New exhibition by artist, poet focuses on mindfulness, self-reflection

SARASOTA, Fla. – Founded at the start of the pandemic, for the past three years Art in Common Places has brought together poets and visual artists to collaborate on works hung in non-typical places – laundromats, doctor’s offices, shops, restaurants, community centers, public residential complexes.

At the time, one of the group’s co-founders, Teresa Carson, told Patch that their goal was to make art more accessible to the community.

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“Art belongs to everyone,” she said. “How can we bring the arts – high quality art – to ordinary people? You know, people who can’t necessarily afford to go to the Ringling Museum for $25 a pop. Not just art, but really good, high-quality art.”

Now she and visual artist Leslie Butterfield, also co-founder of Art in Common Places, are collaborating on their own project, Seven Sacred Pauses, an exhibition of seven paintings and seven poems created over the past three years at the Arts Advocates Gallery at The Crossings at Siesta Mall Key.

The gallery is open on Saturdays from 2pm to 4pm and their exhibition will remain on display until the end of March.

Although she’s not religious, Carson told Patch she’s always been interested in the Canonical Hours.

“You know those hours where the monks would stop and pray,” she said. “It was just always part of something that was in my head.”

She then discovered the book Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Consciously During the Hours of the Day by Macrina Wiederker, which offers a modern take on the canonical hours.

“She reimagined the Canonical Hours for modern life and made it a little more sectarian,” Carson said. “It’s more accessible. You don’t have to do a lot of prayers. It’s about mindfulness. So, I pretty much ate my way through this book.

She suggested the title to Butterfield, who also found inspiration in it. Together they decided to create a series of paintings and poems.

They were also inspired by the experiences of the artist and author teams working closely together on Art in Common Places.

“We saw this excitement and energy, and we started to see that the more this work was done in parallel as a collaboration, the better the experience,” Butterfield told Patch. “And we were like, well, we want to do this. So these seven came up and we worked our way through how to structure them? How do we collaborate? And we have changed with time and along with that, watching different poets and artists experience it, we have learned and tried different things. So the seven poems have different forms, and the paintings have things that are quite different from one to the other.

The series divides the day into seven time frames, from those early morning moments before dusk until midnight.

“It ruins your day, you know, the point is, we’re so busy with ‘tasks,'” Carson said. “In the monastic order it’s very important for them to remember that God goes through everything, but even in our modern lives we get so caught up in that that we forget to stop and stay for a few minutes.”

As they collaborated, they discovered that their daily lives were very different from each other and found ways to incorporate each other’s individual experiences into their pieces.

Carson, for example, is usually up and working until 4 a.m. — earlier than many people, including Butterfield.

“And then this Blessed Hour, which is 9 a.m., is a strange hour for me, because I get up so early that 9 a.m. is like lunch for me, basically,” the poet said. “So I’m not really doing what she has for this hour. But this is a very important hour for Leslie, because very often she is outdoors at this time. So I ended up writing a poem out of her experience.”

Butterfield said: “We built our friendship on this project and we’re very different from each other. Sure, we have some things in common, the things we care about, but our lives are very different and so are our personalities. So to learn to accept and appreciate someone who is very different from you on the level that it takes to open up and share these works that are evolving, you are very vulnerable.

After their exhibit leaves The Arts, they hope to find other venues to present their work as well as writing and art workshops inspired by the theme of The Seven Sacred Pauses.

“We’d love to develop something where we do art and poetry in a workshop, maybe a half-day experience for people, and get them in that (mindset) that we’re always doing, doing, doing and needing to take time out on time,” Carson said.

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