April 10th, 2013

Coffee, tea and community

by Emily Vanest

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

Kurt Vonnegut

If you’re in search of the heart of any community, stop into the local coffee shop.  This is where days begin, plans are made, and friends connect.  This week, we’ve enjoyed seeing our community come out for the fabulous coffee at our new, long-anticipated neighbor, Foundry Provisions.  We’ve loved tucking into a booth (yes, every day for the past week) and watching the place fill up with our friends and neighbors.

This week, in the City Gallery, we’ve made some new friends — Berenice Rarig, visiting from Perth, Australia, and her two studio assistants Shannon Johnston and Tim Goldsmith — introducing them to Indianapolis, hearing their stories, and sharing art,  local coffee, and our love of community.  In 2011, Shannon Johnston, whose work shows in the City Gallery this month, left American coffee culture bound for a new life in Australia.   Right away, she began looking for a way to connect.  “I learned to meet my new community over cups of tea.  It became how I got to know people and became familiar with my new neighborhoods.  As I collected new experiences, people, and customs, I collected the remnants of these moments, often in the form of tea bags.”

tea bundle crop

Téte a téte, Shannon Johnston

The tea bag labels, saved from her many tea time conversations, come together in the piece Téte a téte.  The labels, bound together in groups of 60, represent time passing, intimate time spent getting to know others.  Each little gift bundle has a name, reminding her of the person who shared those tea bags and stories with her.

Her piece, The Remnant, a long roll of stitched together used tea bags became another reflection of community shared over cups of tea.  It references the journey we’ve all been on  — being used up, thrown away, “leftover.”  The bags are broken, deconstructed.  But then they become something beautiful, stitched together with others . . . a community.  A community is something fluid.  It requires flexibility. And you can always add one more.

tim in gym

First Friday at the Harrison Center, April 5, 2013

Tim Goldsmith’s Figures, is a community of stick figure drawings gathered from people of all ages and walks of life from around the world.  It gets added to by every community where he travels.  “Most of the people [who’ve drawn and named these figures] have never met each other or even have knowledge of each other’s existence.”  Yet, each figure, like each person, has a name, an identity, and is given a place in the whole.  And there’s room for more.

We invite you this month to visit the City Gallery.  Shannon, Tim and Berenice all have several community-based pieces that need our city’s signature before they keep travelling around the world.  Welcome our visiting artists, share a cup of coffee or tea (save the label and the bag!), draw a stick figure, knit some stitches into Shannon’s Scarf to Hug a Community.  Come connect with us.  And have a cup of coffee at the Foundry on your way out.