Slow Learning Circus

Learning is messy.

Especially for groups. Especially when each of the members has truly big ideas that include sometimes divergent visions for a community that may soon have the power to transform an entire region.

Last Saturday, I was priveleged to facilitate a group of visionaries in both refining and expanding a vision for “The Circus.”  As a Slow Learner, playing the role of meeting facilitator truly challenged me.  I hate conflict.  I avoid it, whatever the cost.  So when I stepped up to help this wildly energetic and diverse group to converge on some first steps toward decision-making, I did so with much fear and self-doubt.  It wasn’t as if the group was hostile, but my imagined fears included shouting matches and challenges to my fitness for the role of meeting facilitator.  None of these self-centered fears came to be realized, of course.  I’m learning that when we place our own attachment to outcomes aside, when we work toward a greater good, when we trust people, that good things happen.  I know all this sounds a bit corny, but it’s taken me more than a few years to learn this.

What Tiggers Do Best

Yesterday I finished reading and working through exercises in the Renaissance Soul, by Margaret Lobenstine, a guide for “people with too many passions to pick just one.” Through self-reflection, planning, and goal setting, Lobenstine helps her readers see their multitude of passions as a sign of strength rather than as an indication of flakiness, loose morals, and lack of integrity.

As a slow learner writing fiction, starting writing groups, exploring dance and performance art, facilitating workshops, facilitating dialog groups, training for a marathon, painting, creating mandalas, living in two different cities, writing about slow learners, this book seemed to speak to me personally. I find myself desperately trying my best to focus, Focus, FOCUS on one interest (currently it’s writing), only to be distracted by whatever other interesting thing may come along (dance, paint, mail art, spinning records, extreme crafting, psychogeography, guerilla art). I wonder if I’ll ever accomplish anything serious if I continually allow myself to be teased away by the next new thing? Lobenstine assures me that I don’t have to FOCUS on just one passion in order to achieve in that area. Lobenstine guides us in narrowing our interests to four or five “Focal Points,” and offers a step-by-step approach for planning and goal setting.

I was astounded by how much her work sounded like my own parody of self-help books that I am currently drafting. To be fair, I can’t honestly say that I’m drafting my parody right now, since right now I’m working on another interest which is write about Slow Learning for my blog. And when I’m finished, I will actually do what I’ve planned to do with this time slot work on my own book. With help from the exercises in The Renaissance Soul I won’t spend the rest of the afternoon adding to the list of links on my blog. I will work  on my book. And I will FOCUS without feeling cheated, because I’ve already scheduled for The Next Big thing to come along.

Art at the Cutting Edge

When regular people like us start acting as if we’re real artists, something dangerous happens.


“Art symbolises the human potential to bring an imaginative dimension to all possible activity—there is an art to everything. But the word “art” is more often identified with the products of a specific range of activity made by an “artist” and referred to as “the arts”. This perception separates art from everyday life and places it in the domain of a certain range of talents, skills and applications. In short, art is regarded as something that only some people can do. It is undeniable that some artists practice a particular art more skillfully than others, but this does not mean that if someone says “I can fix my car” that it equates to saying “I can’t sing”.The first is about lacking a skill; the second, the disconnection from an essential human power. Even so, our culture of achievement has taken us a long way from these Netsilik Eskimo words: Songs are thoughts, sung out with the breath when people are moved by great forces and ordinary speech no longer suffices.

The effect of separating art from life has been to banish creative activity to the margins that belong as much in the everyday as in a theatre or art gallery and as much to everybody as to Picasso or Pavarotti. If the purpose of art is to inspire and elevate, then to draw out the extraordinary from the ordinary, anywhere, and with anybody, is art at the cutting edge.”


Tony Gee

A Moveable Feast

The Circus

Dayton, Ohio is a city of abundance.  Our diverse communities of visual and performing artists  include inspired and talented visionaries rich in time and energy. We share a heritage of invention and creativity. Our  real estate economy is flooded with empty buildings and cheap rent.

Put these elements together, add a little idealistic vision from people like Laurana Wong and we have “The Circus, Community Art Center Extraordinare.”  What is possible is more than just a bunch of artists living and working in their own space.  The Circus, as a vibrant  collective and center for accessible community art could alter the direction of an entire city.

Hopes run high for the project.  Ideas abound.  So many people.  So many different visions.  So many different lives. So many different decisions to make.  What kind of building should the Circus buy? What does the Circus mean by art? What community would the Circus serve? Should the Circus be a business or a nonprofit? Who is writing the business plan?  What is a business plan? Where does the money come from when established arts nonprofits are running into hard times?

These are tough questions. Stakeholders want answers, fast.  How the Circus answers these questions may be even more important than the first round of answers.