The Art of Hosting

From the email list February 2013...

Dear AOH community,

Thank you for all the wisdom that is shared on this list! I'm wondering if anyone has had good experiences with hosting collective artistic activities -- where instead of a conversation the focus is creating something together. We have a group of young farmers we would like to try this with, as a different way of interacting and getting to know each other, ideally also exploring a theme related to the future of agriculture. The collectively created piece could either be temporary or lasting, as we're most interested in the process. If anyone has recommended activities, guides or words of wisdom for hosting something like this, please let me know.

Thank you!


Hi, Thea,

I specialize in reaping the unconscious wisdom that comes from creating art together.  As a species, we've been drawing for 60,000 years and writing for 5000.  In each of us lies important images that hold the key to new, positive possibilities.
 I've developed an artistic structure for a small or large community to explore a theme. It's basically a form of collage of gluing paper to a wooden background. There's an on-going project inspired by an 8 year old girl who asked "What if the whole world made a painting together?"  From her amazing vision, the Singing Tree Project grew where a forest of murals, each of an indigenous tree on the earth in space, has evolved.  Every mural is a conversation about whatever the community wants: alternatives to drug addiction, peace, gratitude, homelessness, autism.   Here are a few short videos and a website.  I'm glad to send more detailed instructions if you are interested.
The Seasons of Hope Singing Tree, made with formerly homeless youth:
The Redwood Singing Tree of Biodiversity:
The Singing Trees at Bioneers 2010:
Please check out other collaborative mural structures under projects at this website:
All the best,
If you would like to work with improvised theatre, there are ton of resources out there.  You might try starting with The Applied Improvisation Network and going from there…
Also, there is a playback theatre group in Madison, WI near you that will help you put together a collective story.  Playback is an incredible way to involved everyone in a collaboration…
Playback Theater is doing wonderful work in Pittsburgh, PA, too.
Hi Thea,
You might contact Beth Mount - at Graphic Futures or Molly Lieberman of Loop it Up Savannah

Both women work with groups to create story quilts that reflect the values and stories that guide our lives and work.
Their work is awesome! and a really community builder too.
Thea -- I like your question and the responses it is evoking here.
I like it in particular because I think of conversation as one of the modalities that creates connection for people. A good question. A good story. A good decision.
The conversation is important, but there are many other ways that create added shared identity. Some of it is play. Some of it is art. Some of it is games. I don't think of these as "fillers." Rather, depending on the group, some essential ways to connect. When joined in with deliberate conversation it can be fantastic.
Good luck.
Thank you Juanita, Rosa and Teresa.  
I have been a big fan of yours for years, Juanita, ever since I met Shariff Abdullah at an IONS conference in 1999 and learned about you and the World Cafe.  I came home to rural Virginia and unleashed my high school art students on holding World Cafes in conjunction with all-inclusive art projects that helped transform the school.  The kids loved generating questions, decorating the cafeteria with table cloths and flowers and inviting their peers to sit with someone outside of their clique.  This small rural community (Washington, VA) is where I made the first 16' x 8' Singing Tree with 1000 kids - public schoolers, private schoolers and homeschoolers in a divided community. Thirteen years later, many of those public schoolers, private schoolers and homeschoolers are still connected on FB and holiday visits, though they have different political views, are in all parts of the world, some in the military, some still in rural Virginia with children, some getting PHD's.  Without your knowing it, your vision enriched the lives of strangers.  This is the beauty of the work of aoh. 



And art, creativity or simple visualization can help a small or large group when they felt themselve in the critical phase of diverge, when they realize their quite extremely different attitudes in just waiting the visual facilitator finishing his little, coloured comments. Art and visual can help groups breathing and find their mindfulness.

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