A 10-day taste of Yellow Springs
- Published: May 27, 2010
What is it like to live in this college town of 3,700 and can the experience be shared? A broad group of people representing the core strengths of the village believe it can be. And under the guidance of the Yellow Springs Arts Council, they are designing a 10-day cultural tasting event this summer called the Yellow Springs Experience to celebrate those strengths and gauge their ability to generate revenue for the town.
While Yellow Springs may have once had a reputation as a fringe/wack village, its popularity has grown on those who are drawn to the experience of a small, dynamic community, organizers believe. The Yellow Springs Experience is an attempt to get those people here for an extended period and a closer look at what the town has to offer.
From July 9–18, residents and visitors can come to the village for a full spectrum of arts and music workshops, such as pottery, woodworking, storytelling, clowning and kids’ art and theater. Participants can get involved in body wellness sessions, such as yoga and meditation classes, and they can learn from the village’s collective “green” knowledge and take a sustainable building or sustainable farming tour. The period also coincides with the 25th anniversary Antioch Writers’ Workshop, a skate park music concert, the YS Kids Playhouse opening of its first summer jazz musical, The Conference of the Birds, and an outdoor banquet celebrating the 50th anniversary of Glen Helen’s Raptor Center. The Dayton Street businesses are also hosting Cirque Carnival as a Third Friday Fling event, featuring an evening arts and crafts exhibit, music and street performers.
This isn’t the first time the village has flung its doors open to the public for a summertime extravaganza. From 1906 to 1916, Antioch College held the Antioch Chautauqua, an intellectual and cultural festival featuring lectures, debates, drama and entertainment under a big tent, according to Two Hundred Years of Yellow Springs. The 10-day event, likened by one historian to a “carnival,” drew upward of 4,000 people each year and was considered a relatively inexpensive and accessible form of continuing education for rural educators, according to Fred Bartenstein, who helped to conceive and organize this year’s event. The village has held subsequent chautauquas, more modest in scope, as recently as the 1960s, he said.
“There’s a tradition in Yellow Springs, going back to a time when we had the resort hotels, of a summer learning tradition here,” Bartenstein said at a planning meeting last week.
While the modern-day event isn’t designed exclusively for continuing education, it does include among its chief organizing partners Antioch College, Antioch University McGregor and the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute, representing the academic element that is so important to the village. The village-wide partnership, perhaps unprecedented in its scope, also includes Glen Helen, YS Kids Playhouse, Antioch Writers’ Workshop, Tecumseh Land Trust, Chamber of Commerce, the Village economic development coordinator, African American Cross-Cultural Works, the Center for the Performing Arts and WYSO.
When the leaders of these groups began meeting in January to conceive of a summertime event, the goal was to create a revenue-generating model that had potential for growth and expansion in subsequent years, according to Yellow Springs Arts Council president Anita Brown. The group received a Morgan Family Foundation grant to plan “a quality event we could grow from” and that would be “dedicated to making sure that art in the village has a long and healthy life,” Brown said.
Most of the events are fee-oriented and will charge individually, Brown said. If the event is successful and organizers feel it has potential to draw people for several days at a time, the group will consider mechanisms for charging a flat fee for access to all the events, she said. The hope, according to Bartenstein, is to extend the Yellow Springs Experience in the future, perhaps to a full 365-day experience that will “contribute to the cultural and economic life in Yellow Springs — taking the talent that’s here and getting compensation for it.”
With help from the grant, the Arts Council hired coordinator Carole Braun to carry out the project. And organizers are still open to ideas and adding events to the schedule, which members aim to complete in the next week or so. Organizers are also collecting a list of local bed and breakfasts and private homes to recommend to visitors for lodging, and Antioch College has made Birch Hall available for modest dorm-like lodging that week as well.
The full calendar of events can be accessed at yellowsprings-experience.org.