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Meet collective.aporia

Today we’d like to introduce you to collective.aporia.

So, before we jump into specific questions about your organization, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Shawnie: Many organizations begin because of a need. Someone notices something missing from their lives or the lives of their community and works to create something to fill that absence. However, as I sit down to write this, I realize that collective.aporia actually begins from a place of overflowing abundance.

I met most of the collective.aporia team at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, in 2015. A few of us were in the MFA program at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, or were somehow connected to the school as alumni, employees, and/or Summer Writing Program participants. In the midst of this beautifully grueling time, many of us craved spaces for creativity and community outside the structures of institutions.

It was during this time that some cohort members and I started a collective called the OFF.collective and began holding events around the Denver/Boulder area. Sometimes these events were large performances and parties. Sometimes they were small gatherings in the comfort of someone’s home. They were always places of creativity, experimentation, and love. It was in these spaces that I felt, for the first time in my life, completely accepted as an artist and person. My community held (and continues to hold) every magnificent and ugly aspect of creativity and growth. It is an addicting feeling, to say the least, and one I am very grateful and privileged to experience.

In 2018, I decided to sell everything and travel around Europe by myself. It was an incredibly humbling experience, and each day was an adventure in both expansion and loneliness. But, after about five months on the road, I was desperately missing my creative community. I wished I could transport myself to my friend’s Denver apartment, sitting in a circle with notebooks and tarot cards and candles, laughing and crying as we figured out how to navigate being people/women/artists/mothers/queer bodies/activists in this forever troubling world. I also (slightly selfishly) wanted them with me. I wanted to share the experience of meeting the artists and creatives from my travels.

It was from this intersection of longing and exposure that the idea for the collective originated. I wanted to create and share the same spaces my friends and I made cuddled together under the loving gaze of the Rockies, but around the world. I wanted to amplify the art that was already being created internationally and introduce it to my people back home. I also realized, in the ever-present shadow of oppressors and fascists, that creating spaces of creativity and radical acceptance is essential for activism. Creative people must be fed and held in order to continue the work of dismantling what Audre Lorde called “the master’s house.” On New Year’s Day 2019, I awoke in an artist’s little country home in the Lake District of the UK with the plan for collective.aporia. While visiting Colorado a few months later, I shared this idea with Sarah, Vera, and Swanee in Swanee’s apartment in Boulder over vodka cocktails, and with their steadfast support, enthusiasm, and hard work, collective.aporia became a reality.

Collective.aporia is an international arts collective, but its home base is in the Front Range, and its heart beats because of the love and abundance of the creative community we were able to nurture there.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Swanee: As a new start-up, one of the biggest challenges is always making sure that every step of the collective’s communication and systems is serving the mission. Along the way, we’ve discovered new platforms to support what we’re doing that have allowed what we really want to manifest come into a fuller view. We’ve had fun learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses and how a collective can support both of those things. Because of this, we’ve been able to flush out a highly skilled team that is excited about each next step and there are MANY for us to reach the Moon.

Sarah: All of us are working artists, which means that this organization is not our “day-job” right now; the vision is that it eventually will be. This means that we’ve each individually had to overcome many obstacles related to time, money, and energy. At different times, members of our team have had to cut back on their commitments, or re-frame the work they are doing with collective.aporia. Luckily, the nice part of being a collective means that if one person has to step back, another person can step up. Unlike a corporate or institutional environment, we have the flexibility to communicate authentically with one another about our limitations and commitments, without fearing that we’ll “lose our jobs,” and instead feel the supportive net of the collective to catch and hold whatever comes up.

We’d love to hear more about your organization.
Shawnie: Aporia means “An irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a text, argument, or theory.” And is this not the place we always live? While society at large usually finds these contradictions divisive and debilitating, we believe these collisions are places for expansion, as long as creativity and compassion are placed at the forefront.

To put this more simply, collective.aporia works to foster and feed creatives around the world through education, community connection, and compensation. We believe creatives are integral in social justice movements—they can dream up the world as it should be, not as it is now. In order to support these important movements, we need to take care of ourselves, challenge our perceptions of the world, have sustainable platforms, and actually be paid for our work.

These core values manifest as workshops, *apo-press, and festivals. We hold monthly, donation-based, online workshops facilitated by artists from around the world that explore modes of creativity, self-care, and activism. The donations collected for the workshops are split 50/50 in a co-op model so that the facilitator may have additional support as a working artist, and so the collective can continue operations.

Our press, *apo-press, is currently collecting work from artists around the world for our first publication. We will amplify diverse voices, experiences, cultures, and languages through print and digital platforms. *apo-press is also working to expand our services to include other professional support, such as translation, manuscript feedback, and publication contract review. It is our hope that we not only celebrate artists but also help provide artists with the necessary tools and opportunities to lift them up as professionals.

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, our festivals have been temporarily postponed, but it is our hope that these festivals will create physical spaces of exploration and cultural exchange. We will be collaborating with local artists and organizations in locations around the world to hold four- to seven-day events centered on sharing, learning, creativity, and performance. These events will also culminate with a community art offering.

I am incredibly proud of collective.aporia for so many reasons, but I think the thing that stands out the most is that there is so much love in every aspect of this organization, and this really impacts how people engage with it. So many participants have shown up with honesty, vulnerability, and authenticity. They have shared their art and stories with strangers from around the world. They support one another organically. They embrace experiences so different than their own. This is SO rare, and SO beautiful, especially on online platforms. And I would like to believe it is, at least in part, because our team has worked diligently and mindfully to create radically loving and inclusive spaces. It is also because people are magic, a fact we must hold close to our chest as we keep fighting the hateful rhetoric infecting our world.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Sarah: I don’t think it was an accident that Denver and the Front Range was the birthplace of collective.aporia. There’s something magical about living in the shadow of the Rockies—you can simultaneously feel dwarfed in awe while feeling powerful enough to take on the world. Being so close to such a huge natural phenomenon reminds us of our interconnectedness in ways that I don’t think other locations lend themselves to. As an urban center, Denver is also unique in that the art scene here is as lively and interested in cross-pollination as the plants and animals that populate our mountains. While our core team at collective.aporia identifies mostly as writers, we have collaborated in Denver with performance artists, musicians, slam poets, stand-up comics, visual artists, spoken word artists, dancers, theater folks, and more. Denver and the surrounding areas offer up a wealth of creative people, and the general feeling is that everyone is interested in supporting one another and perhaps even collaborating on creative projects. This is such a vibrant artistic community to be a part of, which definitely has influenced the mission and values of collective.aporia.

I think the part I like least about Denver and the Front Range is the traffic! I do wish we had better public transportation options, especially as I think this would help creative people connect across different cities along the Front Range, as well as open up wider access for more diverse peoples (like people who don’t have a car, for instance!). How wonderful it would be if traveling to Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, or Colorado Springs wasn’t such a huge trip! We could attend each other’s readings, gallery openings, performances, and events so much easier. In a way, this speaks to the idea of collective.aporia being accessible from anywhere in the world; we want folks to be able to participate in our community no matter their location, means, or identities. 

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Wes Butler, Mandy Vink, Sarah Richards Graba, Yolanda Fauvet, Jenni Ashby, Iris Suarez Hidalgo

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