Groups spur members to hone creative skills

Feeling creative? Homer Council on the Arts has an outlet. “Creative Communities” provides opportunities for those with an interest in writing, acting, performing or singing to share their endeavors with others.

 

“It’s a social alternative to solitary efforts,” said Gail Edgerly, executive director of Homer Council on the Arts.

Initially, the idea was to offer a regular time and space for people to gather in community, said Edgerly. Over the years, different people led short-term creative activities such as craft or theater sessions. Now, there is a full schedule of biweekly gatherings focused on creative interests that Edgerly hopes will continue in the fall and winter months.

Two of the group moderators, Hannah Heimbuch and Marc Oliver, are Homer High School graduates who have returned to the area.

“It’s so exciting that they are back, and they want to step into leadership roles to make things happen,” said Edgerly. 

She said that over the years it has become clear that the groups need to have a goal or focus. They also need someone to take on a leadership or point person role, or share it with others within the group. 

The initial goal for Creative Communities was to have a set of groups happening fall through spring. If a group wants to continue during the summer, they can. The writers group, for example, has been meeting year round for five years.

“Every year is different,” said Edgerly. 

Currently, the space at HCOA is booked up. But next fall, if someone is interested in starting another creative community, Edgerly said HCOA would try to make room for it.

“We love it when people have ideas and they want to take any kind of leadership,” she said.

Janice Todd, who has lived in Homer since 1979, doesn’t consider herself the leader of the Writers’ Refuge. 

“It’s not any one person,” she said. 

She may be the one who sends out reminder and informational emails, but it’s still a group effort, she said.

Members of the group have worked on fiction, short essays, nonfiction and poetry. One member is illustrating her fantasy children’s story while another has submitted a children’s story about McCarthy in the early 1900s. 

“Everybody’s just interested in writing, and exploring different aspects of it,” said Todd. “It’s a wide range.”

Although the group is open to anyone, a core of six or seven people gather every other Monday evening to share their work. Todd said group members have learned both how to trust each other and how to give helpful feedback.

“You have to establish trust — especially if someone is working on a memoir,” she said. 

Hannah Heimbuch, who graduated from Homer High in 2002, has a background in journalism and is moderating the spoken word and musical performance groups.

“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “I love the idea of having an informal community group to explore an art.” 

Heimbuch said that as a writer and artist she wants to learn more, and share with others who have the same interest. 

As the moderator for the spoken word group, she simply committed to being the one who will show up and open the door when the group meets.

Although she has talked to many people who are excited about it, Heimbuch said she’s been the only one to show up so far. Undaunted, she spends the time practicing her own work. And, as the word spreads, she’s hoping others will join in.

The spoken word gathering will be anything from poetry slam style to traditional oral storytelling or stand-up comedy. Or simply reading out loud something you’ve written.

“It’s so open,” she said. 

People can bring something they are working on and would like feedback on, or they can just talk about new ideas for future gatherings. Once the group is established, Heimbuch said she’d like to have an open mic night to showcase projects and provide stage practice. 

Heimbuch’s musical theater group began meeting last December. Because it was Christmastime, the group focused on Christmas carols. Then, it visited local assisted living homes and people who are homebound and sang to them.

“It was amazing. It was such an awesome thing,” she said. After the carols were over, not as many people showed up for the group and Heimbuch realized there needed to be a project, or focus, to encourage participation.

Know any Billie Holiday songs? Start practicing, then show up the second Thursday in March to share it with the group. 

“It will be a very safe, supportive environment,” said Heimbuch, adding that it will simply be a time to have fun. 

“There’s great opportunity here in the community programs to expand an interest in art and music — and to have a really good time together,” she said. “So I hope people come.”

Marc Oliver, a 2009 graduate of Homer High, is leading the creative community focused on theater skills.

“It’s kind of a play it by ear kind of thing,” said Oliver, whose group started last Tuesday. 

“I am very open with the direction of the class and where people want to go with it,” he said.

Oliver is currently the instructor for the youth after-school theater skills program. Edgerly invited him to expand the program to include adults in the creative community program.

“We figured it was about time to offer that to the community,” he said. 

Oliver said his group will practice contemporary theater, something he focused on while at Southern Oregon University. He describes contemporary theater as being more true to real life, as well as being set in modern times. 

Oliver’s first acting experience was playing the lead role in Pier One Theatre’s “Arsenic and Old Lace” in 2006.

“It was inspiring to be around the strong creative talent in Homer at a young age,” said Oliver, of the experience that peaked his interest in theater — and has brought him full circle in Homer.

For more information about Creative Communities, visit www.homerart.org or call 235-4288.

Toni Ross is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.

Creative Communities

Sponsored by Homer Council on the Arts

Cost: None

Prerequisite: High school age or older 

Goal: To support the artistic process, encourage community through the arts, generate creative programming ideas to further benefit the community and to increase participation in the HCOA organization through membership, committee, board and volunteer opportunities.

 

SPOKEN WORD

When: 1st and 3rd Thursdays, 7 p.m.

What: Explore elements of spoken word performance arts.

Moderator: Hannah Heimbuch

 

MUSICAL THEATRE

When: 2nd and 4th Thursdays, 7 p.m.

What: Share an interest in musical performance arts. 

Moderator: Hannah Heimbuch

 

THEATRE SKILLS

When: 2nd and 4th Tuesdays, 6 p.m.

WhAT: Practice contemporary theater skills. 

Moderator: Marc Oliver

 

WRITERS’ REFUGE

When: 1st, 3rd and 5th Mondays,
6 p.m., year round
WhAT: Share drafts, propose writing exercises, read essays out loud and ask questions in an encouraging environment.

Moderator: Janice Todd

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