Enriching lives through art and craft

Creative Superpowers at Arrowmont’s 2023 Spring Pentaculum

Creative Superpowers at Arrowmont’s 2023 Spring Pentaculum

By Anne Martens

A community of likeminded artists is none other than a gathering of creative powers. A residency or retreat, an idiosyncratic version of that. Each of us travels to escape the distractions of home to focus on honing our craft. But it can also be about changing things up—recharging, shifting perspective, maybe trying something new—and that often takes a group dynamic. At Pentaculum, I tapped into that collective power by joining writers I had Zoomed with for several years, as well as a throng of newly-met visual artists. Portraits I made there were inspired by a deep sense of connection.

Writers spend hours in self-exile at our laptops, but as a species we are known to socialize. One evening as we sat in the Staff House lounge shooting the breeze, one writer showed us a miniature Wonder-Woman action figure she often brings with her to photograph wherever she goes. We laughed as each of us took turns playing with it while others bestowed fantastical superpowers on us, and we proclaimed our own. The storytelling continued with “two truths  and a lie”—an apropos game for writers of nonfiction and fiction alike—in which we chose to invent and maybe mythologize the “facts” we revealed about ourselves.

Our action-figures game got me thinking. Creative people possess awe-inspiring superpowers, a unique combination of extraordinary capabilities, often wielded for the greater good. Artists are movers and shakers; their art, catalysts for others to experience the world anew. Quintessential traits undergird their specialty skills: a strong work-ethic, tenacity, courage.

At Pentaculum, you could see evidence of superpowers everywhere.

In the art being made, in a beautifully installed gallery exhibition, in the excellent café food (an entire post could be written about the food), and in displays of extraordinary talent at events: presentations of artists’ work, writers’ readings, even a raffle in which the prizes were donations of art. I marveled at the courage and vulnerability I witnessed, at the generosity and encouragement bequeathed to others, and at artists being daring.

Experiments and works in progress were fun to hear about and see. What attendees wanted to learn ranged from paper-making to paper-folding to making one’s own clay samples, as Ara Koh did by gathering handfuls of earth while driving enroute to Arrowmont. Washes of clay on paper were juxtaposed for a stunning array of tones. Other artists, like Sarah Sindler, also worked with unorthodox materials. Dried beans (which surprisingly, can resemble gemstones), were set into jewelry. It was also astonishing to see what could be accomplished in just a few days of concentrated, fervent activity. Elishiba Israel Mrozik resolved to start and complete a mural-sized painting, and she did.

At the end of the week we brought home Pentaculum t-shirts, original works of art as raffle winnings, and the creative work we accomplished—as well as memories of Pentaculum colleagues, conversations, experiences, art, and stories. The creative charge lingers.

Anne Martens lives in Los Angeles, California (homeland of the Gabrielino-Tongva). Her creative work encompasses disciplines of studio art, digital media, arts-related writing, and literary writing. Digital projects she has written and produced have garnered awards in the museum field and web industry. Her arts writing has appeared in Afterimage, Flash Art International, and Artillery Magazine, among other publications. She is developing a collection of memoir-based stories that reflect on childhood years spent in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe.

Click here to learn more about Pentaculum.

ART WORKSTENNESSEE ARTS COMMISIONTENNESSEE FOR THE ARTSTennessee Specialty License PlatesEAST TENNESSEE FOUNDATIONWindgate Foundation Arrowmont is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number SLFRP5534 awarded to the State of Tennessee by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

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