Art Without Borders was a nonprofit originally designed by my daughter and me to bring the performing arts across demographic barriers, to not only make classes and performances accessible to marginalized communities, but also to bring otherwise separated communities together through shared experience. We offered after school programs in singing, theatre, and dance and organized community events such as our festival for Dia de los Muertos, which brought together performers and vendors from the Greater Northwest and allowed our students to perform on stage with professionals.
By Nina Powers
It was exciting and inspiring work, and we could feel the momentum rolling. Then, the night before our St. Patrick’s Day festival was scheduled to take place, Washington State was shut down. Everything was cancelled. The Arts were suspended, and as the weeks turned into months, we wondered how a business based on bringing people together in a shared space to celebrate beauty, art, and our God-given diversity was ever going to survive.
It also happened that as college classes were moved online and our places of employment closed, almost all of our family of seven children gathered suddenly under one roof again. With a houseful of cramped, aimless, and increasingly stir-crazy artists, it wasn’t surprising that we soon took to the back acre that makes up our yard.
There wasn’t a set purpose to it originally. We cleaned and weeded and dug around in the dirt. It was cathartic and created a space to think. I found myself looking forward to my time outdoors, without walls or screens or dire news statistics. It became part of our daily routine; mornings of working jobs on-line, afternoons working the dirt. Then somehow, in the midst of our digging and thinking, we looked up and realized that the garden spaces were beginning to grow. A lot! Flowers and herbs and so many tomatoes!
In a time when the digital age and human isolation had suddenly grown to a peak, we were struck by a possibility.
Music had always been my refuge; my place of solace and encouragement. After COVID struck however, there was a shift. The world had gone digital, and the ephemeral nature of music no longer consoled me as deeply as before. I found myself longing for signs of a Creator whose goodness was tangible in color, taste, and smell. I longed to know I wasn’t alone, wasn’t forgotten and that reality was indeed, beautiful. The garden became a place of learning and reflection during the months while all was closed. I felt called by a vocation, without title or salary, but one filled with meaning, even if no one else could see it. A connection to the land and the basic elements that make up a very good life.
We call our space Fiacre Gardens after the saintly hermit who gardened so beautifully that people flocked to his space even though he longed for privacy. As a mother of 7 children, I understand his desire! We tend our gardens organically with respect to bugs, bees, and Louie our corgi. We grow herbs and flowers for our local farmers market, local CIA’s and as many friends, neighbors and passers-by as might like a hand tied bouquet or bunch of tomatoes. These simple gestures have marked neighborly interactions for decades yet had somehow eluded my experience completely…until now.
We have recently had the good fortune to receive a grant to build a structure on our acre which will be used as a space for small performances. Art Without Borders will re-open beside the garden for small back yard audiences. A place for musicians, dancers, and actors to share their art in open spaces filled with fresh air and flowers. Our first performance will be this June; a dance choreographed by Annie Powers, with music written by Christopher Powers entitled Suffer Up. It is the story of various stages of life and the struggle of self-awareness and was largely inspired by the life of Grandmother Louise, my mother, after her passing in 2018 from Alzheimer’s.
Fifteen months after the shutdowns began, we have a new hope. We’re finding in a deeper, more personal sense what it is to work as artists and performers, while the garden is teaching us simplicity, stillness, and a new way of being together as a family and community.
Nina Powers is the Executive Director of Art Without Borders and Fiacre Gardens. For more information, contact her at: https://artwithoutborderstc.com/