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Reason #6: Art cultivates local character

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Reason #6: Local art can preserve traditions that provide a community with its particular character and identity.

In 2003, Rob and I helped start a fair trade store in downtown Three Rivers called World Fare. One of the things we’ve really enjoyed about the store has been witnessing the great creativity and character of artisan groups around the world. Fair trade has created a market for traditional crafts that would die out otherwise; for example, it’s hard to scrape together money for a set of onyx candleholders when food is scarce and starvation is a very real threat. By introducing traditional pieces of art into countries where people can afford luxury items, an income stream is created that helps economically disadvantaged villages perpetuate the skills that give their communities character. Stone sculptures symbolizing families of various sizes reflect the local resources and collective values of villages in Kenya. Banana leaves become nativities, reflecting the landscape and religious practices of Ecuador.
In our Three Rivers context, we hope that Huss School can be a space where people can begin experimenting at the intersection of local materials and their own imaginations and values. What does it mean to be people living at the intersection of three waterways? How can artifacts scavenged from the woods be reassembled into art? What qualities of our neighborhood make us feel angry or make us fall in love and how can we convey those feelings in images or songs?

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.