Learn to Share: A Community Primer

On March 30, 2011, I held a Salon Discussion for I Heart Art: Portland about how we, as artists and creatives, can best connect to our community. Through two hours of fascinating conversation, we examined some of the best steps we can take to give back and contribute our creative gifts, as well as discussing some best practices and road blocks along the way.

I don't see myself as an expert on the subject by any means—I'm really just passionate about contributing to community and sharing our gifts with others. In fact, a lot of what I brought up that evening was pulled from a wonderful [albeit dense and academic] book by Lewis Hyde, called The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

I want to carry on the conversation that our group had that night and bring it to the larger community as a whole. During our discussion, I set the stage, then outlined four steps to heading in the right direction, and will talk about each one in due course, but first I want to throw out a few resources—homework, if you will—before we get started.

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

Lewis Hyde wrote the book in the early 80s, and the 25th Anniversary Edition has a wonderful Afterword that ties the concepts nicely into the digital age. As mentioned above, it's a dense read—a 385-page essay, in essence—but largely worth it. The first half is dedicated to historical, mythological and anecdotal evidence to support his argument, and the latter half is devoted to personal application, case studies in the lives of Walt Whitman and Ezra Pound, and modern implications. If you have the time, I suggest you read it.

Most of the base principles that I bring up in this subject of Connecting to Your Community are drawn from the book. While Hyde is primarily looking at the continued value of creativity in the modern world, I'm taking his arguments a step further with this hypothesis:

The best way to balance our commodity-driven culture is to contribute to the community through the open exchange of knowledge, ideas and information.

The Gift and the Commons: Creativity and the Common Good

Lewis Hyde visited Portland last year and gave lectures at both Lewis and Clark College and Pacific Northwest College of Art. While the roots of his lecture reach into his book (and couple of his other works), this particular talk examines intellectual property, copyright and present-day implications behind sharing gifts with others. The link above gives a video excerpt from the lecture, but the real meat is in the full-length audio podcast. You can download it and throw it on your favorite mobile device and listen at your leisure. It's about an hour and fifteen minutes long.

This lecture also has some nice ties into a Salon Discussion led by Diane Gilleland about The World of Free, so if that piques your interest, you'll definitely want to give it a listen first. Diane's also written some interesting articles about the subject. (See the related articles at the bottom of that post for more, and don't forget to read the comments.)

How To Steal Like an Artist (And 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me)

With serendipitous timing, Austin Kleon, an artist and writer living in, of all places, Austin, posted this article the day after the Salon Discussion, and I think it ties in quite nicely.

Go Forth and Study

So, while you're busy listening to lectures, reading blog posts and finding a copy of The Gift at Powell's, I'm going to work on Part One and leave you with this quote from the book:

All who have succeeded as artists are indebted to those who came before... [and sharing the wealth, physical or intellectual]... offers a concrete way for accomplished practitioners to give back to their communities, to assist others in attaining the success they themselves have achieved.

To be continued… Part One: Setting the Stage

Reblogged from I Heart Art: Portland. Originally posted on April 4, 2011.