Monday, August 3, 2009

Thank you, everyone

On Saturday, one of the questions we were repeatedly asked was how this all started. Where did the idea come from? The project began with a May 12th e-mail from Ashley Schwellenbach (below), arts editor of New Times, San Luis Obispo. Ashley wanted some help "brainstorming and executing performance art and art installations around the county, in as highly visible a manner as possible. The goal was to explore what possibilities art affords when you take away the stage and canvas, to ask how we define art, and to question whether San Luis Obispo had the necessary critical mass for such projects (which usually take place in more urban venues)."


We met on Thursday, May 14th, and Reading In Public was born a few days after that first meeting. Reading In Public is the combined efforts of four people: Mignon Khargie and Catherine Trujillo, the creators and organizers of the project, Chris Allen, designer of the Reading Chair, who was also an invaluable collaborator as the project grew, and Allan Cooper, our mentor. Catherine and Mignon were also busy with another project, Live! On Aisle 9, which sadly never came to fruition. Reading In Public itself lost some traction when the original concept of a larger, single-location event was scuttled (we couldn't afford a million dollar insurance policy -- we were, after all, two working moms on no budget). Catherine brilliantly suggested we shift gears and rethink the project. So, the reading chair downsized, gained a couple of roller-blade wheels, and we became SLO booksters (not buskers, since we were doing this only for smiles).

Linnaea Phillips

There are so many great moments that remain with us from our first event on Saturday, August 1st, and we'll list a few of them here, in no special order:
♥ Brett Bodemer, lugging the ottoman around when we had trouble navigating uneven pavements. Chris built us a tank: A lovely chair, but formidable in its construction. We think it's earthquake-proof :) Brett stayed with us all day and never complained even though the ottoman got heavier as the day wore on
♥ Dawna Davies who brought some of us to tears with her delivery of the tale of an aged mother unable to sing her special song to her son, who then sings it right back to her. And all the brave readers at the Children's Museum who were battling a building full of loud, colorful distractions
♥ Don Swearingen, who gave cloth life
♥ Jennifer Allen-Barker, a visually impaired reader, whose contribution caused the littlest member of our audience to break into dance
♥ Linnaea Phillips (pictured above), who read from a book by Carl Sandburg, signed by Carl Sandburg, and given to her by her parents
♥ James Darden (pictured at the end of this post) who sang, got busted and was very gracious about it
♥ Francesca Nemko who brought her own bass player, Clint Iwanicha
♥ Margie Noble Englund who read her heart out at the creek when exhaustion peaked and audience dwindled
♥ Mauria Lynn Betts and Heidi Harmon (below), and Kevin Patrick Sullivan, who read in a metered parking spot (our thanks to Rebar for the inspiration)
♥ Shy Ariel Weininger with her amazing pink hair, who yelled out, "Books are cool!" as she cycled past us on her way to work, after she'd finished her stint on the chair
♥ Michael McLaughlin, a lovely man and our final reader, whose choice of location served as a coda of sorts: Bubblegum Alley, where our feet stuck to the ground if we strayed too close to the walls. We did the only thing we could do: We stuck one of our buttons to the wall, with a wad of gum :)
♥ Everyone who carefully selected the works to which they wished to pay homage, and some of whom, unable to decide on just one, brought a stack of well-loved books (see all of our WONDERFUL readers here)
♥ The reader who just signed up online! and left this message: "I WOULD LIKE TO BE CONSIDERED FOR 2010

Heidi and Mauria

It was truly great, and we had a blast. We have a few smaller (stealth) projects in the works, and we definitely think we need a repeat of this event for next year. In the meantime, if you see someone reading outdoors and they're willing to have their photo on our site, do e-mail one to us. We especially love photos taken with your cellphones :) Don't forget to bookmark us on Flickr to see who's reading out in the wide-open public, and you can also follow us on Twitter.

James getting busted

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