Sunday, May 03, 2009

Getting Started

Womb-world paradigm
Understand in time
It’s a sweet investigation
We’re learning rope by rope
Climbing hope by hope
In every combination

And that’s okay
No, it’s not the way it should be
But that’s okay
It’s wild and it’s unique
And that’s okay
Yeah, love’s the magic number
And that’s okay
Come on, we’re only getting started . . .

From “Getting Started”
by Buffy Sainte-Marie
(from the 1992 album, Coincidence and Likely Stories)

Earlier this afternoon I attended In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre’s annual MayDay Parade in South Minneapolis.

As usual, I visited the staging area for the parade just as things were getting started. I’ve discovered that this is a great place to get some really good photographs of the people and puppets as they prepare to carry the message of the parade’s theme to the tens of thousands of people waiting expectantly along Bloomington Ave. from 26th to 34th Sts. to Powderhorn Park, where the parade culminates with an annual Tree of Life Ceremony.

The theme for this year’s 35th annual parade was “Our Common Treasury - Dig It!” According to the parade guide:

Each MayDay we celebrate the twining together of two roots of traditional MayDay celebrations: The Green Root honoring the green energy of the earth - spring! And the Red Root honoring the work of human hand, heart, and mind. This year we celebrate red + green = brown = the ground!

I’ll share more about this theme in a follow-up post - one that will contain images of the actual parade. For now, here are some photos of things “getting started” at this afternoon’s parade. These photos are accompanied by an inspiring excerpt from the MayDay 2009 guide. Enjoy!

From Seeds to Full Bloom
The MayDay Parade Creation Process

No national corporate logos. No pop culture icons. No waving royalty in gas-guzzling vehicles. MayDay, as parades go, breaks the mold. In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre’s annual MayDay Parade and Festival has been a vibrant example of art as community building in the Twin Cities area for 35 years. In an era when art is seen mainly as something to buy, and activism is often narrowly defined as protesters disrupting the system, HOBT’s MayDay Parade and Festival is an annual embodiment of what happens when communities pull together and art and activism meet.

For many of us in this northern climate, the MayDay Parade is a time to celebrate the coming warmth with towering hand-built puppets and masks, music, and performance in the street. The essence of the parade is rooted in the local community and contemporary issues, concerns, and visions for a better world.

Everything in the parade is hand-built; every idea grows out of community. Early every year, participants and artists brainstorm and articulate a different theme in open community meetings. People from the community share their hopes and fears, dreams and concerns, and from these the year’s theme germinates. The team of staff artists then spends many hours conversing, digging deeper, and critiquing ideas to bring forth the theme and images for the current year’s parade and ceremony.

When the community workshops begin on the first Saturday of April, In the Heart of the Beast Theatre’s main auditorium is converted into a giant art studio. Throughout the month, everyone is invited to the sixteen public workshops, and all who enter participate in the building of this communal story through the creation of puppets, masks, floats, and costumes. Like a garden, the theater begins with all the potential of bare, rich soil. Within a month, the auditorium is overflowing with puppets, masks, and the creations that you see today.

On the first Sunday of May, it all spills out into the streets. Puppets come alive, people dance, sing and play through the streets and into Powderhorn Park. Today, you are probably joined by more than 50,000 participants and spectators from near and far. Diverse neighbors have come together in dialogue about current issues and identified a communal focus. The creative process gives voice to issues and concerns. Together, artists and area folks have created this parade, which dissect problems in our society, but also envisions a better alternative. It is here that art galvanizes bonds between neighbors, evoking great joy and energy for the future. Enjoy, and happy MayDay!

NEXT: Celebrating Our Common Treasury

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
May Day and a “New Bridge” (MayDay Parade 2008)
The Time is Now! (MayDay Parade 2006)

No comments: