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artistic activities of all stripes that gener- ate and sustain group traditions build community and contribute to every- one’s quality of life.

Working with the Senses

“Art has been the means of keeping alive the senses of purpose…” ~ John Dewey

Artful togetherness is woven

into the very fabric of community life through what often appears to be everyday utilitarian activities, such as group gardening, sewing, building, painting and cooking. In sharing time and space, we gain a sense of nurtur- ing and realize ways to hold onto the distinction of a place. In the best scenarios, we honor cherished tradi- tions and remain open to learning and reinvention by accepting and incorpo- rating new ideas from unlikely places.

… Putting our hands to work

Visitors are likely to be surprised

by the hive of activity they encounter in local sewing and knitting supply shops lately. Take the Yarn Shop and Fiber Place, in Bozeman, Montana, for exam- ple ( The own- ers host monthly knit-alongs, spinning and weaving circles and knit-for-a-cause events. In New Jersey, a community of volunteers with the Blankie Depot has crafted some 147,000 blankets and other comforting goods for needful youngsters since 1999 ( The Sew- ful Austin group in Texas, on the other hand, just gets people together to have fun and share ideas for sewing projects ( Coffee shops, too, can get in on the

act. Dogleg Coffeehouse, in Bandera, Texas, ( is the site of a free monthly art class led by local artists. They’ve sparked a growing community of folks creating new life for repurposed and re-found items. Spontaneous expression is com- monly found in open studios or houses, as groups of artists and others meet to paint, draw, sculpt or mold. Community art collectives like Rock Paper Scissors, in Oakland, California, are hot spots

natural awakenings September 2010 49

for activities ranging from art walks and talks to writer readings. A volunteer- run organization, RPS fosters all forms of community arts, crafts and perfor- mances through collaborative sharing of ideas, skills and resources aimed to strengthen a sense of community (

Other artists, like Susan Wood,

of SusieQ Art based in Fort Lauder- dale, Florida, move outside the studio to facilitate the co-creation of art in public spaces ( Her favorite sites include parks, science museums and natural health expos. Anyone within earshot can get a no- cost creative charge by simply picking up a paintbrush to “add a dab.” To date, the largest ad hoc painting party was 115 people strong, all venturing beyond self-imposed boundaries.

… Unleashing indwelling voices Beyond the creative command of

our hands, it also feels good to unleash our bodies and expand the scope of our voices. The modern-day resurrection of drum circles, for instance, is giving new life to dance socials. Based upon one of humanity’s most ancient forms of gather- ing and sharing within and across com- munities, loosely structured drumming events around the world leave plenty of room for spontaneous jamming. Fans view the drum as an espe-

cially powerful instrument relating to

the human body, as it mimicks the beat of the human heart. Waleska Sallaberry relates that their Natural Awaken- ings’ Drumming Circle in Puerto Rico tops 600 par- ticipants a month. (Find existing drum circles by state or find out how to start one at Another ancient and global form

of community building resides in the power of words—whether sung or spoken. We have come to understand that stories sustain our values, myths and belief systems. The National Storytelling Network helps locate master storytellers in the community ( We can also create a storytell-

ing event of our own. Ask any informal gathering of new and old friends to each create their own six-word memoir in a round robin event and be amazed at what memories are instantly cre- ated. Enjoy checking out and sharing such six-word autobiographies at Smith Magazine ( Finally, there are celebratory

events at which all kinds of vibrant cre- ative forms come together in one place. In Naples, Florida, Live Art meets in various places around town for on- the-spot performance music, painting, fire-spinning, poetry, dance and body

Live Art event, Naples, FL

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