President Peters

This morning, I was perusing an article on LinkedIn by Jeff Haden, which declared that irrational optimism is the key to success. As much as I identify as a pragmatist, I have one dream that is the epitome of irrational. I will run for president in 2052.

Running for president is not a new or fleeting passion for me; it is a position of public Senior Headshot [37674]service that I have been pursuing since childhood. Growing up, I was inundated with various political views from my divorced parents, who shared their radically opposite ideologies with me. My mother is extremely liberal and married to an extraordinarily active union member and my father is a small business owning conservative. Starting in middle school, I would often debate my teachers on pressing political issues from entitlement reform to American foreign policy. For me, problem solving through a complex and multi-faceted political issue is an incredible and rewarding challenge.

When I began high school, my grandmother, who is also politically active, began taking me to political functions and I also paged every year at the Indiana State House. These were eye-opening experiences that transformed my ideological views into real places where such change and reform “could” be accomplished. Through those years, my political views evolved significantly. In my senior year of high school, I received an internship with the Libertarian Party of Indiana that again helped expand my view of real life policy making.

Whether I run for president in 2052 or not is irrelevant. I strongly believe I will be rewarded in full by simply having a lofty and idealistic dream for the next 37 years. My personal goal will help guide me through tough decisions. It will help inspire me to pursue difficult paths, and it will help define me as a person and a professional. Regardless of what your dream is or where it may take you, persist and pursue it as though it is not only a possibility, but a likelihood. We often naively underestimate the power of a dream. Walt Disney understood the power and implications of dreams when he declared, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Austin will matriculate at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in the fall to study Finance, International Business, and Spanish.

My Boom-Boom

Tristan Tzara, founding member of the Zurich Dada movement, wrote in his 1918 Dada Manifesto that he was against systems, logic, and conforming to traditions; he instead implored everyone to dance to their own boom-boom. I had just started my new journey of studying art history, and I hung onto every word as I read Tzara’s explanation of Dada: “Dada; elegant and unprejudiced leap from a harmony to the other sphere; trajectory of a word tossed like a screeching phonograph record; to respect all individuals in their folly of the moment…Freedom: Dada Dada Dada, a roaring of tense colors, and interlacing of opposites and of all contradictions, grotesques, inconsistencies: LIFE” (1918 Manifesto).

I was hooked. Dada seemed to speak beyond its wisdom of protesting the atrocities of World War I and asked humanity for all times and epochs to find truth in individual thoughts, not blindly follow traditional practices and customs. It was an art movement that was more than just the art produced, or in a paradoxical twist, the anti-art not created. I wrote my thesis on these paradoxes, of traditional art practices being cast aside to make room for new ideas but, in the most illogical fashion, using older models from modern art to inform their work, because there should be no system, no boundaries and limits and everything was fair game.

It was from these ideas that Surrealism was born. While the artists no longer needed the harsh anti-art aesthetics of Dada and moved towards the more artistic dreamscapes of Surrealism, they didn’t lose the essence of Dada: the importance of the new, the individual, and the limitless boundaries when it came to searching for inspiration. Following the war, Tzara and fellow Dadaists transitioned to the new art movement, finding inspiration from their own limitless subconscious. Surrealists, motivated by the emerging Freudian theories about repressed ideas and thoughts, looked to cultivate these nascent ideas into innovative creations and unique juxtapositions.

When I first heard the Spirit and Place theme DREAM, I could not stop thinking about the oneiric art of the Surrealists and the automatic practices utilized to discover buried views. I wanted to create an evening for people to search their individual thoughts, look deep into their subconscious and uncover what new ideas might be lurking below the surface. What if we all did this for Indianapolis? What if this was more than just an art movement, but a way of life? How could our community benefit from seeing things from new points of views and juxtaposing what may seem to be dissimilar thoughts? This all inspired my plans as I brought my ideas to Spirit and Place for a Surrealist night.

And while I am currently working with Spirit and Place, Big Car, and Indy Reads to plan the best Surrealist night this city has seen, it is Tristan Tzara that haunts my thoughts. More than the Surrealist ideas, I am motivated to dance to my own boom-boom and I have an innate desire to have others do the same. The Dada spirit that was initially sparked in grad school is alive and well while planning this event. My boom-boom is unapologetically art. This night for me is a way to have others explore these art movements to understand the importance of these ideas and images and to create connections between our own community and art of the past. My boom-boom is explaining to others how art is a reflection of humanity: it’s not only a mirror that demonstrates and displays our current culture and politics, but it is a roadmap. Through images and visual representations, artists offer us ideas that lead towards progress, change, and transformation.FullSizeRender-1

Spirit and Place has given me the opportunity to cast aside conformity to how to plan a community program and bring my individual passion to the forefront. I have the platform to share Art. Yes, capital letter for emphasis. I am able to share with others how art can inform our ideas for community, culture, LIFE. And if that isn’t other people’s boom-boom, in a twist, I hope the art can inspire others to have the freedom to find their own individual passion, thoughts, and dreams. Break traditional boundaries, conform to no system, and use contradiction to keep finding new ways of doing things.

And just dance to your own personal boom-boom. No matter what.

Thank you, Tzara.

Susan Davis, a proud Butler University graduate, earned her B.S. in Elementary Education and received her M.A. in Art History from Indiana University. As the Adult Program Specialist for the Indianapolis Public Library, Susan plans and implements literary, cultural, and community-building programs and exhibits.   Susan is active in the local arts scene as a board member for Primary Colours and assists in organizing gallery shows and local art events. In her spare time, Susan enjoys playing outdoor sports, reading, and cheering for the Butler Bulldogs.



From the Archives – Exploring Imagination: Catching the Big Fish

It’s really fun to ask children about something they have created. They deliver amazing stories and explanations about what they see in a drawing or a lump of clay. They effortlessly craft fantastic stories. Children see things differently and often see things the way they want them to be. They love activities that allow them to pretend. Ask a child to be a tree, a house, an animal, or an inanimate object. Without a second thought, they just do it.

As a young child, I remember coming home from school with a three-dimensional creation from art class. I thought my creation was spectacular. It was a dog with an intense yellow body, green spots, and three legs. I also remember laughter as I presented the dog to my mother. I told her rather indignantly that it was a surrealistic dog. My mother was  more impressed with my vocabulary than the fantastic creation.

Even though my mother didn’t appear to appreciate it, that dog sat on top of a metal  cabinet in our basement for years. Other things were tossed but somehow the dog survived. I wonder if in some way it stood out from all the other crafts my sister and I brought home.

For the last 30 years, I have collected art from professional artists, but I continue to display many of the pieces my children created years ago. Each piece reflects their curiosity, perception, and imagination when they were young enough to be unencumbered by the fear of lacking skill. That’s what makes the pieces interesting, and at times, humorous.

Why has the work of so many modern artists suggested the expressive freedom of children? In 1945, painter Jean Dubuffet, incensed by public outrage at his work, responded by saying “I own a portrait done by an eight-year-old, one eye is red, the other is yellow, and the cheeks are royal blue. People praise the painting for its whimsy and enchantment but if I add a whim of my own, I am told: ‘You have no right, you are no longer a child.’”

JoEllen Florio Rossebo, president and CEO of Young Audiences Indiana. Photo by Mark Lee

JoEllen Florio Rossebo, president and CEO of Young Audiences Indiana. Photo by Mark Lee

Do we lose the ability to imagine and disregard its value as we mature? It’s interesting that after relegating the power of imagination to “artists,” more and more people understand that it’s one of the most valuable abilities that we can possess at work and in everyday life.

Sought-after authors and futurists such as Daniel Pink and Sir Ken Robinson focus on the importance of creativity, innovation, and imagination to prepare us for a globally competitive future. Even a recent Shell Oil Company television commercial touted the company’s employment of creative researchers who can envision new products for improved efficiency and air quality.

There’s a growing body of evidence in the fields of art and education that recognizes the importance of building the capacity for imagination through the curriculum. A new study by Lake Research Partners titled “Imagination Nation” shows growing public support for such programs. Imagination is an inextricable part of a good education.

I don’t think of imagination as something I can pull out when I need it. It’s more about the absence of all the junk that clutters my thought process. Imagination is the ability to clear away the junk and allow natural connections to surface. Connections from my life experience: walking in a forest, reading a book, listening to music, or manipulating cold, wet clay.

I often think about a wonderful poet and teacher, Sandy Lyne, who presented at a Young Audiences Institute for Artful Teaching in 2005. Sandy was talking about teaching children to write poetry. He used the metaphor of fishing to describe the creative process. Words and ideas are always there. We have to fish for them. Sometimes we catch a boot, but more often than not, we catch the words and phrases that capture our meaning—big fish!

What do I imagine now? How does the very kernel of an idea begin to grow? What will the garden look like this year? How do I solve a problem at work? A new system, a new thought, a new way of behaving, a new way to envision the world: anything I work toward is a product of my imagination.

JoEllen Florio Rossebo is president and CEO of Young Audiences of Indiana.

You Are Also Worthy

11751295_10155806276450284_1295567823_nI was a sophomore in high school. Mom was headed to a Spirit & Place Festival event called “The Hispanic Immigrant in American Culture.” I tagged along, hoping to snag some culture credits for my Spanish class. Richard Rodriguez was the sole presenter and his words changed me.

I learned quite a bit from Richard Rodriguez. He taught me to question our cultural obsession with labeling identity. His words deepened my interest in the realities of race and racism in the United States. His book Brown: The Last Discovery of America informed an essay I later wrote on the need for better education on racism in the classroom. That book still sits on my shelf, seven years later.

But most of all, I remember the words he shared with just me.

“Tell your story and send it to me.”

His words linger in the back of my mind. I think about them often. What is my story? How do I understand myself? Richard Rodriguez taught me that my story is worthy, that I am worthy. What a gift. The belief that all stories are worthy underpins all that I do. In case someone hasn’t told you yet, know that your story is also worthy. You are worthy.

Ruth Hinkle is an almost graduate of IUPUI who dreams of writing stories worth sharing. Have you been inspired, challenged, or transformed by Spirit & Place? Share your story here.

Dreams Delayed…and Denied

Dan Gosling with productWhat happens when dreams are deferred, delayed or simply never come true?

Dreams are just that – dreams. They are ethereal, wispy and hard to grasp. Ironically, dreams of the nocturnal variety seem so real. When we are free of the bondage of reality, anything can happen in our nighttime dreams. In our supposedly awakened daytime state, they have a wholly different quality and sometimes seem unobtainable. Think of how we use the word.

”dream home”
“dream vacation”
”dream job”
“only in my dreams”
“woman/man of my dreams”

The list is endless. Do dreams excite you or do they depress you because the very word is a synonym for “not gonna happen?” Dreams are often the spark of creation but to will them into reality takes effort, planning, faith, hope, grit, and yes, good old blood, sweat, and tears, often in that order.

And, then, sometimes they still don’t happen or they take a lot longer and much more effort than we ever “dreamed” they would. So why do some dreams take so long or, in many cases, never happen, despite someone’s best effort? I believe two things can be at play. One – God/Universe is trying to protect you from something and has something better in store, if you are but open to it and are patient. Or, two, the dreamer started “doing” and got tired of all the doing and not seeing any results. You might call it “dream fatigue.”

In my professional life, I have experienced both dreams deferred and dreams denied. I once had a “dream job” for three years only to have it taken away from me. There was nothing evil or nefarious about the way it came about. Simply put, I was a “substitute” member of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for three seasons as one of their trumpet players. When the long-delayed “official” audition for the job was held, I was beaten fair and square by a young, up and coming musician. (In fact, he was so “up and coming,” he has since “come and gone” as is now the Principal Trumpet of the Los Angeles Philharmonic!) As I swallowed that bitter pill, I tried to convince myself things would be “OK” and I knew that was true on some level, but just being “OK” was a depressing proposition at the time.

It was after that extreme disappointment that a new dream took hold. It was a dream so outlandish, so completely out of my area of expertise and yet so perfect for me, that I had to chase it. Soon after that audition, one of my old students told me how he treated a lip injury from a marching band accident with an herb called Arnica. A random conversation changed my life forever. I was so taken by his story that I set out to create the best lip balm ever made, using arnica as one of the main ingredients. And that dream has pushed, prodded and poked me mercilessly for over a decade now. And yes, my “dream” has taken just too damn long at times. But after chasing my new dream for so long and considering giving up on an almost daily basis, a major breakthrough has occurred, one that could only come true with more grit, hustle, prayer, determination and hard work than I could have ever imagined necessary before I started out. In just a few short weeks from now, ChopSaver Lip Care, after many years of limited, niche distribution, will be sold in every CVS drug store in the country – over 7,000 stores. I know this adventure will take on new twists and turns, but this is a major leap, indeed.

At times my dream seemed to have turned into a nightmare and my “dark nights of the soul” were too numerous to remember. But there is a reason we grab onto clichés at times like that. For it truly was one of those “When God closes a door, he opens a window” moments. Actually, I have a different version of that one. Mine says, “When God closes a door, stop staring at the door because there may be a whole new world behind you…and not just a tiny window.”

So when a dream is long in coming or otherwise denied completely, you might want to choose another dream – or let it choose you.

Dan Gosling – professional trumpet player. Also known as The ChopSaver Guy.

From the archives: Frank Basile “Achieving What I Imagined”

It’s not an overstatement to say that imagination changed my life. Over time, I became  convinced that if I could imagine it, believe it, think it, want it, I could achieve it. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives and our character.”

While growing up poor in New Orleans, I would imagine having money to do all the things my five sisters and I couldn’t, like attending arts and cultural events—though I had only a vague idea of what those were. Being poor wasn’t the only issue—art and culture simply were not on our radar.

Since we took no family trips or vacations with the exception of visiting nearby relatives, I imagined traveling to far off lands like New York and China.

Virtually tongue-tied when called upon to speak in class, I imagined speaking in front of an audience and actually being applauded. As a boy, it was my job to watch my dad’s fruit stand. Since there weren’t a lot of customers, I relied on my imagination for entertainment. Little did I know that these daydreams, as my mother called them, would take seed. Through the years, I gradually accomplished or became much of what I had imagined, experiencing many ups and downs along the way.

I enjoyed the challenges that came with having to make things happen for myself, and the resulting self-confidence and feeling of accomplishment. I believe meeting these challenges helped in my personal growth. Those who don’t have to fend for themselves frequently miss out on the struggle and the thrill of overcoming.

I vividly recall being told by the principal of the Catholic high school I attended that my tuition was overdue, then learning from my sobbing mother that my dad had gambled away the tuition money she had given him to take to the school on his way to the market.

There was not time to brood. I drove our old pickup truck to the farmers’ market near the French Quarter, got a load of watermelons from a farmer on consignment and sold every one of them by the side of the road at my uncle’s farm just outside of New Orleans. I had earned my own way and was able to pay the tuition the next day. That was not only a thrilling accomplishment, but the beginning of the realization that I was the master of my fate.

Imagination is important to success, but it’s only the beginning. Realizing one’s dreams requires focus, determination, and drive, with a little help from others along the way—like the Christian brother at De La Salle High School who saw how frightened and incapacitated I became when it was my turn to speak or read in class. He convinced me that the only way to overcome something I feared was to do it. He cajoled me into joining the debate team. That was a defining moment in my life, without which I would never have become a professional speaker or succeeded in other areas in which the ability to communicate is important.

Although I imagined having money, I recall that it was not for the sake of being rich or to own a big house, like those in the Garden District of my hometown, or to drive an expensive car. I wanted to be able to live comfortably and enjoy experiences like travel while having enough left over to help other people.

My wife, Katrina, and I are happy living in a modest condo, driving a 2001 car, wearing  bildeoff-the-rack clothes and dining at moderately priced restaurants, with our one extravagance being travel. But our greatest joy comes from philanthropy, especially being able to give a boost to talented individuals to help them achieve their own dreams. Gloria Steinem said, “It’s more rewarding to watch money change the world than to watch it accumulate.”

My early experience growing up with my imagination keeping me company also helped shape my life-long personal mission, which is to help others grow and reach their potential. For about 30 years, I tried to do this through writing books and articles and giving speeches and seminars, most of which were motivational in nature. Most recently, I’m trying to do this through philanthropy and volunteer work with nonprofit organizations.

But it all started with an over-active imagination while minding the fruit stand.


Frank Basile is a professional speaker, author, philanthropist, community volunteer, and retired business executive.

Plan for Miracles

Win Blevins is an award-winning writer and dedicated follower of his dreams. He’s also my Dad, and in 1994, he said three words to me that changed everything.

Twenty years ago, my family was living in an old dairy farm that had been transformed into a church just north of Pittsburgh, PA. We lived in the old milk house, spent hours swinging on the porch, petting bunnies and discovering fairy rings in the woods. But while the environment appeared peaceful, my insides were roiling with the mismatch between who I was and who I wanted to become.

Win's shirt translated from French means play, dance, eat, repeat.

Win’s shirt translated from French means play, dance, eat, repeat.

Enter Dad.

Shortly after arriving for a visit, he took a walk and returned with a perfectly straight stick as thick as my index finger and about a foot long. Without explaining why, he asked me to write down one-line prayers on a sheet of paper. (And though I’m comfortable with such a task now, back then it felt, um, weird.)

Without reading it, he tore each line from the sheet, curled it around the stick, and wound richly colored yarn around my prayers. At the end of the day, he solemnly handed me a beautiful prayer stick covered in red, blue, green, and golden yarn, and said, “Plan for miracles.”

Plan for miracles? That was a head-scratcher. Can you plan for a miracle? A miracle is something inexplicably wonderful and surprising, perhaps even divine. But you can’t count on them; you can’t build them into your plan. Or can you?

Many of my prayers on that stick were about making music. That simple intention started a steady stream of answered prayers. It got me directing and producing, improvising and chanting, composing and arranging, and it introduced me to countless artists, musicians, poets, dancers, and people of faith whose creativity and spirituality are inseparable. Miraculous? Oh, yeah.

Naming and claiming your dream—whether you call it a prayer, a vision, or an intention—is a powerful and prophetic act. Twenty-one years later, that prayer stick still calls me to make music and calls me out when I don’t. And it reminds me, again and again, to plan for miracles.

Thanks, Dad.

Pam Blevins Hinkle is a musician and director of Spirit & Place, which celebrates the theme of DREAM during it’s annual festival from November 6-15, 2015. Pam recently received the IUPUI Inspirational Woman Award in the staff category. Pam’s father Win Blevins is an award-winning author of more than 30 books and is the 2015 recipient of the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature. The award is given by Western Writers of America as its highest honor.