This Is A Community
There will probably be business people and directors who advise against being this kind of honest, but what's the point of writing and blogging if you can't be transparent at least some of the time? So I'll be honest here - I was happy that it was over. It was time to just spend a few days not doing anything remotely related to any mission or singular focus.
After last year's annual showcase, I was exhausted.
As luck would have it, though, I found myself getting busier and more excited than before.
We had just declared to our little city of Lynchburg, Virginia that we were embarking on a "pursuit of greatness". A collective of artists and performers and poets, known finally as Spencer's Vanguard, was to advance the mission of The Listening and "be great" in all that we did and in everything we created. We identified greatness in our diversity, in our hope, in our hurt, and in the community around us. If anyone was going to lead the charge, we were at least going to throw our hats in the ring.
Who can guess what happened next?
We set out on this plan, not really knowing what was going to take place. We planned a few events, performed a bit, but ultimately...life went on. Careers advanced and relationships blossomed and shattered. Birthdays and funerals took place, not to mention the day-to-day muck and mire of life in 2017. In all transparency, it gets hard to worry about a stage when life happens to you.
It would seem that greatness had to wait. At first. The question became apparent; who were we?
Inspired by the legacy of Anne Spencer and the impact of the Soulquarians collective, Spencer's Vanguard, as well as The Listening, wanted to shift the local culture to recognize the performing arts as a key proponent in changing lives. We believed, and still hold the idea, that when looking at the different types of creativity and art that changed our lives, we could encourage and inspire others to do the same.
What we forgot, however, is that we can't embark on changing lives without looking at our own in the mirror in the process.
The community of The Listening, which includes Spencer's Vanguard, is a hodgepodge of artists, yes. But we are also parents. And students. And pastor's kids. And the children of immigrants. And suicide survivors. And teachers. And advocates. And "Game of Thrones" fans. And friends.
And we are also a part of this community. We aren't blind, and at this point in The Listening's existence, we hope you know this much about us - we try to stay as 'woke' as possible. We may not be a political or religious organization, but behind this incorporated status is a group of living, breathing people who are just as impacted by current events as you are.
Some of you may know Adam, one of our community members. He penned a piece, where he declared that "you are what you make". And we are about the business of making life-changing art. But what about the parts that don't happen on a stage? The icky parts? The boring parts? The scary parts? What about the silence that follows after the applause dies down - is that a part of us too?
In terms of pursuing greatness, it is indeed a journey that will take much longer than one calendar year. We recently announced our annual showcase event for this year: A Journey in Identity. The attempt behind this event is two-fold.
On one end, we want to showcase our journey, as artists, in recognizing parts of ourselves. On the other end, we want to reflect a questions that seems to have been floating around since last November...
Who are we, as a community/city/nation? Forget political parties and elections and "fake" news for a moment - who are we, really?
Let's take this journey. Together. It may not be neat or have the perfect conclusion, but what if that's a part of the journey towards greatness?
We hope you'll join us on October 28th at the Academy Center of the Arts-Warehouse Theater. Tickets are $12 in advance, and $15 at the door, and doors open at 6:30p.