If you haven't caught on by now, participatory art is all the rage nowadays. Today, the most cutting edge art includes audiences in the creative process, so it becomes a two-way conversation. Case in point is Poetry for Thought, a new performance event that started in November at Groundswell Coffee. The series includes politically-minded poets and spoken-word artists doing their thing, but includes a discussion with the audience as well.
Justin James, curator, organizer, and host for Poetry for Thought got the idea from discussions he'd had with family and friends about the lack of community in our neighborhoods. "I believe that this lack of community contributes to the injustices that take place in our neighborhoods," he says. "One way to create community and build a better future is to start talking, listening, and understanding each other." He started the series because he wanted to use poetry "as a springboard to encourage the audience to share their own stories, ideas, and beliefs with one another."
James is in a community organizing apprenticeship through SPEAC (Sustainable Progress through Engaging Active Citizens) at Hope Community, where he studies teaching at Hamline University. He believes talking about the work enhances the audience's understanding of the artwork and the issues the poets raise. "Many of us have forgotten how to talk about meaningful and true ideas with each other," he says.
Past performers have included Jake Virden, Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, Sherronda Orridge, Joel Mason, Yesha Townsend, and Guante. For this month's Poetry for Thought, Chilli Lor, deM atlaS, and Syd Arnold will be gracing the stage.
Photo by Anthony Kwan
Lor, who was born in Chiang Kham refugee camp in Thailand, is a community organizer, poet, hip-hop artist, and b-girl, currently majoring in sociology and critical studies of race and ethnicity at St. Catherine's University. She says the poetry she'll be sharing this Friday will revolve around race and her Hmong identity. "I want to share pieces, such as Culture Borderline, and my tribute to Trayvon Martin," she says. "Personally, I believe that Poetry for Thought has a unique approach to develop community discussions by tying them to artists' messages in their work." She says the discussion approach allows the audience and the artists to bring in their experiences and knowledge, and through conversation, learn from each other.