Human beings are born to work with our hands. Centuries of human existence demanded it, and being the wonderful creatures that we are, we gathered together to do it and made all kinds of beautiful things, and creating something beautiful is still the best known cure for a whole host of troubles.
Organizers Melissa Hewitt, Mirabai Trent and Jenny Wonderling started by getting together with friends to make things, then formed their educational 501(c)3, Circle Creative Collective. as a community space that could nurture craft, connection to nature, and meaning, organizing multi-arts programming and workshops.
Ongoing projects include Chrysalis, a nine-month program designed to offer teen girls emotional, creative, and anxiety-busting tools, exploring relatable issues and building bonds through “unbridled creativity, authentic sharing, meditation and movement.” Supported by the Maya Gold Foundation, Chrysalis helps girls grow up confident, empowered and limitless. If you know a teen girl who might love this, reach out to Circle by email.
Of course, crafts aren’t just for kids. SANKOFA: A Traditional African Crafts Series explores traditional crafts, fibers, and creative practices from multiple regions of Africa, with a focus on West Africa, often incorporating locally grown materials. SANKOFA is a partnership that includes MyKingstonKids, Seasoned Delicious, Harambee, and more; last fall’s project brought the inspired puppets of Rosendale’s Redwing Blackbird Theater and members of percussion and vocal group Good Gourd to Kingston Point for a healing celebration full of music and beauty.
Coser: A Local Sewing Initiative focuses on organizing hand and machine workshops for the women and girls of the Hudson Valley’s BIPOC communities. During the pandemic, the women of Coser produced 8,000 masks; Circle Creative is now seeking to expand the program into creating opportunities around the production of sewn and embroidered products such as reusable bags, children’s crafting kits, and clothing so that participants can build ongoing income streams.
Circle Creative Collective also hosts a variety of crafting workshops at their Plains Road campus. And last spring, they hosted their first immersive multimodal theater experience: BLOOM, with 13 experiential scenes, brought a thousand celebrants to Stone Ridge Orchard apple orchard for a walk focused on rejuvenation and new growth, a post-pandemic tonic for a community in need of meaningful gathering.
BLOOM was a huge success, with many participants reporting healing effects that resonated for weeks. This month, Circle Creative Collective is producing LUMINOUS: Tales for Seeing In The Dark, which takes to the depths of the historic Widow Jane Mine on October 29 and 30, offering audience members a powerful, highly original celebration of the thinning of the Veil Between the Worlds. LUMINOUS is a journey in contemplative story and song reminding us that even in the dark and the cold, we are held by beauty, an invitation to contemplate the lessons inherent in death, grief and darkness.
The craft-focused collective moved into performance productions when the three founders discovered a mutual admiration for the walking-trail experiences done at local independent schools. “I went on one of those and thought, ‘This is wonderful, we need to do this on a grand scale, with a storyline and amazing musicians and professional sound and lighting,’” Hewitt says. As BLOOM took shape, some 100 community members took on roles in the production, creating art for costumes and scenery and taking roles in the performance.
“A lot of our artists are energetic healers, and they bring that to the performance—we have vocalists who are sound healers, for example,” says Hewitt. “We heard so many stories of what the experience did for people that we knew we had to keep going.”
BLOOM will (appropriately) reappear in spring. For this season, the Circle Creative Collective is offering an opportunity to come together to contemplate the flipside, pointing out that there is no day without night, “Doing this one had an inevitable feel to it,” says Hewitt. “It felt needful for the community to come together, as people do around the world, to ponder and honor the darkness without gore or mockery.”
LUMINOUS: Tales For Seeing In The Dark will be happening Saturday, October 29 and Sunday, October 30 at 5 and 8 pm in the Widow Jane Mine, located at the Century House Historical Society property on Route 213 in Rosendale, The event is for those age 12 and over; advance tickets are required.
More information on all of the programs described above is available at circlecreativecollective.org, on the Circle Creative Collective Facebook page, or by calling (845) 481-0739.