Course: The Arts and Community Building (2021)
Faculty Mentor: Jenina Lepard
Editor’s Note: Sue Blythe is a regular participant in the Wilmette Institute community and hosted an Interfaith Devotional and Climate Conversation Series with the Wilmette Institute in the Fall of 2020. What follows are some of Sue’s reflections on her learning and aspirations for future projects. We wish Sue all the best as she continues to plant, germinate and sprout her ideas in her community.
During the Arts and Community Building course, I realized that I am an initiator who needs to find people to collaborate with who will be inspired and arise to take the “seed idea” in their own direction. I have started lots of conversations and generated some interest, but typically, few are inspired to take action.
Recently our Bahá’í Area Teaching Committee provided a book for each Bahá’í in our cluster as a way of initiating meaningful conversations. I delivered books to three people, and offered to spend a little time reading from the book and doing some kind of artistic expression. All three declined, but one left the door open as I was leaving. I will go back with my markers and watercolors and see what happens.
The course renewed my belief that I have a role to play in kindling the wildfire that will be led by the youth. In the 1990s, I remember knowing that and acting on it with a program of “Teaching Peace through Children’s Songs.” For the past twenty years, however, I’ve kept that role hidden while I’ve designed a statewide program to facilitate expressions through the arts for a sustainable, just, and peaceful future. I realize that, for that program to work, we need participation from the art teachers in the schools. One way to accomplish this is through the Florida Museum of Natural History, which has art competitions for each of their exhibits. I will propose a community-wide art competition for all ages to support a traveling exhibit based on the museum’s series, “Our Changing Climate.” I’ll write it into our collaborative storytelling adventure, “On the Road to 2030 and Beyond.”
In addition, the course taught me that I can’t do it all by myself. I will ask for help from the Area Teaching Committee and the Race Amity Committee to support two programs that I want to establish: an interfaith webinar/workshop series for Summer 2021 that will lead to a community-engagement course in Fall 2021 and a full community-wide climate conversation-to-action program for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022.
In the coming days, I will continue to engage in my own artistic pursuits and invite others to do them better, more artistically, more professionally. When the community-wide climate conversation-to-action program is in full swing, we’ll have the Florida Museum of Natural History coordinating all the Florida universities and schools and many outdoor learning centers—and Disney Studios and Universal Studios. Together, they will facilitate artistic expressions of Pacha and the Game (with Buckminster Fuller’s World Game, the Earth Charter Game and the EarthFlash! Games Show) to make a world that works for our one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny.
A friend once called me a “Master Pollinator,” sharing ideas, projects, and programs from an amazing variety of individuals and organizations. I will expand that image to express the concept of bumbling me, heavy with pollen from one flower, looking for the right flower to light on next.
Bringing words of wisdom from the sacred texts of the world’s religions into the climate conversation is the leaven needed to bring the story to life. We are all watching, waiting for the Return of the Manifestation. We are dreaming of and praying for the Most Great Peace. Blessed are the peacemakers. Who are they? What are they doing? How can we help? How can we collaborate to amplify the voices and share the expressions through the arts?
That’s the webinar/workshop series I want to present over the summer, working with children, youth, adults and elders.
I believe that somehow Brilliant Star Magazine, Bahá’í Blog, International Environment Forum, Bahá’í Chair for World Peace and the Bahá’í International Community have a role to play in the collaborative storytelling adventure version of the interfaith climate movement with GreenFaith, Interfaith Power and Light, Parliament of the World’s Religions/Climate Change, Charter for Compassion/Religions, Spirituality and Interfaith, Religion and Security Council, Spirituality and Sustainability Global Network, Florida Interfaith Climate Actions Network and so many others.
I need to find the right people to consult with. I’m reaching blindly, but I trust that the right people will read this and say “Oh! I want to help tell this story.”