Thursday, January 27, 2011

Some Days I Dream of Land in the Country, Other Days I Dream of Art Galleries

Last night I went to Girls' Club, an amazing gallery space. You can tell that it began its life as a garage, or something even more industrial. The gallery does intriguing shows. It's fun to go there with students, because the art that they see is often so very, very different from anything they've ever experienced before.

The Frances Trombley show looks very much like an unhung art show, with its canvases stacked against the wall. Only upon closer inspection do we see that those canvases are actually pieces of fabric that Trombley created on her loom. It's very monochromatic, very uniform, at least from a distance.

I much preferred the show upstairs, Facsimile, with all its variations, many of them having something to do with traditional needle arts, but those arts taken in very different ways. For example, one artist took old televisions and gutted them. Then he filled them with crocheted items that suggested static; in one piece, he had crocheted old VHS tape into a shiny sculpture, which he then put into the emptied television. If you want a further taste of the art, go here for the gallery notes--and then go see the show; it's on display until the end of September.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to do next, what I would do if my job vanished, what I might do if the entire educational-industrial complex collapsed out from under me, much like autoworkers and newspaper writers have had their industries disappear. My thoughts often run towards land in the country.

I know I don't want to be a farmer. What exactly would I do with land in the country?

I dream of some kind of retreat center, a place where people could come to learn about simple living and to explore their artistic yearnings. I'd also like to weave a spiritual component into it, for people who are interested. I've been fascinated in monastic traditions and the traditions of artistic communes, and I've wondered what could be possible if these traditions came together in one piece of land at one piece of time.

I know that the history of artistic communes would warn me away from this experiment. I know about the Lake District. I've read about the Bloomsbury group. I know about Bronson Alcott's disastrous experiments that almost led his family to starvation.

But I also know that many monastic communities have lasted decades, and some of them hundreds of years. Could that spiritual component be the missing key?

Last night's foray reminded me of other dreams of the future that I've had, dreams of an artistic space, dreams of urban living. Back in July, the first time that I went to Girls' Club, I had to drive around the block a few times, and I couldn't help but notice how many properties were for sale. Could my dream translate to an urban-ish setting?

It's not urban, in the way that New York City is urban. Girls' Club is only a few blocks away from downtown Ft. Lauderdale, but downtown Ft. Lauderdale lacks the inner city-ness of other big cities. There are homeless people, but for the most part, after dark, the downtown feels rather abandoned. I can walk the streets without feeling much danger. Of course, there's not much to do, not a vibrant nightlife. It's still a city where realistically one needs a car.

With all these dreams of the future, I still run up against basic economics. How does one earn enough to live? I could make the case for an urban retreat center, especially one where people come for an afternoon. But how many retreatants would it take to cover the mortgage payment and utilities? Quite a lot.

So, I'll let these ideas continue to percolate. Who knows where they may lead? In the meantime, it's wonderful that other people have converted these spaces and that they share them with the rest of us.


Wendy said...

If you build not, I will come. I think an urban retreat center would be very cool--maybe even more appealing to me than a rural one, though I'm not sure I can explain why. (and re your comment on my blog, I do love L'Engle's reflective works. I need to reread Walking on Water. Someday. Too many books, too little time.)

Hannah Stephenson said...

This sounds like such a great show and gallery space.

Kathleen said...

Yay for needle arts!

Girls' Club said...

Thanks for coming by Girls' Club and sharing your experience!!

More info on us, the Frances Trombly: Paintings exhibition, and our upcoming events - like our Artists in Action! series and Stitch 'n Bitch 'n Lit event - are available at our website or on our facebook page!!