Friday, December 30, 2011

community and craftsmanship...

I live at the edge of a small tourist town. Living here at the edge of Eureka Springs, pursuing my career here as a woodworker, and marrying my wife Jean, a public librarian, were the three best decisions I made in my life.

When I moved to Eureka Springs in 1975, it was a small town recently discovered by hippies. Those of us who gathered here found instant community with each other, and with a few older open-minded residents who saw our arrival as a good thing. That sense of community made Eureka a place worth proselytizing about. We were all excited about this place as though we'd discovered paradise. Some were just here to grow pot, but others were here to build lives outside the main direction of things as craftsmen, potters, painters, poets, writers, musicians, storekeepers, teachers and every possible niche one can think of when we think about small town life. Within that matrix of aspirations, we gave aid and comfort to each other. Many of us had grown up in cities where we'd been anonymous. In our midst and welcoming us were nationally known senior artists like Louis and Elsie Freund, Ely De Vescovi, and so many more who opened their homes and hearts to us. As they listened to our aspirations they offered to us a sense of our own personal credibility as though we fit here.

After first trying out as a potter in a town rich in potters, I found my own niche in making small wooden boxes, display cabinets for shops and galleries all up and down Spring Street (most of which can still be found in use today) and a bit of furniture for the homes of artists and friends. Woodworking is on my own personal list of best things because in it, I found the opportunity for life-long learning. Each day there was some new joint to cut, some new skill to master, and it was not just what I could learn in my head each day but in my hands as well. After having found myown place in the community, I called the meeting of artists on the shores of Lake Leatherwood that led to the forming of the Eureka Springs Guild of Artists and Craftspeople. Through along shaggy do story we later morphed that organization into the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. I'm telling you that not to brag, but just to point out that in a small community, one person can truly make a difference, and what we all found here was a small pond in which we could each join forces, offer our best and be encouraged to do so.

I will not attempt to describe what being married to a public librarian has meant for me. And so, rather than make a feeble attempt, let it be known that being in the heart of community, woven in, warp and weft, is a profound experience that too few in this day of upward, downward and cross-lateral mobility know enough about.

The creative work of one man is seldom the craftsmanship of one man alone, but is instead related to the community in which he lives, and the support he or she receives within that community, and the way forward that I am attempting to describe on the entry to the new year is of those things. Craftsmanship and community.

As I reflect back on those early times, my companions in the discovery of this community I see hearts beating on shirt sleeves. We were each filled with deep personal aspirations not having much to do with money, but rather with growth toward fulfillment in deeper things. We were lucky to find each other for support.

These days, I wonder how we can apply this example set by this small community in Arkansas to bring about a transformation in American life. I have this day and one more left in 2011 to spell it out. In your own life and as the best starting point wherever you find yourself:

Make, fix and create...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well spoken! And let it be known that even in a city of 270,000 like Buffalo, community can develop, or better said, a series of communities based on interests.

Mario