This week seems to be filled with the angst and anticipation of a new year as the kids (and lifelong learners) head back to school. My first day was today, and after holding my first class with bright students eager to learn more about sociology and media, I remembered why I love the classroom and its process of interaction and co-discovery. It primed me for an evening of events around town that combined plentiful creativity with community action.
I headed first to the closing reception of the Suitcase Show hosted by at the Garage on 1st St., a new “venue” that is literally a freestanding garage downtown in which enterprising young artists have hosted gallery openings, DJ nights and bands. The Suitcase Show was a physical, performative manifestation of the drawing group that produced it. The drawing group, meeting more or less regularly for the past few years, works with basic materials – markers, magazines, ink, staples, and lo-fi paper. Their work has been stored in a suitcase and has, for the month of August, hung from the walls of the garage by paper clips and picture nails. The original drawing group, joined by several young artists and their parents, worked out new ideas in the sweaty heat of the small room while I looked around at the work on the walls. The work was never attributed to a particular artist. It wasn’t that kind of show. I decided to buy (for “pay what you can – all drawings must go”) a piece that reminded me of Kenneth Yates‘ situationist-inspired screen prints on gentrification – it was angular, stark and minimal, like a corporate building sitting on top of a futuristic hand gun. I took another picture from the suitcase to hang a replacement.
After going home to sort out mind-numbing course enrollment issues, I headed back out to IS where the Wordsmith Poetry Jam open mic was in its sixth gathering. The talent was astounding and the audience buzzed with feedback. The host, Black Violet, modestly yet deftly brought the crowd into the creative mindspace of the artists, priming us for their words, beats, rhymes and guitar riffs. She taught the cautious crowd to flow, inviting us to release inhibitions and speak out. And then she schooled us on basic skills – “Where are we tonight? Word ____ [SMITH] Poetry ____[Jam]!”
I was able to catch several acts, from a 30 second mind bend on the word hallucination: hell. loose. nation. to Lester’s emotive, spine tingling songs of sensuality [he needs to put out his next album soon]. The night was brought to the perfect climax of community and creative energy when the headliner, Iman “Herukane” Shabazz (of Tuesday Verses) chose to be fully in the moment: The Herukane began: I was really inspired by everything I’ve heard tonight, so I’m going to do something a little creative, can I get my man Lester and my man Bernard up here? As Lester played the hook of his first song, Bernard vocally brought in a booming bass and sharp snare to lay the foundation for Herukane’s flow. Earlier, Herukane spoke the truth on the political perils of consumerism in culture and love, but now he spoke of those perils in the soul. As Herukane conjured up Grand Master Flash, crafting his voice into sounds that were once only made by machines, I realized that this was one of the most amazing musical moments I have witnessed in Charlottesville, or in any place.
Both of these shows reaffirm the idea that engagement, co-presence, and indeed political change, can come through sharing artistically creative moments. Thanks to everyone for the inspiration.