Years in the making, the first Keweenaw Interactive Art Walk took place on Saturday, September 30. We couldn’t have accomplished this feat of art without the willing feet and pens of those who joined us. Twenty writers from the Carrot Ranch Literary Community each wrote a single 99-word story in response to twenty paintings from TOJ at Red Rabbit Art Studio. We hung the paintings along a wooded trail and across a bog not far from the shore of Lake Superior and posted laminated printouts of each paired story. We tied jars to the trees to collect 1-word, 5-word, or haiku reflections from those walking the trail live or virtually.
How do I feel two days later? Like I got a huge vitamin boost of joy. What can be more joyful than collaborating with fellow human beings seeking a connection between art, nature, expression, creativity, and each other?
The day began with a 3 a.m. wake-up call from Lake Superior who reacted to a warm front with enough thunder to shake the house and lightning to illuminate the pre-dawn. Everyone across the Keweenaw Peninsula felt it and woke up. Next, came a downpour, followed by frantic scrolling through a weather app. It would be over by 10 a.m. We moved forward with the event but delayed hanging the artwork. Participants also waited to see what the weather was up to and came later, granting us a cushion of time.
The woods glowed with painted images, turquoise benches, and a neighbor’s borrowed geraniums and mums in pots. Comfort and color found in the wilds. And it was silent; a cacoon.
No, there was surf. Chickadees. Wind in the popples. A woodpecker. Rain-laded boughs dumping drops. The slugs were silent, shiny, and stuck to the labels on jars. I told one slug headed to Ann Goodwin’s story, “That Girl” to think better of it — she’s a vanquisher of slugs. Insect Nation whispered, “We are here, too,” and as I accepted that truth of nature a mosquito bit my knuckle. Easily, I slipped into a meditative state and felt held in this image of intersection between art and nature.
People arrived. Neighbors, ticket-holders, local artists. A waitress from the DreamLand bought a ticket before her shift. Grandchildren of summer lakers down the road ran to the trail. Chatter and giggles, banter, and calls joined the soundscape in layers. People listened when I explained the author-artist pairings. They commented on places outside the Keweenaw, cheered Pennsylvania for a good showing (four authors!), waved to Canada, and marveled at how people around the world could write together.
They got the Ranch Yarns! They understood the game; that characters from an author’s head escaped into life of their own. A. Kid wrote a response, and someone asked if the author used that voice for Kid in every story she lets Kid write. I had to explain about Pal. Well, and the whole Marge crew, Frankie, the Legumes, and the characters from other authors’ heads, even Harry the offshoot wandering yarnist. The audience understood the writing game and slipped into play. There’s no greater validation than an audience agreeing to go anywhere with artists — literary, musical, movement, visual.
I watched people watch. They viewed the art from different angles. They stood, sat, crouched. The deep contemplation hushed the humans. The surf carried our thoughts deeper and deeper. One woman began to cry. “This story, this story Kerry wrote. I see the painting differently now,” I heard her say. Another woman joined her and agreed. They talked about the painting, the story, their lives, and how the story expressed something neither could articulate before they read. Minutes earlier the two were strangers. Now they were having a deep, reflective conversation. I cried.
Happy tears. Joyous release. This coming together in art and nature. It was profound.
My intent was to post videos to give you all a virtual walk-thru but there was no internet or cell service from my post on the trail. Which was good. I decided to post the videos for the next challenge, and that’s when I realized my error. I have no explanation for why I set the deadline for the “Blade of Grass” for October 7. A certain kiddo pointed it out to me today. As joyous as the Art Walk was, the countdown to Baby Boo time has started, and I’m on multiple deadlines. I have to find that balance between caregiving, income, family, dreaming, and creative output.
The artist’s dilemma is not to force your art to be your work. I got to experience the pure joy of creation and collaboration on Saturday and it makes landing in the profit-driven linear world hard. Thus, I’m going to use my error as a speed bump. So, yes — writers have until October 7 to submit to the September 26: 99-word Story Challenge and I will post that October 12. In the meantime, I also realized I didn’t complete the Blanket Collection and will get that posted before I leave for Wisconsin on October 5. I appreciate your patience.
If you want to have a writing challenge this week, please go to the Virtual Art Walk page and scroll down to the art and story parings, and respond in the comments on this post with a 1-word, 5-word, 99-word, or haiku response. Be sure to indicate which pairing you are responding to by its number. We will pick responses to include in our commemorative booklet.
Now, let’s take a walk! Visit the Carrot Ranch YouTube Channel for a Virtual Tour Playlist.