#pentaculum2016 at Arrowmont School

#pentaculum2016 artists

What can I say about collaboration that hasn’t already been said? My much-anticipated week at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts for the annual Pentaculum gathering of artists proved inspiring and productive, to say the least. Having spent 31 out of 36 months on the road to write my first book, I had quite a clear sense for the power of a cross-disciplinary residency. But the “hum” of Pentaculum was notable, in large part because each medium had a coordinator who hand-picked hard-working, devoted artists that needed time to work without interruption. From professional sign painters, to sculptural ceramicists, to visual artists and functional potters, to textile artists, the writers fit right in–our words ended up on clay cups, embroidered into artworks, repeated at mealtimes, applauded during readings, etched into signs, brushed onto archival paper in inks and paints of all colors, and quoted or linked across the Internet. Likewise, other mediums shaped our paragraphs and images, sparked new ideas, inspired a tattoo, and enlivened our worldview as writers.

Curating an event like this meant that everyone–and there were nearly 90 of us–hit the ground running. Very quickly, we soared. Here are some highlights:

Author Mendy Knott, who blogs at Hillpoet, captured a few parallels between the various mediums working across campus, in her vivid descriptions: “…Hear the tapping of strong, tapered fingers shaping metal with tiny tools, squeezing exactly where that link should be closed for the coveted earrings or the silver chain…[The writers] pick through their brains for the perfect image: a peeled apple becomes a full moon; dryer sheets can never soften the blow of bad news. Lights glow on faces concentrated on screens. Fingers pause over notebooks, waiting.”

Writer and bookmaker Suzi Banks Baum, who blogs at Rising Forth, summarized the emotion and effort of the week nicely: “We set to work on January 2, a Saturday afternoon and did not stop until the following Friday night. We did three public readings in the library, then a command performance in our living room. And on our last night, after hours of cheering each other on, inspiring and daring each other over delicious meals that concluded with heaping bowls of banana pudding, we staked our dangerous writing out for each other…After writing all week long we were reluctant to leave the haven Arrowmont provided. And mostly, hesitant to abandon the shelter of devotion we had struck up in our hearts, propped by the tent poles of our discipline, waterproofed by shed tears and hunkered at cliff’s edge, daring together.”

Poet and Contemplative Arts teacher Miriam Hall, who blogs at Memoir Mind, worked on her memoir. At the end of the week, she offered several honest, instructional posts about the challenges and rewards of her process, which explored …”That fine edge between wisdom and neurosis, right here in our own stories.”

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