On May 26, 2012, Earl Shorris, founder of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, the program that inspired the Free Minds Project, died at age 75. Shorris first wrote about his “experimental” course for Harper’s Magazine in 1997. Originally offered on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Clemente Course model has traveled from New York to Austin, Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, and as far away as Buenos Aires. Here, Dr. Sylvia Gale (SG), founding director of Free Minds, and Free Minds Director Vivé Griffith (VG) remember their first encounters with Shorris’s bold idea and chart its lineage to the applications for next year’s Free Minds class.
SG: I can still remember the charge I felt the first time I read Shorris’s essay in Harper’s. It was the winter of 1998. I had recently graduated from Reed College, and I was living in western Colorado, caretaking a friend’s adobe house and recovering from a severe back injury. I discovered the piece in a stack of old magazines and read it next to the picture windows at dusk. Shorris described the Clemente Course as an experiment to test his hypothesis that people could transform their lives by doing the kind of reflective thinking that would lead them towards autonomy—by engaging in the life of the mind. Reading about it in my quiet mountain hideaway, I felt literally electrified, buzzing with the sense that Shorris and his first group of students had traveled across an immense—yet bridgeable—divide.
VG: I like to imagine Sylvia and I reading that article simultaneously across our own divide, this one geographic. I encountered Shorris’s essay while teaching composition to freshman at the University of Cincinnati, where I was a graduate student in English. I was young and excited, and surprised to discover my students had to be dragged through a curriculum they considered little more than an inconvenient diversion on their way to careers in business and engineering. In a sly move, the head of the rhetoric department had filled our course reader with texts meant to challenge students to think of their education on broader terms. That’s where I first read Shorris. I don’t have any idea if the article left an impact on my students, but it certainly affected me. A decade after teaching it, I heard about a similar program being piloted in Austin, and I leapt to be involved.
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Categories: Newsletter Stories
June 11, 2012 · Comments Off
How do you enjoy an Austin summer? We suggest that you come in out of the soon to be *scorching* heat, and check out some of the great summer programming we’ve got lined up. Take a break from standing in front of your open freezer to sit and write with us in the coolness of the Community Engagement Center.
Master classes are free to attend and open to all Free Minds alums. Our summer writing workshop is open to all participants and is also free. Both of the following will be held at the CEC, 1009 East 11th Street.
USING READING TO INSPIRE YOUR WRITING
Master class with Vive Griffith and Amelia Pace-Borah
Tuesday, June 26th at 7 pm
We’ll use this evening to generate new writing, expl0ring how we can use others’ created texts to launch us into our own creative work. Come engage in a series of free-writing exercises and reconnect with fellow Free Minds alums. No preparation is required, and you need only bring yourself. This is a great opportunity to meet new program coordinator Amelia Pace-Borah and get a sense of what our summer writing workshop will be like.
SUMMER CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP
TUESDAYS from July 10th to August 28th
Join us for an eight-week writing workshop, in which you will explore your creative potential, share your stories, and improve your comfort and skill as a writer. We’ll meet once a week to do guided writing exercises in a supportive group environment to help you awaken the writer within. No experience necessary and everyone is welcome.
To REGISTER or ask questions, get in touch with us: 512-232-6093 OR email@example.com
Categories: Master Classes
May 29, 2012 · Comments Off
I Rebuke Thee
I often wonder if Fear
will ever get to be
so far away from me
that I can live actually live to be
the person that god created me to be. Fear
it’s been with me for years. Fear
I can hardly hold back my tears. Fear
it has been my comrade, my go to. Fear
has walked with me hand in hand. Fear
has been that ride or die chick. Fear
has been the puppet master that I mimicked. Fear
has been the beat to my song. Fear
has written the lyrics and for some reason
I sing along. Fear
has been the motion behind my steps. Fear
has silenced my crying out for help. Fear
has blinded me from my sight. Fear
keeps blocking the punches when I try to fight. Fear
has beat me down so low. Fear
has tricked me into thinking that there’s nowhere else to go. Fear
has taken the intent from what I actually meant
twisting my words and
using them against me. Now, I am afraid to speak. Fear
has presented itself bigger than me
and bullied me until I was weak.
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January 30, 2012 · Comments Off
Here’s a sneak preview of what we’ve got going for alumni this semester. All events are free and, unless otherwise noted, will take place at the Community Engagement Center (1009 E. 11th St. #216). A more detailed calendar should be available soon. We look forward to seeing you there!
TUES, JANUARY 31
American Indians and the American Imagination, 7 PM
A master class with Dr. Pauline Strong, UT Dept. of Anthropology
THURS, FEBRUARY 16
A Very Free Minds Valentine’s Day, 7 PM
A master class with Drs. Patricia Garcia and John Gonzalez, UT Dept. of English
WED, FEBRUARY 29
College Fair, 6:30 PM
Foundation Communities’ M Station Apartments (2906 E. MLK)
TUES, MARCH 20
Batsheva Dance Company, 8 PM
UT’s Bass Concert Hall (23rd and Trinity)
THURS, APRIL 5
Demystifying Math, 7 PM
A master class with Dr. Juan Molina, ACC Professor of Mathematics
TUES, APRIL 24
Celebrate National Poetry Month, 7 PM
A master class with Lyman Grant, ACC Dean of Arts and Humanities
Tagged: alumni, master classes
January 24, 2012 · Comments Off
“Art offers us an opportunity to slow down and look at things a little differently,” Annette Carlozzi, deputy director at the Blanton Museum, told Free Minds students when they toured the museum on January 19. It was a busy night, with groups taking in the last days of the striking exhibit, El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa.
Students had a unique chance to encounter the West African artist who is considered one of the preeminent of his generation. Using artifacts otherwise considered trash, including the aluminum caps of liquor bottles, Anatsui composes striking metal wall sculptures resembling tapestries of color and shape.
Standing before the large piece “The Stressed World,” Carlozzi encouraged students to trust their own responses when approaching art. “What do you see?” she asked.
Nelson Toala said, “The red and yellow colors suggest joy.” Debora Otera remarked, “It looks a dream catcher.” Several students noted that the open spaces in the sculpture suggested worn cloth.
“‘Oh, that makes me think of this’ is an absolutely relevant response,” Carlozzi said. “Art is a transaction. There’s so much more permission to interpret than people think.”
Upstairs, students and their children took their time with paintings and installations from the museum’s permanent collection. They approached each work of art with the conviction that they could discover something new in it.
As student Stacey Kennedy put it, “Art is for the community. You just got to go after it and not be afraid.”
Tagged: Blanton Museum, Class of 2012
January 17, 2012 · Comments Off
We need volunteers at two different recruitment events this month:
Wednesday, January 25, 2-7pm, is the City of Austin and Travis County Community Job and Resource Expo, a one-stop shop for jobs, community services, volunteer opportunities, and networking opportunities (Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road).
Saturday, January 28, 10am-3pm, is the 6th annual Feria Para Aprender, a Spanish-language community and college fair held in North Austin (North Austin Event Center, 10601 N Lamar Blvd, 78753).
We (Vivé and Hana) will be there representing Free Minds, and we need a few students and alumni, especially Spanish speakers, to help us man the table for a few hours.
If you can help out at one of these events, we would really appreciate it! Email hana.silverstein @ austin.utexas. edu or call 232-6093.
Tagged: City of Austin, Feria Para Aprender, recruitment
January 13, 2012 · Comments Off
Belinda Guzman ’08, a Free Minds alum and City of Austin employee, sent us word about a job and resource expo taking place later this month:
City of Austin and Travis County Community Job and Resource Expo
A one stop shop for:
- Career Development
- Community Services
- Volunteer Opportunities
- Networking Opportunities
Visit with more than 100 Human Resource professionals from the public, private and non-profit sectors and come away with tips and techniques for career opportunities. Free and open to the public.
Palmer Events Center
900 Barton Springs Road
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
2 to 7 p.m.
Free parking in the Palmer Events Center garage. Employers interested in participating call (512) 974-3221. For more information (512) 974-3210 | AustinTexas.gov.
Tagged: City of Austin, job, resources
January 3, 2012 · Comments Off
The Alcalde, the alumni magazine of The University of Texas, just published a beautiful article about Free Minds that we think captures the spirit and purpose of the program: “Minds on Fire: What happens when disadvantaged adults learn to read Shakespeare and debate philosophy? How the Free Minds Project is changing lives through the humanities.” We couldn’t be prouder!
Also, be sure to check out the bonus feature: inspiring writings by student and alumni, “Voices of Free Minds.”
Categories: Student voices
Tagged: classroom, history, The Alcalde
December 16, 2011 · Comments Off
Fern Viking, a 2011 Free Minds graduate, joined our fall writing workshop to continue honing her creative writing skills and to meet other developing writers. “As with my Free Minds experience,” she says, “I have felt a sense of community with my classmates, a meeting of like-minded individuals who are very different from each other except for the love of writing and being creative.” Fern’s story “My Great Norwegian Adventure” is reproduced below:
My Great Norwegian Adventure
by Fern Viking
When I was almost 5 years old and my sister Mari-Lene just a toddler, my dad was laid off from work, so he and my mom decided to have a “creative holiday.” My father, a gifted artist always experimenting with unusual techniques, was at that time working on black canvas with oil crayons. He worked backwards i.e. using the black background as shade and shadows and the colors as highlights. The result was astounding.
We started our trip in Sandefjord, where my grandparents, aunts and uncles lived. There the men strategized our travel routes while the women cooked and saw to us little ones. My aunt Marilynn was only two years older than me, so we became running buddies. She taught me Norwegian (through osmosis), how to negotiate the outhouse and how to have fun despite the eagle eyes of my Mamma and Mormer (Swedish/Norwegian terminology for mom and grandma). Aunt Anne-Marie was a beautiful, glamorous teen resembling Sophia Loren. She was way too busy with her friends to bother with all us little tykes. Uncle Lars and Jonny were equally aloof, except when they felt like teasing us or tossing us in the air.
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Categories: Student voices
Tagged: Class of 2011, creative writing, writing workshops
December 16, 2011 · Comments Off
Our fall writing workshop at Foundation Communities’ Trails at Vintage Creek apartments wrapped up on December 6 with a reading of original works by the writers in the group. One woman shared an experience of racial self-awareness; another read a story about the time her pregnant mother had such a strong craving for turnips, she convinced her father to steal some. (Read this piece here!)
Workshop facilitator Alice Shukalo, a teacher of writing and rhetoric at UT, guided the writers through eight weeks of free-writing and feedback sessions. Every Tuesday evening, participants showed up to improve writing skills and express themselves in a supportive community. As writer Thelma Lee James put it, “A lot of people need this opportunity to share the creations of the mind.” Thelma, who also participated in the spring writing said she “had stopped writing so much, but when I came back to Free Minds, I began to realize how much fun it is, and how broad your mind can explore. It also keeps your mind activated with new ideas and energy to share with others.”
Tagged: creative writing, Foundation Communities, writing workshops