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Through the Cracks in the Pavement

What Standing Rock Cultural Arts has taught me about art.

When I was much younger, I can't remember when, I decided to become an artist because I was fascinated with the idea that, whatever it was, you made it up yourself.

Still, as an adult, I cherish the idea that something I made didn't exist before I made it happen. When I create something and place it outside of my body I can see the world in a different way, through the eyes of creation.

Viewing art is similar. When we look at art, we don't connect to the thing so much as the feeling of life that flows through the thing. It's that feeling that connects us that can, in my experience of Kent, create a strong and thriving community.

There is this tender spot in all artists, I think, whether we are visual, musical, verbal, performative or whatever. There is something in us that feels the life, humanity and power that comes with the creative act.

I feel this way because of what I have shared with the people whom I have met through events over the years.

I came to Kent in 2002 to study art at and was drawn into the city of Kent through SRCA, an organization "made-up" by Jeff Ingram in the early nineties. 

If you have participated in any arts-related event of the past 20 years in Kent you have probably met Ingram. This contemplative mastermind who calmly sits behind black glasses has worked to create a space for so many people to unleash their creative energy it feels a bit like magic. The top hat that he periodically wears helps too.

I was inspired to contemplate how the creative community has affected me during a recent conversation between myself and Ingram. He said, “The beauty of creativity is that it grows up through the cracks in the pavement.” He was alluding to the empty building he spotted on North Water Street over two decades ago that has since become the North Water Street Gallery and SRCA headquarters. 

One of my earliest memories of SRCA is Edwin George's mural, “Love,” that I helped brandish on the side of Scribbles in 2005. I only remember staying for an afternoon, but often recall that experience as I work on the now. 

I see George's artwork as a gift, emitting the mural's title as equally as it emits color. To honor this gift, I hope for the Haymaker Mural to be a display of gratitude for both George and the support the Kent community has shown for art.

Another event that has stayed with me is the "Summer Solstice Shivaree" that a friend and I hosted to celebrate the longest day of the year in 2010.

The event has stuck, not because it was special in any way, but becuase I was able to put energy into creating something that others were able to feel. 

We wanted to encourage people to slow down and just enjoy a day. The garden next to SRCA was the perfect place to do such a thing. We offered to give a forehead massage to anyone who took the time to lay down in the grass and gaze at the sky. 

I also made a catapult to launch fake flowers into the air and rain down onto participants. Like most of my ideas, however, it didn't work.

And, of course, it wouldn't be an SRCA event if there wasn't plenty of delicious homemade food. I think the food made up for the absence of flower explosions. 

This year on the solstice I wandered down to the garden beside SRCA to enjoy the evening and watch lightening bugs rise from the grass. The traffic was muffled by the sound of the wind through the trees and the air was silky and cool. It was the perfect way to end a day.

Finally, I have to mention Vince Packard. Kent is home to a range of dedicated artists and Packard is one of the most passionate I have ever met. 

I remember sitting next to him as he painted one day. He had two coffee cups, one with coffee and the other with water to rinse his brushes. As we were talking, he accidentally dipped his brush into the coffee. He just kept painting. 

Sure I haven't lived in too many places, but I think Kent is unique because of the community that has grown around SRCA.

While some may look at the crumbling pavement as unusable, I have learned that the seeds of a life can be planted in these cracks.  

The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 17, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Simply beautiful. And the last sentence truly says it all.
David Badagnani July 17, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Great article.
Lisa Regula Meyer July 17, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Thanks, Elaine! Kent is blessed with some amazing (often under-appreciated) artists of all kinds.
greg griffith July 18, 2012 at 01:28 AM
I am a member of the Kent community who has resided here for a number of years. I came to Kent for KSU and stayed for Kent. One of the first places that welcomed me to the city was Standing Rock and more specifically an event that was being held at the garden adjacent to the gallery. This was back in 2001 when I first arrived in Kent and since then I have been fortunate to enjoy many sunny summer evenings at the Standing Rock Garden in beautiful downtown Kent. As a member of the Kent community, I am an ardent supporter of the Standing Rock Garden, and all of the beauty that comes with it. From the artist and amazing personalities down to the beautiful green and the shady trees that invite all, especially on the hottest days of summer. Cities around the nation, indeed the world, are clamoring for ways to reclaim even just a fraction of green space to bring comfort and sanity to the concrete jungle. From guerrilla and square foot gardening to expansive reclaimed city plots, green is in, always should be. In my past I have had the good fortune of bringing the message of gardening and green space to communities, I managed a program called the Community Health and Strength Initiative. A principal pilar of the initiative was to create more green spaces, be they passive parks and playgrounds to active community gardens that serve as a central space to meet, greet and eat promoting health. It is in that spirit I believe Standing Rock Garden exists and to that I say, Viva La Garden!
greg griffith July 18, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Thank you Elaine for your amazing perspective.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 18, 2012 at 02:19 AM
I love it. Viva La Garden!

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