Reclaiming the Melting Pot: A Preview of You, Me, and Rumi

Lyric Theater ~ Friday, Oct. 12, 7 p.m.

At a time when the United States is more divided than ever, one woman is bringing people together to celebrate the many ways we share in our relationship with nature.  Lakshmi Sriraman, a Lexington, Kentucky-based Bharatanatyam artist (Indian classical dance), along with Sandhya Raman, a Textile artist and curator from India, is leading the collaborative project ‘You, Me and Rumi.’ 

Sriraman and Raman sought out a diverse, multicultural group of performers and artists.  They will be sharing art representing five elements: earth, fire, wind, water, and space in varied forms, from dance, theater, Native American flute and singing tradition, fashion design, cello, poetry, glass installation, and fabric exhibit. Sriraman describes the effort, “By bringing different cultural backgrounds and art forms together, we hope to build a community that continues to support and host such artistic events.  This will be a template for building collaboration and developing performances by bringing diverse artists on to a common platform.”

When discussing the inspiration for the collaborative art, Sriraman shared this passage: 

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing

and rightdoing there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass

the world is too full to talk about.”

  • Rumi

Rumi is one of the most popular poets in the world today, and the bestselling poet in the United States.  One of the reasons for the popularity is that Rumi is considered a poet of love and joy.  The vast work is often uplifting and thought-provoking as well as beautiful.  We are a nation in need of love, joy, and beauty. 

Sriraman further explains the inspiration for this collaborative art as “What we need in the current state of humanity and the environment is a radically fresh relationship to nature.  All spiritual traditions approach nature with great reverence. Such reverence is the result of contemplating our place in this universe, our inextricable position in this web of creation. Such reverence is informed by love, intimacy, awe, respect, and the intuitive understanding that we are not separate from nature. Earth, Water, Wind, Fire, and Space are considered five primordial elements out of which all of creation is built. In performance art, these five elements of nature have been dealt with in abstract and awe-inspiring terms.  We live in a pivotal time in history and we hope to use art to not only grab attention but also to inform and inspire.” 

Many recognized regional artists are part of this rich effort, including Partick J. Mitchell, Landra Lewis, Dan Ward, Mark Lenn Johnson, Soreyda Benedit-Begley, Suzanne McIntosh, Yolantha Harrison-Pace, Shuling Fister, Sandhya Raman and of course, Lakshmi Sriraman.

You, Me & Rumi from Under Main on Vimeo.

While Sriraman will share dance representing the elements, Sandhya Raman, a textile artist from India, will curate and share large backdrop panels from her own exhibit of Textiles and the Five Elements.  Raman also created the costumes for Sriraman’s dances and the music was specifically commissioned for this work from a script developed by Sriraman and Aniruddhan Vasudevan.  The original music was then composed and recorded by award-winning composer Praveen D Rao.  Individual artists will also express the elements; earth – theater by Patrick Mitchell, fire – poetry by Yolantha Pace, wind – dancing Shuling Fister with costume by Soreyda Begley, water – Native American singing by Landra Lewis and Native American flute by Dan Ward, glass art installation by Mark Johnson, Space – cello by Suzanne McIntosh.

Never more than the present has the need to find common ground felt more urgent.  While this effort seeks to ground both observers and participants to and with the earth, it also seeks to bind us together in mutual respect and appreciation.    

Art has long served as a catalyst to unite. During World War II, Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts and he famously replied, “then what would we be fighting for?”  As a society and as a community, art represents who we are and who we strive to be.  When we look back, alongside history, we look to the art of the era to give context for the lives of the people that era.  If history is our backbone, then art is our soul.  A multicultural collaborative is exactly the right way to forge ahead and reclaim the melting pot of America. 

Gena Bigler is a former columnist for Kentucky Forward, author of Frugal Spending for Rich Living, and the founder of She Wolf Publishing.

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