If we named seasons the way we name pets or hurricanes, I would name the spring of 2016, Collaboration. Or The Marvelous Capacity of Humans to Create. Or maybe just Damned Lucky. Damned lucky is how I feel to have been a part of two remarkable collaborations this spring, the scale and scope of which have left me both humbled and energized.
The Shared Visions Project produced by Thomas Edward Morgan and the Ars Nova Singers was inspired by the idea of art begetting art begetting art. In 2015, Ars Nova invited seven Colorado artists to submit their work for consideration in the project. A collection of twenty-three images was then assembled in an online portfolio and shared with a few dozen Colorado poets, who were invited to write and submit new poems inspired by the artworks. The entire collection of art and poetry was then compiled and provided to four Colorado composers, each of whom chose a poem to set as the text for a musical composition for Ars Nova to perform at their thirtieth anniversary concert in April.
Lucky me, my poem, crow pose, inspired by Kevin Sloan’s painfully exquisite painting, Our Fragile Past, was one selected for composition and performance, and on April 29 in Denver and April 30 in Boulder, I got to hear my words sung by one of Colorado’s finest musical ensembles. The concerts were beautifully performed, and with the performance of each piece, the artists, poets, and composers were honored and celebrated.
And as if the Ars Nova opportunity wasn’t enough, yesterday concluded a five-week exhibition of interdisciplinary collaboration in Loveland, Colorado. Where Shared Visions started with an image and then generated text and music, Artworks Loveland’s Line Casting project started with poems first. Twenty-five northern Colorado poets were invited to submit two or three poems, which were then distributed to twenty-five northern Colorado artists. The artists were each challenged to choose one line of poetry from one of the poems to inspire a new work of visual art. The only rule was that the selected line had to appear somewhere in the finished artwork. The artworks were curated into an exhibit that featured both the poems and the visual art, exploring the impact of each work on the other when displayed together. The finished collection included paintings, photography, sculpture, and video. To celebrate the opening and closing of the show, Artworks held open houses where poets read their work and artists discussed their processes of casting about for the line that would inform the new creation. When I first saw sculptor Jane DeDecker’s bronze interpretation of my poem Hollyhocks, I was so moved I couldn’t speak. I wish you could have seen it. I wish everyone could have seen it.
What a wonder it is to hear how a composer takes a piece of art-inspired poetry and shapes it into music for thirty voices to sing. Or to sit in a gallery and listen as an eighty year-old poet reads her poem, and a forty-year old artist talks about the deeply personal experience he had making art from one line of text. Both the Shared Visions and the Line Casting projects left me humbled and comforted by the reminder that the world is an abundant place filled with marvelous people. Human beings are a splendid species, and what a gift it is to be alive and engaged in a time and place where hearts and minds are open to creating.
Pretty damned lucky, I’d say.