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  • Jonny Stax

Bridging Divides at Witching Hour

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

I got to take part as a presenter in Witching Hour - a festival in Iowa City “exploring the unknown, discussing creative process, and presenting new work.” I led a workshop exploring our new project underway, using art, play, and adventure to call people to cross cultural boundaries to find new ways to commune. It was such as blessing and honor to get to participate in this way, and the people who came were lusciously generous with their stories and presence. We spent the workshop thinking about times when we crossed cultural boundaries ourselves and what conditions supported or could have supported that journey.


We came up with the following:

  • Connecting through joy

  • Creating new rules of engagement

  • Inviting people to be intentional about listening to each other

  • Finding common desires that can connect people

  • Promoting understanding by harnessing the power of questions

  • Naming values as we seek common ground even if we play out those values in different ways

  • Bringing in cultural artifacts as ways to find meaning

  • Experience art together and debriefing that experience as ways to see each other anew

These are so powerful as we think about the conditions we need to create to connect people in new ways. I think instead of tackling all the various silos, divides, and boundaries that disconnect us, we need to focus on one or two. This summer with ArtFarm19, we started with the urban-rural disconnect. I think if we add in suburban, that is a brilliant place to start. The great thing about focusing on this spectrum is that it brings so many other disconnects along with it - race, class, age, and more.


Thanks to Amenda Tate and her dancing paint robot the Manibus, we also created a painting together using our bodies. I believe that as we bring bodies together that might not often share space, dance will be a wondrous tool - it calls us all to be awkward and express ourselves in new ways. Our words too often get in the way of our connection, and dance gives us new channels of connection. Creating art together is another key tool for connection.


And then I got to experience Sharon Udoh as Counterfeit Madison performing the songs of my greatest musical love Nina Simone, and my life was forever changed. Thank you, Witching Hour producers for all you do!


I’m so thrilled to continue this journey and to have new companions. It’s time to schedule some roundtables and salons to keep the conversation going. Who is in?


Manibus painting created at Witching Hour

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Jonny Stax Presents Inc.

Chicago, IL • West Branch, IA

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