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Highlights from Convergence: The Poetic Dialogue Project


Convergence: The Poetic Dialogue Project was exhibited from February 6-March 22, 2015 at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago, with a reception on Friday, February 6th and a panel discussion on Saturday, February 7th. The exhibition traveled a year later to Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, IL.

Convergence: The Poetic Dialogue Project, curated by Chicago artist and curator Beth Shadur, was the fourth exhibition in the ongoing Poetic Dialogue Project of collaboration between contemporary artists and poets, creating new works of art by responding to the muse of each other’s works in a creative dialogue. This project came about after a wonderful meeting of hearts and minds in 2004 at the Ragdale Foundation* between Arizona poet Lois Roma-Deeley and Shadur, as both explored the parallel creative process of artist and poet in an ongoing dialogue, and began to collaborate in their own work. They have now collaborated on various works for 14 years.


In the most recent exhibition, Convergence, the collaborative process was defined by each pair in a unique way. Pairs had 18 months in which to decide on the form of their collaboration and undertake the process of making new work. Some pairs met in person to collaborate, while others worked through the internet to send images and poetry back and forth. Others initiated an ongoing spoken dialogue by telephone or Skype. Works were developed to integrate text with visual images in a wide variety of ways, from dialoguing and using the poet’s voice and artist’s images to conversing side by side as the works were being created.


Previously, Shadur curated three exhibitions, the first, Collaborative Vision: The Poetic Dialogue Project in 2009, in which Shadur paired thirty-one visual artists with thirty-one poets based on the resonance of their works. Each pair were asked to develop a creative collaboration in whatever direction they chose as a pair, in order to create a new work. This exhibition premiered at the Chicago Cultural Center and traveled nationally.


Prior to the 2009 exhibition, there was one in 2004, in which twenty-one Chicago area visual artists responded to the poetry of six national poets, and then, a second exhibition in 2005, where works of visual art themselves become the muse for each poet in works of ‘ekphrasis’, premiered in Chicago at ARC Gallery, the second oldest women’s cooperative in the nation, where Shadur served as Executive Director at the time. These shows then traveled nationally, became part of the 2004 and 2005 Chicago Humanities Festivals, were included in the International Conference on Arts in Society in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2006, and the Project was published in the International Journal of Arts in Society in Melbourne, Australia.


Poets mentioned experimenting and working outside their own comfort zone to create new ideas and forms for their work, while artists who had never considered text as part of their work found ways to integrate the poet’s voice. The ongoing dialogue offered each creator the opportunity to witness and effect the creation of “the other”, respond, communicate, argue, compromise, and sometimes, to change or overcome difficulties. In making collaborative work, each individual brought his or her strength to the paired collaboration, allowing each contribution to be weighed and valued, given critical consideration, as the pair moved to develop solutions to the creative process as a team. In some cases, the collaborative effort was exciting and inspirational, in others problematic. Some pairs mentioned difficult struggles in working with a person who was a stranger; and yet struggle, too, is part of the creative process. All pairs found that the collaborative process in creativity became a catalyst for new directions, new forms and new paradigms in their process and practice.


As the Curator and originator of The Poetic Dialogue Project, Beth Shadur has found the opportunity to work with other artists and poets an exhilarating experience. Just as her own rich collaboration with Lois Roma-Deeley has allowed her to push her work in new and exciting directions, the Project has allowed her to experience the thrill of the creative process between originators of new ideas. The Poetic Dialogue Process continues to remain a meaningful experience for both creators and audience alike, and has presented new opportunities for dialogue, growth, and creativity.


* the Ragdale Foundation is an artists colony where visual artists, writers and musicians convene to live and work, away from the distractions of their daily lives

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