Thursday, May 13, 2010

Using the Arts to Build Communities

by Katy Brown of muchacha K handmade

Regular readers may recall that I am the founder and producer of Concord Arts Market, NH's first weekly, outdoor artisan and fine art market.

And that means three things:

1) I'm totally CRAZED right now getting ready for our June 5th opening!
2) We're accepting applications from artists and artisans who are interested in participating!
3) Did I mention that I am totally crazed getting ready for our June 5th opening date?

Check out our website for more information about who we are, what we do: MARKET WEBSITE AHOY MATEYS

All self-promotion aside, for the past three years I have given space to community groups who want to reach the public...groups such as the Friends Program, who pair elders in the community with younger volunteer companions, and Riverbend, an organization that (among other services) offers vocational programs to people with mental health issues. The Riverbend group is actually comprised of artists who participate in the vocational services program, and thus their market participation is a therapeutic experience.

Last season we also began a series of community art projects that have proved fun, inspirational, AND beautiful. Lizz Van Saun, mosaic artist and owner of Kast Hill Studios has led several now...gorgeous mosaic pieces that community members have assisted in the production of. Susan Schwake, fine artists and owner of artstream gallery in Rochester, NH led the creation of a painted mural, a piece that we are planning to tour. More community projects are planned this summer, with the intent that they all show together when completed.

("sway" by Susan Schwake)

This year's twist: we are working to integrate recent immigrants into the fabric of the market. There are hundreds of refugees in our little city, from Nepal, from African nations, and more...and many of them have brought knowledge of their native handcrafts with them. They are also looking for ways to become a more active part of their new community and learn about their new "home". We have set some dates for them to start coming throughout...and it will be very exciting to see what comes out of it all!

There is value inherent in art and artisan handcrafted items...but when we build connections within the community, and demonstrate the power of our media to affect people's lives positively, we receive reciprocal benefits. We reap the benefit of an expanded audience for our work, as well as a greater number of witnesses who can testify to our value.

In this way, in difficult economic times, an entire community can benefit from the generation of these types of connections. We simultaneously feed the spirit and secure our own survival. It's a perfect union of art and business...of soul and bottom line. It is no coincidence that politicians, under similar circumstances, stoop to address the masses. However, when the subject is the sharing of our art, there is nothing cynical in the exchange. There is truly benefit to all.

I can't wait to see how this year's projects and connections develop!

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