I love hanging out on 6th street. Even though I am a Kenosha girl, born and raised, I have found a second home on 6th street in downtown Racine.
First there are my beloved Over Our Head Players. This group and the crazy kind, ever expanding group of folks who work there came to me during a very dark time in my life. The 20+ years I have spent working with this unique little storefront community theater, have been joyful, heartwarming, and culturally meaningful. Also I have often laughed until fluids shot out of orifices unaccustomed to wetness during conversation.
People who volunteer their time for arts organizations are a very special breed. I include in this group the paid staff members of arts organizations, since the remuneration for these positions are not what brings out the passion in these wonderful citizens.
Anyone who has not been involved in theater or music or art for no pay may not understand the stubborn determination that keeps us coming back year after year. They don’t realize how powerful collaboration can be in search of a transcendent experience. To be an artist, actor or musician means opening your most vulnerable self to the judgement and criticism of others. It is the willingness to appear foolish in the search for truth and meaning so that an appropriate way can be found to convey an idea. It means “laughing with” rather than “laughing at” and being kind while working toward a common goal.
As I sit in the Racine Arts Council’s office right now, I am surrounded by black and white photos. They are pictures of Racine taken by young people who are homeless or in the foster care system. The pictures are both powerful and heartbreaking as they show the focus of a group that remains unseen to most of us, but that has a point of view that is humbling and poignant. If someone were to ask me what could be done for these young people, I never would have thought to introduce them to photography, but I should not be surprised that giving voice to their experiences would be so transforming.
The isolation from others that we experience in everyday life can be a stumbling block to understanding, but the arts smooth out those stumbling blocks. Music, art and theater unite us by our souls in ways that our conscious minds may not comprehend. Even when we do it for free. Which is often the only option.
So this fall, come and hang with me on 6th street. I am at the Arts Council office on Fridays from 10:00 a.m. until noon and also whenever I hold workshops (such as my final free obituary writing workshop which takes place Friday September 21 at 10:30 a.m.!) Or you can catch me when I hang with my Over Our Head Players buddies at the 6th Street Theater. Or you can catch me at any of the wonderful restaurants and watering holes in the neighborhood. They may not be “artsy”, but dang, a good dirty martini is a thing of beauty!