Archive for September, 2013

Skywatchers: The Art of Everyday Life

September 25, 2013

On Wednesday afternoon we enter the Senator Hotel, a supportive housing complex for formerly homeless individuals managed by the Community Housing Partnership. Located in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, Anne Bluethenthal leads the way with a box of pizza and the intent to have an artistic experience co-created by the residents. There is no agenda only a creative process that begins before we enter the TV room, our designated rehearsal space. On the sidewalk a chorus of hollers is followed by greetings and negotiations around the front desk, and phone calls to coax residents out of their rooms. This place is rich with relationships. Whether you like it or not you will never feel alone here.

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The Senator Hotel as seen from the Tenderloin National Forest

Although the boundaries between inside and outside are distinct – locked doors, surveillance systems, front door staff – the “Skywatchers” community engagement project Anne is facilitating is a very fluid experience. People leisurely drift in and out. Everyone is welcomed by name and with kindness. Everyone who participates is applauded. Everyone who leaves will be missed.

We discuss fears, dreams, hopes and desires. We explore ambiguities, insecurities and rather complex realities that exist between the preoccupations of everyday life. The conversational process is fueled with empathy and not carried away by emotion. We are responsive but not reactionary. There is no fixing or doctoring or asserting anything. Anne and I are simply holding a space and inviting ideas to emerge at their own pace. What we mirror back to the residents is their honesty and insight.

This process shines a light on the creativity in all of us. Rennon, a quiet man who prefers to sit apart from the group has exceptional observational and writing skills. Berta, a woman who bubbles with chatter is the eternal hostess. Janice dresses up for our meeting ready to dance, sing and wax poetry, while her neighbor shuns the limelight and slips away with a slice of pizza. Gestures from these interactions are incorporated into a sequence of movements arranged according to reoccurring topics of conversations. We rehearse, we remember, we relate. And on October 6th we will perform in public.

Submitted by Sasha Silveanu, Skywatchers Project Director


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