in the room.
I was delighted, surprised and soothed to open Angeles’ book, the Second Half of Life and find this, “When transition takes place during our later years, a fundamental and primal shift from ambition to meaning occurs.” I am not on schedule; however it seems I am on time. Again inconvenient, I would have preferred next year, in the fall.
Entering the MMS Community Room I saw a basket with a sign,” If your head is not connected to your heart-bone, vocal cords or feet please leave it at the door.” I did as instructed and when I retrieved it on Thursday I found these vignettes playing on the projector.
• Under the weight of an engorged head I attempt to cross the room with a gait graceful enough not to let slip the true imbalance of my condition.
• Bandersnatch: At the head of a long table, set with the accoutrement of self-importance, my voracious head devours ideas, completely missing the intention of the potlatch.
• Kodak Moment…. I am captured in an inarguable reflection of depth and insight, back lit in the parallel light of the late afternoon, looking much younger than my years. (Gary, thank you for the real postcards, although they were not convenient either) – Clare Wesley
What struck me is: I am honored to be in the presence of committed educators, parents, students, and community are to creating learningful environments. – Bill Sommers
Vivian Wright: This Chautauqua was formed as a precursor for a board for the school. The thinking was boards are usually boring. You know, boards. So why don’t we do something interesting, you know, that brings energy in and carries energy out and renews and restores and bridges thought and so we picked the word Chautauqua which nobody understands and that gave us a lot of room. So with that accurately historical introduction I’d like to hand it over to Ward Maillard.
Ward Mailliard: Hello, this is a great recruitment process. You are now all on the board of directors of Mount Madonna School. I want to quickly introduce some of the people who are holding the constellation of our group together in that they will become visible for certain moments in the day. This is Vivian Wright. She was actually one of the founding members of Chautauqua. Barbara McAfee who just sang us into the room. Michael Jones who, you’ll get to know Michael Jones as I got to know and love him when I met him last year and I stalked him and brought him down here. In case you didn’t know it I’m not really a teacher I’m a professional stalker of great talent.
Also I want to introduce our graphic artist superwomen. Avril Orloff, Mariah Howard and Mary Corrigan. Mary has the distinction of having with us from Chautauqua number one. Peter Block and Angeles Arrien will be here tomorrow so that means we get to misbehave all day today. Savita is our organizer.
And more stars will appear in the constellation as we move through the next few days. In fact one of the principles of our Chautauqua is that everybody who shows up is actually part of the facilitation team. Chautauqua is about engagement. We decided a long time ago that there would be no experts, and we are not empty vessels to be filled. We are here to ignite each other in terms of our passion and our learning and our knowing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I mean imagine if you started every class with Michael and Barbara, how different that would be.
Ward Maillard: Yesterday we engaged in the call and we can see some of the artifacts. For those of you who just arrived, in the morning we spent some time making collages that related to the conversation that we had teased up around the call. We are going to actually work with that a little bit later on. We decided that the call, the journey, the return would be synchronous with the three days that this gathering. And so in the call phase, there’s the “call,” there’s the “resistance” to the call, there’s the vision, there’s the imagination of what it would be like. When we move into the journey there are some archetypal truths. This is nothing that we discovered that’s new, it’s something that’s in the human being, it’s in the human spirit, it’s in the human genome. And when we start the journey we may be prepared but never ready. and You can’t be because what we imagine the journey to be is never what it is. So that’s the realm of surprise, it’s the realm of disappointment, it’s the realm of expectations met or unmet, it’s the realm of making adjustments along the way.
And, as we have played out the experience of the learning journey in our trips to Washington and India and Africa and various places, I have been noticing that, it helps if we create some kind of framework for engagement to bring to awareness what’s happening during the journey. We need moments of reflection on the journey as well. There are moments when we have to realize where we are, how we’re dealing, how we’re responding emotionally to the situation. The experiential, affective, emotional phase of learning is in the journey because it’s a total body experience. It’s the relational experience of, “Who am I traveling with?” we heard Anneka talk a little bit about that last night in the Ubuntu documentary the journey was defined by her peers that she took the journey with, by the people she met on the journey and then in the return phase by the welcoming of the community from that initiatory experience in order to complete the experience and be witnessed.
So, today, we come with some level of expectation and what happens is actually what happens on the journey and we’re not always in control of that. One of the things that we do in the preparation stage, which I think the most profoundly affects us on the journey, is to get mentally prepared to deal with what happens, rather than what we expect will happen, to let go of expectation, and to show up, for example, when we set up situations like interviews with people and suddenly they’re called away and we are talking to their assistant. How do you handle disappointment? Do you pack it in? Or if there’s a relational issue along the way, what do you do? Do you implode and draw all that energy in with you?
[quote align=”right”]”it’s in those moments of challenge
that the new capacities emerge.”[/quote]
How do we manage surprise? That could be the fruit of transformation becauseit’s in those moments of challenge that the new capacities emerge. If we show up with openness, and if we actually bring the capacities that belong to each of us into those moments. The journey that we actually create is created in our minds as we are traveling, and the experience we have is the experience we create. Things don’t happen to us, we respond to things that happen. And so the question often in the journey of life, “Am I a victim and things are happening to me? Or am I taking the stuff of life and finding a way to respond to them even when my expectations have been dashed or when the vision I had wasn’t what happened? How do I live into my own life and the experiences happening right with me? These learning journeys that we take are sort of metaphorical preparation in some ways for the journey of life. To have an opportunity even when I fail, even when I blew it, In the reflective process, to realize that I could choose again and I could choose differently next time.
Ward Mailliard: One of the things that we discovered in the process of the learning journeys was that the “return” is a extremely important aspect of the journey that is rarely observed. It’s something that, in the educational field for example, is completely unacknowledged. We learned from Sobonfu Some that it’s the job of the village to welcome you back from the initiatory experience.
The village, after they would send the young people out to their rite of passage between being a youth and adult, the village would all come out to greet them and acknowledge the transformation that the initiation produces. Without that, without the return, the result can be isolation, alienation and depression. What’s interesting to me is when we give language to that, how often I’ve seen this look of knowing in somebody’s eyes. When they feel the woundedness of not being witnessed when they’ve gone through an enormous initiation or transformation in their lives. We look the same, we talk the same, we’ve got the same habits, and people think we are the same. And yet something has happened. On the journey there is emotional learning, when learning connects with the emotion, it goes deep.
That’s why the actual journey is important. It’s not theoretical. It’s real. It is the affective, experiential, and the emotional aspect, and that is when transformation occurs. It grabs hold of you, as you grab hold of the experience. And when you come home, after the journey, like when we came back from Africa, after mentioning the rhino, the elephant and the cheetah, or whatever the big five are I can never remember, even your family’s ready to move on because there’s no way for you to really express the feelings and emotions or for them to get it.
This is because we’re asking the wrong question. We’re asking, “Oh what happened, how was your trip?” And that’s actually the least important part of it. What is important is how have I changed, how was I touched, how was I moved? What shifted in me? What new awareness do I hold now? What gifts have I discovered that I’m bringing back to community?
When we put the students on stage and we assemble two or three hundred people in this room and say, “Ok let’s talk,” and the students see the emotion of their parents, then they know. They’re talking about the experience, what it meant to them and often you see parents weeping. You know, “Is this my child? Is this my child’s friend- Is this the one that spends all their time in my refrigerator?” Is the them, coming out with these deep life lessons.
Mary Corrigan, Mariah Howard, and Avril Orloff, Artistic Facilitation
Mariah: We wanted to just take an opportunity to share with you the gift that it’s been to see you make art. And to make art with you. And I think something really magical has happened because as we’ve been looking at, very often in doing the work of visual recording we’re in the background, our back is turned to the room. And we’ve become labeled the artists. And here in this experience you shared that with us. And in making art for yourself, the collage, and making art in small groups, and making these murals, where your mark was on the page just as much as ours, a shift took place. And I think art came into the center. And there’s a role that was such a gift to me in the critical nature of making art together and of, as we say in improv, of “yes-and-ing” that part of ourselves that lives in color, that lives in symbol, that lives in the mark on the page that we don’t understand. So I just, with full heart, stand in gratitude that you joined yourself there and that we stood in community together in that place. And I urge you, I beseech you, I beg of you, to keep making that art with each other, for yourself, in journal, and come back to those images. This has changed for me the way I understand the role of art in my work. And I’m indebted to all of you, so I wanted to share that. Thank you.
Avril: I have had the experience, much like Mariah, of generally being with my back to the room. And I spoke last night in the smaller group, that I know I can do that. You know, I know I can stand in the back of the room with the pen in my hand. And what this experience gave me was the permission to step out and face the room. And speak with my voice as well as my hands. And be with you all in that process. I felt like we were speaking in some ways, everybody spoke in their own voice, and we all spoke together. And the three of us, it’s also a rare treat to be able to work with other people who are doing this work. Usually it’s a very isolating thing. You get the kudos or the coffee cups depending on how people see you, here take my coffee cup thanks. Its’ happened. And it feels so a part. And to be a part of instead of a part from, was a real gift. And even so, there’s a sense of responsibility to the room to get that stuff up. There are so many faces, there are so many people I didn’t really get to spend as much time with as I’d like to. And I’m just kinda gonna look around at you all for a second here. Thank you.
Thanks to everyone who attended our Sixth Annual Chautauqua. It was the most successful yet. Our purposes for the Chautauqua, which we hold at Mount Madonna each year are to engage in meaningful conversation about our own learning and to discover experience new ways of transforming our work in education. This year we used the three phases of the “learning journey” which are, the “call” the “journey” and the “return” to set context for our discussions. We also conducted the gathering with the intention of bringing art and music more to the center of the learning process. With group facilitation from Peter Block and Vivian Wright, artistic facilitation from Mary Corrigan, Mariah Howard and Avril Orloff and Musical facilitation by Barbara McAfee and Michael Jones and Bob Caplan we accomplished our goals.
Each year Chautauqua continues to grow. This year we were pleased to host 78 participants including students, teachers, administrators, and a host of others who are involved in many aspects of the learning process. It is our philosophy is that those who attend provide the key resources for the workshop. We find that there is much more vitality in exploring vital questions together than in listening to experts. In this way the Chautauqua attempts to model the transformation it encourages. It reminds us that the most natural learning is collaborative and fun. Enjoy the blog. – Ward Mailliard