Saturday, August 14, 2010

Alternate ROOTS

I am at the 2010 Alternate ROOTS meeting at the Lutheridge Center in Arden, NC - lots of stuff stirred up, but first - a disclaimer in the form of a context statement on my blogger profile:
Just so you know - this blog is more like an online diary. I write updates about my professional and artistic life, mostly for my own edification. I don't write for a particular audience, and therefore much of the writing is pretty self-indulgent. That being said, I don't write anything in here that I don't mind being public...
So - I am at the 2010 Alternate ROOTS meeting at the Lutheridge Center in Arden, NC - lots of stuff stirred up.
ROOTS mission:
Alternate ROOTS is an organization based in the Southern USA whose mission is to support the creation and presentation of original art, in all its forms, which is rooted in a particular community of place, tradition or spirit. As a coalition of cultural workers we strive to be allies in the elimination of all forms of oppression. ROOTS is committed to social and economic justice and the protection of the natural world and addresses these concerns through its programs and services.
In 1987, Don Evans told me that if I wanted to do performance art in the South, I needed to know about ROOTS. It just so happened that ROOTS was about to host a festival in Atlanta, so I made the commitment to spend the entire week in Atlanta. During that week, I saw amazing work by amazing artists and knew I was getting a glimpse of something that would prove to be life-changing.

(sidebar - one of the artists whose work I saw that week was Louise Udaykee aka Elle Trapkin. I was intrigued with what she was doing with dance and made a point to seek her out and give her one of my tapes - thus began a long and gratifying collaboration and friendship that continues to this day)

So in 1988, me & Mind's Eye packed up our costumes, projectors, lighting, sound equipment, etc. and headed to the 1988 Annual Meeting. We were eager to show them what we did and to see what they could do for us (we were in major "marketing mode" at the time). We did our thing and got some helpful, pointed - and occasionally somewhat gratuitous - feedback & criticism, and speaking for myself, made a lot of new friends and contacts.

Jason was less enamored of the ROOTS experience than me, and never went back. His artistic motivations were primarily aesthetic, while I was intrigued by the social-change agenda that fueled (and fuels) ROOTS work, and wanted to bring more of that element into our work.

I have gone to every ROOTS meeting since. I have served more terms than I can count on the ROOTS Executive Committee. My relationship with the organization has ebbed and flowed. At its highest point point I helped co-produce a festival and was doing almost all of ROOTS communication work - printed journal and web (until a new director, now gone, managed to disenfranchise many long term ROOTS members. But that's a another story - extensively documented several years ago), and at other times I was simply a passive observer.

For most of my ROOTS tenure, I was known as "the tech guy". Each year I would bring my lights and sound equipment, and run tech for the various performances. But a few years ago I said "no mas" - it was time to be an artist at ROOTS. So starting with leading a music-improv workshop with Davis 2 years ago, I have reinvented my ROOTS persona as a music maker. It has been most gratifying.

Right now I am at a nice place with ROOTS. I am not as active in ROOTS governance as I have been - content to be a mere "voting member". Mostly ROOTS meetings are my annual artistic renewal breaks. A week in the mountains, surrounded my creative people doing creative things. Making music late in the night. Engaging in stimulating and inspiring discussions. Witnessing some of the strongest performances I've ever seen (and also some of the weakest!). Spending a lot of "alone" time - working on stuff on the computer (this year that has included some of my non-artistic work, which has been kind of a drag!)

It was people and connections I made thru ROOTS that brought me to Atlanta in 1992. ROOTS has provided venues for my art and music - from the the very first Mind's Eye performance to Zentropy at last year's New Orleans State of the Nation Festival. A 35th Anniversary festival is set for next summer in Baltimore, and I expect that I'll be making music there too.

Tomorrow I go home - but tonight we all go down to the lake and participate in some sort of touchy-feely closing ceremeny (but it's all good!). Then back up the hill to make music and merriment 'til the crack of dawn.