6th Annual Art & Social Change inspires participants in work and play

Fifteen Millennials from across the United States and from Europe, Mexico and Canada converged at InterPlayce July 20-July 31 for InterPlay’s 6th annual Art & Social Change gathering for young artists and activists.

11822526_10153307018814279_704961481585031536_nDuring the two-week program participants between the ages of 19 and 36 were introduced to InterPlay forms of movement, storytelling and song as “sneaky deep” ways for building artistic skill, leadership ability and strong community.

To support and inspire young thought leaders, daily practice connected “play” with pertinent social issues including racial injustice, gender inequality and gentrification.

“I am constantly amazed at the level of passion and commitment within these special groups of Millennials,” said Cynthia Winton-Henry, one of the co-founders of InterPlay and the primary organizer of the yearly gathering. “They already have so much wisdom about making art and making change in the world.”

Phil Porter, InterPlay’s other co-founder remarked on how quickly the group connected.

“Although they were strangers to each other when they first entered the room, it seemed to me that the group bonded really quickly—even by the end of the first day. The InterPlay process definitely speeds up the relationship-building but I also think they were just so happy to be in a room with others with a deeply shared commitment.”

Field trips to businesses in the East Bay exemplified how art, social change and conscious commerce can successfully intersect.

Participants toured Creative Growth, a non-profit visual arts center in Oakland providing art programs, independent living training, counseling and vocational skills to adult artists with developmental, mental and physical disabilities.

“I had to put on my sunglasses to hide my weeping,” said Kassi Dephinia, a writer, performer and visual artist. “I’m a disabled artist struggling with psychological pain and diagnoses of mental illness. Before this program I’d been researching and seeking organizations that make the arts accessible for disabled artists, and fretted when I found none in my area. This experience made it clear that of the many causes I’m passionate about, this will be the one I focus on first.”

At Impact Hub Oakland, a co-working and events space for business professionals invested in social and environmental change, participants learned about the international network of Impact HUB spaces and how each reflects the interests and priorities of its community. Other excursions included trips to Alameda Redux, an Alameda-based studio space and gallery featuring artwork and merchandise made from reclaimed material; Redwood Regional Park; and Goat Rock Beach.

Another highlight were regular “Art Shares” where participants were invited to share their personal stories and inspirations using song, movement, improv and storytelling.

“Sharing my story using dance and being witnessed was incredible. I got so much more out of it than I imagined,” said Kelsey Blackwell, a writer and dancer. “I now see how my personal journey is supporting me in my big work. My goals feel possible.”

The two-week training culminated with an improv performance and graduation ceremony in which participants danced, ran and jumped, down a Soul-Train style line while celebrants threw glitter, feathers and confetti.

Porter empowered attendees to use the InterPlay forms in their work and in daily life during a graduation speech (much of it in a made up language) which concluded the evening and two-week training.

“The whole experience stimulated me to reflect on my life and the role creativity plays in it,” said Stephan Marchant, an art therapist from Belgium. How do I invite creativity into my life, and which practices can I cultivate to continue to honor the creative process?”

Echoed Dan Dilliplane, a teacher and director:

“InterPlay’s focus on the creative tools of the body and on embodied ways of knowing is just what I needed to push my work to the next level. I hope to continue to develop the connections that I made in this program, and I know that some of the InterPlay tools and exercises I learned during this training will be finding their way into my classroom this fall.”

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