The fourth annual Winter Gathering took place at the Whidbey Institute at the beginning of this month, providing an opportunity for play, learning, and growth. The theme was The Power of Creative Community in Decisive Times.
Rick Ingrasci, Hollyhock Retreat Centre (Cortes Island, B.C.) co-founder, started this series at Whidbey Institute in an effort to bring dynamic, creative arts-based convening to this part of the bioregion. The arts-based facilitation at the conferences has roots, he said, in the work of his wife Peggy Taylor and associate Charlie Murphy, co-founders of PYE Global. Peggy and Charlie started Power of Hope teen camps at Chinook in 1996.
Rick and Peggy have been central figures at Chinook for decades: they met founders Fritz and Vivienne in the 1970s, moved to South Whidbey shortly after our 1990 Earth and Spirit conference, and ran the Whidbey Cybercafe & Bookstore under the auspices of the Whidbey Institute for five years in the mid-nineties. The back room speaker series that ran at the Cybercafe eventually wound down, but not before engaging a number of notable authors and creating some dear memories.
Rick’s body of work now includes the StoryDome, an immersive storytelling project run through the nonprofit NewStories. The StoryDome was created for the Seattle World’s Fair 50th Anniversary Festival and has since been used as teaching tool at many gatherings and workshops. “What we’ve really wanted to do all along is not just have the StoryDome be an exhibit or an add-on, but to have it be [a central part of] a process of helping people transform their world view toward a more holistic perspective.” At this time, the StoryDome is used once a month by South Whidbey Middle School sixth graders, who experience an immersive science lesson in the dome and follow it with writing, art, and creative exercises in math, geometry, and astronomy.
For those interested in experiencing the StoryDome Project’s powerful visual storytelling, Rick Ingrasci and Maggie Chumbley are facilitating an inaugural workshop, Living Your Life in a Larger Story, on Saturday March 1 at the Bayview School. The workshop is designed to “cultivate personal creativity, compassion, and community by deepening our relationships with ourselves, each other, and the natural world.”
Rick’s efforts with the StoryDome, Hollyhock, and the Institute follow parallel tracks. “I’ve been beating the same drum all my life,” he said, “and the world ultimately is moving into this perspective.” He said that a part of the Chinook founders’ vision—”the idea that we were facing an ecological crisis that was fundamentally a spiritual crisis”—still drives his work today. “There’s been continuity in the philosophy and purpose of the Institute, which is to shift the consciousness of the culture toward a more ecological or ecospiritual worldview.” In Rick’s opinion, the Institute is stronger than ever as we shift toward more active engagement among younger leaders and a greater focus on working with our regional community. “Having that kind of strong community in the bioregion is part of how you create [practical] models of change.”
To learn more about Winter Gatherings or the March 1 StoryDome Project workshop, email Rick.
Photo from the Winter Gathering closing ceremony: Blessing Mother Earth