03 February 2013

Email to a Friend in North Carolina

"Dismay"    Artist:  Ed Newman (http://ed-newman.blogspot.com/2011/10/dismay.html)

This is a "bad" day so it's likely foolish of me to attempt a response to your inquiry, "...tell me about you...what have you created...".
Holly Springs would be described in performance jargon as "a hard audience." To the eye, at first glance, it is a lovely place:  lots of old trees, architectural flourishes that evoke a romantic nostalgia for days gone by, a slow-ish pace.
After five months in this place, I am somewhat heart sore and intellectually depleted and exhausted. People are gracious and cordial, but there is a superficiality to everything here that leaves me feeling undernourished most of the time. Beyond this, the pervasive dominance of religious ideology is, I believe, strangling any creative, life-affirming, freedom-engendering impulses that might try to take root, and, by extension, is slowly killing the town.
I have abandoned for the present any attempt to proceed with my original dream of establishing an artist retreat/conference/education center here. In a town that seems content with letting the extant beauty and culture disintegrate before their eyes, what chance does an uppity black Yankee woman artist newcomer have of launching something new?
I say that this first year will be my year of "relationship building" but, in truth, I do not know how to build relationship here. I am by nature an introvert and traditionally disinclined to "suffer fools" so building relationship is at best challenging and, in this environment, daunting.
But I press on. I have recently made the acquaintance of one person who may turn out to become a trusted friend but other similar glimmers have turned out already to be false starts. I have hooked up with a non-profit preservation group -- Preserve Marshall County and Holly Springs -- and, although none of them are from Holly Springs and all but one member are "white"...and although they are fairly up front about caring not a crumb whether the community of Holly Springs supports their work (this is in direct conflict with my priorities to date), there appears to be some imagination and interest in things and ideas and people beyond the MS state line, so I will hang with them for awhile.
I continue to practice piano daily at the Episcopal church. Am in conversation with the local HBC, Rust College, about teaching there in the Fall. Have registered with Kelly to be a substitute teacher and will submit an application packet to the MS Arts Commission for inclusion on their Teaching Artist Roster to connect with (paying) gigs in area schools. I have written one new song "Morning in Holly Springs" which becomes increasingly more heart-rending to sing...

A dreary commentary but pretty clear writing given the grumbling fog I move in today.

I wake up most mornings with an exasperated analysis of Holly Springs and MS already in progress in my mind. This morning it ran something like this:

Local culture is a hundred iterations of "denial." Many people here personify Hillary Clinton's recent description of the GOP on FB:

‎"There are some people ... who can't be confused by the facts. They just will not live in an evidence-based world. And that's regrettable..."

Despite plentiful evidence that the antebellum South was not a Paradise on Earth, the period is constantly evoked and promoted with affectionate nostalgia. I am surprised by how many conversations, no matter the topic, somehow wind their way back to or through a discussion of either the Civil War or slavery.

There is no industry to speak of here. A puzzling number of real estate-related offices on the town square. Not one decent restaurant in town. No bookstores. No performance venues. Only one art gallery that I know of. No movie theater. No children's clothing or toy store. No art supply store. No coffeehouse. No schools of dance. No yoga studio. No

And yet, reading promotional materials from the Tourism and Recreational Bureau of Holly Springs it would be easy to think there's something going on here. Rather than investing time, attention, labor and love to take inventory and make a frank assessment of the undeniable potential in Holly Springs, the community appears to choose gazing into a magic mirror and broadcasting the self-congratulatory hallucination they see in it.

Yesterday I hung a sign over my desk:

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." (Buckminster Fuller)

I'm gonna walk with this notion for awhile...see what develops.