Thursday, February 24, 2011

Berenice "Bee" Bleedorn -- Celebrating and Remembering a Great Educator, Philosopher, Humanist, Artist

To my fellow creative dreamers,

This morning I received word that we have lost one of The Great Ones in the creativity field. My dear friend -- our dear friend -- Berenice "Bee" D. Bahr Bleedorn has died. She was my friend and mentor and inspiration and colleague and teacher who got me into the creativity field 20 years ago this fall at the University of St. Thomas. Her passing leaves a (w)hole in the world. When Bee's 2005 book came out, the "book warming" invitation had a poem on it that was written for her by a Metropolitan State University student in the early 1970s. It really states the impact of Bee on us, and the way we should continue to always see the creative potential in others:

By Kathleen Kuehnast

Seed Woman
Sower of human potentials,
Like a chemist
You experiment with possibilities
And mix together the unordinary
Until it becomes extraordinary.

We will always need in this world
Flowers and roots, seeds and ground,
and a sower -- whether it be the wind
Or you.

For those of you on Facebook, several comments have been left. Please add your thoughts, if you would like.

It looks like the funeral will be Tuesday afternoon at St. Joan of Arc in Richfield, Minnesota. Bee's daughters will confirm this on Friday. A full obituary will be in the papers on Sunday. You can also add comments to the online legacy in the Star Tribune obituary listing.

FRIENDS, please plan to come and join us to celebrate Bee's life with us ... most likely after the funeral on Tuesday. Please share this information and invitation with others, and we will update you with the specifics in the next day or so.

With a heavy heart, filled with gratitude for the 20 years of knowing Bee ...

Steve Dahlberg
International Centre for Creativity and Imagination

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Community as Individuals

By Derek Pettinelli
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Waterbury, Connecticut

Community as individuals is a metaphor that I feel is very relevant as it shows that there is a mass that is made up of smaller parts. Everybody is a part of a community and while many people try and separate themselves into smaller groups, divided by race or class, I think that’s irrelevant as we are all humans and all must work together for the betterment of society. A community without individuals is not a community; it’s just a lot of abandoned space and emptiness has no way of progressing itself unless there are proactive individuals who work together.

Communities include the people in them, because the people make everything else -- the businesses, the parks, the newspapers, the TV news, etc. Without individual people to keep the “wheels turning,” society will grind to a halt and be left barren, in literal and figurative senses. From a basic perspective, people, who are hopefully individuals, are the community, or rather the facet that binds the community together. They are the wheels on the bicycle that allow for movement, forward movement.

Having the idea of community as individuals is a viewpoint that touches base with everybody involved and conversely, everybody who isn’t involved. Individuals are part of a community whether they like it or not -- from a community being a man-made one, with boundaries and taxes, to a community being one of like-minded individuals who, for example, enjoy watching sports. All of these people are a part of a community and the ultimate goal is to have them be active members working for the benefit of the community, instead of passively and even selfishly watching the world pass them by. The idea of community matters because people are a part of something cohesive, something that is bigger than them. It is imperative that people “get involved” and that helps not only promote individuality and creative, progressive thinking, but it strengthens the community.

The implications of viewing a community as a group of individuals is one that puts responsibility on the individual. Taking responsibility for one’s own actions and using that to focus on societal betterment is important, because I think that is what people should be doing. Everyone has an effect on the world around them, whether they like it or not, and that’s why I feel that people should use energy to be pro-active. The golden rule is something that is almost ageless, a ubiquitous sense of “the proper way to act.” Treating others the way you wish to be treated is unfortunately a foreign concept in many ways and viewing the community as individuals helps hammer home that concept, making people aware of their actions and subsequently the consequences that follow.

Changes made as a result of this have overwhelming potential to be positive for the community and thus individuals. Simply being pro-active in such a way that affects somebody else is incredibly important. I firmly believe in the concept of “paying it forward,” where I do good things for people in the hopes that they will reciprocate positive actions for other people in the hopes of creating a butterfly effect of positivity. The greatest change starts with the smallest action and even the smallest acts of positivity have the potential for great ramifications. With this information, one can be proactively positive, which is the best that we can be, because to quote Gandhi: “We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Community is ...

By Laurie Lukasavage
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Waterbury, Connecticut

Communities are smaller groups of people living, working and playing together within a larger one. In each small community, there seems to be an even smaller group of individuals that affect the entire aura or atmosphere within their own community. They are the people who have the ability to express their thoughts and ideas to others, which in turn motivates others to participate. These gifted people have the ability to make everyday seem fun. The mundane everyday life can become spiritual. When a person experiences a transformation in his or his life from a lonely, repressed, methodical existence ... to a creative, vibrant, “in-the-moment” manifestation of joy, then life suddenly becomes exciting and worthwhile. There is instantly much to look forward to. There is now a solution for a void that was created by a need.

My seven-year-old child inside of me makes me feel like ... I want to drive through my own town and be proud that it is my hometown. I want it to look beautiful and safe and clean. I want people to wave to me and say hello as they go about their business. I want to have conversations with people and exchange ideas about where to hang out. Who has the best coffee in town? What’s new within town? Are there any new businesses coming in? Is there any cool music I can go listen to? How about bands? Local plays? Are there any new trails to walk or ride a bike on? Do I have something I don’t want or need anymore? Like clothes, food, old dishes or furniture that someone else would be grateful to receive? I want to hear my comrade’s suggestions or recommendations. Do they know of any places to visit that they’ve seen that I may also enjoy? And, if my neighbor needs help, I want them to feel free to call me.

Every person has the desire to feel connected to someone or something. However, authority figures within society have tried to govern communities through cookie-cutter rules and regulations. Not every answer is a perfect solution or fit for everyone. Sometimes the resolution needs to be modified for it to be the best possible outcome for that individual. When that happens, then the person experiences personal growth.

Many people do share common interest and traditions. If they are allowed to have close interactions with each other and can do so at a common meeting ground, then good things start to happen. Their immediate circle of family and friends becomes larger. During bad economic times, this can be a life-saving event. It’s very difficult to reach out and help others when you feel desperate and downtrodden from economic woes. If you cannot provide for your family, or even yourself, then nothing else seems to matter.

Unfortunately, there are also individuals who create communities out of their own greed and need for control. This kind of community breeds social decay. It pulls down everyone in that community. Everyone, young and not-so young, needs to know that if a friend is pressuring you to do something that doesn’t feel right or that may cause you harm or emotional damage, then no matter how many times you’ve spoken with them, they are not a friend. There will always be people like this among us in society. Gravitate toward the ones that make you feel good. In return, good, caring people will gravitate toward you.

Community as People

By April Belanger
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Waterbury, Connecticut

Community offers many different concepts to people’s eyes to what could be: community as a process, compost, place, creativity, people, individuals, performance, work of art, and a playground (Dahlberg). Most of all, I believe the most relevant concept to be ‘Community as people.’ According to Wikipedia, “Traditionally a 'community' has been defined as a group of interacting people living in a common location” (Wikipedia 1). Over the past few weeks' worth of readings, I have opened my eyes up to many new ideas about what a community means to me. I think now, what communities do I belong to? I’m still unsure of that answer but I know that I want to expand my learning of what kinds of communities are out there and how I can help make them better. The one thing that any community has in common is people. Without having individuals in it to make up groups, sociologically there wouldn’t be communities. Wikipedia states, “In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness” (Wikipedia 2). In theory, the perfect community would have all the best creations of a person, cohesion of a group, and creativity. Before this class, I never quite understood the importance that creativity can have on a community and society as a whole.

Presently, close-knit communities aren’t seen as often as they should be. A community to me is made up of people, concepts, dwellings, desires, creativity and cohesion. People within each community represent what it is they stand for and what they see happening for that community. In some of the readings, one person started a community where people were able to express their artistic abilities openly and freely, and for that reason that community lasted. It took one individual's desire to create an atmosphere, a community that people could be themselves in. The type of person you allow in your community can affect it altogether. Every individual in your community should represent what it is you stand for and why that community matters. Every person has a voice and each of those voices should be heard. Who knows ... down the line I could create a community that is invested in helping out animals without homes. To me every animal has the right to food, shelter and water. Hopefully, one day I have the resources to make that happen. The idea that community relies on people would be very important to my project. I would need the help of the city, volunteers and others to make it happen. In our present day society, we need to re-examine what a community is and how we can learn how to create more of them. If one person had an idea and developed it into a community, the changes are endless. We can learn how to be a better society, a safer one, a more-inspired one. In turn, we could become a better self. If you had the power and resources like the president, the possibilities for a strong community could be incredible.

Community as Salad

By Michael Sciarra
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Waterbury, Connecticut

Characteristics of community can be illustrated with many different metaphors, but I have yet to find the metaphor that encompasses all the different characteristics of community that I can come up with. We've all heard of the United States as being a “melting pot,” a community where people of different backgrounds come together and create something new. Perhaps, but I see that all the elements have not combined to become a homogenous new creation. Instead, different people have different points of connection to others in their social group, and those others have still more connections to different others, in a sort of six degrees of separation that unites all of us, through the bridges of language, and traditions of culture, religion, food and so on. These bridges are like the dressing on a salad, bringing together the different elements to form a heterogeneous whole. The elements of a salad, like the people in a community, are different in limited ways, and are more alike than different: we may find vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and a variety of other ingredients in a salad, but they are all foodstuffs (though I've seen the occasional gold leaf or flower petal in a salad, they were for decoration ...). With community as salad, the participants need to get in the mix ...

Whatever the cultural, religious, genetic, political, etc., background of the people in a society, all of these people are, well, people. I can recognize the differences, rather than denying or acknowledging these differences, while connecting through similarities. When I am making a salad, I don't ask the tomato to become like the cucumber. I check the freshness of the ingredients, and aim to create a balance among the different ingredients. As the available ingredients change, so does the type of salad that I can create. I use what I have available, and make the best salad I can given the available ingredients. As the members of a community change, the community can collectively redefine itself, rather than segregating and pining for what once was. If each community member is able to continuously respond to changes in the community, the community will remain fresh. Of course, the “community as salad” metaphor cannot convey all, or even most of the aspects of community. Unlike vegetables and other such foodstuff, people have the ability and desire to manifest their creative selves. We may submit to governance to avoid chaos, obtain the benefits of cooperative, lawful behavior, and find support through various social programs; however, the new governance is changing. No longer the chefs in the kitchen creating and serving up what they think is best (and not always what's best for the diners), the new governance is a responsive one, in which an unprecedented number of individuals are empowered with a means to influence the decisions of their government.

With access to the internet and other relatively inexpensive and pervasive tools for social communication, the model of social communication is no longer a hub-and-spokes model. I don't need to own a printing press, radio tower, etc. to broadcast my opinions. I can just log on at home or at the library, or pick up my cell phone, and start typing or speaking. It is because of these technological changes that society and government are able to become truly dynamic entities, not attempting to conform to some unchanging, unachievable ideal, but instead constantly changing in response to new input from constituents. Though I chose “community as salad” as my point of departure, I am thankful for all the metaphors for community, because no one metaphor is sufficient to convey all of what community is to each of us.

No one member or sub-group can contribute to a community as much as a group of members can contribute when the opportunity, ability and desire to contribute is present. Opportunity is systemic, and technology has changed the system. Ability is assumed (we each have something to contribute). Desire requires an object. The desire to live in the type of community in which I want to live motivates me to participate in it's creation, along with the supportive belief that I can participate. Thus, far from being an element in a salad, or the chef that creates the salad, I am becoming a member of a new community of thoughtful, vocal, responsive participants, empowered by technology to influence community leaders and connect with other community members to initiate changes to my community.

Community as Belonging

By Robert Sireno
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Waterbury, Connecticut

Thinking About Community ... Community as Belonging
(ideas about the concepts of “Community”)

Looking back over my life, I have used the word community, or heard it used, many times, and seemed to recognize what was referred to each time. First, a community is usually made up of individuals with common interests and/or values -- the Italian community; the scientific community, the Christian community. A community can be made up of individuals of all possible descriptions, backgrounds, hopes, needs, potentials. Or in some cases a specific knowledge is needed.

The community can have a common location -- the East Side, the Senior Center, or in some instances, it can come together at various locations -- People for Change, interfaith organizations. The internet has created a virtual community with an electronic location. Whether this is true community is in question. A community usually occupies space.

A community usually has significant social interaction. Members of a community can relate to one another on certain levels, discussing things, deciding things, enjoying one another’s company, envisioning the future. Members usually follow agreed upon rules for their community.

Bringing all this together I see that community has a definite structure behind it. It is a group of individuals, occupying space in a specific location, and following agreed upon rules to continue their existence as a community.

These individuals have some sort of common interests or values that draws them to the community where they can take part in significant social interactions, possibly envisioning the future.


Why community ? “Belonging” is a human need (see Maslow’s Hierarchy). Human beings are social creatures. We grow as humans through relationship with others and their acceptance of us, and caring for us. Without this relationship, we cannot realize our self-worth and become contributing members of society.

Through our interactions and sharing with others in community we are able to see meaning in our lives and arrive at an understanding of our overall purpose. Our individual lives take on worth as a part of the whole of human existence. We have reason for living. Without this feeling of worth by our citizens, our overall society would suffer from the lack. Future growth and progress would be limited to our governmental city planning and maintenance. There would be no citizen input or even interest. Social Change would be non-existent.

We as citizens must take the initiative to insist on the incorporation of spaces for meeting and community in present and future projects. Places where individuals could fulfill that need as human beings for belonging. Spaces where they could get to know one another and exchange ideas. Through community we would begin to be heard. To create a society in which we can belong. To sculpt society to our own vision and needs.

Community as ...

By Catherine Capuano
Creativity + Social Change, University of Connecticut
Waterbury, Connecticut

Community Metaphors:
  • Community as quilt.
  • Community as cornerstone.
  • Community as embrace.
  • Community as power plant.
  • Community as symphony.
  • Community as expedition.
  • Community as vine.
  • Community as language.