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Spring Break 2010: Day four

Raking: check. Well, the front yard at least. One of the themes of the week has been adjusting our sense of scale with the school as tasks take more time, more people and taller ladders than we expect. That said, our feeling after our last morning of school work was that we made quite a bit of progress. The gym is cleaner than it has been in a while, the building is somewhat aired out, some of the stuff-sorting work is finished and we’re starting to get set up for a potential rummage sale fundraiser. Sure, there’s a lot more to do, but there’s always going to be a lot more to do. We finished our time together working at Huss with a photo in front of the giant leaf pile and a reading of Oscar Romero’s famous prayer.

Pile o' leaves

After leaving the school, we enjoyed a more leisurely lunch than we’ve had all week and took some time after we ate just to rest and read and nap–a welcome space of quiet. Just before 3:00, we commenced our art explorations. First, we walked a half block to the Carnegie Center for the Arts to see the current exhibits, as well as some of the creative learning spaces within the building. Then, we piled in the van (leaving Rob behind to staff World Fare) to visit Larry-Michael and Becky Hackenberg at their wetland property along the St. Joseph River called Floodplain meadow. We took a short walk around to see and hear how they’ve worked to steward the marshy “fast food restaurant for birds,” honoring the creatures and history of their place. Afterwards, we gathered in their warm, cozy living room with hot cups of tea to hear their thoughts about the arts in the Three Rivers community. Larry-Michael is a watercolor painter and Becky is a photographer, as well as the founder of the Three Rivers Artists Guild. They shared some wonderful insights about the relationship between art and place. Larry-Michael expressed how art often serves as a record of the ecology of a place, helping viewers see beauty in their community. He recounted a story of a painting he did of a bosc pear from Corey Lake Orchards, which he used for his series of greeting cards. When someone from the orchard came across his cards, she saw herself in the art, exclaiming, “Hey! I’m Corey Lake Orchard!” Later, when he displayed his cards at the orchard during the annual fall color tour, the farming patriarch of the orchard family took three bosc pears and gave them to Larry-Michael, expressing a common understanding of their beauty. The farmer saw beauty in his pears, and so did Larry-Michael–enough to create a painting of them, which then reinforced the farmer’s feelings about the fruits of his labor. Like many other folks we’ve met with this week, Larry-Michael and Becky also wanted to hear from the students, particularly about why they chose to come to Three Rivers for spring break and how they see art being part of both Huss School and their lives in the future.
Our departure was a continuation of the day’s theme as Liz, who’s been working on a series this week for a photography project, took a portrait of Larry-Michael and Becky with the marsh in the background. We said our thank yous and good byes and headed back downtown to see Police, Adjective at the Riviera Theatre, which we’d just visited and toured yesterday. The film was sometimes excruciatingly slow and quiet, but intentionally so, as the story followed a Romanian police detective trailing a group of pot-smoking teen-agers. Though many first reactions were, “What the…?” our conversation afterwards and over dinner helped uncover some of the film’s complexities and purpose related to themes of language and a culture negotiating its post-Communist identity.
Our evening meal was a delicious collection of Asian delights, including bi bim guk su, a spicy Thai lemongrass soup with fresh cilantro, kim chi and citron tea. In a town that has good pub food, but not much in the way of really creative cuisine, it’s great to be able to call on our friend Julie to make ethnic dishes with fresh, local ingredients as part of her start-up, on-the-side catering. Just like Rob’s and my experience going to college in the middle of cornfields, we’re exploring how to make our own fun when someone’s not providing it for us.
Matt, a local artist friend, joined us today, and Julie joined us later for the movie and dinner. J.D. Yoder and Bruce Snook also made brief appearances at the school. Oh, and let’s not forget Taggy–J.D.’s curious and friendly pup, so-named for her habit of tagging along. Overall, another great day of connections, of the human, animal, culinary and idea varieties.

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Kirstin is a member of the *culture is not optional core community and is the Head Caretaker at GilChrist Retreat Center.