“The Gathering” by Linda Prokop, Big Thompson River Flood, Loveland, CO, September 15, 2013; photo courtesy the Reporter-Herald
It’s Friday morning in mid-September; rain has been falling steadily for nearly three days, something that never happens in Colorado, and you have scheduled a major arts event to start in 6 hours. More than 30 writers, poets, and performers are slated to perform on the porch at the Feed & Grain over the next two days—seven installation artists have worked for weeks to create their site specific pieces inside; the tents are set up, the equipment is rented, the publicity has all gone out.
“install/story” is designed as an innovative art experience of all disciplines working in the avant-garde. Join painters, glass-blowers, performance artists, installation artists, and street artists as they transform the rugged, industrial rooms of the Feed & Grain into a hub of artistic energy. “Loveland Loves Literature” will also play this weekend for Arts @V the Feed & Grain and feature poets, dreamers and actors who will grace the stage of the Feed & Grain during the entire event.
But it’s been raining for nearly three days and it still is--and the news reports are building about massive floods in the canyons just west of town. What to do?
The choice is obvious. You postpone the event – and go help your neighbors and artists who live and work along the Big Thompson River. There is worse, much worse to come. For nearly a week, Loveland was cut in two by a raging river the likes of which were not even seen in the fabled 1976 flood. When the rains finally stop, “the world has changed.”
But the healing power of the arts can now begin. Even as our community continues to be stricken by the damage we see around us, our artists collectively got to work. Mud gets mucked out of studios and the Art Castings of Colorado Foundry; volunteers show up from everywhere to help salvage art works and secure buildings that have been damaged.
One week later, “Install/Story, a Contemporary Installation” exhibition opens its doors.
Its partner event, “Loveland Loves Literature,” features more than 30 writers, poets, actors and musicians, all performing at the Feed & Grain. A book created by Lynn Kincannon, “Art as Metaphor, Analogy and Allegory,” is introduced for sale as part of the weekend. Half the proceeds of the event’s admission fees and the weekend’s book sales will go to flood relief.
Unlikely Coalitions Grow Long-Term Benefits
One of Arts @ the Feed & Grain’s long-time sponsors, Uncle Benny’s Building Supply, offered free access to their salvage yards for all flood survivors to help them begin to rebuild their lives. “We are all one,” they write. We are all one.
Permanent Impacts from Temporary Events
As artists and community gathered for Install/Story and Loveland Loves Literature, small groups formed, sharing stories of the floods, quietly, privately – these groups started self-organizing to go help where they heard help was needed – a spare bedroom was offered, baby clothes were found in closets, a car was loaned to replace the truck washed away in the flood – another bucket brigade was scheduled for another mucking out party -- just neighbors coming together to see performances and exhibitions being moved to do what they could where they were for their neighbors.
Like the flood’s survivors, everyone is still a bit shell-shocked, a bit more cognizant of life’s fragilities--we know the road ahead will be long and twisting--and everyone is determined to keep on keeping on and the arts will help us do that.