virtual residency - virtual artists - contributions

July 2005 Tal Streeter

An essay about WindArt in four pieces:
- The Atlantic Center for the Arts WindArt Event
- Kite Workshops
- International & Regional Kite Festivals
- The Windart, Chateau de Graaf Model

The Chateau de Graaf

Tal Streeter

Whatever one’s personal opinions regarding my kite writings, I must tell you that normally it takes me a huge amount of time before my words finally line up into a reasonably interesting if not reasonably provocative high-kicking chorus line of ideas and mental images.
This writing on WindArt: the Chateau de Graaf, to be of any use in a timely fashion for the proposed Chateau de Graaf Kite Confluence, will not be benefited by what for me is this extended editing process I’m saddled with, the consequence of my fairly modest brain.
So, then, realize that whatever level of either information or excitement this achieves---what you’re about to read has not had the benefit of prolonged editing (some might suggest it's an improvement I might consider for future writing).
Let me say unequivocally, however, up front whatever the editing requirements: I am absolutely ecstatic about the potential for the encouragement of a new kite flying joie de vivre, the potential represented by the Chateau de Graaf experience!

The Atlantic Center for the Arts WindArt Event

I organized in Florida, at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in September, 2003. I was given the opportunity of organizing and directing the character of this event, with responsibility as well for inviting a number of kite fliers from Europe, a few from the United States to work alongside artists, dancers & photographers, participants in what came to be known as the ACA’s WindArt. By many accounts, it was a great success. A landmark—no, a “skymark” event.

The WindArt event was pretty much, in my mind, a kind of preliminary opportunity to reach out for what might become a new sort of “kite retreat.” I am remiss in not having providing a public awareness and forum for the experience of WindArt.

For a very wonderful compilation of words and images covering the three weeks of WindArt, please see the inestimably wonderful and inestimably informative tomm jeckel’s world-wide-web site, Tomas (and Kisa) were participants in Florida; Tomm (with more spellings to his name than most of us) worked tirelessly it seemed, at all hours of the day and night, chronicling as well as participating actively in this event.

One of the things which, for me, came out of the WindArt experience, was the idea that it might be worthwhile to consider more such opportunities for bringing together small groups of kite enthusiasts (with a degree of simpatico toward one another) along with a mix of people from other disciplines (art, science, journalism, photography, technology) to work in close proximity, with no real rules, but in a sympathetic environment of like-minded kite enthusiasts working relatively independently—or in partnership with one of the group if that seemed promising.

The idea that came into my mind at the close of the Florida WindArt event was for something manageable, three or four kite artists coming together, renting a house somewhere in England or Europe (or for that matter, the United States), prepared to work independently or together, however the spirit moved them, eating and sleeping and generally hanging around together for a week or two weeks time (hiring a house keeper/cook to keep the place in order if that seemed doable in terms of costs).

Let me describe this idea just a tad more fully. I’ll start by differentiating it from what are now the more-or-less commonly accepted kite opportunities of workshops and (international or regional) kite festivals:

Kite Workshops

Workshops I’m familiar with tend to consist of mentors leading others into their specialties. The “others” might very likely be sophisticated kite makers themselves (or not), but in either case kiters wanting to expand their kite horizons with new kite ideas or to add to their repertoire of kite making skills and techniques.

This workshop idea has been, without question, wonderfully worked out in twenty plus years of the Fort Worden Conference held yearly in Port Townsend, Washington, USA. From the 2002 Fort Worden prospectus:

“With 22 instructors joining us from 5 countries and 9 states, the conference offers an exceptional range of learning experiences for kite makers of every skill level. Small or large, simple or intricate, taped or sewn, kite or accessory, craft or art, take your pick and there is a class for you. It’s an opportunity to learn, share information, socialize, and make new kite flying friends.”

That describes Fort Worden in pretty straight-forward terms, although it fails to suggest the packed in days of fun and excitement this workshop conference provides participants. Would that I had more experience with similar opportunities in England, Europe and the East. I’m sure there are a great many there with equal if not uniquely special qualities.

International & Regional Kite Festivals

I’m on a little firmer footing here, having attended a fair number of both International and Regional Kite Festivals myself (at the same time, unfortunately missing some of the most famous—I would appreciate any one caring to suggest a favorite I shouldn’t let too many more years slip by, “you must visit festivals!”).

In the United States, the Washington State International Kite Festival, held in Long Beach, WA, is one of the oldest and most famous. From their prospectus:

“This Washington State International Kite Festival has been held in Long Beach, WA for more than two decades. Long Beach is located in the southwestern most corner of Washington State, near the mouth of the Columbia River. Come and join us for a colorful, friendly fun filled week!l”

I’ve attended the Washington Festival several times since its inception. I believe it is one, if not the biggest festival in the United States. I’ve also attended the UK’s largest festival, the Sunderland Kite, Music and Dance Festival. From its prospectus:

“Don't miss the Sunderland International Kite Festival on July 7 and 8 in Washington, Sunderland. With its unique blend of music, entertainment and above all... kites…. it's the biggest event of its kind in the country and one of the most popular throughout the world. Alongside the main attraction of the kite flying, there’s a fantastic international music programme, unusual street theatre, an arts and crafts fayre and plenty of activities for children. This wonderful free festival regularly attracts an audience of over 70,000 people to the Northern Area Playing Fields in Washington and offers an exciting time for the whole family.”

Both Washington in the US and Sunderland in the UK are wonderful, wonderful festivals. No question about that in my mind.

With the certainty of exceptions, both International and Regional festivals seem to have long shared similar attributes:

Along with competitions in various categories, there is the spectacle of a sky full of kites, hundreds of all shapes, sizes and colors from the gigantic to, well, smaller kites; both original kites as well as kites available in the marketplace being flown. Though there is a very lovely amount of camaraderie among the fliers, this is a kind of sidebar to a show whose primary responsibility is to put on spectacles for public audiences.

The WindArt, Chateau de Graaf Model

Just what takes place at the Chateau de Graaf will be very much in the hands of the participants. Lacking a crystal ball, this is my own private vision, if not hope, for what this experience might entail:

In attendance, a small number of kite fliers/makers of a more-or-less equal level of accomplishment as well as a degree of like-minded individuals—allowing for a range of ages as well as the odd young protégée supported for their potential—willing to share the more personal satisfactions, the joie de vivre, the deeper levels of personal satisfaction which kite making and flying can provide.

Possibly, but not necessarily, a mix of kiters and artists and technical people, to add a new dimension: “what have you” performers, fine artists, crafts people, photographers, journalists intending to work on their own projects, open perhaps but not necessarily to working in a partnership with one of the other participants. Maybe there will be a shared, community project. More power to this spirit, the pleasures of working together as a group!

Speaking for myself, apart from the everyday pleasures associated with flying kites of any size, shape or description (from store bought kites to those I’ve designed myself)—this may be described as a peculiarity of my own kite pleasure zone: Needing the opportunity and the encouragement to try out new ideas. What a treat it is for me to find companionship in the kite community, kite enthusiasts charged by the stimulus of reaching out, exploring, wishing to continue to move widen kite possibilities, moving kites in ever new directions—while rediscovering and bringing back into the light of day, some of the great old forgotten kites. In this latter category, I’m very heartened by development of interest in leaf kites!

The primary focus of my view of a WindArt event is, per se, very different from our “kite workshops” and “kite festivals” although both workshops and a concluding “festival” might take place—they would not be a primary goal of the event.

What I envision, then—taking into account the underlying good time, feel good spirit as paramount alongside all the opportunities which may arise and cannot be predicted: An opportunity oriented to one’s own very personal pleasures. For me, this would be a time free of public performance, unless they might be more informal, unannounced in the art-happening spirit. And, for me again, a time for r & d, research and design, the pleasures of an open-ended on-going search, what might be interesting, fun, to see flying in the sky, employing a kite’s principals of kite. The adventure as well as the challenge. The unalloyed fun at my finger-tips; thinking about the sky and kites, reading about kites, making kites, flying kites.

That’s pretty much it. I wish I could be there. I’m looking forward to hearing what it turns out to be…and how it goes!
My very best regards to all the participants,