Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The 10th Circle of Arts Convention STORYTELLING ORG

Yesterday David Tobey and I co-facilitated the 1st Annual Arts convention of Las Cruces and Mesilla Valley.  Virginia Maria Romero and Trina Dunbar (Talking Stick board members) helped us bring this event into Being. My TA and doctoral student Joe Gladstone and the students in the classes of the two David's did awesome work, volunteering at arts events, passing out invites, and talking it up.  Laura and Chris came early qnd helped us set up and did a terrific job on the sign in table.  

the Arts Convention is a Storytelling Organization of artists and leaders from business, government, education, and arts organizations (including 36 galleries, 7 museums, & 85 service organizations in the performing, literary, and visual arts).  This is a major undertaking.  

Joe, Chris, Laura, and I arranged signs, set up the computer and projector, and arranged the ten talking stick circles. forgot my smudge stick, but did the best I could to set up a sacred space.

As the evening progressed it became obvious that the 10th Circle is the most important one. 


1. Economics
2. Education
3. Galleries
4 Government
5. Literary
6. Media
7. Museums
8. Performing
9. Visual
10. Patrons

There was excellent tourn out and participation in 9 or the Circles. Galleries was a bit light with only two delegates, but three hard-working students stuck it out and made something of that Circle.  They had visited the galleries in person to do invites, and done volunteer work at ArtsHop over the weekend (an event of Galleries).  The Visucal Arts Circle had the most delgates (about a dozen or so), followed by Museums, and others with very respectable numbes.

The 10th Circle is Patrons, and after the film, the two delegates that sat in that Circle, left and did not come back. So there were wore with 10 Circles, and one had no delegates. there in the middle of the room, was an abyss, a black hole.

We put out 100 chairs, and everyone was taken, and a few extras besides.  

Let's back up a bit.  It came time to start the event. I led off with some brief remarks about how the Arts Convention is itself is an important Storytelling Organization (used some but not much of my morning post yesterday).  I spoke about the 10 Talking Stick Circles, how each one is facilitated by students David and I trained just two weeks ago.  I explained the ground rules.
When you have the Talking Stick, you have the power of the storyteller. You tell and everyone listens. WHen you don't have the Talking Stick your role is to listen. The student's role is to take notes in their notebooks (as verbatim as possible).

The most important thing about Storytelling is Story-Listening, the very purpose of  Talking Stick Circles.  

The second most important thing about Storytelling is Story-Noticing!  We noticed taht after the break, there were 9 not 10 Circles.

STORY NOTICING - Not all storytelling is verbal or written. SOme telling you notice in the behavior.  Story Noticing means becoming aware of the storytelling going on in a time and place, that is being taken-for-granted. 

We notices a story. The 10th Circle was vacant.  And its that very circle, the patrons that is important to the other nine.  the 10th Circle pays the bills of the 128 arts organizations in Las Cruces and Mesilla Valley.  Some patrons are donors to various arts organizations, especially to the performing arts.  Other patrons are collectors of sculpture, weaving, and paintings. More than a few are arts tourists.  

There was this mad rush of participants in the Arts convention to remove the empty chairs of the 10th Circle.  I intervened, "take pictures, put it on film. This is a special moment."  There was a silent pause that lasted longer than the traffic lights on Lohman.  In that pause, there was this fantastic moment of Story Noticing.  We were staring at it, thinking and feeling at the same time.

Let's put the 10th Circle in context. WIthout patrons, there are 250 artists who cannot make a living, and 6 galleries who will not survive for long.  I recall saying, "next meeting, on Sept 15th, lets try again to invite patrons here. How about Mrs Jack Key, Mrs Sisbarro, and Mrs Borman (names synonymous with auto dealers in our community)?  I hear they are big patrons of the arts.  Let's invite them.  What about the wives of other male industries, such as the home construction and community banking?  Check the donor lists of the public TV and radio stations, and the people buying bigger ad spaces in the symphony programs. Hold those empty chairs in the 10th Circle."

As a Storytelling Organization we must include the voices of the patrons, who are so conspicuously absent from the Arts Convention. Without them all the mission statements, goals and plan won't matter much.  More another time.  

We showed the Ed Breeding Film, "Heart of the Arts" for the very first time to the public.

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