Tag Archives: Bat of Minerva

Prologue to Possibilities – New Years Eve Post 2015

Poking around can be hazardous for the inquiring mind…At times one falls into the trap of probing the object rather than pursuing the allure of the poking process itself. And thus the story of how I have been waylaid of late by a related, but tangential, project that has captured my imagination, expanded my horizons, and taken a good deal of time…..As we wrap up 2015 I’d like to share the project, in part to explain the pause in the Pokes, but also to tell you what’s up and to invite your ideas.

As many readers know, the resurgence of the arts in Northeast Minneapolis reflects, embraces and expands this vibrant community.   As is their wont, practitioners of the myriad facets of the literary arts have established their unique presence — in the wings. The work of writers flows from their fertile minds and laconic pc’s; their words are transmitted through disparate channels that mediate between the creator and the reader – editors, publishers, printers, booksellers; their ideas inspire individual readers not massive crowds. Thus, the voices and thoughts of those whose creative energies contribute so much to the totality of the arts need a gentle push to step to the main stage.

In an earlier post I described my involvement in an ambitious video project designed to amplify the voices of the Northeast community’s literary artists. The Voices of Northeast collaboration is part of and builds on a long-standing video project initiated by North Side resident and scholar Peter Shea. Shea’s initiative, known by the enigmatic series title “The Bat of Minerva”, explores the lives of thoughtful and creative people so that their unique insights reach a general viewing audience. The “Bat” series is cablecast on Channel 6 (Metro Cable Network) and archived at the University of Minnesota Institute for Advanced Studies. (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/voices-of-northeast-minneapolis-captured-and-shared-on-video/)

In recent months Peter and I have collaborated to initiate a series of interviews with a range of creative people who, in various and sometimes invisible ways, reflect and support the literary arts as essential and enriching players in a vibrant arts community in Northeast Minneapolis. The videos are accessible on the IAS website (http://ias.umn.edu/2014/07/29/northeast/)

Ours is a low-key project. Each week Peter engages in a wide-ranging discussion – not an interview but a conversation – with one or two individuals who enrich, expand — and share with others — the literary vibrancy of this neighborhood.

My role, that of identifying, contacting and “selling” the concept to those who contribute so much to the literary scene, has enriched my appreciation of this community – and absorbed more than a few hours and days.

At year’s end Peter and I have been looking back to assess the impact and the future of this model.  One thing we have learned is that the possibilities know no limits – each guest introduces us to other resources – a person, an agency, a player – of which we were hitherto unaware. We know that we have barely tapped the mother lode of players in the world of words that thrives in our midst. Another learning is that the means of sharing the ideas and the words is expanding exponentially. We recognize that access to the recorded interviews cries out for attention.

We are also coming to realize that this simple grounds-up approach offers a frequently unpredictable alternative to cookie-cutter interviews with known subjects… We are coming to appreciate that this is technology harnessed and shaped to accomplish the vision that inspired the early proponents of public access television.

For now, our focus is on two priorities we hope to pursue in the months and year to come. One is to replicate the simple process that has created and sustained our efforts to date. At present we are exploring the possibility of expanding our sphere to explore the stories of artists who live or work on the North Side, which quietly embraces a rich, diverse, burgeoning community of creative artists of every stripe. We are eager to explore the many faces of that reality, including individuals and supporting agencies that together shape a rich arts environment in North Minneapolis.

Peter, the inveterate scholar, and I, the unreconstructed librarian, are also concerned with the challenge to harness the potential of technology to enhance access to the videos that are the tangible product of this project. The first and essential step is a fait accompli – the Voices of Northeast tapes are in the public domain and securely archived for download and editing to suit the user’s purpose.

The need now is to take the next step, to apply the tools of access – aka cataloging/coding – that render the videotaped treasures universally and permanently accessible. The goal is to organize the complex collection of video interviews in a standard system that assures that any seeker is able to search, identify, view or download, then learn and share the recorded words of a diverse community of interest.

So, on the one hand, this is an explanation of the temporary absence of Poking Around. On the other hand, it’s a heads up on what this pilot project has accomplished – and what we are thinking about for the future.

Ideas welcome – especially if you have suggestions of people, places, projects and other possibilities into which we should poke in 2016!

 

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Voices of Northeast Minneapolis Captured and Shared on Video

Kudos to Allie Shah for a fun piece in the Strib about day tripping in Northeast Minneapolis. (http://www.startribune.com/day-trip-historic-northeast-minneapolis-maintains-old-world-charm-while-embracing-its-new-status-as-a-hotbed-of-hipness/329547671/#1

Though some of us worry that NE is becoming just too trendy we are pleased that the writer included the neighborhood’s bookish gems among the treasures. In fact, bibliophiles and their ken can actually take a virtual trip to a growing number of Northeast’s gems literary via a video project with which I am engaged. The project-sine-nomine aims to shine a light on the breadth and depth, and invisibility, of Northeast’s broadly defined “community of the book” and the diverse voices of the community.  Find the existing tapes here – more to come on a regular basis   (http://ias.umn.edu/2014/07/29/book/)

The initiative is based on the long-time work of Peter Shea who for several years has produced videotaped conversations with people who have much to say; tapes of his series, enigmatically entitled Bat of Minerva, are cablecast on the Metro Cable Network and archived at the University of Minnesota Institute for Advanced Studies. I wrote about Peter in an earlier post (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/here-comes-peter-the-magnificent-peter-shea/) Together we are now producing a series of video conversations with bookish individuals who live or work in Northeast Minneapolis and who give voice to that vibrant community.

We started this project several months ago when Peter taped video interviews with Chris Fischbach, 20-year veteran and now CEO of Coffeehouse Press, noted writer Sarah Stonich, and publisher Michelle Filkins. During the time Peter also had a conversation with storyteller and librarian Jerry Blue whose untimely death shook the storyteller community as well as patrons Jerry served as librarian at Bottineau and St Anthony Village libraries. We took a break when Peter received a grant to study and travel in Austria and Germany – and I was full-time outreaching to further the cause of open government.

We have reconnected, re-focused and re-located this effort to give voice to the literary arts in Northeast. Best of all, we have made arrangements with the library at the American Craft Council, another Northeast treasure, to videotape the conversations from that elegant site. In fact, our first conversation was with our hosts who speak with experience and vision of the ACC. The ACC and the library are gems of Northeast – and the people with whom we have worked are committed to this community. http://ias.umn.edu/2015/08/28/craft/. The first conversation from the ACC was with ACC Education Director Perry Price and Jessica Shaykett who is the librarian at the ACC Council, a unique global resource.

Every Friday afternoon we share the joy of learning with folks who give voice to those who have deep thoughts and much to say about the literary life that lies somewhat beneath – sometimes inspired by – the breweries and pubs that are the draw of today’s Northeast.

Among those hour-long conversations are recent chats with Scott Vom Korghnett of Eat My Words bookstore, storyteller Larry Johnson, Key of See Storytellers and Veterans for Peace, who spearheaded a recent gathering of public access pioneers, local author John Jodzio, video animator/producer John Akre and Carolyn Halliday whose studio is in NE and whose beautiful fabric art is on display in the ACC Library.

Fun forthcoming tapings include conversations with local celeb “Mary at Maeve’s” the congenial proprietor who provides both a platform and a hangout for local and emerging writers and bibliophiles.   We will also be talking with Holly Day and Sherman Wick, authors of Walking Twin Cities and a helpful digital guide to walking tours of Northeast, as well as Jaime Gjerdingen of LitKnit, all of whom have Northeast and bookish connections.

As we continue to learn more and to connect with the expanding breadth and depth of the reading/writing community in artsy/trendy Northeast Minneapolis we welcome ideas. So many stories to tell, so little time;  we are inspired by viewer interest, technology and thoughts of how to build the Northeast Minneapolis community.

Mattie Clark, African American storyteller who “followed her sacred calling”

Storytelling is a practice as old as human history – it is storytelling that has preserved and passed down much of the history of humankind. Still, it is not until more recent times that the storytelling has received its deserved respect as performance art. One African American woman who elevated the art of storytelling to its current status is Mattie Clark.

Mattie Clark’s story is one that calls out to be heard during Black History Month. Because Mattie died at the age of 69 in 2010 it remains to others to celebrate her life contributions.

Born in Bourbon, Mississippi Mattie May Anthony spent her early years living a hardscrabble life in a very large and poor Black family. At age 15 she married 19-year-old Danny Robinson Clark. The young couple moved to Minneapolis in the 60’s.

Always a storyteller in her soul Mattie began a lifelong of with others the stories about African American culture that she had learned from her grandmother. Storytelling filled much of her day as a volunteer teacher’s aide in the Minneapolis schools. In time, sharing those stories became her full time profession. She told stories to children in schools and libraries, to the elderly in nursing homes, to homeless people, corporate executives and academics.   She was frequently sponsored by the Minnesota History Center, the Science Museum and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Mattie was also active in the early days of the Twin Cities Black Storytellers Alliance, a collaboration that remains an active member of the National Association of Black Storytellers. NABS, founded by storytellers Mary Carter Smith of Baltimore and Linda Goss of Philadelphia, was incorporated in 1990. The founding of the organization reflects the emerging interest in storytelling as a means of sharing the experience of African Americans, a movement of which Mattie was very much a part.

In 2006 Mattie was honored as an Esteemed Elder by NABS; the prestigious Award honors the memory of Hugh “Brother Blue” Morgan, a Harvard professor and storytelling icon who shared thoughts that echo the work of Mattie Clark: “If you are not here to change the world, if you just want to get rich, you can laugh all the way to the bank – Me, I’m better off here in the street with my honor, with my sacred calling.”

Those who speak or write of Mattie Clark recall the tough jobs she took on to supplement her modest income from her beloved storytelling. At other times Mattie told stories in other media. In the 1980’s she wrote a column known as “Diamond in the Rough” for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder where she shared good news from and about her Minneapolis community. Mattie’s voice was also heard on radio station KMOJ where she hosted a gospel music program and interviewed guests who told stories of their neighborhoods and programs.

Without exception, everyone recalls her laugh and the “sunshine” she shared with all around her, including her husband and four children

The one person who best remembers Mattie Clark is her beloved husband of 53 years. Danny Robinson Clark is a professional actor who has appeared on stages from Broadway to the Guthrie, most recently in the Guthrie production of Abe Lincoln and Uncle Tom in the White House. Danny Clark shared his memories of Mattie in a reflection recorded in January 2014; his loving memories of Mattie are captured in one of a series of interviews with Danny videotape by Peter Shea for the Bat of Minerva series.

Danny’s is a poignant tribute to a magnificent African American woman who “followed her sacred calling” to share the stories of Black Americans with all who would take time to listen. Take time to view and listen to Danny’s reflections on the life he shared with Mattie Clark. (http://ias.umn.edu/2013/07/30/clark/) The interview is one of four in the series; each can be streamed, audio or podcast video.   View them all or scroll to Mattie’s story recorded January 28, 2014. )

 

 

 

Here Comes Peter! The Magnificent Peter Shea

Writing about Peter Shea, his quietly amazing projects and his magnificent mind, is no easy task.  As my then-young son once observed, Peter is just so “Peter-ish.”  Any profile illuminates but a single facet of a multi-faceted man of ideas.

For example, if you have to ask “Why the Bat of Minerva”? then you probably don’t know Peter Shea – yet.   The Bat is Peter’s long-running cable show (15 years plus – Peter’s not so sure of the inaugural date.) is a midnight Saturday and Sunday night regular on Metro Cable Network/Channel 6 in the Twin Cities.  Peter says that the format, in which a disembodied Peter poses questions from off-camera “allows me, a shy person, to have conversations I want to have and to pursue lines of inquiry with real people rather than with books and articles. …and it does some diffuse good for the community, in several dimensions: providing a model of civil, extended conversation, giving people ideas about the lives they could live, getting ideas and ways of working into circulation, helping bright and under-exercised people realize what kinds of challenging work are available to them.”

Over the years the soft-spoken Peter has posed thought-provoking queries to scores of famous scholars, authors, scientists, Americans on the rise, global leaders.  In recent times the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota has archived The Bat so the hour-long interviews are streamed for those who missed the midnight premiere. A sampling of recent interviews suggests the breadth and tone of Peter’s guests:

  • October 6, 2010 – Juliet Schor, a professor of Sociology at Boston College where her research focuses on trends in work and leisure, consumerism, the family, and economic justice. Most recently she is the author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth (2010),
  • September 29, 2010 – Mike Tidwell, author of Bayou Farewell and founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
  • August 30, 2010 – Rob Gilmer, a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at the University of Minnesota. In the fall of 2010, he will be teaching Oil and Water: The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010, a course which has garnered national attention.
  • August 20, 2010 – Paul Barclay, a professor of History at Lafayette College where his research interests include Japanese empire, especially in Taiwan, frontier studies, and the use of images as historical documents or instruments of ideology.
  • August 15, 2010 – Ann Waltner, a professor in both the Department of History and the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures and director of the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, talks about Matteo Ricci’s 1602 map of the world, recently acquired by the James Ford Bell Library.
  • August 5-15, 2010 – Minnesota Fringe Festival

Though these are the most recent, the full list of interviews over the years is astounding – Eugene McCarthy, John Davis, Rosalie Wahl are among Peter’s favorites. He also mentions  Maja Cerar (violinist), Carolyn Walker Bynum (medievalist), Morton Subotnik (composer), Andrew Light (environmental ethicist) and Ann Sharp (educator).  The Bat website lists the boundless and boundary-less library of videos Peter has produced since the early days of The Bat when Peter’s two sons (now grown) ran the cameras and, Peter hopes, “got some of the message.” Peter, who allows he’s not much into numbers, produces some impressive ones, e.g. some 82,000 visits  to the IAS website and nearly 10,000 video views since Fall 2008.

True to form, Peter has plans.  One big plan is just unfolding.  In a new series entitled Meet the Neighbors Peter, who also works with Shalom Hill Farm near Windom,  has begun interviewing members of the rural community for cablecast on community cable then archived in a blog.  He’s also been asked by the U of M Department of English to profile all willing faculty – of course he’d like to expand that to other departments.  In general, Peter hopes to produce “rich and coherent archives.”  He cites, for example, “a fine collection of interviews from the Spark Festival of Electronic Music” and a “small but growing collection of interviews done in connection with the Minnesota Fringe Festival.”  One oral history project underway, documentation of the history of the philosophy for children movement.  High on the list of Peter’s current enthusiasms is collaboration on expanding access to  the lectures from “Oil and Water: The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010” a U of Minnesota course which IAS is providing online through the Bat.

Peter’s hopes for a bright technology future include great confidence in the future of cable, primarily because “the standard media have messed up fine productions with commercial interruption and commercial packaging to an extent that seems to me suicidal.”  At the same time, equipment is improving and coming down in cost so that “normal people with normal time resources can do interesting niche programming, and the shortcomings will be more than compensated by the lack of commercial distortion and the freshness and immediacy of low to the ground production.”  This offers unique possibilities for rural Minnesotans, Peter expects.  Other dreams include visions of easy archiving and repackaging, Internet 2, and every viewer both a producer of control of his or her own access options.

Learn more about Peter’s background, plans, persona and style by watching an interview archived on the IAS site.

You will never keep up with Peter’s fertile mind and high hopes – to keep abreast of the tangible products, watch the Bat of Minerva website or tune in to Channel 6 at midnight on any Saturday or Sunday.