Snapshots from the On the Road Videos

green chili stewReactions to my requests for video interviews with creative folks doing good things in their communities have included total non-reaction, initial interest followed by radio silence, and wonderful enthusiasm. I am so fortunate for the latter and feel privileged to be able to bring their stories to light.

There are many meaningful and even transformational initiatives taking place around the country that receive very limited or no media focus so it is easy to wonder sometimes if our world is going to hell in a hand basket—whatever the heck that means.  At the very least, I believe the video stories will uplift people’s spirits and strengthen our sense of hope. Naturally, the full stories won’t be told until I get back home to edit and upload them in the Fall, but meanwhile, here are a few glimpses of the interviewees to date.

You met Delaney, who is creating new audiences for artists in New Orleans, in an earlier posting. Her first art installation, a tiny house in which musical instruments were embedded in every surface, had over 15,000 people come for concerts given by professional musicians and also to tramp through the house themselves and create their own sounds. She teaches musical architecture at a local college and spawns new ideas for large scale musical phenomena at a pace that leaves me breathless.

Jesse, a blues guitarist in Jackson MS, grew up the son of a preacher on the Delta, where blues infused daily living.  I was touched by his concern about how he would look on the video. He had purchased a police vest from a thrift shop that looked snazzy, indeed, and included me in his deliberations about whether to wear his cap frontwards with the brim over his face or backwards for the interview.  All my interviewees about the blues and the creative economy in MS surprised me with the story that although they grew up with the blues, they did not know how important the music was until outsiders let them know such as when the Beatles did Muddy Waters. There was a universal “ah ha” moment, that, damn, this stuff is making a huge impact.

Denver is a hub for many Native American organizations that have national reach and I wanted to capture that story.  Interviewees included Darius Smith, who works for the Anti-Discrimination Office and serves on the American Indian Commission, Shadana Dickerson, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce, Ben Jacobs, founder of Tacabe, American Indian Eatery, and Jackie Francke with the First Nations Development Institute.

Glimpses from their videos include Shadana’s amazing story of having a flesh eating disease that would meant eventual amputation of her left leg.  Her Native American mom encouraged her to use some of the traditional approaches to healing including jingle dancing. The jingle dress includes multiple rows of metal cones, which create a jingling sound as the dancer moves, releasing the “healing winds”.   Shadana devoted her energy and time to that tradition and today dances on two healthy legs.

I also learned from Ben that although we have Italian, Chinese, French and a multitude of ethnic restaurants, there are none devoted solely to Native American food. Although I enjoyed bison ribs with blackberry barbecue sauce, at his Tacabe, American Indian Eatery, I also wished I had room to try his green chili stew. Ben and his partner, Matt, are dedicated to putting Native American food on the forefront of the Fast Casual Dining world and are on the verge of opening two more Tacabe eaterys in Denver.

The more I looked into stories of change at the local level, the more I became aware that I could spend my life on the road capturing them.  So, I decided to hone things down and focus on activities that I, subjectively, identify as having a more transformational influence.  That is how I see the musical architecture work being created by Delaney that combines grand scale installations and neighborhood connection.  I also see the blues as a transformational influence on the creative economy in Mississippi and the work of the Native American organizations in Denver in the same way.  As I go forward I will be focusing more on local living economies like local currencies, cooperatives and public banks along with initiatives that are affecting public education and the art world.

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