There is something incredibly artistic about hosting a gathering for a group of people. Whether it is in your own home or a public space, it truly is an art, rather, a socially engaged art craft. This has been a topic we have been discussing in our Art for Social Change class in the last few weeks. On Tuesday, we held our first of three class dinners at our professor Marcus Young’s home. The goal for this dinner was to create a menu for what we wanted to cook and serve everyone, what activities and conversations we wanted to bring to the table, what we wanted our theme for the evening to be, and how we were going to incorporate our magnificent guest, Eric Avery, into our few hours together. In a group of three, Sophie, Marcus, and myself, we managed to successfully put together our class’s first ever dinner!
Planning a dinner gathering takes a lot of prep work, even weeks in advance. Brainstorming what everyone can eat, how we will fill our 2:00-7:00 PM time frame, and even how we want the space of the home to be rearranged prior to everyone’s arrival are all important details when planning such an intimate event. Sophie, Marcus and I decided to go with the theme of circles for our evening. This included most of the dinner items we ate being circular, everyone would eat and gather in a circle, we would create bracelets to signify a circle, and we even ended our evening with an inspirational quote about a circle.
“The most powerful thing we can do is get involved locally. Help our local community and become community activists in our own smaller circle.” -Gavin Creel
Our evening started with doing some community building exercises that involved a theatre game I learned at my internship, Washburn Black Box Acting Program, and a well-known ice breaker formally known as concentric circles. This was an opportunity to open up in a goofy way and then bring it back to a deeper scale. All of these activities were done in a standing or sitting circle. Some questions we discussed in pairs were, “What is a topic you wish you knew more about?”, “Which artist that we have learned about do you relate to most?”, and “If we could have anyone talk to our class, who do you wish that could be?”.
We transitioned our class to Art for Social Change students Cedar, Hope, and Sophia giving their presentations on artists and projects associated with their internship sites In The Heart of the Beast, Pangea World Theatre, and East Side Freedom Library. This is an assignment we will continue with the rest of our class throughout our two future dinners. It offers an opportunity to learn more about each of our internships and artists involved in our local communities.
After presentations, we transitioned to the highlight of the evening, dinner. Sophie, Marcus, and myself prepared an array of delicious bite-sized foods. This included tomato basil mozzarella bites, stuffed mushrooms, marinated carrots, stir-fry broccoli, potatoes with cream cheese and goat cheese, apples/pecans covered in brie cheese, and nutella covered bananas. Needless to say, it was a total success. Practicing the art of hosting, we served each dish individually to each person, one by one, as we sat in our circle. By this time, our guest for the evening, Eric F. Avery, was able to join and eat with us.
Eric wrote a powerful, heartfelt letter about coming to terms with art. While I could dive into the letter and discuss the important takeaways, I am going to discuss what came up in conversation after dinner with Eric.
Sophie and I were in the kitchen cooking when the rest of the students had a few minutes of an opportunity to get to know Eric briefly. When we returned, Sophie asked them if she could ask them a question. “Who is your role model?”, she asked. Eric pondered this for a few minutes and returned with the most truthful and honest answer they could give. “I don’t think your question applies to me,” they said. They talked about how there has never been one specific person that they felt like they wanted to model their life after or look up to, because the answer changes every day. This set the honest and powerful tone for the remainder of our time together.
We began discussing working for a field that is exploitative and thinking about how to fix it. Do you take a step in the field to “fix” it or do you “fix” it from the outside? An example would be the education system in the United States. Do we become apart of and work for the U.S. school system to break down the exploitation, white supremacy, and systematic oppression? Or, do we fix these issues by working on the outside of this field? How are we creating this world that we want to live in? Eric said they want to “make a world for me because so often there hasn’t been a place in this world for me.”
This conversation progressed into the topic of creative practice. Eric continued to talk about how creative practice can be a vehicle for our future desires and dreams. The evolution of creation can make so much more possible. The point they made that inspired me the most was that we can take our creative practice and use it anywhere. It takes creative practice to become a lawyer just as much as it does to become an artist. It takes creative practice to become a doctor just as much as it does to become a middle school teacher. “Teach because that is going to make you a better learner. Learn because that is going to make you a better teacher,” Eric preached to us. It takes creative practice to work in any field just as much as it does to simply live your everyday life. “Always have a creative practice no matter what you do,” were Marcus’s final words to end our delightful and inspiring class dinner. And that, my friends, is how you do the art of hosting.