Getting to know you and people in Colquitt is truly one of the most significant events of my life. I can't thank you enough for opening an incredible new world to me and offering constant inspiration to me and so many others! It is my biggest honor and fortune to contribute a little to the grand mission you have carried forward. Warmest regards,

- Dr.Quinghong Wei, Beijing, China

On January 31st, I left the comfort of Tallahassee for the experience of Colquitt, Georgia and it has quite the story to tell. A lot of people assume that for a community to be lively and exciting it must be in a large city, or other urban area. Colquitt disproves that assumption with simply its murals alone. This town is full of history, rich storytelling potential to tap into, and the passion necessary to form a healthy, creative community. I went not sure of what I might discover, but I left with a rekindled flame for theater, a better understanding of the value of storytelling in community building, and valuable connections with others who share these interests. The weekend started with a fantastic performance of a lovely show commonly called “Swamp Gravy.” The talented cast all volunteer to make Swamp Gravy. The next morning I was delighted with an opportunity to learn the power of storytelling from first-hand experience. We gathered stories from within our group, and then prepared them in a theatrical way synonymous to Swamp Gravy. It was so powerful, and honoring and we then put on our own show. The conference lasted a few days, and yet the skills of storytelling, and the connections I formed at this conference will be long lasting. Nothing I have learned from a textbook could ever compete with the knowledge and wisdom I received from the speakers at the conference and Swamp Gravy. I met inspiring people from all walks of life, and with aspiring passions for improved community and creativity. Colquitt is a small town that has such a huge voice, and a passion for sharing the stories that make it special. I won’t forget the experience or knowledge I gained from this trip. We can all go back to our own communities and apply everything we learned.

- Jonathan Nguyen, a student at Florida State University College of Social Work, Tallahassee, Fla.

My outstanding memory was that all of the things that were being discussed were right in line with what I am doing. I can never forget how I fit in so well with the group. Likes begetting likes. Social Artistry helped me to better format the project I am working on now. I have a clearer picture as to what I am doing and how to move forward. This conference is something you must experience for yourself. There is non quite like it and I recommend it highly to anyone who is looking for likeminded individuals in the arts. It is a superb gathering and I invite you to treat yourself to the experience, you won’t be disappointed. You may be very surprised. In Peace and Love,

- Karen Watson, Cottonwood, Ala.

COFFEE AS A CATALYST - In January 2012, Joy Jinks called me and asked me to participate in a Social Artistry Class. I had no idea what Social Artistry was or meant, but I decided to do it. I took the course with Jan Sanders and it struck a deep chord in me. Attending the Building Creative Communities Conference also made me think about the future of southwest Georgia. I live in Randolph County, a rural area with a LOT going for us. We have people who are committed to its progress, and we have young mothers and fathers who want a better life for their children. What was needed? A place to start developing a Creative Community. We brought a Social Artistry Workshop to the College in 2013, the students loved it and in January 2014, I took the Train the Trainer Course and became more committed to the idea of Creative Community Change. In October 2014, my husband attended an auction of buildings in the town and soon we owned four buildings on the square. This occurred while I was attending a Social Artistry meeting in Colquitt! After much discussion and many articles requesting input from the community, it has been decided to open a Coffee Shop! It will be small at first, catering to the college students, but my dream is that The Library Coffee Shop will be the catalyst for a creative community! The Grands Art Gallery will open right beside it, showcasing local artists and their work. All of this came because I attended the Social Artistry Workshop and Building Creative Communities Conference in 2012. My hope is by next year, I will have a program for you to see and more of the empty spaces on the square will be filled with the creativity of the citizens of the community!

- Karen Pittman, Randolph County, Ga.

The Conference and the wonderful leaders and participants taught me to write a "love story" for my community in Stone County, MS. The words of the song are written in 33 murals across the county celebrating our people, time and place. The words are written in two books for 3rd graders attending the county's two elementary schools and in stories gathered over the last 10 years. They are celebrated in our schools with "local" field trips to our museum, murals and nature trails, with storytellers, journey quilts, hope flags, and nature trail markers honoring our heritage plants and animals. Thanks to the inspiration of Swamp Gravy, the time has come for our Telling Trees Project to take that song to the stage! Stone County will celebrate 100 years in 2016, our playwright has had the Colquitt experience and we are ready to be a Theatre of the People, For the People and by the People! Thank you Colquitt, especially Joy and Karen, for empowering Stone County!

- Kathryn Lewis, Stone County, Miss.

Donna, Tori, Ali and myself all had a memorable weekend participating fully in the Building Creative Communities Conference. Colquitt is a magical place with a welcoming smile and a revitalized environment which beckons participation of all who visit. The presentations are exciting reports of responses to social problems we all see and feel every day. They are filled with substantial and doable ideas to bring home.

- Judi White

 

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Building Creative Communities Conference in Colquitt, home of Georgia's play, Swamp Gravy. It is a national model for community and economic development through the arts, heritage and culture. We were presented a very special opportunity to play with crayons and markers, sing and learn the art of story play - all towards the goal of creating positive social change. The experience was very uplifting and connections made were inspiring. Thank you Joy Jinks and Karen Kimbrel and your outstanding team. Janet Sanders, Richard Geer, Margaret Ashmore, Tannur "Shewrightz" Ali, Rhea and Vicky, thank you as well for your spirit of true love and commitment to a transformative process that the world surely needs. What was my takeaway? The healing/transformative power of communities, healing and nurturing themselves through Storytelling and Social Artistry; capturing their history and oral traditions - heroes and sheroes; good times and bad - through storytelling, theatrical renderings, murals, and ...Young and Young at Heart, Black, White, Native American, Asian, Latino, Gay, Straight, Rich and Poor - the beloved community - our communities, our homes, our stories and our "awakened sense of purpose and dedicated commitment to actively seek the possible" - together. In Peace,

- Audri Scott Williams, Cottonwood, Ala.

I remember the Storytelling session very well. Though everything was wonderful, I enjoyed the storytelling the most. I also really enjoyed seeing Colquitt and the surrounding areas. I was surprised mostly by the amount of businesses in Colquitt and the astounding intelligence of the people I met. Colquitt is impressive and the participants of the conference are exemplary. I was benefited by experiencing new and creative ways to communicate with others through plays. The Social Artistry session was also very informative and I really enjoyed grouping up with like-minded people. I would describe the conference simply as "a gathering of influential, intelligent people to discuss the growth of community togetherness and how to incorporate said growth in their own communities and lives."

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. I hope very much to be able to attend next year!

- Chet Andrews, Claiborne Parish, La.