5.22.2011

Building Foundations



If you have built castles in the air,
your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.
Now put the foundations under them.
-Henry David Thoreau


This past week, I spent a few days out in North Adams at Mass MOCA learning about different Creative Communities throughout New England. I learned about tools to help develop creative communities, models of creative community programs which can be replicated, toured artist living work spaces and galleries, walked through a community and discovered different walkability ideas, ate great food, reconnected with colleagues, met new people who I am sure will prove to be great resources, saw amazing work, and more. It was a fantastic week.

This weekend, I spent Saturday reconnecting with my kids and husband at my brother's "Super Classy" wedding party. It was a summer backyard cookout type event, one of our family's many backyard bashes that are held throughout the summer every year. He recently married and bought a new house that's located at the end of a beautiful street that abuts New Bedford's Buttonwood Park. The wall you see above is the back of a business that is located next door and faces the perpendicular street.

Every time I am in their back yard, my brain races with images of murals or different ideas that I would love to put on that wall. Actually doing something would mean sketching, approval of the property owners and my brother and sister-in-law, supplies, commutes, weather cooperation, etc. So I just dream about it. I don't have the time or resources for another big project.

At the party we ate typical cookout fair, including a bologna cake made by my godmother, which you really have to experience to understand. The kids, loaded up on the wedding cupcakecake and chips and soda and juice, quickly started the rush of activities needed to work out the "beginning of the summer" willies. Tag, sliding on every conceivable structure with a tilt, sneaking tv time inside the house and making parents chase them, football and baseball were the key activities.

After the kids finished hitting all of the whiffle balls on top of the roof or into a nearby gutter, they started to draw on the sidewalk with chalk. They traced themselves on the ground with chalk. The adults did some graffiti; the kids ground the chalk into the sidewalk into palettes of color. Then the magic happened.

It was quite a thing to experience. They realized that when they stepped on the areas of walkway that were heavily loaded with chalk, that they could leave foot prints.  So they purposefully ground the chalk into the ground to use as stamp pads. They started making footprints everywhere. Then someone spilled water on the chalk. They started making handprints on the ground by dipping their hands into the muddied pigment. Then they started mixing colors a d trying to find different objets to use as stamps, i.e., shoes, leaves, hands, etc.

One brave, innovative child ran over to the huge blank canvas with a smile on their face and daring in their heart and stamped her hands on that wall. Then they all joined in. In a melee of running and dipping hands and mixing colors, and laughing and spirited celebration of spontaneous creativity, group process and disregard of consequence, a group of children created a mural that was as beautiful in its final stage as it was in its creation.

And, it washes off.

We all work with hesitations and wanting to make things perfect and permanent. Truth is, nothing is perfect and nothing is permanent. Life is messy.

But if you don't stamp your hands on the wall at all, all you will end up doing is dreaming by yourself.

At one of the workshops that I went to this weekend, Kevin Sprague from Studio 2 got up and spoke about design tools for communication. He told us to actually not over think design. He said to focus on the message. The point is to communicate.  He said not to worry about spelling mistakes or the little things. Be messy. Just get the message out.

Don't worry about being perfect. Get out there. Get messy. Be brave. Build your castle in the clouds.

The foundation is already there. It's you.

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