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Spirit & Place Festival: Living the DREAM

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When DREAM, the theme for the 2015 Spirit & Place Festival was announced, a lightbulb went off for a group of 12 local artists.

Yet instead of recalling their own personal dreams for better health, schools or neighborhoods, they went back to what is believed by some as one of the first dreams known to man: Jacob’s dream.

Found in the Book of Genesis, it’s the biblical story of the son of Isaac, who flees his homeland in fear of his brother’s wrath after the death of their father. Along his journey to settle in a new land, Jacob decides to rest. While asleep, he dreams of a stairway leading from Earth to Heaven with angels ascending and descending, when the Lord appears and promises to give him the land where he’s resting. Subsequent dreams soon follow.

For months, artists from various disciplines (and religious backgrounds and beliefs) delved deeply into Jacob’s dreams with Rabbi Sandy Sasso and faculty from Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary through the “Religion, Spirituality & the Arts” seminar at Butler.

The outcome is an array of original poems, music, art and dance created for Wrestling with the Infinite, one of 31 events that make up this year’s Spirit & Place Festival. Featuring signature events and public conversations for all ages, Spirit & Place runs through Nov. 15 in various venues throughout the city.

The World is Filled with Ladders, references Jacob’s dream in which a ladder extends from Earth to Heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. The piece is part of Wrestling with the Infinite,  of the 2015 Spirit & Place Festival. - COURTESY SOFIYA INGER
  • Courtesy Sofiya Inger
  • The World is Filled with Ladders, references Jacob’s dream in which a ladder extends from Earth to Heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. The piece is part of Wrestling with the Infinite, of the 2015 Spirit & Place Festival.

Wrestling with the Infinite opened Nov. 7 at the Indianapolis Artsgarden and continues to offer daily programming, with artist visits, and encourages audiences to create poems, art, music and dance based on their own dreams. The event ends Nov. 14.

For visual artist Dan Cooper, one of the creators of Wrestling with the Infinite, Jacob’s dreams inspired a colorful acrylic on canvas depicting the conflict between Jacob and his brother Esau. “Jacob’s Dream” focuses on “crimes, conflicts and DNA,” says Cooper about the piece that took him three months to complete. Most of his time was spent perfecting the sky’s background.

Musician and composer Dr. Dawn Batson heard the sounds of steel drums from her native homeland of Trinidad and Tobago, while studying the biblical story.

Batson composed Dreams of Steel, which was performed at the opening ceremony for the show on Nov. 7 by the Indiana State University Steel Drum Band.

While composing, which took about a month to complete, Batson said it was that inner voice inside of Jacob that kept pulling at her.

“It was that voice that came through the most, searching for the answers to a number of questions,” she says. “That voice moves from instrument to instrument. (Jacob) has left everything that he knows and is believing (in God) to create something new. … There’s a note of hope.”

In addition to creating news works, the time these artists spent studying the biblical text together sparked a dialogue between people of different faiths, backgrounds and races, and a deeper understanding of their differences and similarities – which is one of the many goals of Spirit & Place.

“I know that everyone has a respect for other’s perspectives and their arts,” says Batson. “Through the arts, you don’t see race. You see the expression inside the person. All of those trappings that we put on ourselves as human beings disappear.”

Cooper says the experience gave him permission to interpret biblical passages in his own way, and an understanding that how we interpret reveals a lot about each of us.

It also left him with hope.

“My hope is that we create harmony through the creative arts and other disciplines,” says Cooper. “There are all of these different ways of communicating who we are, and this has helped to spur discussion and thought. We just want people of different backgrounds to see that we have a lot of things in common.”

Jacob’s Dream, by award-winning artist Dan Cooper depicts his interpretation of Jacob (the son of Isaac) and his dreams from the Book of Genesis. “My piece deals quite a bit with the intertwined lives of Jacob and his brother Esau. It also includes a Midwestern sensibility with the cornfield.” The piece is part of Wrestling with the Infinite. - COURTESY DAN COOPER
  • Courtesy Dan Cooper
  • Jacob’s Dream, by award-winning artist Dan Cooper depicts his interpretation of Jacob (the son of Isaac) and his dreams from the Book of Genesis. “My piece deals quite a bit with the intertwined lives of Jacob and his brother Esau. It also includes a Midwestern sensibility with the cornfield.” The piece is part of Wrestling with the Infinite.

Other arts events at Spirit & Place Festival

(Programs are free and open to the public, unless noted.)

5x5 Idea Competition: DREAM Indy

When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Nov. 12.

Where: Tube Factory artspace, 1125 Cruft St.

Info: (317) 721-8527, info@bigcar.org. RSVP by Nov. 11 (TODAY)

Five teams are allotted five minutes and five slides to pitch their ideas on how art can make Indianapolis a better place. The winning team will be chosen on the spot, and walk away with $10,000

The Inspiring Art of Quilting: Piecing Past & Present

When: 5 to 9 p.m., Nov. 13.

Where: Stutz Business & Arts Center, 212 W. 10th St.

Explore quilting displays, learn the history of African-American quilting from Freetown Village interpreters, and listen to experts from the Quilters Hall of Fame and internationally known African-American historian and folklorist Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi talk about the art form.

Studio in Bloom

When: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Nov. 14.

Where: Second Presbyterian Church, 7700 N. Meridian St.

Audiences will be surrounded by classical music, art supplies and open spaces, and encouraged to create in this non-concert hall music event. Wendy Muson, principal harpist for the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, will lead this experience.

Suite Dreams Are Made of These!

When: 2 to 4 p.m., Nov. 15.

Where: Central Library, Clowes Auditorium, 40 E. St. Clair St.

The Indianapolis School of Ballet will perform and short suite from its annual holiday classic, The Nutcracker. Children are invited to come onstage to explore the costumes, and participate in an introductory ballet workshop. The program and workshop is open to children of all abilities.

Of Horns and Halos: A Concert with Trio Amabile and Guests

When: 2 to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 15.

Where: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 6050 N. Meridian St.

This chamber music concert focuses on exploring dreams and fantasy, featuring the works of five composers.

Wrestling with the Infinite Recap: It is a weeklong program featuring original poems, music, art and dance inspired by the biblical story of Jacob’s dreams in the Book of Genesis. Part of the 2015 Spirit & Place Festival, it includes daily activities, artist visits and audience participation.

Programming includes:

    2 to 5 p.m., Nov. 12: Dance and rhythmic movements (with musician and composer Dr. Dawn Batson on percussions).

    11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 13: Poetry reading and writing.

    12:30 to 2 p.m., Nov. 14: Music and audience drumming.

Where: Indianapolis Artsgarden (inside Circle Centre Mall).

Cost: Free admission.

Info: www.spiritandplace.org.

Our friends at WFYI Productions were on hand at the Indianapolis Artsgarden Saturday for an afternoon of art, music, poetry and dance presentations as part of the Spirit & Place Festival. Go along with producer Will Baker as they learn about the exhibit.

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