Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring: Engage with it!

Spring Altar, created by Jan Michael Meade.
  It's spring, and all I want to do is be outside in our beautiful mountain town.  Like everyone else, I'm feeling the effects of the weather, and have more energy, more sass, and tons more time (since I'm getting up earlier with the sunshine!)
  It's been hard for me to make it to cultural events with all of this outside itching to be explored.  I'm waiting for some outdoor concerts--but I know that screening, playing and performing outside can produce some logistical nightmares for my artist friends.  The elements aren't so nice on instruments, paintings and film screens.  I do love my transcendental experiences at Ardrey Auditorium, Coconino Center for the Arts, and Cline Library Assembly Hall, and I appreciate the talent I see there, and understand why it's easier to be inside. 

  But you see, I've got Spring Fever, and bad!  I need to play a more active, engaged, participatory role in the arts right now.  I'm just brimming with feeling and it's not enough to listen, look or absorb.  I need to put something out there, or I just. may. burst.

  I've been joining my friend Meghan Callahan for her weekly women's music group on the NAU campus.  Meghan is a dear friend, and a talented musician.  She runs a music therapy business, Mountain Health Music and is the director of Flagstaff Threshold Choir, a women’s choir that sings in small groups at the bedside of those struggling with living or dying.  Meghan knows firsthand about music's ability to increase engagement, and provide an outlet for expression of feelings.  She uses it to quietly perform miracles every week.

  The other thing that Meghan does for me is make music accessible.  She told us in the music group that we are so used to watching virtuosity onstage, that we forget that music can be part of our daily lives.  Who cares if I'm any good?  I enjoy her drum circles because it makes me happy to find my rhythm and express it.  If that makes me a hippy again, then I guess I'm okay with it.  Kind of.

 Yesterday I joined the Flagstaff Drumming into the Seasons group as they welcomed spring.  This group is committed to "Fostering connection and celebrating the seasonal cycles through community drumming" and they have made their own Sacred Yellow Drum for that purpose.  Everyone is welcome to join in the music!  So I did, and helped create a little bit of rhythm, sang a little bit of verse, and expressed my love for spring and music at the same time. 

I'm playing the Sacred Yellow Drum (and loving it.)
  It was just what the Easter Bunny ordered!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Viola Awards: A Peak Experience

Nominee Jason Hasenbank and Mayor Sara Presler are no strangers to euphoria.

Peak experiences are described by Abraham Maslow as especially joyous and exciting moments in life, involving sudden feelings of intense happiness and well-being, wonder and awe, and possibly also involving an awareness of transcendental unity or knowledge of higher truth.  They usually come on suddenly and are often inspired by...intense feelings of love, or the exposure to great art or music.. 

  Saturday night was the 4th Annual Viola Awards. 

  It was a pretty big deal.  There were about 500 people there.  (let me repeat:  almost FIVE HUNDRED people in Flagstaff bought tickets that cost $50 and up to attend an event that honors our local artists, musicians, scientists, and cultural leaders.)  There were 65 nominees for 11 categories.  (Congratulations to ALL of you!)  Over 68 silent auction items were donated and over six thousand dollars were raised to help support the Coconino Center for the Arts.


 This year was also notable because the sciences were included in the awards ceremony.  The Flagstaff Festival of Science was the deserving winner of the Outstanding Event Award, and is a great example of creativity at work.  Both science and art are appreciative of beauty, and seek to capture, portray and understand it. 

  "The sciences play so well with the arts, especially here in Flagstaff.  They are such a huge part of the culture of our community, more so than you see in other communities," said John "JT" Tannous, executive director of the Flagstaff Cultural Partners.

 It truly was a Peak Experience for Flagstaff's cultural life.  People were buzzing around, high on euphoria, interconnectedness, community.  Psychologist Abraham Maslow could have been describing the party on Saturday night when he talked about "transpersonal experiences."

  "We are all basking in an incredible glow!" said Tannous.  "It was an amazing night.  I'm proud of our town… so much support for the arts and sciences!  I will say that this turned out to be the most rewarding awards event yet.  I'm in love with all the people that were there.  I'm in love with Flagstaff.

"Most of all, so many people take this event as their own and love it and support it, that we feel we must honor that by making the event fabulous and ensuring that the nominees and winners are selected in an appropriate and transparent way.  It's the best thing we can do to repay everyone's support."

Thanks JT for making it a fabulous event.  It's Monday morning, and it was such a high for me that I'm STILL feeling bursts of bliss.  There is vision!  There are limitless horizons!  We can truly support the arts and sciences (and the ARTISTS and SCIENCES) in our town!!

  I hope that people, especially the nominees, can let this experience continue to uplift them, even if times are rough and the money is tight.  Release your creative energies, and ride the wave for awhile.  Keep the euphoria alive!  You deserve to feel good about your accomplishments!!
  As Dave Edwards, winner of the Mayor's Award for Lifetime Contribution to the Arts, said in his acceptance speech, "We live in a good environment to pull this off.  Flagstaff has warmth and sharing as its core values.  There is NOT intense competition."

  Our town has an amazing sense of oneness.  Everyone-- artist, musician, scientist, and patron--is a part of this. 

  (For a complete listing of the award winners, click here.) 

City of Flagstaff neighborhood planner Kim Sharp and Museum of Northern Arizona director Bob Breunig.