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What I Meant to Say Was...

Written Dec 5, 2019 from our farmhouse in Iowa the day after my first webinar as an artist.

Wow. I got to speak on a national webinar with some luminaries of the rural arts world. I felt like such an impostor, but Allentza told me why she asked me to join and how I could be an elevator, not an impostor. Thanks, Allentza, for easing my nervousness. I still felt a little foolish, but I guess that’s what happens your first time, am I right? I met Allentza at Springboard for the Arts' Rural Arts & Culture Summit My way was paid by the Iowa Arts Council who sent me and a collection of artists around the state.

I was tickled pink to have found my people! I went up to every stranger and just started talking to them. A lovely individual at lunch one day asked, “So, you don’t know anyone here? And you're just talking to anyone here?” In the course of our lunch together, we unraveled the story of my mustache. You see, every day I get 7-10 comments from strangers who have no other reason to speak to me then to ask about my mustache. It’s usually accompanied with smiles and giggles. I think this has served as wonderful exposure to stranger interactions for me, allowing me to enter unknown social environments and meet folks. And I am so excited with everything that is falling out from that experience.

So, of course, after a day of mulling, so many things came to mind that I wanted to share after the webinar - things I forgot, things I remembered, and things that were inspired.

1. This summer’s ArtFarm19 was sponsored in-kind by Scattergood Friends School & Farm and paid for by the Iowa Arts Council (and thus the taxpayers of Iowa), some lovely donor friends of mine, and West Branch Friends Church. These are the folks that inspired my first lessons learned - join the church. That was one of our evaluator’s first lessons - most of the rural people who came to ArtFarm19 came because “Jonny goes to my church.” These are the same people who in January had Scott Bradley share our stories of the church almost killing us then surrounded us and prayed for forgiveness. But that’s a later story.

2. I mentioned the Swarm Artist Residency, but I’d people to check them out and make a donation. The hive queens are some of my favorite folk.

3. Dear Art Farm in Nebraska, you are THE Art Farm. We are building an art farm and promise to come up with a specific name soon so as not to confuse. We respect and dig the work you are doing and would love to link up. Can we come for a visit?

4. Finally, the internet as a tool for the work we are doing - one of the most exciting things about this Potion Show. See, Michelle Ramos from Alternate Roots (which I’d love to speak about the creative infrastructure you have built for mobilizing and connecting creative forces as well as your Uprooting Oppressions training) mentioned that in rural work, jumping on live conversations like with Zoom is not always that effective or possible. Not everyone’s lives are built around computers and not every area has hi-speed internet. So, we are developing ways to share the live experience with folks who can’t be there. Some will be filming of live experience, as well as sharing the process of building the show. Some will come in people’s potions being shareable online - video shorts broadcasted, songs/sounds podcasted, visual and costume art displayed, etc. We will share the process of building the show and create opportunities for online interaction and shaping of our approach.

So, there you go. Feels good to get everything off my chest. I’m sure I’ll think of more. In fact, I should probably write up my lessons learned in doing rural arts and justice work. Primarily, it’s about building relationship not transacting, being contributive not extractive, and being connected not isolated. I’m excited to spend time traveling this four-state region, making potions and shaping a show. I'm shopping around a basic concept paper that I can't wait to share with you all - let me know if you'd like to join in on the journey. We have the materials to create some powerful potions.

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