Beauty At The Table: Our First Arts Potluck in Review

empty living room

Just one week ago, we held our first Arts Potluck. It will not be our last. The invitation was simple. Bring some art and bring some snacks. In my living room, propped up on every chair we could find, 15 of us shared, listened and saw wonder-full art.

I began the night by sharing its inspiration – an event held during the Glen Workshop called The Thomas Parker Society (at least, I'm fairly certain that was the name). A few dozen people had crammed into a rented suite on the college campus where the Glen Workshop was held. We read stories, essays and poetry long into the night. It was beautiful, intimate, moving, and sometimes hysterically funny. It left me hungry for more.

Of course, we have plenty of creative folks right here in our city. Heck, right here in my neighbourhood. We could do this. In our own version, The Bleeding Heart Arts Potluck, the evening expanded to encompass any art form.

Here's how it worked for us.

TJ McLachlan shared first, with a bit of an extended time and focus, seeing as he was with us all the way from Vancouver's and Emily Carr University. Having worked with TJ McLachlan on some pre-Carr projects, it was inspiring to see how far he's come, how his ideas about what art is and what art does have evolved, and what his grand hopes for future projects are. TJ talked about large-scale sculpture, installed in nature, outside the culturally loaded context of the "white box gallery". He spoke about work that is not a metaphor for something, like 'tension' for instance, but is tension itself, showing us an example of a sculpture whose very materials are in tension. There were some big ideas (should art convey meaning and how?) and some great conversation. We even talked a bit about what it means to be pretentious, or not, and how those of us who label others as such may be the most pretentious of all.

More than all of that, our time with TJ and his very artistic wife Cora was a visit with friends. Community was perhaps the most beautiful thing on display all evening.

What followed – the work you all shared – was a kaleidoscope of creativity. Almost everyone brought something (in one case it was samosas wrapped in swiss chard – some very creative food). There were poetry readings. We heard an excellent concert review of The Replacements. An original song. Ink sketches of the Canadian North. A capella vocal performance. Paintings. Art made in collaboration with children in India. Lego and collage by my two kids.

But here is what sticks out for me.

It's the last piece before my kids – up too late – have to go to bed. Aaron and April Au are with us. Aaron, a part-time player with the ESO, pulls out his violin, stands just outside the circle, and plays Bach. Intricate, incredibly full Bach on a single violin. The sound is perfect. No one moves. We barely breathe. Except my kids. Jack is play conducting and they stifle nervous laughter. But they are listening. I survey the room. We are all listening. We are all realizing, at this moment, just how incredible this is.

It hits me all at once. I've been with hundreds of creative people for an intensive week, hundreds of miles away, at The Glen Workshop. But I don't need to travel at all to experience art, faith and community. I am blessed. I live here, on the fringe of Alberta Ave. Blocks away from this violin virtuoso. So close that here, in my living room, my kids get to experience something I never did. A house blessing. I choke back a few good tears.

Moments like this are why we do Bleeding Heart Arts Potlucks – why The Bleeding Heart does anything at all.

If you were not with us, and now, having read this, wish you were, I have succeeded.

What will you bring next time?


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