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The Notebook Project
When local artist K8E Orr and MAC Executive Director Natalie Johnson looked at the approaching winter months, they knew this winter would be different. The dampening effect of the pandemic on social gatherings, combined with a season that can be challenging for some, inspired them to develop the Notebook Project. “Natalie asked me if I would be interested in developing a winter community art project, and I said ‘yes’ right away,” said K8E. Over the course of several meetings, they worked out the basic concept of what would become the Notebook Project.
“I am a huge believer in the healing power of Art, and with everything that was happening in 2020, I thought people could use a safe virtual environment in which to express themselves,” she said. “I was also aware that this winter might feel longer than past winters, so I wanted to create a loving community where everyone had someone to look forward to.”
Currently, there is a notebook library in New York, but to Orr’s knowledge, there are not any Colorado organizations who are curating a similar project. More than 150 people have signed up to participate in the Notebook Project, mostly on Facebook, but also a few on Instagram. “Most of our participants are silent members, but there are about 20 who are actively engaging and posting their work every week,” says K8E. The community project is slated to cover 17 weeks, but may go longer.
At the beginning of the project, participants picked up their notebooks from the MAC, and waited for their first prompt. Orr, who is a volunteer guide for the participants and the project, provides a weekly prompt around a theme or concept. “The purpose of the prompts is to provide some focus, allow participants to get in touch with themselves and to engage with the Arts and community.” The prompts aren’t mandatory and Orr encourages participants to pursue any idea that they may find interesting. “But the response from the prompts have been largely positive, and our participants seem to enjoy having some structure every week. Sometimes a prompt can help a participant explore material that they may not otherwise choose to do if they were working independently.”
When the project is concluded, there are plans in the works to showcase the notebooks in some form. “I am not sure how it will look yet, but we hope that people are exposed to this project via a public showing,” said Orr. She continues to provide the prompts, “and hopefully love and encouragement along the way. Our participants who have submitted beautiful, vulnerable, and introspective pieces. We’ve seen amazing reflections on love and grief, kindness from strangers, and aspirations about the future. The community has been full of support and love of Art.”
Orr’s favorite aspect of the project is seeing the artwork that people have created and how supportive the community has been. She hopes that, with project funding, she is able to provide a space in which to continue the project. “I just want to thank everyone who is posting, encouraging other artists, and doing the project, whether in public or private. I am so grateful for the Arts community in Manitou and I hope this project has helped and encouraged others as much as it has helped me.”