Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Building Creative Communities Weekend

The only woodpecker I saw this weekend was on this Colquitt mural!
A quartet of actresses from the Swamp Gravy production.
Even the centerpieces were creative!

This past weekend I participated in a workshop in Colquitt, Georgia called Building Creative Communities. This workshop was designed to showcase the community development which Colquitt has accomplished through arts. I was invited by the Department of English at FSU ( and thank you all so much for a much needed infusion of rest, creative stimulation, and inspiration). The rejuvenation of Colquitt Georgia was spearheaded by Joy Jinks, a MSW graduate of FSU and a Miller County mover and shaker, along with Karen Kimbrell.

They have successfully endeavored to unite and enrich a south Georgia town through the production of a Community Performance called Swamp Gravy which was originally written by playwright Jo Carson and produced and directed by Dr. Richard Geer. The town is studded with spectacular murals; bustling commerce, and a sense that people can live in community and harmony despite their differences. Swamp Gravy is now the official Georgia folklife play and features 80 or more rotating actors and actresses from the community who tell their stories which are woven into an amazing play. That was also what we did as a conference group during the weekend, along with a number of other creative activities.

I also made lots of new friends and I was especially delighted to meet Aaron Myers, who wrote and produced a documentary for NPR entitled "The Life and Times of Zora Neale Hurston." He is legendary among the folklore grad students and I had held him in my mind as a standard to which I am aspiring as a grad student in folklore. Over dinner, I saw something in one of HLG's paintings which puzzled this city gal, and Aaron explained to me what a "bucket roller" was. He had played with them in his rural community growing up near Weewahitchka. Aaron is someone to watch and I predict he will be much more famous as the years go by as a writer, producer and director in the arts.

We both also enjoyed the paintings of Henry Lee Gorham which were on display at the Tarrer Inn. Henry Lee is my new favorite painter and as soon as I can I am going to visit his studio in McRae Georgia. I think Henry Lee is the most exciting folklife painter in the country at this time.

In our play I told the story of my grandmother Velma Lyon which I told my son to illuminate what his great-grandmother was like. We called it "Butterflies." It was chosen to be one of the stories we wove into our performance. I also played with my good friend Aaron McNeece who is the Dean of the Social Work College, who wrote a planxty for a recently deceased faculty member, Wendy Crook. It is a lovely tune and it honors Wendy aptly. We did it for his story, which was also one of the six we wove into our community performance.

I can now get back to my ethnographic study of Ida Goodson and the paper I am writing about Ida with lots of good tips on gathering stories from the brilliant Jo Carson. I am also transcribing my grandmother's diary from when she was about sixteen to create a paper and I am going to write Mark's story as it unfolds. Mark's tangled estate has been challenging and not a little disturbing thus far, but I am determined to get through the probate for him because I want to know his story and to tell it and to understand his fascinating but difficult life. More on that later.


  1. Great mural! I was going to call it a pileated, but realized your affinity for Ivory-billed. Is it?