Art and the Other: Can We See Each Other?

Whom do we fear? Or hide from? Or scapegoat? Or stigmatize? Why does difference divide us? How can we move beyond  assumptions and stereotypes to recognize  our common humanity and appreciate our distinctive gifts?

picasso image

Join us on Friday evenings in the season of Lent as we explore these and similar questions through a variety of artistic media. As parables shift our perspective on the ordinary, so art may help us to see the other in a way we normally do not. With new in-sight, we can be transformed to see “the other” anew.

Art and the Other discovers and celebrates the power of words, music, and images to reveal, connect, and transform.

Fridays at 7 p.m. at All Saints’ Episcopal Church.

February 22:    Art and the Other: The Homeless Other

March 1:          Art and the Other: The Religious Other

March 8:         Art and the Other: Rhyme on the Other Side

March 15:      Art and the Other: The Assumption of the Other

March 22:      Art and the Other: The Mentally Different Other

Looking Behind and Moving Ahead

The Future road sign picLast Saturday’s Roots Rock & Soul event marked the culmination of our fall series at The Historic Victory Grill. We brought together a host of amazing musicians – many of whom we first got to know last fall on our Sunday Stage – for a soulful celebration honoring the fine work of Capitol View Arts. It was a glorious finale to a deep season of conversation, creativity, connection, and community. We at The Front Porch owe a profound debt of gratitude to Capitol View Arts and The Historic Victory Grill for providing us a place to call home. Over the past few months, we have come to know the VG crew – Clifford, Alissa, Abel, Joseph, Nicole, Jason, Ron – not only as friends, but as family.

If there is one word that springs to mind when we reflect on our fall series, it is “learning.” During our Sunday Salon gatherings, we learned what it means to dwell together in dialogue. We learned to be open and vulnerable, to share our own hard-won ideas and perspectives while honoring those of others – even those with whom we might strongly disagree. We learned that beauty, truth, and meaning are not conceptual objects that we can determine, define, and possess, but evolving relational realities that continually emerge among and between us.

On the Sunday Stage, we heard from some of Austin’s finest musicians and learned about the challenges and opportunities they face. We learned that those who seek to make a living as musicians in “The Live Music Capital of the World” often have a harder time of it than those in less musically savvy cities. We learned about organizations like the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, Capitol View Arts,, and the Live Music Capital Foundation, each of which works in its own unique way to ensure that  musicians can live their lives as they work toward living their dream. Perhaps above all, we learned anew that music is food for the soul and fodder for community building, that nothing brings people together like the shared experience of song.

So we learned a great deal this past fall. And we continue to learn. Indeed, The Front Porch is “a learning organization.” In his book The Fifth Discpline, Peter Senge defines a learning organization as “an organization where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together” (Senge 1990: 3). That pretty well sums up The Front Porch ethos. We are learners, pupils, wayfarers, pilgrims – we are wandering wonderers on an ever-winding road. Where will the road lead? It’s impossible to say. But that’s what gives inspiration and energy to the quest. We can’t begin to say with certainty what the future holds. It could be that reality fails to live up to our deepest dreams. Then again, reality might very well outpace them. That’s the joy of the journey; that’s the beauty of the unknown.

As we look ahead, we do know this: we will continue to learn, to grow, to emerge, to evolve. With your help, we will continue to co-create something – a way of talking, a way of gathering, a way of thinking, a way of being – that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Whether it’s our upcoming Lenten Series at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, or the new incarnation of the Sunday Salon, or our ongoing efforts to acquire our own permanent café and event space, we hope you will partner with us to cultivate community, one conversation at a time.



Roots Rock & Soul – Saturday, January 26, 2013

Victory Grill woman

A Front Porch Festival at the Victory Grill—Furthering the Fine Work of Capitol View Arts

Come support the historic Victory Grill’s legacy of supporting arts and culture in Austin since 1945.

This will be a Saturday night to remember. Join us for back-to-back performances with some of Austin’s finest: urban folk enchantress Erin Ivey; Cajun goddess Wendy Colonna; bone-rattling Charlie Pierce and Choctaw Wildfire; blues prodigy Darius Jackson; gut punching poet J.Redd; R&B diva MyzB; soulful chanteuse Serafia; and the mind-blowing musical wizardry of John Pointer.

Doors at 6pm. Show 7-midnight. Food. Drink.

You’ll love the Capitol view from the Victory Grill!

Suggested donation of $10 at the door. All proceeds benefit Capitol View Arts.

Let’s Keep Talking!

On the Front Porch, we believe it takes time to understand one another. We human beings are not easy to understand!

In a tribute to the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, we introduce his insight into the challenge of  understanding by exploring the ideas in his essay, Interiority and Epiphany: a reading in New Testament Ethics (1997).

It’s tempting to think there is an ideal listener out there who really gets “who we are.” Yet in the effort to communicate our “true selves” to another—to the less perfect listeners with whom we are actually engaged—we are easily frustrated by how obscure others seem to be. We become obscure to ourselves.

In any given community,  efforts to communicate are hampered by the fact that each of us see and interpret things differently. And, since we assume some things are truer than other things, it’s easy to project our notions of normalcy onto others. We imagine that our external or false selves get in the way of our authentic, inner selves…and that if only we could shed the husks, we could get at the kernels and gain more immediate understanding.

Unfortunately, this modern idea that we have a core self that needs to be excavated and communicated to other true selves actually undermines our ability to dialogue and keeps us disconnected. If in fact there is no pre-given identity (the so-called true self), then the self is not a substance in and of itself but an integrity that one must struggle to bring into existence over time. Our interiority, then, is a construct that only emerges through the labor of ongoing exchange in dialogue.

Simply put, our reasoning and motivations are not immediately transparent to others; we need one another to help us clarify and articulate who we are. We are discovered in the world of exchange, where conversation is open-ended and unscripted. This takes time. It takes partnering.

We never cease to be vulnerable to how others perceive and define us. We have to revise continually what we say whenever there is a breakdown in the exchange.  Such a breakdown forces us to ask, “What did I mean? What do you mean?” Sadly, when we stop such revision, we’ve closed off the other, or defined the other in terms of our projections, and understanding ceases. Building the community for which we hunger requires learning to talk and insists we keep talking!

Enjoyed our Fall Gatherings at the Victory Grill!

Sunday Salon at the Victory Grill

We’ve had a great time hanging out at the Victory Grill with you.  Clifford Gillard and his crew have made us feel at home. We have had some great acts on our Sunday Stage. And some amazing conversations at our Salon. We’ve reached the end of our fall schedule at the Victory Grill.

But, fear not! Enjoy your holidays and then join us again in 2013. For starters, we’ll be hosting an event at All Saints’Episcopal Church on Epiphany–January 6, at 5 p.m. There’ll be Choral Evensong followed by a special evening of music, drama and art–and great refreshment.  It will be a mystical, artful evening.

On Saturday, January 26th, clear your calendar, and come on back to the Victory Grill for our Front Porch Festival. We’ll have an afternoon and evening festival of music to benefit our partners–John Pointer and plus The Victory Grill and Capitol View Arts. Most of the folks we’ve hosted on the Sunday Stage will be back–John Pointer with a few Patronism artists, Darius Jackson, Erin Ivey, Paul Finley, Serafia Jane, and  more.   On that day, at our Festival, we’ll tell you what’s next on the Front Porch.

The Gift of Uncertainty

There is an enormous difference between certainty and conviction. We all have convictions, deeply held ideals, and values that we believe to be true and important.

Yet no matter how strongly we may believe something to be true, there is always the possibility that we might be mistaken, that we do not see the whole picture, that we do not have access to all the facts, and that, if we did, we might yet change our mind.

The willingness to acknowledge that our beliefs and convictions are always provisional and consequently subject to change is a hallmark of human maturity, not weak-mindedness.

When what we hold precious is challenged, we instinctively defend it because we are invested in our hard-earned convictions. But this is precisely when mindfulness is called for, lest our convictions harden into certainty. When they do, we close off the possibility of genuine dialogue with others, and our relationships stop growing and changing.

It is by encountering the beliefs and convictions of others in a spirit of mutual openness and respectful engagement that our beliefs and convictions are enriched, enhanced, and expanded.

Authentic and transformative dialogue, then, requires a healthy measure of uncertainty. It requires us to admit that our vision is limited, that we do not have all the answers, that we are human. It requires humility. And, in the words of the French philosopher Simone Weil, “We do not have to acquire humility. There is humility in us—only we humiliate ourselves before the false god of certainty.”

Certainty is easy. Uncertainty, on the other hand, is hard. Yet dialogue demands uncertainty, and that is no small thing. We have had too much of monologues.

We must learn to speak with rather than at one another. We must learn to share our best ideas, our highest hopes, and our deepest convictions with those who are different from us – and to receive theirs in return. This kind of gift-giving, rooted in uncertainty, creates dialogical friendships and the confidence that comes through partnering.

Some Things We’ve Learned About Promoting Dialogue


When given the chance, most folks want to share their hard-won perspective–and they have lots to say.

When it’s understood that no one person has a final or privileged perspective, then different, even alien voices are more likely to feel welcomed and appreciated for how they might enrich the dialogue.

When the reality and presence of different voices is recognized and affirmed, folks tend to loosen up and feel more welcomed to speak up without fear of reprisal. Dialogue seems to require vulnerability, openness, humility, and trust.

When good conversation gets going, a self-forgetful synergy draws participants into dialogical interaction. It becomes more like improvisation.

Dialogue happens when other people and perspectives draw out the potential meanings inherent in any one person’s understanding of things—these meanings build, one upon the other, to create something new between dialogical partners.

The unity and connection that is felt when dialogue happens is often experienced as “the thing itself.”

When people learn to partner together through dialogue, idiosyncratic divisions are relativized and deeper connections are formed.

When the conversation is kept open-ended, then dialogue continues to flourish.

Dialogue depends upon and is enriched by the assertion of different voices.

In dialogue, just about everything is particular and contextual—thus, generalities, canned concepts, and finalized assertions inhibit a group’s ability to co-create something new together.

While there are scientific components to dialogue, it is more of an art, and, like jazz, it’s only as good as the ad-libbing qualities of its players. Not everyone is equally comfortable “going with the givens.”

Dialogue flourishes when things are messy and even in tension—unfortunately, not everybody can appreciate messiness and chaos.

Dialogical interaction challenges people to trust their “voice” and speak up—yet this can take time and requires patience.

Soul-stirring Blues on the Sunday Stage!

Join us this Sunday at 8 p.m. for the soulful stylings of blues prodigy Darius Jackson. Darius channels the great masters with a rare combination of musical acuity and emotional depth that belies his tender years. When this young cat takes the stage, the blues legends of old are reborn in fresh form.

Darius is a 20-year-old musician, singer, and songwriter from El Paso, Texas who recently relocated to Austin.  While his roots are deeply embedded in blues and rock music, he has been known to explore a diverse array of musical styles. He plays guitar with the “ATX-ellence Band” behind the scenes of the many Capitol View Arts projects, while continuing to make his mark on the ATX blues scene.  Darius performs in venues like the Historic Victory Grill, JAX, various clubs on 6th Street, and other blues hot spots in town.

All That Jazz…and Soul, Reggae, Rap, and EAST Art

Join us for the Sunday Stage on November 11, 8pm, at the historic Victory Grill as we gather to celebrate America’s one true original art form. We’ll enjoy the smooth trumpet stylings of the incomparable Duane Carter and explore the important work of the Austin Jazz Alliance  with founding member Fito Kahn.

Duane is a veteran jazz trumpeter who studied under trumpet greats Bobby Bryant, Sr. and Oscar Brashear. In recent years he has been a part of Tibor Molnar’s Sevensemble, Nate Morgan’s Ujaama Ensemble, the Nightfire Orchestra, Pro2Call, and the J-Love Band. He currently fronts two ensembles, The Duane Carter Band and The Duane Carter Quartet/Quintet. Duane describes his music as “immensely intimate and revealing of my innermost thoughts and feelings . . . That is the essence of art, of creativity, to explore the depths of one’s soul in the quest for meaning, for truth, and then to share it with the world.”

Founded in 2010, the Austin Jazz Alliance began as a grass-roots organization aimed at helping jazz musicians in Austin and Central Texas promote their music. It has since become an umbrella organization that brings together jazz musicians, jazz fans, and jazz related businesses. Fito Kahn, founding member of the Jazz Alliance, says “it’s crazy that Austin claims to be the ‘music capital of the world’ but you can’t find a decent jazz venue in all of Austin!” The Jazz Alliance aims to change that by promoting new musicians, new venues, and new opportunities to share the beauty and brilliance of this unique and enduring musical art form.

And that’s not all . . . Prepare to be rocked and souled by Urban Austin artists Myz B, J Redd, and Eson!

 Myz B began her vocal career singing lead in her church choir at age 6. She stepped into the music game at age 14 releasing and performing her hit single “How I Ride” at the historic Victory Grill. Since then, she has been writing and recording her soulful R& B and recently linked up with producer T-Flo to release the pop single “Get on The Floor.” She plans to release her first album “Taste My Honey” in 2013.

 J Redd is an Austin-based rapper, singer, poet and activist. Since the age of 15 he has been blazing the scene with his unique stage presence. From his signature rapid-fire delivery to his skill in blending in R&B and poetry­–he has something for everybody. J Redd has performed in numerous rap battles, Battle of the Bands competitions, theaters, churches, universities, and city-wide music festivals.

Andrew “Eson” Blair is a reggae artist with dance hall roots and a dash of hip hop and rap thrown in for good measure. With his career on the rise, his heart of music to the skies, you can catch this Kingston, Jamaican rude-boy, performing at local venues in Austin, Texas and surrounding areas. In 2011 Eson signed with Austin’s Popsicle Rockslide Record Label.

But wait . . . there’s more! The Victory Grill is also playing host to four spectacular visual artists as part of the EAST Austin Studio Tour – A.J. SimonBaron WilsonBianca Neal, and Solomon Perry. Check out their work on the Capitol View Arts website


Musings from the Porch

The art collective that painted the Victory Grill’s mural

In late September and through October, The Front Porch started acting like a front porch. We found some new friends and a great “living room” at the historic Victory Grill. Then we began to invite friends over.

On Sunday evenings from now till January 12, we’ll be on the porch at the Victory Grill, talking about things that matter at our Sunday Salon. Then we enjoy some of the Grill’s great food and drink until musicians start arriving for the Sunday Stage at 8pm. We’ve heard musicians with something new to offer or a passion for creating solutions to the problems in the music industry in Austin. John Pointer has partnered with us to come and tell about his solutions and work the miracles he works on the guitar.

We’ve talked about HAAM, The Live Music Capital Foundation and with John and Harold McMillan. We’ve listened to a group who trekked to the Cutting Edge Music Festival in New Orleans and came back to sing their story–Erin Ivey, Darius Jackson, Serafia Jane, and Drastik IV. We’re excited that in November some of these will return to our stage for a better look in a solo performance. Our time with Michael Fontenot introduced us to the “Un-Wrap”  a genre that uncovers the natural tone and rhythm of the human voice. Michael also unveiled an unwrap of the Front Porch itself!

This last October Sunday Stage promises a real treat. On October 28, at 8pm, come and be amazed. Darius Jackson will lead off with the blues. John Pointer brings the cello to the Stage where we may hear classical to Cirque du Soleil. And Ulrich Ellison offers up his bluesy rock with it’s psychedelic and Celtic edge. is center stage for our conversation with the artists.

These evenings have confirmed our belief that we human beings are wired for connection and hungry for good conversation.  There’s a real need for a good venue—for art or music or theater or conversation. We’ve loved hanging out at the Victory Grill with its deep, enriching vibe.