Thursday, November 11, 2010

"I Changed My Whole Life": Ashley Gallo and Transformative Running

Current IMA student Ashley Gallo just finished the New York City Marathon, her first time running in this world-famous rite of passage, and in the process, raising nearly six thousand dollars for the American Cancer Society. But she also was running is also core to her Goddard studies. Ashley has been studying running as a source of personal transformation, a way to challenge the mythology of athletes, and to demonstrate how using our bodies for health and speed and strength is the birthright of people of all shapes and sizes.

Here's what she wrote on her American Cancer Society page:
I know I don't look like the typical runner. I never considered myself an athletic person and found even spectating most sporting events to be boring. I don't think I'm ever going to understand how football works and the idea of balls flying at my face is pretty much out of the question. But I always found the idea of becoming a runner someday really sensational. John Bingham, who is known in the running world as someone who runs uncompetitively slowly and for the sheer pleasure of the activity, said, "Everything changed the day I realized that if I were to become a runner, I would have to run with the body I had." So I began. I run based on intuition and because it is incredibly meditative; more prayer-like and holy than anything I have ever experienced. As someone committed to social work, volunteering in the community and helping others, running became the thing I do for myself; it is my connection to the world, it's my connection to my body. Running has become foundational in my construction towards a more holistic authenticity.

I finished my first marathon last year keeping three promises to myself. I wasn't going to stop, I wasn't going to walk any part of it, and I was going to cross all 26.2 miles. Now I am focusing on losing weight and I will be one of 43,000 people running the prestigious ING New York City Marathon this November. I want to see what it's like to run a marathon in a "different" body than the one I had run the first one in. The NYC Marathon runs through all five boroughs of New York, and I have heard people who have finished it say that it was an experience that truly made them proud to be an American. I am excited beyond belief to be a part of something so epic.

In writing about her journey, she says on facebook, "Marathons at some point have to come from the deepest parts of your bones."Ashley has shown us precisely this with her journey, of which she says, "I changed my whole life." Such changes cannot help but to ripple out positive changes to all who know her.

(Pictures from Ashley and her friends, including, from top, Ashley, the running, and after the race, one of her fellow runners, Chilian miner, Edison Pena).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Our Grads Are Up To: Body Empathy & Touring On The Sly

From leading Body Empathy writing workshops in San Francisco to touring with drummers and a Ghana dance troupe through the Rockies, our graduates are rocking the real world.

On Nov. 13, Jen Cross, IMA-TLA who focused on erotic writing as a pathway to reinhabit the body, will co-present with Alexandra Cafarelli a workshop called "Body Empathy." Here's their description: "What if we could truly experience empathy for our bodies as they are – and then, by extension, for ourselves, as we are? As queer, genderqueer & trans survivors with a wide array of backgrounds and identities in a sexuality-/gender-restrictive culture, our self-protective tendency can be to “check out” by detaching mind from body to such great degrees that it can be dangerous. Physical activity and writing are two ways to check back in with your embodied self.
With deep respect for the privacy and variety in our personal experience of gender expression and our individual histories, this workshop will create safe space for participants to embrace our bodies as they are, and to write the stories our bodies have been wishing to speak, while allowing possibility for the integration of identity and physical presence. Using brief writing exercises and low impact body mindfulness exercises derived from improvisational theater, Zen meditation practice, and the internal Chinese martial arts, participants will have the opportunity to fully embody our gender complexity in a healing and playful environment." For more information, visit Jen's website, writingourselveswhole.org.

Griffin Brady, a recent graduate in world music, cultural studies and ethnomusicology, has been touring with his group, On the Sly and the SAAKUMU Dance Troupe of Ghana, West Africa, heading toward the Rocky Mountains to drum and dance in the new year. In between gigs, Griffin and the community he's coalesced run the Slyboots School, offering workshops on Rhythm Study, Harmony Study, Melody Study, Improvisation Study and Composition Study. He also organizes the annual Slyfest each August. Listen to some of the music and check out one of the coolest, most whimsical and edgy websites around at www.onthesly.orghttp://onthesly.org/

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hybrid Arts Learning at Goddard for Tiffany Beard

Tiffany Beard, a first semester student in the Transformative Language Arts concentration, just started a blog and wrote an article for examiner.com in Washington, D.C. entitled "Hybrid Arts Learning Found At Goddard College." Here's a photo of Tiffany at the August residency sometime in the middle of her own learning discoveries. She describes herself as "The quintessential Renaissance Gal. An accomplished writer, singer, and performer; Tiffany is committed to helping fellow artists collaborate for social change." You can see Tiffany's blog here. Check it out!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Media Literacy For Teens & Kids: Changing Communities, Changing Lives

In recent years, two of our students have shared with us astonishing work on media literarcy: Cara Lisa Powers, who graduated several years ago and focuses on working with teens, and Mary Rothschild, currently in her final semester and focusing on helping parents, teachers and children navigate media for kids.

Cara's not-for-profit, By Any Media Necessary, follows its mission "to provide interactive and engaging bridges from entertainment media to education and action." Cara's book of the same title was also the lion's share of her master's thesis. Cara develops all manner of curricula as well as action toolkits and public forums to help youth as well as their educations and community activists engage in greater dialogue about media and community. She's currently pursuing a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Change at Clark University.

Mary's organization, Healthy Media Choices, provides education and tools for parents and teachers and others working with children, drawing from a multi-cultural perspective and from narrative theory and therapy. In addition to a regular radio show (some of which are available in podcasts at WVEW from Brattleboro, VT., Mary presents workshops and trainings throughout the Northeast, and consults with organizations widely.

Both Mary and Cara help people concentrate on the real and enduring stories of their lives rather than mindlessly accepting the media stories about who to be. Their work is rich and far-reaching.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Workshops From Recent Residency: A World of Change In Action -- A Sampling

Qualitative Research Methodology with IMA Faculty Member Karen Campbell: Research projects with human subjects are often the focus of IMA theses: An African American lesbian interviewed African American lesbians about their experience of acceptance/rejection in relation to their churches and local communities; the High Chief of Tobi Island designed a community visioning process toward taking charge of the conservation of their remote island environment in Palau; another student conducted oral histories with elderly Appalachian musicians. These projects took considerable planning around culturally‑appropriate and ethical styles of obtaining informed consent, “interviewing” participants, and the final presentation of the research data. This  will be an interactive workshop so come prepared to give a succinct overview of  your project (even if vague as yet) so that we can help guide you to the best resources.

Memoir, Narrative Construction, and Change, with IMA Faculty Member Jim Sparrell
. In this workshop we will consider the role of memoir for personal/self/psychological change in the context of a constructivist perspective to more deeply explore heory underlying TLA and narrative medicine. I will touch on recent neurocognitive research from Joseph LeDoux and Deana Schilling, as well as work from Matthew Lieberman. In understanding the process of writing memoir we will use Sven Birkerts’ lovely little book, The Art of Time in Memoir.

Rethinking Right Livelihood from the Ground Up, with IMA faculty member Katt Lissard: At progressive institutions like Goddard, where many of us have been drawn to pursue our studies in order to create a more sustainable and satisfying life, the term ʺright livelihoodʺ can take on an oppressive quality, positing the necessity to find ʺthe ʹworkʹ that expresses and fulfills our needs, talents, and passionsʺ – and leaving us with a sense of dismal failure if we havenʹt figured out a plan for just how to do that. While we all want to discover and pursue our ʺcallingʺ or ʺmissionʺ and also find a creative, just and economically viable living in the process, in this workshop weʹre going to look at ʺright livelihoodʺ from the ground level, and move up from there.

What Does It Mean To Facilitate Change For Other People? With IMA Faculty Members Caryn Mirriam‑Goldberg and Francis X. Charet: We often talk about how our work and studies relate to changing the world, but what does it mean to actually help a person or community change for the better, particularly through workshops, coaching, consulting, activism and/or community building? To
truly facilitate change, we need to widen our perspective to understand the cultural, mythological and historic context of our work and those with whom weʹre doing this work. In this workshop, weʹll open up some of the big questions informing the theory, practice and ethics of helping others change their lives as well as our own assumptions about transformation, healing, creativity and liberation.

How Songs Find Stories: Music, Memory, and Narrative, with IMA Faculty Member Jim Sparrell
: This writing workshop will include a demonstration of the musical timeline as a means of
accessing neglected memories, as well as some discussion of cognition, memory, and music, and time for participants to begin composing a personal essay or poem based on the construction of their own musical timeline. In addition, I will present this with illustration of ethical practices for giving
workshops in the community.

Jungʹs Red Book: Liber Novus, with IMA Faculty Member Francis X. Charet: The psychologist C.G. Jung has made major contributions to several area of thought and influenced people in the arts as well. His notion of the mandala or magic circle as an integrative symbol has caught the attention of many people. With the recent publication of what amounts to his own richly illustrated diary of fantasies and visions entitled The Red Book: Liber Novus we get a chance to peer into the remarkable
processes this man underwent.

The sky inside a stone, with IMA Faculty Member Ellie Epp
: One long tradition says humans are made of two kinds of thing, a material body and an immaterial spirit, soul or mind. This ancient contrast between material and immaterial substances has persisted even in very recent thinking, where it takes the form of a contrast between matter and energy. But what IS matter? A stone in our hand is a dense, heavy thing, completely solid, and yet the physicists who are our authorities on such questions tell us that, seen at the level of atomic structure, even the densest physical matter is nothing but open space.
 
“I, You, and It”: Exploring Meaning through Audience and Form, with IMA Program Director, Ruth Farmer: Please bring something you have composed: a poem, an essay, or something visual/aural. You will use the piece as a starting point for exploring how form and audience affect meaning. We will discuss and practice James Moffett’s “four stages of discourse – inner verbalization, outer vocalization, correspondence, and formal writing."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Power of Words: All Roads Lead Home

Here is faculty member Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's account of the Power of Words conference, a conference that began in IMA and that Caryn organized for the first seven years.

For the last six days, I've been immersed in the Power of Words, both lower case (as in how powerful our words can be when it comes to changing the world and our lives) and upper case, as in the 8th annual conference of the same name. For me, this event was a homecoming of many dimensions: the conference was held at Goddard College, my second home (who every knew that this phrase would apply to a dorm room where I live approximately one month divided over three visits each year for the last 15). It was also a conference I founded in 2003. But mostly, I found my way home to that newborn glow of what can happen between us all when we create together stories, poems, songs, performances and exchanges about what matters most.

Maybe that newborn glow also had something to do with the newborn -- Nahar Nadi Keefe-Perry -- daughter of the TLA Network co-coordinators, Callid and Kristina, who were responsible for organizing the conference. Born less than a month ago, this inquisitive and beautiful new being was a constant reminder to me about how precious, alive, tender and beautiful the life force is. The Network, by the way, is the not-for-profit organization started by Goddard students, faculty and alumni and others who resonate with what we started at Goddard in the name of TLA.

The things we do at this conference include the usual suspects for most conference (workshops, big group sessions, performances and panels) along with the less-than-usual (talking circles each morning where each of us could speak deeply in a small group, hearing ourselves through having good witnesses and learning how to listen fully to others). Performances were dazzling:

  • S. Pearl Sharp's performance poetry brought to the surface an artful and soulful combination of ceremony, humor, deep wisdom and the astonishing dance of Nailah.
  • Kim Rosen recited the poetry of Rumi, Mary Oliver, Derek Walcott and others with great passion and joy.
  • Gregory Orr's reading and talk on poetry as a way to praise the body of the beloved (which could be interpreted as the life force, Book of Poetry, or whatever we love most) illuminated everything I know and want to know about language.
  • Nancy Mellon's combination of superlative storytelling, mythological weaving and anatomy showed us how our bodies are our stories.
  • Greg Greenway's singing, songwriting, guitar- and piano-playing journeyed us through the heart of music in praise of homecoming, liberation and the hard work involved in being fully human.
  • Katherine Towler's reading from the third book in her Snow Island anthology took us to a small Rhode Island island, just on the edge of time and history, and shaped by a kind of yoga of the imagination so visible in her writing.
  • The Coffeehouse of Wonder was so gorgeous, full of the most expansive humor and wildest edges of grief, love, joy and courage that those of us in the crowd went wild every few minutes.

But what brought me home most of us was simply being in such a diverse community, covering age (from newborn to elders), race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and identity, life experience in so many varieties that we made a community that had each other's backs and hearts. Sitting in the back of the haybarn last night were a pact of African American storyteller-shamans. Walking across the campus was a teenage girl who would still share her full imagination with her mother, both of them attending workshops together. Sleeping in the dorms were people ready to stand up and follow their callings as well as those leaning forward to open the door.

I'm back in Kansas through the magical surrealism of plane travel, but I'm still carrying that dazzle and depth, lightness and weight, freedom and connection of being part of the Power of Words.

Pictures (from top): Jen, Callid, Kristina & Kim; Nahar in the arms of Suzanne with beautiful mom Kristina looking on; Katie Towler; Scott and friends performing; a gorgeous pact of shamans; leaving Vermont.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trust the Process: What Starting Goddard Is Really Like

Joanna Young, a new student in the Individualized MA, wrote this blog about what she experienced when starting Goddard. Check out her blog to see how it all turns out!

How do even begin to write about my week? It was intense, exhausting, relaxing, exhilarating, freeing, validating, educational, empowering.

On Thursday evening I drove into Goddard College in Plainfield, VT. I felt ill with nerves. Even a walk around the stunningly beautiful campus couldn’t settle the raging butterflies. (This is a campus like no other – an English garden-type maze, a water garden with fountains, garden house complete with carved animal heads, trellised walkways, a clock house… and a barn converted into the community center and Haybarn theater. This also included the silo room – or as my advising group came to call it – the Womb Room.)

I was about to embark on a life-changing adventure as a graduate student. I was facing a week, semester, two years of unknowns. And I’d have a room mate. This was a major challenge to me. Having never gone away to college as an undergrad, I had not experienced the right of passage that is sharing a room the size of a bath tub with a complete stranger. Walking into the room for the first time I was taken aback by the close proximity of the two miniature beds. What if she talked too much, snored, farted… what if I did?

Although I was beyond excited and anxious to start something I had been wanting to do for 15 years, the Unknown was eating away my insides. But once my husband left I became calmer. Stronger. Empowered. I unpacked my clothes and my confidence and went off to meet my fellow graduates.

Now, I don’t mingle well. My shy teenage-self is who usually shows up when the my role (i.e. mother, teacher, bank teller) is undefined and “just me” is standing there, exposed. When I walked into this first “check -in” I quickly realized this was one of those times. I felt my shoulders itching to concave, my eyes to cast down and my acne to pop. But before I had a chance to find a dark corner in which to dissolve, a tall, blond man from Wisconsin asked if I was a newbie. I said I was (could he tell by my deer-in-the-headlights stare?). He welcomed me and asked me what I was going to study. I began to relax and by the end of the evening, thanks to the incredibly welcoming returning students and faculty, I had pulled it off (I think). Joanna: Graduate Student.

That evening sitting on my crunchy bed (sans roomie still) feeling slightly forlorn, I wrote in my journal:

I have this song running through my head: “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here…” But I do belong here [Our minds love to tell us crazy untruths.]…. A first step on a strange new journey – fearful, excited and a little overwhelmed by the hugeness of it all.

I let those voices of fear rob me of an opportunity by convincing me not to go away to school at 18 because of The Unknown, of looking foolish in front of strangers and distrust of my own abilities. No more. I ignored the voices and faced my fears. Instead I listened to my passion and believed the path would become visible once I took that step forward.

It did.

To learn more about trusting the process -- parts 2, 3, 4 & 5 -- check out Joanna's blog, Wisdomwithinink.com.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Graduation Day!

Today I watched nine of our students graduate -- nine people who came here to Goddard College with a passion for studying something of their own design, and who, through the process of looking deep and wide and trusting where they were led, found their way to astonishing projects.

  • Mike Alvarez wrote a stunning thesis on the connections between creativity and suicide, looking at what the act of creation can mean (or not mean) for healing.
  • Jame Vincent created a collage of poetry, prose poems, fiction and dialogue along with a critical paper to study the intersections of exile, homecoming, language and creativity.
  • Bernard Carey, in studying the absence of fathers in African-American homes, ended up co-writing a play with his daughter, who he had abandoned as a child; a performance of great healing and courage.
  • Amanda Lacson took her study of mythology and love into a study of why and how we need to examine cultural stories about romantic love and into a powerful collection of poetry, prose and other kinds of writing exploring mythology and love in her own life.
  • Jaki Elmo, through the lens of speculative fiction, explored how fiction can help us navigate and see anew the possibilities of our world and she happened to write an entire speculative fiction novel along the way.
  • Angela Davis studied how mainstream European culture in the Middle Ages monster-ized the "other" -- particularly Moslems and Jews, and what this says about our time today.
  • Jenny Gundy wrote a memoir about embodiment, earth and homecoming and wrote about ecology and culture.
  • Jes Wright looked at how motherhood could be a source of liberation and creativity as well as restricting through poetry and prose.
  • Griffin Brady created the Slyboots Guide to Living and Drumming -- a curriculum based on his world-wide study of drumming across cultures.
As I watched these people give presentations in the last few days and graduate today, I felt such pride and love for their work. All of these graduates brought such bravery and vision to their work, giving themselves over to their heart's calling, what their life is leading them toward.

It was also wonderful to hear our keynote speaker, Jim Merkel, author of Radical Simplicity, speak about giving back to our community most of what was given to us, and seeing sustainability and love not as a trend that will come and go, but as a place to land and live.

What was most moving to me, however, was watching the graduates' families -- some flown in from across the U.S. and Canada -- who piled into almost all the presentations. The families became their own kind of family, getting to know each other, encouraging one another's graduating members and delighting in what all these students had achieved.

Pictures, from top, the graduates; faculty members Francis Charet & Karen Campbell with Jame Vincent; DawN Crandell, daughter of Bernard, with Ruth Farmer, IMA program director, and Barbara Vacarr, Goddard President; me and Amanda Lacson; Jim Sparrell, faculty member, and Mike Alvarez & Bernard Carey; Jim Merkel.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Nature of Consciousness: An Interview with Francis X. Charet

Francis X. Charet, faculty member in the Individualized MA program and coordinator of Consciousness Studies, speaks about the conditions of time, mind and the soul on the Single Eye Movement website. Drop by and listen to what he has to say. Here's an excerpt:

My own view is that there is a fundamental unity underlying "body" and "mind" and yet a distinction has emerged seemingly to initiate a dialectical process for the purpose of the differentiation of consciousness. Some have resisted this distinction in favor of one side or the other; there are others who have seen and experienced the unity behind it all and these are the visionaries. But to attain this level of consciousness, and not experience it as the consequence of regression into unconsciousness, is exceptional, transpersonal, and probably the work of several centuries on the collective level.

Read more here.

Speaking of consciousness, here is Francis with the very conscious Grace Paley several years ago on the Goddard campus.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Graduating Student Workshops at IMA August 2010 Residency

At each Individualized MA residency, graduating students present their studies to the Goddard community. Here are the presentations students will be giving for the Aug. 6-13 residency. Altogether, these workshops give us a sense of the scope and depth of what students do when they can design their own studies.

Crossing Into Presence: Graduating Student Bernard Carey with Visiting Scholar DawN Crandell, Haybarn Theatre. “This theater piece is about my abandonment of my daughter and the pain that it has caused her.” It highlights the struggle that millions of families are going through, all across America. The consequences of father absenteeism are too devastating to our children and the fathers themselves to let this societal ill continue to run amok in our communities. The piece explores how Bernard and DawN were able to redirect the focus of
their relationship from a state of absence to a state of presence in this eye opening autobiographical work. In exploring ways to get their message out, they have come up with an empowering way to facilitate discussion in communities around the country on the issues of abandonment, responsibility and healing between a father and his children.

Unveiling Aphrodite: Examining the Mythology of Romantic Love, Graduating Student Amanda Lacson. My thesis is a personal and critical inquiry into Western myths of romantic love that have guided my expectations in relationships. I investigate the stories of my intimate relationships, linking my experience to popular Western myths and fairy tale, family
myths, and lesser-known non-Western and Western myths. I examine the meaning of mythology and its connection with cultural expectations of romantic love, discovering a conflict between the storied images and my personal experience.

Through the Lens of Speculative Fiction with Graduating Student Jacqueline Elmo. Humans use storytelling as a tool for communication, creative expression, instruction, social
cohesion, and self-reflection. This workshop explores how western fiction, particularly the speculative genre, is an exercise in the human capacity to empathize, imagine, and exist beyond the dominant stories and ideals propagated by culture. Drawing from my own relationship with fiction and with works from authors such as J.K. Rowling, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Philip K. Dick, this presentation will chronicle my own evolution from a passive observer of culture to an active
commentator by means of immersion and authorship.

Suicide, Creativity, and the Self, Graduating Student Mike Alvarez. Experience the songs of Phyllis Hyman and Kurt Cobain, the photographs of Kevin Carter, screen shots from Jeremy Blake's 'time-based paintings', and much more as we examine the paradoxical relationship between suicide and creativity. What do self-destructive behaviors and creative activities have in common? Is creative work intrinsically healing? And how does the disease model of mental disorders diminish our understanding of the human meaning behind suicide and creativity? These are some of the pressing questions my presentation will address--questions that have
far-reaching implications in a time and place where the self, and its manifold human dimensions, are radically medicalized.

Constructing the Monster with Graduating Student, Angela Davis. What is a monster? How is monstrous identity constructed? What is the function of the monster? My thesis explores these questions within medieval European representations of the Other through the lenses of language, culture, location, and the body. Come for the illustrations, stay for the discussion! Are you a monster?

“Girl from the Gold Country,” with Graduating Student, Jes Wright. Come learn more about how a young woman, who grew up eating pomegranates with fool’s gold dust fingertips
and leaping off rock walls, jumped into the role of the “good” mother, and wrote her way out of it through poetry. I will discuss how motherhood, as an experience and an institution, is assumed to be a woman’s ultimate role in the United States. Drawing from Feminist Theory, I will examine the oppressive experience of the “good” mother role, the historical causes and
consequences of this role, and explain how poetry within the site of Feminist Mothering may challenge patriarchal motherhood. I will share excerpts from my memoir, Girl from the Gold Country, and present a short slide show of my journey.

Becoming Slyboots with Graduating Student Griffin Brady. Feeling Sly? Keeping your head above water in the music industry can be tricky. As an aspiring professional musician and educator you will undoubtably have to be sly and rely on every ounce of cunning and intellect that you have in order to make a living. Truth be told, music is not about money. There is a much bigger picture when looking at music as an art form to be honed and refined through a dedicated life of study and practice. As a result of these notions I have found that making a living and making a life are not always the same thing. Through my study at Goddard, I have worked hard to uncover my inner Slyboots and heal that disconnect. Come enjoy a short presentation on my process becoming Slyboots and be prepared to drum.

Exile at the Cusp of Memory, with Graduating Student Jame Vincent. Exile at the Cusp of Memory: Reflections on Exile and Creativity, with Graduating Student Jame Vincent. The threads in my study of writing and memory connect and shape my understanding of the dynamics of exile, language and place. In my presentation, I will speak of familial and cultural memories as active and continual forces.

Discovering a Sense of Embodied Home with Graduating Student Jenny Gundy. My journey began with a desire to reconnect to a once fluent and fearless voice that had gone dry. I’d hoped this voice would empower me to speak out and work toward more sustainable ways of living. My goal was to empower my self and others to live simply, in harmony with the Earth. As I studied place, bioregionalism, homesteading, and renewable energy, I realized that the effort to reconnect with my voice was really a quest for home. What made home so elusive? The global system of patriarchy, assuming an unnatural split between mind and body and humanity and
nature, causes dissociation from our selves and the larger body of nature. Furthermore, the dominant narratives about women’s lives contributed to my feelings of “homelessness” in
this culture. Eventually, I came to understand that home is an embodied state, a feeling of integration in my self, my human relationships and nature.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Music on the Sly: Griffin Brady Unplugged

Sometimes the best art comes to us on the sly. So what better way to
to enjoy the summer than to chill to some new versions of oldies, particularly when they include astonishing drumming. Griffin Brady, who's going to graduate in IMA with a focus in music, culture and change, performs "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" with Larry LZ Dillon at the AAAlliance Regional Rebirth show, held in Fredonia, NY. You can also hear Griffin at Slyfest IV (held in Buffalo, NY), performing on a Dagara xylophone. In between performing, Griffin has founded the Slyboots School of Music and Arts, which encourages musicians to "hone your craft, motivate the masses, discover your voice, spread your message, travel, record, tour and broaden your mind. Your dreams don't have to be simply dreams... you just have to be a little sly about it." The Slyboots staff travels to the Dagara Music Center in Ghana, West Africa to perform and teach, and Griffin himself has been a frequent world traveler, performing with the Dagara Music Center, Buffalo Based on the Sly, You Are Sly and other groups. His thesis project includes a book-length manuscript, The Slyboots Guide to Life and Drumming, and future plans include performing in Senagal, Ireland and Northern India.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Connecting with Self, Others & Nature: Brian Moore & Transformative Language Arts

Brian Moore, a graduate of the Transformative Language Arts concentration of the IMA, writes about how we can use the written word to connect with ourselves, our communities and the earth for Alternatives Magazine:

Within and around the earth,
Within and around the hills,
Within and around the mountains,
Your authority returns to you.
–A Tewa Pueblo Prayer

The poem above has great significance, for it is in the context of the earth, hills, and mountains—indeed, the landscapes in which we live, move, and breathe—that we express and embrace our own unique authority, connecting with those other sentient beings, human and other-than-human, with whom we share this planet.

To read more, visit the site,

Friday, June 18, 2010

In Praise of Goodness

Goddard faculty member Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg was recently interviewed by Diane Silver, a writer who keeps up the blog, "In Search of Goodness," a 365-day quest to answer an impossible question. Here's an excerpt from Mirriam-Goldberg's interview:

DIANE: What about poetry and goodness?

CARYN: Poetry and poetic language – which I would extend to memoir, novels and short stories, spoken word and song writing, just everything we can do with language — it’s all about, at its best, taking life and encapsulating it, and passing it on to us in a way that we can see more who we are and how we live. Even speculative fiction shows you a lot about how you live or about how people could live or what people could become. I think the arts serve as a mirror of where we are, but also of a larger vision of where we could be and also historically where we have been. For people trying to cultivate goodness in their lives I don’t think they can do better than to turn to the arts because you’re going to see things there. You can hear it in song, you can see it in painting, you can listen to it in a spoken word performance.

DIANE: It’s a matter of looking at it, but also maybe participating in it? I know that writing has taught me a lot about myself.

CARYN: Creating it, looking at it, doing it. You can see in all these things — what’s the word I want? — you can see your reflection. You can also see where you might be limiting yourself, where you might go instead, through the use of writing, through imagery and rhythm. Imagery speaks to our five senses: smell, taste, touch and so on. Rhythm — just the sounds words make when they’re put together — kind of jars us out of that thick layer of stories and myths that I talked about earlier. We can kind of lift it up and look underneath it. You can use that as pathway to connect to who you are.

Pictures: Above: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg; below: Diane Silver

Monday, May 31, 2010

Helping Teens Empower Themselves Wherever She Lands: Heather Davis

When Heather Davis was in the Individualized MA program (Transformative Language Arts concentration), she focused on how spoken word performance and writing could help at-risk teens find their feet and walk toward better lives. She didn't realize at the time that she would be aiming her own two feet around the country, starting up projects for teens to empower themselves.

While she did her practicum in New York City, she soon moved to Austin, Texas, where she co-founded an affiliate of 826, a non-profit focused on empowerment through literary. The Austin Bat Cave now has several staff people, vibrant community support, and offers after-school, in-school and other programs such as music writing, gender identity exploration, filmmaking, hip-hop poetry, college essay writing and making literary journals.

About three years, pregnant with her first child, Heather and her husband decided to move to Portland, ME to be closer to their families. Once she arrived, she discovered the Telling Room, which was modeled after the 826 program, and she showed up on their doorstep. "They needed someone with my skills, so I started coordinating volunteers and grantwriting, and now I work on fundraising, grantwriting and future program development." She's currently raising funds to launch an after-school program for refugee and immigrant teens from the war-torn, impoverished countries of Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan who have settled in the Portland area. "Schools have a limited ability to serve these kids because of budget cuts," she explains, and furthermore, the kids have just come through horrendous losses as well as dislocation. "Some of them had their parents killed and all kinds of things. We help them tell their stories and also find emotional support, and the academic and literacy component they really need."

Looking back at Goddard, which she graduated from in 2005, she says, "I went there knowing I wanted to do something in the education world and writing world, and it all clicked. Before I came to Goddard, I wasn't really part of any serious discussion about how to do the kind of work I wanted to do. The emphasis on right livelihood helped me move beyond the 9-5 capitalist worker bee mentality. The freedom of the individualized program let me design exactly what I wanted to do."

In addition to living out her own right livelihood in Portland, she's also joined a writing group with several TLA graduates, and she's taking writing workshops to work on a book about the six months she lived in a teepee in the desert, another place her feet took her.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

International Sustainability: Camille Mata is Recognized for Thesis!

Camille Mata, an IMA graduate who specialized in international sustainability and community building, won an honorarium and potential book project with the University of Minnesota Press through its Quadrant Fellowship. The honorarium includes a stipend and all-expense paid trip to the University of Minnesota where Camille will give a lecture on her thesis, and a workshop focused on a chapter of her thesis. She also plans to head to the Third World for a six-month or longer project involving

According to her faculty advisor, Ralph Lutts, "Camille Mata did an excellent research project examining the possibility of providing a sustainable system of providing healthful (organic) foods (community food security) to lower income folks in Oakland, California.This began with a study of the history of community supported agriculture, urban agriculture, etc. This was her third masters thesis, so she knew how to do a good job when she arrived at Goddard."

Quadrant is a program that promotes interdisciplinary publication and research, and strives to be a new model for Press-University partnerships that bring humanities scholars into dialogue with those in the sciences and professional schools

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Intercultural Understanding, Overcoming Racism and Young Adult Fiction: Cynthia Curley Obrero

Cynthia Curley Obrero (IMA ’09) has worked in Theatre and the Music Industry since receiving her Bachelor’s in 1989. Throughout that time she believed theatre was, and still is, able to present to the public different ideologies, lifestyles, cultures, and ways of thinking about common ideas. Through the Performing Arts she felt she could help break down some of the barriers that stand between people of differing backgrounds. “I saw, and still do see, theatre as a tool for teaching and starting conversations about those concerns that affect us on a global scale. By placing very important yet shunned or ignored topics before individuals, I was hoping to create conversations, new ideas, or a different perspective that could cause positive change within those issues that seem easier to avoid: such as genocide, AIDs, domestic and child abuse, gender identity, prejudice, and politics - just to name a few.”

As she continued to work in the entertainment industry she found herself craving a larger role in creating change for better understanding between individuals and groups of differing backgrounds. After two years of “mind numbing brainstorming” she decided the best avenue to take would be to learn more about intercultural issues through the study of Anthropology. Goddard’s IMA program appealed to her for several reasons. “Since receiving my Bachelor’s degree I had learned that linear thinking does not include all or many of the aspects of an idea, ideology or theory and thereby does not allow for full or multi-dimensional understanding. In order to create systemic understanding more than one ideology needs to be analyzed, criticized and either incorporated or rejected in order to discover the answers to any question. I not only wanted to study the many facets of Anthropology, but Philosophy, Psychology, and whatever else might organically grow from my studies.” In her search for solutions to prejudice her studies eventually took her into Semiotics, Social Constructionism, Conflict Resolution, Cosmopolitanism, and Group and Individual Identities.

In the process of her Master’s she discovered a way to combine her creative side with the theoretical. She decided to write a young adult’s novel. The novel is action-adventure based yet it introduces the reader to new cultures – their histories, folktales, beliefs, languages, surrounding environments, etc. - in a way that allows for learning positive interaction with cultural and ethnic groups rather than labeling them, which so often leads to prejudice. The novel is the first in a series, which will take its characters and readers around the world. “I had the idea floating in my head before entering Goddard. Early on in my studies I discovered the book actually solidified my academic and creative backgrounds into something I could give to the public. Something that is educational, fun, creative, and may help to prevent prejudice.”

She went on to say, “I am very excited about it, but in the beginning I felt otherwise. I had never written anything before and was extremely nervous by the prospect of putting details and dialogue, especially dialogue, down on paper, let alone writing enough of it to fill a book. The more I wrote the more I became absolutely surprised by how much I enjoy writing. It still amazes and delights me that I achieved such a large task. I do believe my background has helped me far more than I knew or expected it would. I’m an introvert, which means I have usually sat on the fringes and watched people - their gestures, postures, speech, and interactions. This helped me a great deal when envisioning the characters and their personalities. My theatre background gave me an understanding of staging and intentions. And reading books and watching movies gave me a sense of suspense and pace.”

Since her book takes place in several countries Cynthia has done research online, through documentaries, books, and conversation through emails. This past year she traveled to Iceland to further enhance her understanding of the country and to better describe it in her book. “I had never been there. I had done plenty of research, but I felt I needed to actually see it and experience it myself in order to represent it appropriately. Quite honestly, Iceland had never been on my list of places to go. I am very grateful my book took me there. Iceland has an amazing history, literary and folk heritage, environment, and wonderful people. By traversing the locations I describe in my book and interacting with Icelanders I learned some of the nuances of the country and of some of its individuals that I would not have known otherwise. I would never have known about the colors, textures, scents, sounds, the Icelanders’ strong sense of connection with their history and their visions for the future, the pride in who they are, their generosity, their incredibly good English, and a magnificently diverse environment that seems to lend a beauty and a resolve to many who live there. It was a wonderful trip. My aim is to incorporate that experience and knowledge into my book.”

Cynthia is presently editing her book and hoping to have it ready for publication by the end of the year.Goddard gave me the direction and freedom to think organically, logically, linearly, critically, and creatively. I was given threads of connection and foundation to my whirlwind of thoughts, ideas, images, and imaginings. From my academic studies of Intercultural Interaction and Prejudice Prevention I became a writer with direction and passion. Now I hope to use what I have learned from my life and my studies to plant a seed of understanding between peoples.”

Photos from Cynthia's trip to Iceland

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Katt Lissard: Watch The Contamination Waltz - a new 7 minute video about HIV/AIDS and theatre for social change in Lesotho, southern Africa.

( Click text above for video.) The Contamination Waltz highlights the creative process of the Winter/Summer Institute (WSI). Since its launch in 2006, WSI has been bringing performers and directors, students and teachers, together from three continents to create collaborative theatre in Lesotho. IMA faculty member, Katt Lissard, is WSI's artistic director.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Deena Chappell: Voices of the Archetypes

Deena Chappell, a IMA graduation who specialized in consciousness studies, came to Goddard as an accomplished musician who has performed widely for years. Listen to an interview with Deena on the Carl Jung Gateway radio show on Blog radio. Her new album, "Voices of the Archetypes," was the central part of her thesis, bringing together Jungian studies, spiritual exploration, and her astonishing and provocative voice and instrumentation. You can also see more about Deena at her website.

Born into a family of musicians, Deena has been performing bluegrass, rock, folk, swing and jazz since she was 14. A well-known bass player, she also plays mandolin, sings in a popular swing/jazz duo with Nathan Knowles, and plays in a bluegrass trio, Dirty Old Strings. She's worked with the Vermont Arts Exchange for six years, offering music therapy sessions with vets, songwriting workshops for children throughout Bennington County, and other workshops throughout the area.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Francis Charet: Graduation Talk on Ganesha

Graduation talk delivered by Francis Charet, IMA faculty and coordinator of Consciousness Studies, at the Individualized MA graduation ceremony on Feb. 14, 2010.

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the Goddard community, families and friends. I am honored to have been invited to say a few words at this commencement. When I received the email from Jaes asking me, on behalf of the graduates, to be the commencement speaker I was sitting at my desk at home in Montreal. I began to remember my own graduate studies and all the things I was interested in and pursued, my ambitions, hopes and dreams and what I had attained in the years in which I studied. As I thought about all of this, I looked up over my computer and starred as I often do at a wooden image that sits on a shelf. It is a small statue of the Indian deity and mythological elephant headed figure, Ganesha. It found its way there, like other objects I have accumulated, because of my interest in the cultures and religions of the planet and of India in particular. In fact, it was really my encounter with Indian culture that first awakened in me a sense of the largeness of the world, how small and western I was, and how much we all have to learn from each other and yet we often miss the opportunity to do so.

As I thought about all of this it occurred to me that the figure of Ganesha represents a combination of the things that might be of value to try to briefly speak about to our graduates. Lost in work and other things I thought I would pick up on these ideas sometime later. As fate would have it, when I arrived at Goddard with as yet not entirely worked out thoughts, I ran into Sowbel, acting director of the HAS program, who said she wanted to show me something. This turned out to be this statue of Ganesha sitting on a figure with three elephant heads. Bemused, I took this as a sign that, indeed, my brief talk should be about the qualities that Ganesha embodies and clearly, to fit the symbolism of the three heads, there had to be three of them namely strength, wisdom, and responsibility, all qualities that are attributed to Ganesha.

Now Ganesha is one of those remarkable combinations of human and non human elements that India has characteristically produced in great abundance, flourish and wonderful variation. He has a human body, usually with a nice rounded and very full pot belly, and his torso is crowned with an oversized elephant head. In the earlier fateful encounter of East and West, he ran afoul of the colonizing Europeans and their aesthetic ideals and entered the list of what one contemporary historian of Indian art has called “much maligned monsters”.

Yet, since medieval times, Ganesha has attained an audience in India that surpasses them all. This elephant headed figure is found in greater numbers in statue, relief, painting and poster form than the rest. There are now monographs written on this figure and various stories to explain his emergence and I won’t detain us by looking at these as interesting and entertaining as they might be. Instead, I simply want to acknowledge that this figure has become an object of interest and popularity and now even migrated to the west and it might also have something to say to us and to our graduates in particular. In order to do this I would like to focus on the three things that I mentioned, namely strength, wisdom and responsibility.

Let me add that one of the interesting parallels between the figure of Ganesha and Goddard is that we, like the figure, combine together things that often are not combined elsewhere and in that sense we, too, are unusual and maybe even a bit exotic. In Indian myth and culture Ganesha is an archetypal auspicious figure who is known by his chief attributes as the remover of obstacles, patron of scholars and protector of the community. Obstacles Ganesha, the great and powerful elephant headed god, is often displayed as using his strength to move seemingly immovable objects and does so with considerable determination and patience. He is especially venerated for this attribute for the obvious reason that life is chock full of obstacles, big ones and small ones, some easily overcome others not. Graduates, I know that all of you have faced such obstacles in your lives but here, at Goddard, we also know that not infrequently, the greatest obstacles are those we ourselves have created. Getting out of our own way is a challenge and requires similar resources such as strength of character, determination of will, patience and kindness. Learning this has been an important part of your experience here at Goddard.

Knowledge Ganesha is the patron of scholars. This attribute implies that knowledge is one of the most desired and vital resources in order to understand, move through the world and make it a better place. Graduates, you have all acquired considerable knowledge in a variety of subjects and disciplines but I would venture that the most important acquisition has been knowledge of yourselves, who you are, what interests you, and what you want to take out into the world. This, too, has been an important part of your experience at Goddard.

Responsibility Ganesha is the lord of hosts and protector of the community. Knowledge of the world and oneself is both a valuable accomplishment and an indication of success that is commendable and is a shared goal of many educational institutions. Yet at Goddard you have learned something more and that is that knowledge becomes much more enriched when it can be applied in the world to make it a better place for all beings. This, too, has been an important part of your learning at Goddard. In India, invoking the presence of Ganesha and what he stands for –remover of obstacles, bearer of knowledge and wisdom, protector of the community - is common at the beginning of rituals, scripture reading, engaging in any contractual arrangements, and even in the breaking of ground for new buildings and other seemingly non religious events. Goddard graduates you are not at the end of your journey but at the beginning.

This is Ganesha time. Take the attributes associated with Ganesha, the strength you have acquired to remove obstacles, what you have learned and apply it wisely, your sense of responsibility for others and be contributors to and caretakers of the world. I should add that there is another attribute of Ganesha I have not mentioned: he is also the god of good luck.

Oṃ Gaṇeśāya Namaḥ

Pictures include Ganesha as statue and painting, Francis Charet with graduate Erica Pierce, and a graduation-Valentine's Day-Chinese New Year cake to celebrate graduation.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Amanda : Writing, Art and Environment


Amanda Sandos, a current IMA student, is studying environment art through visual arts and creative writing to explore the deep ecology connections between animals and humans. A staff writer for Got2BeGreen, and a volunteer at the Maier Museum of Art, Amanda is a former zoo keeper with extensive experience with both animals and art. Check out her blog about life on this wild planet.

Chilean Flamingo, Lake Natron, Northern Tanzania

I stand at the edge of a flock, on the shore of this parched bowl, the base of a volcano. Ten thousand birds flag their heads from side to side, necks stretched, marching in rows.

The quills on their backs click like beads when Masai women walk, barely heard over the honking chaos. Every year when the rains come, the lake rises from cracked earth,

they wade through bubbles, mixing blue-green algae and brine shrimp. If the earth is quenched they build, scooping and stamping, stamping and scooping, clapping

their feet, molding mounds, growing thinner, feathers frayed, caked, matted. She’ll perch at the top of her turret and sing – soft, lyrical – stretching towards any who walk past,

resting her neck against the one who stops, hoping he’ll rub his neck to hers. She’ll close her eyes and return the caress of the one standing with her in this boiling lake.

The one who will share their roost, turn their chalky egg, tend their chick, preen and feed, protect until these waters recede.

This year, they waited for the sky to open, but no rains came. Tonight, as the sun sinks, they lift their wings and fly, without ritual, without young.