“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”
The 2018 Indiana Arts Homecoming held in Fort Wayne centered around creating and sustaining vibrant communities where arts and culture can thrive. As a person who has spent her entire 24 years on earth living in the Midwest I have never felt like the arts were instilled as an important pillar of my hometown of Two Rivers, Wisconsin and even so during my time living in Green Bay. That is, until I moved to Bloomington. Even though I was in the Midwest, let alone a very conservative state in the Midwest, as soon as I stepped foot in downtown Bloomington I could tell that the community valued and felt great pride in their local arts and cultural organizations and happenings. Who would have thought that in Indiana there would be communities making great strides in embedding the arts in their respective communities for their constituents to enjoy and have a better quality of place?
This two day conference had a myriad of breakout sessions to attend. The sessions were classified into five different categories: Vibrant, Places, Community, Solutions, and Launch. I attended six of these breakout sessions. Those being: Mind, Body, Spirit, and the Arts: The Parkview Story; The Arts and Incarceration; All About Sensory-Friendly Theatre; Partnership, Planning, and Revitalization Through the Arts; Veterans Arts Programs Across the Country; and Building Community with Paperless Singing. Each session had many valuable take-a-ways and many of them focused on creative placemaking solutions. My sessions, however, focused on how the arts can be used as a form of healing and create a sense of community in ways that people wouldn’t necessarily think when you think of the dictionary definition of community. Out of the six breakout sessions that I attended, two of them left me in complete awe of what has been accomplished, and what is flourishing around the state. These two sessions were Mind, Body, Spirt and the Arts: The Parkview Story and Building Community with Paperless Singing.
Mind, Body, Spirit and the Arts: The Parkview Story
Healing Arts, NOT Arts Therapy.
The Arts Healing Program at Parkview Health is a collaborative project between the Fort Wayne Dance Collective and the Parkview Health System. For these two organizations, it’s all about framing: framing how a patient views their time spent in the hospital either for in-patient care, or for those coming in to receive their chemotherapy treatment. It’s all about humanizing the healthcare experience for their patients. By bringing in local visual artists, musicians, and creative movers they have created a holistic environment for healing at Parkview Health. They found that scheduling art therapy caused their patients to dread that time on their schedule. Many times, a patient’s schedule is filled with different therapy sessions throughout the duration of their stay and the last thing they would want to see on their schedule is another form of therapy. So, to combat this, they have scheduled times for resident artists to visit patients, and then the patient can choose for themselves if they would like to participate.
Fort Wayne Dance Collective and Parkview Health have mastered arts healing by creating a program that allows patients to create with their resident artists which allows for healing of the mind, body, and spirit. This has created a contagious community within Parkview Health in which they call “murosity”. Never heard of the word murosity? That’s just fine, neither have I until attending the session. Murosity is the generosity created through the combination of a mosaic of images, that, when placed together, form a mural. Or, if you are these two organizations “generosity heals”. From cancer patients creating brightly colored pictures for babies in the NICU, to musicians playing a patient’s favorite song for them. The generosity exchanged from the resident artists and the patients opening up to the visiting artists have created a unique sense of togetherness within the confines of the hospital and fosters a holistic healing environment.
Building Community Through Paperless Singing
For many former performing artists like myself that turn to a career in Arts Administration there is one inciting incident that deters you from continuing your art form. For example; musical wounding or competitive versus cooperative experiences. For Pal Blevins-Hinkle, the founder of SongSquad it’s all about passion over talent. Creating an environment that was accepting and creating a small “c” choir where oral tradition is emphasized and a union of learning and experience was present are the foundations of paperless singing, and thus the founding premise of SongSquad. The big “c” choir has become a breeding ground for talent over passion, even in community choirs. These big “c” choirs may have intimidating requirements such as auditions and have left many people with a passion for singing scared to participate.
This scenario is where musical wounding may come into play. The idea of musical wounding is quite easy to grasp once explained, and is something that many people have experienced in the arts, even me. Before I pursued my undergraduate degrees in Arts Management and Dance, I was originally a Musical Theater major. That only lasted about half a semester because of a horrible experience with my music theory professor who made myself and many other vocalists in the class to feel unintelligent when we asked questions regarding the material that was being covered. For others, musical wounding could take shape in the form of a choir director telling someone that they shouldn’t sing anymore.
Paperless singing has been growing rapidly internationally but has been slowly gaining traction in within the United states. SongSquad is breaking down the idea that choirs have to be intimidating and instead is revitalizing singing in a way that is accessible for everyone by creating an accepting community that can enrich the lives of those involved in simple call and response style songs that anyone and everyone can take part in.
These two breakout sessions at the conference led me to reflect on my aforementioned statement, that I never felt like arts and culture played a vital part in the previous places that I lived. Communities without established frameworks for the arts may have a long journey ahead of them to help the citizens, local government officials, and other constituents realize that the arts can make our communities come alive and create a stronger sense of togetherness. However, there are little things being done every single day that may go unnoticed that create a sense of place and a vibrant arts community.
As the opening quote from Twyla Tharp says, “Art is the only way to run away without leaving home”, art can provide an escape for those who need a place to just be themselves, just like music and dance was there for me in my hometown of Wisconsin. We found a way to create our own tight knit community in an area that was not accepting. Here in Indiana cities like Gary, Decatur, and Frankfurt have found a way to make the arts a pillar of their community, and they can act as models for communities in Indiana starting their long journey of creating a vibrant arts community.
The arts are creating a wave a change in the Indiana and they are here to stay for the long haul.
Hannah Claire Lewis is originally from small-town Wisconsin on the coast of Lake Michigan. She received her undergraduate degree in Arts Management and Dance from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. During her time in the Arts Administration program at SPEA she has worked for the Buskirk-Chumley Theater and as the Development Associate at the IU Auditorium. Hannah Claire had the opportunity to intern at Bravo! Vail Music Festival this past summer. Her research interests include altruism and intrinsic and extrinsic donor motivation in the performing arts. She enjoys hiking, figure skating, a nice mid-morning Sunday brunch, and is very passionate about one day owning a pet otter.