Art and Soul Workshop

Hearts Write Open: Transformative Leadership through Poetry and Creative Expression

This is a workshop for those interested in creating and presenting artistic work that transforms perceptions of self, community and the world.  The arts have long been used to cultivate compassion and deeper understanding of ourselves and each other, and the workof artists and cultural leaders such as Augusto Boal, Anna Deavere Smith and Eve Ensler invite us to challenge the traditional separation between artist and audience.  We will look briefly at how they have done this, experience an excerpt of artistic work that embodies these principles, and create a concept for a Performance Action Project that serves a specific community.

The Writer’s Playdate

“Oppression is a table that stands on three strong legs: the oppression that lives within people with privilege, the oppression that lives within institutions, and the oppression that lives within the oppressed who have internalized its messages and begun to rehearse oppression upon others of their kind.  The power to dismantle oppression lies in knocking out the legs from under the table, but in order to do so we need not wait until all the legs have been weakened, knocking out any one leg completely will certainly lessen the table’s ability to stand in place firmly, and also lessen the long term effort required for the table to topple.” ~ Dr. Barbara Love

“Oppression works best when people are silent about their suffering and when they turn the hate of society toward themselves.  A powerful means of dismantling oppression lies in Creative Writing. Through Creative Writing, oppression can be turned into an act of expression, and provide aspiring writers, new and experienced, with an intimate way to explore their craft and share their work.”

Sean Zio, Poet and originator of “The Creative Writing Play Date.”

The Writer’s Play Date of Boston is an open membership and welcomes any skill level. For the first half of this workshop, groups will do opening work to inspire creativity through meditation and art. Materials are provided for experimentation and free expression of ideas through collage, vision boarding, pastel and pencil drawing. In the second half of the workshop, the group will reconvene for writing in response to creative writing prompts that focus on a literary tool. In closing, each member will share their art work and read his or her piece aloud. Time allowing, the group will provide constructive feedback.

The Writer’s Play Date is a space where people are encouraged to create and write. The Play Date operates with an aim toward inclusivity and models itself upon anti-oppressive politics where each individual of the collective has the right to speak and be a part of the decision-making process. The Play Date can act as a place where writers work together to help each other grow as literary artists.  This environment can be extremely welcoming for first-timers in that Artists are generally sensitive and timid people who have survived years of others telling them that they or their work are not good enough. The play date does its best to resist this message and create an inclusive space for people to feel safe as artists.

Some people view writing as a form of therapy, as a way to cope with/express the challenges and joys of their lives, and the Writer’s Play Date aligns with this view.  The power of the written word is that one can pour his or her heart out onto a page and then share it with someone else who will process it and find their own meaning and resonance. The basic element of privacy, inherent in writing and reading, combined with the opportunity to share safely, allows for the simultaneous examination of our life journeys as individuals and in relationship to others. This duality is what makes this form of creativity so conducive to therapy. Throughout recorded history, words have been a touchstone between generations and people, reminding us that we are never alone.  The act of sharing is a reminder to writers that we are communicating with an audience. It is easy to get caught up in our journals and hidden emotions, but the Writer’s Play Date is an opportunity to reveal our inner worlds through images and lyrical prose that can be provocative to our own inner understanding and meaningful for other people to receive.

Dancing Deep: Exploring Spirituality, Ethnicity & Diversity through Movement and Dance

Pain held in is pain. Pain let out is dance. Worry held in is worry. Worry let out is the cry of a bird that lives on the branch of heart that no one sees. Sorrow held in is sorrow. But sorrow let out is the song of the continents moving together. Even if you are forbidden to cry your truth, there is still the dance without words before the twice-locked gates. No matter if the gates are generations old, no matter if the gates are in your mind, no matter if when you move, you stumble. It is a gift for the children of the earth: as drums sound out the heartbeat of the living, song is the thing that will outlast brutality…

Mark Nepo

This session will creatively explore identity and personal power by giving voice to life experiences related to religion, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, trauma, oppression and privilege using movement as a means of transformation. We will focus on healing old wounds and embracing new connections by giving voice to struggle through our eyes, hands, legs, and torso and the synergy that we can create by channeling energy through them. We will use dance to shift perceptions of self and the world and welcome the full experience of life into the soul.  Expect this experience to be a bit magical, a bit intoxicating, a bit life changing.

Spiritual Potluck:  Diversity Dynamics of Faith Leadership, Community,
and Practice

As we begin the 21st Century, the stakes for faith leaders and community professionals are high. Overwhelmingly, Americans are reinventing the key indicators of what it means to be, become, and belong in the context of religion.  Many organizations, across America, are seeking ways to engage a population that has demonstrated reticence to engaging in formal definitions for religious community. Many charged with religious outreach are looking to update long-standing communication and marketing strategies to respond to the fact that previously accepted religious terms and notions are in flux and reality shows and pop culture are stretching far out ahead of academia in terms of providing major definitions for spirituality and religious identity.

The Spiritual Potluck workshop is an opportunity for teachers, clergy, and faith leaders to step beyond the doors of their point of origin to engage a multidimensional approach to spirituality and building community around religious identity and practice.  This course will utilize music, art, and thematic materials borrowed straight from contemporary pop-culture to speak to the subjects of spirituality and faith while encompassing cultural differences that exist within religious audiences around race, nationality, age, gender, sexuality, and various other diverse entry points to religion itself.  Participants who have little or no knowledge regarding religions other than their own will have a chance to explore common themes and concepts that exist across a diversity of faith practice.

The goal of study in this religious diversity workshop will not be to reach theological agreement, or acceptance of religions with which one disagrees.  The goal of approaching American religious diversity as a “Spiritual Potluck” will be to build bridges of understanding between participants based on a shared affirmation of the inviolable dignity of each person.  This workshop will present methods for teaching other traditions and beliefs in ways that are fair, accurate, and objective.  It will prepare members of religious communities to engage people of other faiths with understanding and respect across differences that are often deep and abiding.  The Spiritual Potluck will offer participants an approach that can be adopted by members of any faith in enabling educators, clergy, and faith leaders to describe religions as practitioners themselves that understand their own faiths, but can use attributive language that is respectful and clearly separates the teacher from the content, leaving the content intact and recognizable to any believer whose religion is being described.