CARL ATIYA SWANSON

Personal & professional website of Carl Atiya Swanson, all around arts guy and human being.

Write, Write, Write

Verbing weirds language.
— Calvin & Hobbes

I love words. I love the way that words define and shift our understanding of the world, how we push back to change and invent new words and means of expression. I use a lot of words, and I use words often, sometimes for my own amusement or curiosity, sometimes professionally, sometimes for hire.

You'll find a lot of my writing at CakeIn15, an arts & culture blog covering the Twin Cities and national issues, or in the open notebook that constitutes my Tumblr. My writing has also appeared in Spin, AOL Spinner, The Line, City Pages, The Onion's A.V. Club, mnartists.org, the YNPN-TC blog, the University of St. Thomas MBA blog, and popped up in the form of bios, promotional materials and grant applications. I wrote a play once. On the flip side, I am also sometimes interviewed as part of projects or for wearing bowties. You can find those mentions listed here.

Below is a selection of my own written works under possibly arbitrary but hopefully useful headings to keep you entertained. If you're really interested, here is a mostly complete rundown of writing from 2007 to the present. I'm game for writing projects, and if you're interested in having me write something for you, shoot me an email.


The Life of Organizations

EVERYONE TOGETHER DIFFERENT

Several years ago, as part of the Artists In Storefronts project in Whittier, artists Sheila Regan and Anton Pearson created a striking image on the side of Rainbow Chinese Restaurant on Nicollet Avenue. Emblazoned across the side of the building in moss-growing gel were the words ‘EVERYONE TOGETHER DIFFERENT’. The collaborative process of creating the piece, the ephemeral and delicate nature of its materials, the work to maintain it, and the power of the phrase have stuck with me as fundamental characteristics of a civil society. It is inclusive – EVERYONE – equitable – TOGETHER – and diverse – DIFFERENT...MORE

Dan Deacon & the Culture of Innovation

He comes from a specific place and has inherited an ethos of that place. Baltimore isn’t just The Wire, but it is a post-industrial American city with lots of empty warehouses and scene with artists looking to fill those spaces. As Steven Johnson quotes urban writer Jane Jacobs in his book Where Good Ideas Come From, “New ideas must use old buildings.” Deacon’s hyperkinetic electronic dance music stems directly from that locally-developed, internationally-influenced scene in Baltimore, and Deacon has managed to take it around the world...MORE

Save the Southern

Yes, the Southern is an amazing space to both see shows and perform. Yes, it would feel like another soul-crushing defeat of artistry and freedom in the face of cold capitalist calculations to see the availability of the space disappear. It may well be as shocking and as torturous a blow as the loss of Jeune Lune as a producing theater space. It is certainly on that scale. The potential loss also demands that we take a hard look, as artists and supporters of the arts, at our structures, and take some real lessons from this entire debacle...MORE


Connecting Us to Art

Ten Thousand Things: Connecting with Communities Through Imaginative Theater

Founder and artistic director Michelle Hensley adds that the drive to perform for non-traditional audiences wasn’t “consciously a social justice thing. The real and immediate impulse was that I just wanted to find audiences that cared about the story; audiences for whom the story we were trying to tell really mattered to their lives.”...MORE

The Eternal Moment

Even to the uninitiated, it’s clear: here is a man at work in a specialized and strange way, creating opportunities for others on the field -- moving, waiting, timing everything. It’s in his eyes, as they squint and flicker from under the shadow of his heavy brow. Gordon and Parreno zoom in on those eyes over and over again, underlining Zidane’s constant search for understanding the totality of the game, for that infinite consciousness...MORE

red, black & GREEN: A Blues

If Charles Bukowski once said “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence,” Bamuthi and the Living Word Project are full of the most intelligent and confident people, wrestling with complexity and inviting us in. Not just in the theater or in the museum, but in life, in the communities that we are trying to build and understand...MORE


Opening Myself Up

The Dog-Headed Christopher, or, notes on February 7 2014

I wear a Saint Christopher medal, because the stories we tell ourselves are powerful, and because my family is spread across the world. In the western, Catholic tradition, Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, a giant of a man who served by carrying people across a river, including, as the story and image goes, the Christ child who had the weight of the world. I love that story, but there is also an eastern, Orthodox representation of Saint Christopher as a dog-headed man – a mythological beast, who gives up destructive ways to become a part of the Christian society. I love this Christopher too, both together the embodiment of my own shortcomings, my own potential, and the myths we shape and change together. It is a good day to be alive...MORE

Gait

I find myself thinking about walking a lot. Walking is key to a successful city, to coming out of winter. In Roger Ebert’s journal about his AA practice, his doctor tells him to go for a walk when he feels too elated, too jittery at the prospect of not drinking. Rhythm, human gait and limitation is good for the ups, as well as the downs. It sure beats the hell out of the advice Marilyn Monroe got, to go driving on the L.A. freeways...MORE

A Note of Love & Hope for Egypt

In the face of that, the business of living, the little “p” everyday political becomes critical. Who to see, what to say, how to say it. How to exercise freedom. I have chosen the arts- as an actor, a visual artist, a guy who goes to shows and covers music, the creative arts and their force. I would like to believe that this is more radical than it appears, because it goes directly to human dignity, to the our ability to choose the lives we lead as human beings, which political systems inherently seek to proscribe...MORE


Promoting Other People's Work for Love & Money

The Ericksons Bio/Press Release

In February of 2006, Lee Erickson was dying. Erickson was an artist living in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, married to Bethany, a biologist with a love of music. Bethany’s sister Jenny, also a musician, came to join them, in the darkest hour. Erickson, an expansive artistic force, looked to the future even as his own end came. “Jenny,” he told her, “you gotta do your music.”...MORE

Joey Ryan & The Inks Press Release

For ordinary guys, Joey Ryan & The Inks have a habit of making extraordinary music. Over the past five years, Joey Ryan, brothers Matt and Chris Mitchell, Ryan Mach, and Tim Dickson have solidified their place on local airwaves and stages and as the go-to band for catchy pop tunes with 60s sunshine beats, with slivers of doo-wop on top of smart instrumental progression, topped by Ryan’s crystal-clear, bittersweet vocals...MORE

Chastity Brown Bio

She’ll put a spell on you. Sweet as molasses and woodsmoke, clear and burning as summer sun, Chastity Brown casts magic. Her voice brings you to the crossroads with every turn, warms, comforts and challenges you. She is the inheritor of Leadbelly, Nina Simone, Bonnie Raitt and Roberta Flack. She is past, present and future. She is fire, earth, air and water. She’s a natural...MORE