Three months after the Mancos Creative District received a coveted Arts in Society grant, its multimedia “We All Belong” art project is beginning to take shape.
The project, which is being funded by a Colorado Creative Industries grant, includes a short documentary by Durango filmmaker John Sheedy, a Raven Narratives storytelling performance and a public sculpture set to be built in spring.
But Creative District members Carol Mehesy and Sarah Syverson said the project is inspiring other artistic endeavors as well. A small group of Mancos residents called the Core Community Creatives has been coming up with ways to promote new projects based on the themes of diversity and belonging, which are at the heart of the grant project.
On July 19, Mehesy said Sheedy is near the end of the filming process. His short will focus on undocumented immigrant Rosa Sabido and her experience in sanctuary at the Mancos Methodist Church, but will also feature interviews with a wide range of Mancos residents on their different experiences in the community. Members of the Creative District are meeting with Sheedy regularly to get updates on his work and connect him with interviewees, but Mehesy and Syverson said they’re giving him full creative freedom over how the film turns out.
“He’s the artist, so we’re not dictating the storyline,” Syverson said.
Thanks to a friend of Syverson’s, the Creative District will be able to premiere the documentary as part of a bigger event. Jane Julian, a Durango resident who works as a programming coordinator at several film festivals across the country, plans to host a two-day documentary festival in Mancos this October. Sheedy’s film will debut there alongside four feature-length documentaries and several other shorts.
Julian said she didn’t originally intend for the festival to be a part of the “We All Belong” project – it is not being funded by the grant – but after hearing about Sheedy’s work, she decided to screen films about different kinds of people struggling to fit into their communities. One of the feature-length films, which will be screened on Oct. 12 and 13, is about the newest arrival at an orphanage in the Himalayas, and a Buddhist monk’s struggle to care for her. Another follows a woman who started a food truck in a Lebanon refugee camp.
After the second day of the festival is over, Julian said, attendees will be invited to Outlier Cellars cidery to tell “campfire stories” about their experiences with fitting into their own communities.
“The most important thing to me ... is there’s only one venue, so everyone sees the movies together,” Julian said. “Even if you sit next to a stranger, it might ignite some conversation.”
Syverson, who runs the Raven Narratives storytelling project with Tom Yoder, said the project is starting to accept story pitches for a two-night performance themed around “Belonging,” also scheduled for October. Although she does plan to accept a few storytellers from outside the town, the majority must be from Mancos, she said. She and Yoder are looking for a diverse set of storytellers for the event.
“If anybody’s interested, it’s a great time to pitch a story,” she said.
Red Scarf Studios, which provides black-and-white photos of the storytellers at each Raven Narratives event, will also be creating a mobile gallery of portraits from October’s performance.
Although the film and stage aspects of the grant project are still a few months from completion, the Creative District has been encouraging other, nongrant-funded activities that relate to its central theme. Mehesy and Syverson have been meeting since late May with a group of about a dozen nondistrict members, who call themselves the Core Community Creatives, and brainstorming ideas for how to promote acceptance and compassion in Mancos.
One of those ideas has resulted in the Creative District handing out postcards at events like Grand Summer Nights, each one printed with an encouraging quote, the hashtag #weallbelong and text encouraging the recipient to “write a message to a friend” on the blank side.
Mehesy said the district’s goal is to get as many Mancos residents involved in the project as possible.
“This group is generating additional ideas bubbling up around the theme of belonging, like ‘how do we celebrate and continue to deepen our sense of community?’” she said.
The Creative District will begin looking for artists to create a sculpture based on the “We All Belong” theme in the spring.