Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ruth Farmer: Engaged Education

Ruth Farmer, IMA Interim Director, has a long background in education. As she writes of her background in her Goddard profile: "My activism took root in North Carolina during the turbulent, liminal 50’s and 60’s. Fighting for social change and seeing it come into fruition – of a sort – gave me hope as well as faith. I have always lived in the borderland between pragmatism and idealism because I know that hearts and laws change at vastly different rates. This border existence is a place of learning. I live with the past and in the present, while envisioning and preparing for the future. I’ve marched, boycotted, written letters, organized conferences, donated money, and amassed thousands of volunteer hours. In these small ways, I help to improve others’ lives. In these small ways, I help myself to become a better person. I learn about the things that make this planet a more humane place." Listen to a podcast of Ruth talking about how innovative and meaningful education unfolds in Goddard's IMA Program.

Two photos of Ruth: Bottom one is Ruth being introduced by now-alumni Cynthia Curley while being applauded by IMA faculty member Ralph Lutts

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ann Armbrecht: Thin Places and the Pilgrimage Home

Ann Ambrecht, IMA faculty member, writer and filmmaker, looks at the places -- thick or thin -- between cultures, and between humans and the earth. In her memoir, Thin Places: A Pilgrimage Home, she writes about how studying the Yamphu Rai people in northeastern Nepal changed her view, and showed her more about the deep wisdom about living on the earth. Her film, "Numan: The Wisdom of Plants," looks at the healing powers of plants and the natural world. Ann talks about writing and teaching, and how both show her how we can open ourselves up to the possibilities for real change and deep understandings in the world. Terry Tempest Williams, author of Finding Beauty in a Broken World, writes, "Ann Armbrecht has written an intricate, smart, soulful story about the shape-shifting boundaries bewtwen culture and landscape; people and place....It is a brave rendering of what happens when we allow our intellect to bow to our instincts and recognize love for what it is: a transformative pilgrimage requiring great courage and generosity of spirit, including forgiveness."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jaes Seis: The Dark Mother, Shamanism and Consciousness Studies

Jaes Seis, a current Individualized MA student, has found her other path in studying shamanism with a particular focus on consciousness studies and the dark mother archetype. Listen to her describe her study, which she began at Goddard. Experienced at shamanic work, leading workshops and offering counseling, she has worked around the world, including on a recent excursion to Peru. Her thesis on the dark mother looks deeply at how we define and explain darkness in our lives, and how darkness can be a force of transformation and of life itself. Click on the title for this blog to listen to a podcast of Jaes describing her work.

Monday, October 12, 2009

IMA Sponsors Continental Bioregional Congress

Goddard's IMA program helped sponsor the Continental Bioregional Congress, held Oct. 3-10 in Summertown, Tenn. at the Farm, an ecovillage that began as an intentional community over 40 years when Stephen and Ina Mae Gaskin led a caravan of buses from San Francisco around the country. The original caravan began after a group of interdenominational ministers set up a tour for Stephen to speak to churches around the country to create between understanding between small communities and their young people, who were becoming increasingly involved in social protest. What started as a speaking tour ended up as a vibrant community with over 3,000 acres of land, and approximately 500 residents, plenty of ecologically-designed homes and energy systems, and a variety of businesses (including publishing, chocolate manufacturing, tofu, solar panel, and midwifery through the work and writings of Ina Mae Gaskin, who wrote Spiritual Midwifery).

The Continental Bioregional Congress, f
ounded in 1984, brings together people from throughout the Americas to explore ecologically-informed ways of living, including housing, energy, health, community and eco-community awareness, and the arts. Bioregionalism, which focuses on learning how to live from where we live, and then crafting lives in concert with our ecosystems, is well-described by bioregional writer Stephanie Mills:

"Bioregionalism recognizes, nurtures, sustains and celebrates our local connections with: Land, Plants and Animals, Springs, Rivers, Lakes, Groundwater & Oceans, Air, Families, Friends, Neighbors, Community, Native Traditions and Indigenous Systems of Production & Trade. It is taking the time to learn the possibilities of place. It is a mindfulness of local environment, history, and community aspirations that leads to a sustainable future. It relies on safe and renewable sources of food and energy. It ensures employment by supplying a rich diversity of services within the community, by recycling our resources, and by exchanging prudent surpluses with other regions. Bioregionalism is working to satisfy basic needs locally, such as education, health care and self-governance."

What bioregional offers is also very congruent with the IMA's place-based studies in its Environmental Studies concentration: "The work of the concentration bridges nature, culture, community, sustainability, restoration, justice, and action as areas of inquiry, art, and practice. By looking particularly at the concept of place as an integrating bridge between these areas, students can conduct interdisciplinary, individualized studies that bring greater meaning and a sense of wholeness to themselves and their communities."

The congress itself is a bioregional model in action, or according to many, a ceremonial village of learning about ecology as it relates to our home communities. Coming together in congress, participants educate themselves, share resources, celebrate bioregional arts, and represent ecologically-focused communities from north of Toronto to deep in Venezuela. Because of Goddard's support, which was ear-marked for scholarships for people from south of the Border, along with other support, close to 80% of the 162 participants came from Mexico, Central America and South America, where bioregionalism has particularly taken hold and launched many centers, ecovillages, traveling arts troupes and political, economic and social projects.

Pictures (from top): Stephen Gaskin between Fabio Manzini, ecological architect from Mexico, and Laura Kuri, the key organizer of bioregionalism in Mexico; a participant hanging around at the Farm; writer Stephanie Mills with IMA faculty member, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg; Leonor Fuguet, Venezuelan activist and eco-troubadour; some participants at the All Species Pageant and Ball; tending the fire after the congress was called together by Native American elders from the area.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bernard Carey: Absentee Fatherhood, the African-American Community and Healing Through Performance

A funny thing happened on Bernard Carey's way to create a mentorship curriculum for African-American men. Through his study of absentee fathers in the Black community (up to 65% in some communities), he found his way back to his daughter years after being only peripherally involved in her life. Through talking with his daughter, Dawn Crandell, a spoken word performer in her own right, about what he was learning about himself and the world, he ended up creating with her a performance piece that blends poetry, monologue and song to explore and seek to heal the rift between absentee fathers and the children they left behind. From there, he and his daughter have been invited to perform their piece -- "Crossing into Presence" -- in the New York and D.C. areas, and eventually in Europe.

Listen to Bernard's story of "Crossing into Presence."
Download an electronic press kit for "Crossing into Presence," which includes some of this powerful show.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jim Sparrell: Vocation, Avocation & the Stories of Our Lives

Jim Sparrell, IMA faculty member, recently spoke about the connections between vocation and avocation when he delivered the Commencement Address for the August, 2009 graduation of the Individualized MA Program. A psychologist who specializes in narrative therapy, and works with both children and adults, Jim often finds himself examining how we can reinvent the stories we live throughout our lives.

“I think in our culture, you work becomes your story: you are a psychologist, you are a doctor, you are a lawyer, and that can become oppressive. You have to carry that on as opposed to being a person who does other things in your life.” The IMA program at Goddard is a place, he explains, where people can reinvent their lives according to what they believe and what they can offer to the world. In terms of cultivating the freedom to rewrite our own stories, Jim has found great value in narrative therapy, which helps people see their stories both as their personal lives and in the context of a community and a culture.

Jim explains that looking at the layers of what shapes the stories we live gives us more avenues for greater insight and flexibility. “Another thing about narrative approaches is that it gives us ways of looking at and thinking about how to revise the story. One of the phrases that's used is “thickening the plot” because we often simplify – people are on the left or the right for example – and that makes for really lousy, deadend stories. So if we can see the story in terms of its complexity, it makes for very interesting and complicated stories, which is where we all live.”

Jim lives out the many layers of his story not just as a Goddard faculty member, school psychologist, and clinical psychologist, but as a gardener, crocheter of scrubbies (great and colorful disks he crochets for washing dishes with all profits going to charity), lover of cats, music affectionado, writer, and biker. In all of this, he finds his life's work an amalgam of vocation and avocation: “Whether I'm crocheting scrubbies or making jams or gardening, it feels to me as meaningful and important as working in the school and doing counseling, writing, and all the other activities I do.”

Listen to the podcast of Jim Sparrell reading part of his commencement address for the 2009 IMA graduation. Thanks to Katie Towler for pictures of Jim at work and at play.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Healthy Media Choices, Families and Stories: Mary Rothschild

When Mary Rothschild was seven, television entered her home, and her family's life changed on a dime. “On a very visceral level, I had a very direct impression of my father turning away from us and toward the television. Even all the furniture got turned toward the television.” After having her own children, Mary investigated how television effects all of us, especially young children, a calling that led her to found Healthy Media Choices, a not-for-profit organization.

She founded the organization after another pivotal moment. When she was teaching craft classes to children, one day she found herself baking bread with six or so small children all under the age of five. “We all had our little pieces of dough, which I showed them how to knead without getting their fingers sticky. It was about 45 minutes of absolute silence, everyone paying attention to their kneading, and I remember thinking, 'This is why I was born.' Then this little girl looked up to me and said, 'Mary, the Lion King video is too loud.'” There wasn't any Lion King video playing, however. “I said, 'I don't see it,' and she said, 'It's in my head.' It was a moment I really felt a very strong call to really focus on what was going on with kids.”

From there, Mary threw herself in researching children and the media, and with other parents, meeting for potlucks, discussions, and eventually a conference on children and the media. “I began to see what was happening with the children, and how it dovetailed with the research. Even at a young age, images of media distract them.” She also attended a media literacy training in Albuquerque, N.M. and joined several media literacy organizations.

Healthy Media Choices now offers workshops for teachers, and parents (of children from birth through fourth grade) on media and children. Her weekly show, “Healthy Media Choices Hour,” airs on WVEW-1p-FM in Brattleboro, Vermont, and features long conversations with movers and shakers in the field of media literacy. She also presents talks, and consults with people on how to interact with media and find the best individual solution for their household. “Each household is an ecosystem. It's very unique unto itself.” A solution for one household might be to limit television viewing for young children to an hour a week; another family might just devote an hour each week to shutting off TVs, Blackberries, computers and other media and taking a walk, playing games or telling stories. Mary explains that even an hour a week of families interacting without screens can go a long way to offsetting the main messages of our culture that come through media, which she sums up as “You can never have enough stuff, you can never look good enough, violence is an acceptable way to solve problems....and if something is wrong, take a pill.”

Instead, families can rediscover or discover anew the power of storytelling born from their own values and experiencing instead of just watching the stories that come across the television screen. Mary suggest sharing “our story of struggle, success or failure, strength and courage in the face of difficulty....My experience is everyone is a storyteller. They just don't know it.”

Although very successful in founding Healthy Media Choices and plenty busy with the work, she decided to pursue a master's degree at Goddard to explore and learn from her own story and to expand the reach of Healthy Media Choices. “You could only go so far in my experience on vocation. I needed the interplay with professionals who could look at my work and say, have you seen this, or just evaluate what they saw. There is a phenomenon called founder's syndrome. There is something so intrinsic to my own inner life, my own vision of the world. That can have negative aspects, and it needs to be informed by a wider vision. I really found that in spades at Goddard.” During the last three semesters, she studied media literacy, ecology and culture, archetypal stories and the power of myth, and narrative theory and therapy. “Each step along the way has just broadened the lessons I can bring to my work.”

And while television can be a great way to see more of the world and get glimpses into the everyday life of other cultures, Mary values even more the glimpses of our own lives we can share with her families and community. “We have the strength to be able to joyfully take full advantage of our stories,” she explains.

Visit Mary's blog, and listen to her radio program on streaming audio or download podcasts.
You can also follow Mary on Twitter @mediachoices, and visit Healthy Media Choices on Facebook and Linkedin.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Residency Workshops: A Sampling

As the fall 2009 residency approaches -- Aug. 7-14 -- so do a charm of fascinating workshops. Here's a sampling of what will be offered at the residency, and what kinds of workshops in general are offered (including everything from moss to birth to dancing with the devil).

Moss, with faculty member Ralph Lutts: We walk through (and on) a world of wonder at our feet, but pay little attention to it. This is the world of mosses. There are more different species of mosses than any other group of plants other than flowering plants. You can dry them, store them for years, add water, and they will continue to grow. They are extraordinarily beautiful. Have you looked closely at them? In this non-technical workshop we will take a close look at mosses. We will discover their distinctive ways of living and their places in the environment. We will also take a close look at their beauty and learn how to tell the difference between species. Join us as we explore this amazing new world at our feet.

Cognitive Significance of Birth, with faculty member Ellie Epp: We’re mammals. We come into being cell by cell inside an already existing human body. As we grow from two cells to many, the means by which we perceive and feel construct themselves in reference to a small, tight, wet, and instantly provident bedroom. Then comes an extraordinary passage, violent and outrageous, in which immensely strong waves of force bear down upon us to eject us into what must seem a cataclysmically foreign world. How does this central fact of human embodiment inscribe itself in our physical and thus our psychological being? Can we detect its traces in our intuitions, our metaphors, our habits of feeling? Our religions and philosophies? As a root both of brutality and of hope, structural traces of birth and prenatal life are visible in poetry, philosophy, science, spirituality. This workshop is an introduction to a form of self-investigation which thus also becomes cultural investigation.

Marketing Your Business, Project, Art or Organization Without Losing Your Mind, Blowing Big Bucks, Or Selling Your Soul, with faculty member Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and special guest appearance by faculty member, Katt Lissard: So you have an idea for a business, project, performance, or organization, and you know it's the right thing to do, but how do you build excitement, interest, and support around your vision? In addition to working collaboratively with others in your community, addressing real needs, and following your calling, you need to market what you're doing in a way that is true to your work, and ethically in concert with your values and community. Effective, ethical and creative marketing can help you reach new audiences, members, clients or customers; find and keep funders; and make vital connections with others doing similar or complementary work. Come learn how to create your own website, business cards, postcards, find funding and fiscal sponsorship opportunities and do ethical, far-reaching, low-cost or free outreach.

Ethics Whose Story Is it? With IMA student Kathleen Connolly and faculty member Jim Sparrell: In this workshop, we will consider ethical questions related to telling your story or doing research that involves other people's stories. Our aim is to facilitate a discussion as a group about what it means that someone could be “hurt” by the telling of a story, and what it means to “speak your truth,” by developing questions that we might consider to help in making difficult decisions and break out of dichotomous thinking. In addition to sharing anyone's experiences of telling stories and hearing responses (bring your story!) we may consider recent controversies involving writers such as Honor Moore, Kevin Rouse, Linda Grey Sexton, James Frey, and Lauren Slater. Technology permitting, we will try to listen to or watch some relevant interview segments from these people.

Ah, Raza! The Making of an American Artist, with IMA faculty member, Gaelyn Aguilar, and special guest Gustavo Aguilar: In 1996, percussionist and composer, Gustavo Aguilar, experienced a moment of psychic disequilibrium that prompted him to examine what it meant to identify himself as an American artist. Set against the backdrop of Aguilar’s border town hometown of Brownsville, Texas, Ah, Raza! The Making of an American Artist traces a line of continuity to the spaces that have mapped themselves out onto him, and to the people whose dispositions are also his own. Intertwining various sonic environments (sound ethnography and an original score) with an intersection of a multiplicity of gazes (video ethnography and still photography), Ah, Raza! is a confederacy of components that broadens one’s vision of how to be what one is.

Images of Islam, Reflections in Contemporary Western Culture, with Francis Charet: Islam is perceived as a radical, violent, fundamentalist and authoritarian religion, one that subjugates women. Or, alternatively, as a tolerant, sophisticated religious tradition that created the basis for a flourishing culture and civilization. These images are taken up, mirrored in the media and advocated by specific groups, resulting in a confused mix, often without clarity. The intention of this presentation is to explore some of these images, unpack them, and see what credible or otherwise foundations there are for them, in order to generate a conversation and open up the subject with a view to deepening our understanding.

Dancing with the Devil: Finding a critical voice in writing and scholarship, with faculty member James Sparrell: In this workshop we will examine the value of contradictory or challenging perspectives in grounding work, making it persuasive and interesting, and on working for positive social change. Nothing stands out with uniformity. What is the resistance to this kind of work? Some sources of resistance include reluctance to engage in the arguments or ideas coming from dominant cultural perspectives that have perpetuated and perpetrated abuse, oppression, and violence in the process of domination; difficulty in developing a mindfulness that dichotomies can be transcended; incomplete scholarship; confusing values with logical arguments; and working within a supportive, progressive, (continued) democratic educational environment.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Poet Laureate of Kansas: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

IMA faculty member and founder and coordinator of Transformative Language Arts Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg has just begun a two-year term as Kansas Poet Laureate. Appointed by the governor after being recommended by the Kansas Arts Commission, the poet laureate travels around the state to promote poetry and the literary arts, something Mirriam-Goldberg has plenty of experience with during the 18 years she's been leading community writing workshops. Mirriam-Goldberg is also an experienced writer, who has 10 books in print or forthcoming, including a new memoir, The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir about Cancer, Community and Coming Home to the Body, and a fourth collection of poetry, Landed, which will include a CD of the author reading her work along with singer Kelley Hunt performing songs co-written with Mirriam-Goldberg.

On July 1 at the Lawrence Arts Center, Mirriam-Goldberg took the torch, which was literally a giant sunflower (the symbol for the State of Kansas), from outgoing Poet Laureate Denise Low in front of a packed house. The event not only celebrated the outgoing and income poets laureate, but launched the first publication of the new Imagination and Place press, a project of the Committee on Imagination and Place.

During her 14 years at Goddard College, Mirriam-Goldberg has taught extensively in the Individualized MA program, and before that, the combined BA and MA program. She also founded Transformative Language Arts, which provides education for those drawn to writing, storytelling and performing -- using the power of words on the page and aloud -- for community building, spiritual growth, health and well-being, and social change. As someone who's offered writing workshops to a wide variety of people -- including housing authority residents, people of color, adults in transition, teens, intergeneration groups, and people living with cancer and other illness -- Mirriam-Goldberg has helped many find more of what they need to create and share as well as how to make stronger community together by witnessing one another's writing. She has also co-written songs with rhythm and blues singer Kelley Hunt, who performed at the July 1st event, and with Hunt, co-led Brave Voice: Writing and Singing for Your Life workshops and retreats.

"The poet laureate position follows the line of my life," Mirriam-Goldberg explains. "I'll be simply doing TLA on a much bigger scale in my home state and also in other places in the country. My main project for this position, 'Poetry Across Kansas: Reading and Writing Our Way Home,' is a combination of writing workshops, trainings and support for community people to facilitate ongoing writing circles, readings and presentations. I'm also thrilled to be doing a monthly radio show, available in podcasts, on High Plains Public Radio, which will give listeners a writing exercise to try at home as well as expose them to the writing of Kansas and other High Plains writers."

In reflecting on the life she leads, mostly in Kansas but also regularly in Vermont, Mirriam-Goldberg said, "I know that Kansas and Vermont are about 1,400 miles away, but there's a seamless connection between the value of the arts for changing the world both here in my town, which has a long history of social activism dating back to its Free State roots during the civil war, and Goddard College, which has long been a light for changing the world."

Listen to a podcast of Mirriam-Goldberg reading some poetry from her forthcoming collection, Landed. This podcast includes a collection of her yoga poems. See her website and blog too.
Photos, from top, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg; Mirriam-Goldberg, Denise Low and Rick Mitchell from the Imagination and Place committee; Kelley Hunt; driving through Kansas; kayaking in Kansas at Brave Voice.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Podcast: Alexandra Hartman on Film, Poetry and the Disobedient Body

Listen to this new podcast on Alexandra Hartman's journey from poetry and web design to filmmaking and the disobedient body. Alex's website, and her entire 33-minute film -- The Word Made Flesh, an be viewed at her website. Her studies that led her here encompassed Embodiment Studies, Transformative Language Arts, Filmmaking and Women's Studies. Listen to our podcast at this link.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


We are thrilled to announce that we're now be sharing regular podcasts on WorldsofChange features, including special audio pieces (such as music created by our graduates and students). Please check in regularly, and subscribe to our blog so you can hear the latest!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Taina Asili: Writing, Singing and Facilitating Toward Home

Taina Asili was already a songwriter, artist, writer, activist and workshop leader when she started in IMA's Transformative Language Arts concentration. Through her studies of the power of singing, storytelling and writing to help people resist post-colonial oppression, particularly in Puerto Rico, where both her parents come from, she found her own way home. From that homecoming, she's gone on to create writing, art and music, not to mention some powerfully-needed workshops for many populations seeking their own homecoming. As she explains, “I learned a lot about how my own family – my grandmother, mother and father – passed that tradition on, and I now incorporate very deeply what I learned into the work I create now.”

She's currently plenty busy raising her son, Yabisi, for whom Goddard is a second home, while touring with her band, Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde, preparing to release their debut album, “Mama Guerrilla” (celebrating the mother warrior spirit), and playing at colleges, festivals, community centers, nightclubs and political events in Vermont, Boston, New York City and Philadelphia. She recently performed at a large May Day event focused on worker rights, organized by a coalition of anti-war and worker-support organizations in Troy, NY. She explains that her new album brings together a lot of what she created during her MA, and also, when she performs, she now talks about that history and the broader transformations possible through the word.

The immigrant experience of her family (although Puerto Rico is technically a territory of the U.S.) also informs her teaching. Her current workshop, “Refugee Voices,” brings together 15-20 refugees from Burma, Iraq, Nepal and the Sudan for photography and poetry, all of which helps them forge community with each other and find a new way of making home in this country. Taina explains, “The first thing refugees have to deal with is finding food, clothing and shelter, but there's not a lot of opportunity to really process the experience of being in refugee camps and then transitioning to this country.”

The workshop not only helps refugees tell their stories through photographs and poetry to each other, but to the larger Albany, NY community. An exhibit at the end of the workshop breaks down barriers between the refugee community and their new-found hometown. “It's phenomenal because the larger community, now hearing the voices of these refugees, really want to support them.” The workshop series, funded by the Capital Region Arts Center, is organized by a coalition of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Grand Street Community Arts, and the Workforce Development Institute.

In reflecting back on what she learned at Goddard, Taina notes the essential lessons about the ethics of facilitation, “ really be able to support other people's voices, and to nurture people in their own self-empowerment.” She also learned of multitudes of resources to use, such as the poetry of Martin Espada, suggested to her by an advisor she had, to many workshop exercises she's created for her thesis project, which combined her poetry, music, and a comprehensive curriculum on using writing for social change.

“That personal and social transformation I experienced is something I want to facilitate in others,” she says.

Visit Taina's site for more on her good work. Photos (from top): Taina performing with her band; Taina and family in Puerto Rico; "Refugee Voices" group; Taina Asili

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Goddard Students Eligible for Discounts at Rowe and Omega!

Through a partnership agreement, students enrolled in Goddard College programs, such as IMA, are eligible for 20-30% discounts for selected programs at the Rowe Conference Center and the Omega Institute, both of which are in the New England area (Omega is upstate New York, and Rowe in Rowe, Mass.). Some students find it helpful to take workshops at centers such as these to write about in their packets, get ideas for practicums, or just relax between semesters.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Only Place to Do My Work: Quotes from Current Students

"I feel this program may be the ONLY one that I could be doing right now. It gives me the latitude to explore issues that are important to me and what contributions I can make in the world."
-- Timothy Yuen

"I think that Goddard is the only school that would allow me to do the work I am doing. I am very excited about my work, and I love the level of trust and understanding that I get from the faculty. I think the personal connection and the ability of the program to adapt to fit my needs are what make it so special." Zach Katz

Monday, April 20, 2009

Check Out the Perpetual Goddard Slide Show!

We just uploaded a long and continuous slide show of images of Goddard, which you can see on the right side of the screen. Hope you enjoy these images, and come join us and add more of your own vivid memories, insights and passions to the Goddard community.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Filmmaking, Poetry and the Disobedient Body: Alexandra Hartman

Alexandra (Alex) Hartman came to Goddard to change directions in her life. She planned to lead writing workshops when she left Goddard, but something more local soon emerged: the body. “The IMA encourages students to find our own direction by trusting the process and following our study wherever it takes us. So I’d repeat to myself, ‘Trust the process, trust the process,’ and when things got strange and I didn’t know why I was reading about cannibalism or scarification, I’d repeat, 'trust the process,' until those words became a mantra.”

What emerged for Alex was a deep study of what it meant to live in a body, particularly a body with a tendency to be disobedient. "As part of my process of struggling to emerge as a grown person, I kept running into all of these shoulds and should-nots that related to my body. I began to see them as obstacles to my growth, and I realized how much of my life was spent listening to my fears. But when I started listening to what I really wanted to do, lots of times it was stuff I wasn't supposed to do, and I had to think hard about who was telling me what to do and why, what were the consequences, and why did I need to break rules?”

As an artist, poet, and long-time professional web designer, Alex communicated fluently through images, color, texture and voice. “Film was a really good amalgam of all I was into, but I didn't want to go into filmmaking. I didn't think I had enough time, but I kept hearing this voice in my head that said, 'You must make a film.' And I don't usually hear voices in my head.” Alex took a semester off, taught herself filmmaking, blogging on her progress and posting her efforts until she was ready to come back and put together a body of her body-oriented work.

The result was a 33-minute film called The Word Made Flesh, which coalesces, with the help of Duke Ellington's appropriately-named signature song – “Body and Soul” – 11 short films. She blended footage from found home movies, vintage soft-core porn and educational films, music, and her own filmmaking. Her study also drew on the fields of embodiment studies, psychology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, women's studies and poetry, “and how everyone is looking at the body in those fields.”

Did making this film and coming to Goddard bring Alex the change she sought? “Oh, hugely! It allowed me to be who I am and to be as strong as I can be. I'm not the same person I was when I came to Goddard – I was timid and tentative, and now I'm operating on my own accord.”

See Alex's film, and the blog she used to chronicle her process of teaching herself filmmaking, her poetry, sources, video and visual concepts and much more at Alex's website.

Pictures of Alex, and several stills from her film, The Word Made Flesh.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Marriage of Spiritual Memoir & Community Workshops: Suzanne Adams

When Suzanne Adams started IMA's Transformative Language Arts concentration, she was already changing her life as a freelance writer and suburban stay-at-home Houston mother in a household of males. While she didn't know what she was shifting toward, she had a sense that this change involved creative writing, community work, and spiritual growth.

She soon herself immersed in writing as a spiritual practice, studying spiritual autobiography, and TLA as a tool for social change and personal growth for girls. One faculty member with an evangelical Christian background suggested Suzanne explore healing stories within the framework of Christianity; another faculty member, who specialized in feminism, prompted Suzanne to write about feminist theology and mythology. Another faculty member’s expertise in workshop facilitation was invaluable in furthering Suzanne’s goal of offering expressive writing workshops in the community. By the end of her studies, she wrote Reclaiming the Lost, a powerful body of essays on spiritual questioning and questing, writing as a calling, and how her changes catalyzed profound changes in her marriage. Accompanying the memoir was a study of mythology, theology, history, literature, sociology and psychology as it related to her topic; and a practicum focused on expressive writing for teenage girls. The writing especially allowed her to write herself into voice, identity, and stronger connections with her family, female divinity, and the wild.

Since graduation, Suzanne was admitted into the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, where she found strong encouragement to revise the essay collection toward a memoir about how one spouse's spiritual development can actually strengthen, and not necessarily, tear apart a marriage. She found even more support from her husband who, after reading her essays, even ones that weren't very flattering of him and their relationship, said to her, “This is your story, and I think you've written it in such a way that would help others, and I encourage you to continue this work.” Suzanne says that his response, “helped us to work for more transformation along the way.” She soon starts working with Farnoosh Moshiri through Moshiri's Studio 16, a highly competitive writing workshop. She's also presenting "The Sacred Knowledge of Myth," a workshop at the Power of Words conference at Goddard College Sept. 3-7, organized by the TLA Network.

She also started leading workshops in her community. “It's All About You,” a workshop fostering empowerment, self-discovery and self-esteem for middle school girls, that she first piloted as her TLA practicum at Goddard, is now on its feet at a Houston area middle school as a project of ARTreach, a local grassroots arts organization. Adams is in the middle of facilitating two 90-minute sessions twice a week for five weeks, helping girls negotiate media influences, discover their voices and visions and dismantle damaging messages through writing and art exercises and discussions.

Suzanne found her time at Goddard turbo-charged her quest to write and seek spiritual connection. “When I finally got there, that (being at Goddard) was the biggest catalyst of all. I was taking little baby steps up until that point, and the transformation that came propelled me full-speed ahead,” Suzanne explains.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Right Livelihood

The term "Right Livelihood" may be rooted in Buddhism, but it's particularly relevant in a time of economic crisis, and many people needing to re-evaluate how they make a living and new ways to do work in the world. Right Livelihood connotes using your gifts, talents and experience to serve your community, doing work of meaning. In the IMA program, we focus quite a bit on Right Livelihood and how you can design a course of study that enhances how you interface with your work, community and passions.

Over recent semesters, here's a list of Right Livelihood workshops offered at residencies:

* Right Livelihood Panel (featuring faculty and students): What do we mean by this term, and what are ways to bring right livelihood to our current work, create new work, and help others find their own right livelihood?

* Connecting with Community: Making a Living Doing What You Love: How do you make meaningful connections with organizations, businesses and institutions in your community, and how do you nurture and grow those connections in search of relevant, important work that helps you enhance your gifts and also make a living along the way? This conversational workshop will include lots of tips as well as information and handouts on strong proposals, resumes, background material and more.

* Grant-Writing For Your Education and Work: An exploration of grant-writing resources, strategies, follow-up and other considerations, including ample information on where to find arts-based grants, awards and fellowships.

* Finding Your Calling & Making a Living From It: Two-part workshop on bringing to the surface more of what you feel called to do for a living, and then investigating how to begin and sustain an ongoing dialogue with that calling, including using tools such as writing, art, business plans, mapping, visualization and more.

* Planning, Facilitating and Assessing Workshops and other Other Arts-Based Community Projects: Come discuss how to set up workshops, coaching and consulting projects in your community, including ways to make contacts with local organizations, institutions and businesses; how to design and publicize (or assist the hosting organization with publicity) your group; screening participants; developing facilitation arts and skills; and general assessment information.

* How & Why You Do What You Do: Ethics from the Inside Out: All community work has ethical connotations, and how you handle those ethical questions that come up greatly influences the effectiveness of any work you do in your community. Come learn about the ethical dimensions of your work, and join us for a discussion of possible issues you might encounter, how to navigate your way through to the benefit of all, and why community work entails such ethical considerations in the first place. We'll have time for trouble-shooting, role-playing and lots of inspirational stories about how to make your practicum truly rewarding for all involved.

* Whole-Self, Real-World Facilitation: This workshop focuses on how to bring all of your wisdom and intuition to the real and outrageously dynamic world of facilitation. We’ll discuss how to forge a clear understanding of your own motivations and expectations; the role of the facilitator overall and as it applies specifically to you; the importance of sticking to that role (listening versus trying to rescue or fix); and intervention, confidentiality, and resource management for issues bigger than the group. Come share your experiences, callings, gifts and challenges in being facilitated and in facilitating at this interactive workshop.

* How to Do Arts-Related Work & Transformative Language Arts In Your Community: People, Places and Practical Possibilities: Panel discussion featuring students and faculty on specific ways to work with various populations, and approaches such as poetry therapy, journal therapy, educaitonal drama autoethnography, narrative theory, storytelling and coaching.

* Writing Business Plans for Changing the World:
Begin creating your own business plan for launching the work of your dreams into the world, and look at how to further develop that plan over time, find needed resources, and start your own right livelihood.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Graduation in Goddard's IMA Program

Just about anyone who witnesses a Goddard graduation walks away thinking it was unlike any graduation they ever saw before. That's because each of our students is, in effect, his or her own valedictorian, sharing his/her story of finding a focus of study of great meaning individually and communally. During a typical graduation, often held in the winter in the Haybarn, a grand old theatre, or during beautiful summer days, in the garden, surrounded by lilies and pines, we of course begin with a speech, or in the case of this last February, a commencement performance by Bread and Puppet during which time, many graduates, students and faculty got to take flight.

Then instead of graduates streaming across a stage, the stories begin. Each graduate is presented by a faculty member, who tells the tale of how this study came into being, what it meant for the graduate, what it means for us, and how it can help change the world in some vital way. The graduate then gets to make his/her own speech, which may entail everything from crying and laughing while thanking a list of family, friends and faculty to playing wooden flute to leading everyone in a sweet old folksong. But in just about every speech and for just about every graduate, we hear how this degree is life-changing, helping students find their callings, do something they didn't think they were capable of, and finding a new way to energize their life, shape their work, and find greater life, spirit, connection and joy.

Graduation is nestled into a weekend of activities, bringing together graduating students along with continuing and new ones, with plenty of time for improntu jam sessions, the student-faculty reading, presentations by graduating students on what they studied that often are some of the most inspiring and mind-blowing moments of all, and lots of time for people to share experiences, encourage one another, and build community.

All photos from February, 2009 graduation weekend.