Wrapping up Volume I, and looking ahead to Volume II.
I learned a lot while creating Volume I. It was a fun process, a whirlwind of work and planning, and a surprisingly fulfilling range of experiences. I’m feeling very good about this project. I’m glad you’re here with me.
Thanks so much to my guests.
Welcome to More Devotedly, a podcast for people who see the arts as a force for positive, progressive change. I’m Douglas Detrick.
I put together this brief epilogue to talk about what I learned through the process of producing volume one, and also to talk about what’s coming up in volume two and beyond.
As I’ve said, I don’t see myself as an expert on any of the issues we’ll discuss here. My goal is to learn along with you, to try to talk out loud about what we learn, and to build a community around that process. I want that process to inspire my own creative work and some of yours too. All together we can make a bigger impact on our society as a broad community of artists.
You’re ready, right? I know you are! Let’s go.
In Volume I of More Devotedly, we thought about this question—who belongs here?
Belonging is hard to measure. It’s hard to measure because it’s complicated, and the experience of it, or the absence of it, is subjective—it’s different for every person. The most important thing I learned is that even though it’s hard to talk about, belonging is very, very real.
Belonging in the United States has always been important, even before the United States became a nation. But from the days when some of us fought over the idea of belonging to the British empire, even while some others like enslaved or native people probably felt more like pawns in a game of geopolitical chess, belonging has been central to our politics, to our culture, and to our arts. Today, it’s no less important, and no less powerful, but it is much more complicated.
Belonging can be defined in a lot of ways. We can see it through the macro-issues of American life, like politics, economics, race, or religion, where we battle over our collective understanding of the American story. And it can be intimate and personal where we search for connection to our neighbors, our families, and even to ourselves.
All of these different views of the same idea are important, and after talking to the guests on the podcast in volume one, I found that artists can address all of them at the same time. As we talked about how that happens, I was reminded about the real-world consequences of the subtle emotional landscape we all move through in our lives, as we reconcile our personal struggles with national ones. For each of the artists that I interviewed, finding that balance, between the personal and the political, was a fundamental concern of their creative work.
For Joe Kye on episode two, it was clear that his inability to speak English set him apart from his schoolmates in his first years in the United States. But even when he conquered that particular barrier, the boundaries that separated him from his classmates late on Yale didn’t disappear, they changed.
A sense of belonging isn’t built out of a single thing, but is the sum total of many factors, some of which are obvious and some that aren’t. Some of them can be consciously overcome, like learning a language. But, like in Joe’s example, he was only able to address others by changing his own perspective, and asserting his own view of belonging in contrast to what we felt was imposed on him by others. He used a beautiful and simple metaphor to describe that process.
If there’s a given stereotype of who you are based on what you look like, there are a series of different options. You can go with that, and laugh at those jokes, and say “yeah, I am blank.” There’s a rebellious phase, which is still a response to the oppressive stereotype. Then, I think, now at this phase in my life, there’s a part of me that’s saying “no, I love science. Science is cool.” Let me empty all the apples in my basket, and then before I put them back, just observe each one. Do I like this apple? Is this me? And once I’ve accepted internally that this is how I define myself, then I put it back.Joe Kye, Vol. I | Ep. 2
The inmates in Oregon prisons that Anna Fritz and Paul Susi talked about in episode four did something similar. As those men and women signed up to see a play that had the potential to stir up some powerful emotions, they took the risk of showing weakness in an environment that doesn’t allow for it. By showing up, they show they deserve the chance to take that risk. They reaffirm their sense of belonging. Watching them do this, Anna and Paul went through their own journey as well.
Paul Susi: In a way, there’s real power and safety in saying “I don’t know what’s going to happen in ten years to that guy who saw this thing and was really moved. It’s not for me to know. It’s not for me that they are experiencing these things.
Douglas Detrick: That’s the contradiction of it. We do these things because we think they’re important, and yet you can’t tell the person how to receive what you’ve given.
It’s a leap of faith. It’s showing up for the work, doing it with everything you’ve got, and letting it go.Anna Fritz, Vol. I | Ep. 4
These interviews reminded me how important representation is in building a sense of belonging. To review in case you aren’t familiar with this concept, representation is the perception that we have collectively and individually of which people are exercising power in the world.
Who is making decisions in our government? Who is creating the media that tell our stories? Who holds jobs that pay well enough to build wealth and support families? As we answer those questions, we can make judgements about whether or not the people we see in those positions of power are a representative sample of our population at large, or if they are a group of people who had access to power because their parents did.
The arts give us an incredible opportunity to build a more diverse representation of our world with everyone in it. For Kunu Bearchum, increasing representation of indigenous people isn’t just something he’s watching for, it’s something he’s trying to create in the community around him. His music and films are concerned with elevating indigenous perspectives, asserting that these views and the people who hold them belong in our thoughts and conversations.
And I recently learned this from a super awesome native elder and olympian Billy Mills. What we need is inspiration, and inspiration is a natural resource. It’s something that humans create. We can create inspiration for other human beings. And that inspiration, that well of inspiration, was taken away from Indian Country.Kunu Bearchum, Vol. I | Ep. 3
The arts can be a vital tool in making all this happen. So, if you are an artist of any discipline, or if you’re a supporter or appreciator of the arts, you hold a special power. Through that mysterious magic of creativity and performance, we can change the way the audience sees power at work in our world. And that makes a better, more equitable future much closer to reality.
That’s what I learned about the arts and belonging in volume one. But I learned a few things about the project itself as well.
The rollout of the project—including launching the website, creating the visual brand, choosing and interviewing the first guests, remembering how to produce podcasts after some time away, and getting music ready for the first live event—didn’t go exactly according to plan. The opportunity to launch the project at our October 6th event came up, and I decided to go ahead, kind of at the last minute.
Up to that point, I was planning to launch in January, so I had to work super fast to make it happen. That meant doing all of the things I just mentioned much more rapidly than I would have liked, but it was probably a good thing to just start. I tend to defeat my own goals by letting my anxieties crowd out my convictions. So with a personal project like this, it was good to just start, and think about it later.
Because of that short timeline, I started out with personal friends of mine who I could call and interview on short notice. So, the artists that I interviewed skewed more towards musicians who live here in Portland. As the show continues, I’ll be casting a wider net in terms of artistic practice, approach to politics, and geography, and will continue to cultivate a diverse range of perspectives in as many ways as possible, including socioeconomic background, gender, race and ethnicity.
I’m also hoping that the next volume of the project will have more opportunities for you all to hear not just from me and my guests, but also to hear and be heard by each other. I’ll make it a goal to engage more with you all online in an effort to get more feedback from you both on the content and the quality of the project.
One question that comes to mind in that department—do you all feel that Facebook is a good medium to encourage those discussions? With Facebook’s new policy to not fact check political ads as the 2020 election heats up, things are gonna get real ugly on there. Tell me what you think about that question, on Facebook for now, and on instagram. But you can also email me at douglas at moredevotedly dot com.
Now that Volume One is wrapped up, I’m getting very excited about the next one. I’m especially excited to tell you about an opportunity to be a part of Volume Two, as we talk about climate change.
I’ll be performing collaborative pieces created with violinist Joe Kye, poet and performer Lara Messersmith-Glavin, and dancer and choreographer Stephanie McCullough on February first and second as part of the Portland, Oregon Fertile Ground Festival.
I don’t want to know what you know, or what you think about climate change. All of that is important of course, but what I want to hear is how you feel about it. As the science becomes more and more clear, and as the effects of climate change are already impacting us, we artists can help to bring about the broad-based emotion transformation that is needed to finally take meaningful action on climate change. There is so much we need to do, but if we don’t feel the need to change, we won’t. So let’s talk about our feelings, okay?
Here’s what I’m asking you to do. Get out your phone, turn on the voice recorder, and give me your honest answers to these three questions.
1) How did you feel when you first understood how bad climate change could really be?
2) What are feelings that lead to stasis? What are feelings that lead to action?
3) What needs to happen to start an emotional transformation from stasis to action? Personally? Globally?
Then, send the file to douglas at moredevotedly dot com by November 20th, 2019. I’ll use your answers in the live show, on the podcast, and in the musical recording as well. Thanks so much for your help!
Ok. That about does it. Thanks so much for being with me.
This episode was written and produced, the music composed and performed by me, Douglas Detrick, in Portland, Oregon.
I recorded this episode’s “Portland Sound” at the Women’s March that took place soon after the election of President Trump.
The More Devotedly logo was created by Lindsay Jordan Kretchun. Thanks so much to Jenny, Kim, Stephanie, Lara, Joe, Kunu, Paul and Anna for all your help and contributions.
What you’re doing is beautiful. Can you do it more devotedly?