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The Decorated Hand

By Tia Richardson

I believe we are born with the impulse to create. We are creative beings by nature. We think, and follow through with our actions to make our thoughts real. Our hands are perhaps the most obvious manifestation of this inner drive. Think about all the articulations present in the hand. What other part of the body has such dexterity to manipulate the outer world?

We can kill with our hands. We help a baby take its first breath and cradle it with our hands. They have the ability to show malice or care. The hand carries this intelligence invisibly, in what I imagine as an inextricable and intricately laced pattern of henna-like netting.

Imagine this netting all over the body, really; head connected to heart and heart connected to hands. The core of our being is constantly being expressed through these etheric channels. I call this energy, when activated and at the ready, ‘the decorated hand’.

Imagine our feelings, desires and motivations carried along these patterns, buoyant and swift. It’s responsive and feeling, a two-way circuit from head to heart, heart to hands. Then imagine there also exists the same intricately laced, just as responsive and feeling pattern connecting our bodies to the earth, and as we move through our environment our creative energy moves through us to our environment and receives the same sacred energy from the earth herself.

Now let’s imagine we were to take this model of energy and translate it somehow into a tangible group experience of compassion and cooperation for the purpose of working on a common problem. Imagine that those present may not be aware of what is happening in the room on an energetic level, but could be guided through an experience of working together creatively using hands-on materials and tools.

This is exactly what I’m proposing to create this July – an invitation-only workshop designed to harness the power of the dream in our hands for the purpose of cross-sector creative collaboration. I’m targeting business owners, public servants and artists alike interested in or already working along the intersection of arts, culture and social imagination.

It’s the capstone project for my six-month commitment as a Cultural Agent for the US Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC). My mission: to incite creativity in the service of empathy and social imagination at a local level. (Events like this with themes specific to other Cultural Agent interests are already happening this summer around the nation). You can find photos and documentation of my event in August; along with others on the USDAC website under ‘Imaginings’. My invitation goes something like this:

Are you a business owner, public servant or community member who has often wondered how you can utilize the arts more in some capacity in your line of work?

Are you an artist, social entrepreneur, creative, or arts lover of any kind who has often been interested in collaborating across sectors?

In this 3 hour workshop we will use hands-on materials to physically manifest a vision of a vibrant, fully self-realized community. With our hands we will explore the question: Imagine yourself walking down a street in a familiar neighborhood. What do you see, hear, touch, taste, sense or smell that tells you arts and culture have been fully infused into the daily fabric of life?

I’ll give some examples. When I think of this I think of the town in Mexico I once visited where I saw vendors selling colorful handcrafted goods in the central plaza; I could smell home-baked sweets. I heard folk music being played and sung by children and adults.

On a modern urban scale, I’m walking down an alley in Milwaukee, WI in midday. I see wooden and metal garage doors being painted with murals by local artists as part of a two-day neighborhood art-walk. Homeowners volunteered their garages as canvasses for artists over two days while passersby strolled the stretch of two blocks. Businesses nearby were bustling with activity as people made their rounds in anticipation of what lie around the next corner. A similar, higher profile event will be held this fall called Black Cat Alley, which I’m participating in.

On a global scale, I’m remembering the town of Pachuca, Mexico where muralists white-washed (to symbolically unify), then painted over 200 adjacent concrete homes with a government-sponsored mural that reads as one abstract pattern effectively unifying the community, while simultaneously changing the character of the area. Artists included youth and adult community members in the painting of it, and they also went on to create more elaborate murals on the inner walls of some of the streets. It was reported that there has since been more community spirit among residents since each household cooperated on some level in making the mural.

The workshop I’m planning was inspired by a profound desire to see and experience people from all different backgrounds, beliefs, and professions begin to come together to envision how arts and culture might become more of a vehicle for the average person to experience their creative agency. How would we do this? By harnessing the power of creative visualization to realize our potential.

By working in small groups, with printed images of at least three sectors in our communities, participants will use markers, crayons, post-it notes and construction paper to draw, write and dream right on top of what they already know. This isn’t outcome-based or a strategic planning session. This is purely experiential – and FUN – with the invitation being to throw out our inner critic that wants to tell us what can and can’t be done.

There’s a yearning for self-discovery latent in most of us, and is increasingly emerging. It’s important to have folks at the ready to assist in the birthing of this process in people. The ability to flex, adapt, and evolve within a profession or field of practice while maintaining self-care is important.

It’s important because when a facilitator, teacher or practitioner uses the skill of a reflective practice, it enables those they work with to step into the same field of discovery for themselves. I feel grateful to be surrounded by individuals and mentors using these skills.

Built into our DNA is the ability to adapt to our circumstances and put in place a means of ensuring our survival. In some ways this can inhibit or desensitize the natural desire moving through our bodies to learn, grow, create. Our etheric ‘hands’ become stiff, mute; unforgiving. It can take conscious effort and gentle coaxing over time to usher a person to comfortably relax into this space.

The decorated hand tells us that we are carried, nay, enveloped, within a loving support network that is sacred and divine. It remains at the ready when all feels lost. Those of us who feel empowered to tap into this potential can help others in realizing it for themselves. It belongs to all of us, and we all belong to each other.

Black Cat MKE: http://tinyurl.com/jz49u8b

Pachuca Mural: http://tinyurl.com/qeyxr8l

Imagining: http://usdac.us/local-organizing/

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