“Clear a space” is a song by Lake Street Dive. Like many of their performances, this tune gets stuck in my head and then in my bones, staying with me in interesting, all encompassing ways. The song features pickings of an upright bass, light percussion, a trumpet accenting it all, and then the rich vocals that begin with, “Let me clear a space for you to sit beside me.” It’s probably no coincidence that this stuck-in-my-head line coincides with our emphasis on “space” at this year’s meeting. That voice and the bass line don’t hurt, but especially with lines like, “I could tell you things that don’t come easy,” it’s only a little bit of a stretch to suggest that this is relevant.
As we cleared, shaped, and otherwise made space around the tables during the meeting, we also extended our gaze on spaces as we set out into the spaces of Cleveland. At the art museum, I admired the lighting, the respite from the rain, the tall and wide halls with unobtrusive furnishings, and ways to approach art up close, the proximity tempting me to put fingers into the topography of the impressionists’ oil. These spatial elements were all essential, but the critical — and most enjoyable — part was when Bhaskar, Rachel, and myself were staring up into the red toned oil delineating four dimensions of the settlement of the West in a piece called “Soft Borders,” by Mark Tansey.
Why is the painting all in red? Was it to emphasize the red of sedimentary rock, or the blood on our hands, or the sepia tone of old photos? Why oil? Why not turn it ninety degrees? or upside down? What did he mean to say by having Native Americans positioned just so, overlooked by incoming land surveyors drilling down from the upper frame? And what did it mean that the toxic waste clean-up was upside down? Are these visitors looking upon one another, or are they oblivious as they are separated by a chasm? And on and on.
We learned that the Cleveland Museum of Art not only provides place for the artists’ works, but a way to put the three of us side by side by side, moving forward and backward in the presence of creations and with one another. The museum afforded the space, yet it was the art and my friends that really created and shaped it. As we considered wonders of visual composition, I wondered what spaces others found in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the science museum, the waterfront, or even at the Arcade that surrounded our meeting space.
When we met with Chef Sawyer, we learned about his own creation of spaces. Becoming a chef and proprietor, he didn’t just learn to make and sell food; he crafted environs for patrons to eat pig’s head and pot de creme, and he shaped a business that honors employees’ contributions and personal development. As we returned to the Greenhouse Tavern for one last meal that Saturday night, some of us got to sit at a community table in the heat of the kitchen. We took in the space, the welcome of our server, the clatter of pots and pans and the searing and soaring of flames off to the side.
It’s our hope that you found space at Crossroads and in the field trips in Cleveland. (Feel free to tell us about these in the comments, below.) More than this, we hope that you have some of this space to take with you to add to and shape your own spaces. As we are looking into the more distant future for our next Crossroads (we’ve started announcing that we’re taking next year off) we’ll look forward to hearing how things are going, what you’re doing, and just generally imagining all the possibilities. You might want to report on these here, and we’d welcome contributions that you might send to us. Or, you could post a quick piece of news in our Facebook group; or tag us (whatever that really means/does) with #sciedxroads; or just drop us a line.
Until next time. We’re looking forward to seeing you again, hearing more about what you’re up to — “let me clear a space for you to sit beside me” — and raising a glass.