The fifteen of us, staff and residents, sat around the long wooden dining room table. Everyone was asked to respond to four questions:

What is your name?
What are your preferred gender pronouns?
What sits in your heart today?
What is your “work” this week?

Displacement.
Ancestors.
Access.
Intersectionality in activism.
Race and re-segregation.
Healing.

This was the group introduction on day one of the inaugural Creative Collisions Residency at SPACE on Ryder Farm. The week’s nine residents were selected for their work engaging with the residency’s guiding question: How do we combat racial inequity? Authors, activists, educators, healers, and artists, these nine residents each approach action and engagement in different ways.

The art of bringing people together has never been more urgent. In the midst of relentless tragedy, state violence, and global turmoil, it feels critical to gather in groups to process and build collectively. But so often these moments of reflection happen with self-selected social circles. We think through big issues with people who think like us and share our values. We problem-solve with others who engage problems within our disciplinary spheres. We shield ourselves from discomfort and uncomfortable social situations. And yet, research shows the value in both professional and social collisions. Creating communities and teams with people from different backgrounds and areas of expertise leads to dynamic and unexpected discoveries. What would happen if we shook up our dinner table? What new discoveries would be made? What expected, and unexpected, collisions might fuel and propel our thinking?

And so, SPACE’s Creative Collisions Residency was born.

When we think of retreats, we often think of artists. We imagine writers with their journals. Painters standing in a field. And while we uphold activists, educators, thinkers, and healers for their impact on communities, we rarely give them the space needed to reflect, grow new ideas, and rebuild themselves before venturing back into the fray. While we encourage people to stand up for their beliefs and inspire others to fight for their rights, we rarely give those practitioners the time and space to regenerate and blossom new ideas.

In response to this void, SPACE on Ryder Farm offered nine fully-subsidized residencies for the Creative Collisions Residency. The objective was simple: Use the time and space away to grow new thinking, rejuvenate and heal yourself, and deepen your practice in whatever ways you see fit. Each resident was invited to share something of their choosing with the group, whether a performance, a meditation, or a chant. The only mandates were to give back to the community through your practice and to be present at the three daily meals.

Meet this year's 2016 Creative Collisions residents:

Zakiyyah Ali
Historian, Project Associate for Technical Assistance on Disproportionality at New York University

I love history. To me, there is no other subject matter that can help you to understand any topic better than history because everything has a source, and everything has an origin. I think sometimes what happens to us in society and in our lives is that we often want to make meaning of what’s happening to us in the present, without even looking back to see what the source is. Because there is nothing new under the sun. I love Malcolm X, and he said, “of all of our studies, history is best qualified to reward our efforts.” If we use and discuss life through a historical prism, we can always understand the answers.

Beatrice Anderson
Healer, Meditation Facilitator, Member of Harriet's Apothecary

[N]othing is being asked of me but to show up. That is such a gift. I think I just took a big exhalation before I said that, and it felt true to body, cause it’s great to just have to show up, and let that be enough. So I think that that’s what’s really important, the space to take space is uber important and is really, really a big blessing.

Kristen Adele Calhoun
Actor, Playwright, Program Director of Arts in a Changing America

Part of the philosophy of the project is that everyone’s a working artist, because we feel like we have no business talking about art and change if we’re not actively involved in it.

Gurpreet Chana
Producer, Tabla Player, and Composer

One of the key things I wanted to do while I was here is be informed by the space and see what comes up. It’s been nice, particularly in the parlor room, there’s that beautiful piano. And I’m not a piano player, but I grew up messing around with keys and the harmonium; it’s been really nice just to sit at that piano. To be honest, every time I’ve sat by it, a new composition or an idea has come through.

Jeff Chang
Writer and Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University

My process is to collect a bunch of research before I actually go out and do interviews. Partly because interviews are kind of a performance. You’re asking somebody who you don’t know questions, and they’re going to give you canned answers, but if you’re good, you’re going to be able to ask questions that will draw them out. You might find the tap.

Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman, Climbing PoeTree
Multimedia theater, spoken word, and visual artists and community organizers

It’s just been delicious to be amongst a group of people who are willing to internally have the conversation, and to externally act on that conversation of justice and love and centralized healing in the face of historical trauma, and that we can start the conversation closer to the roots than generally can happen out in the world.

Ebony Noelle Golden
CEO of Betty's Daughter Arts Collaborative, Artist, Cultural Worker, and Strategist

Being here has been about rest, reading, research, and some writing. But really, a lot about just daydreaming. “Oh, so what if I do this, oh, so what if I do that,” and being present at conversations where people are talking about what they know as it relates to this topic, and what they’re working on, and it’s been really helpful, because I’ve gotten a lot of ideas.

Roberta Uno
Director, Director of Arts in a Changing America

[W]e don’t have the burden of artificially collaborating and creating something. I think this idea that people can come together, and have their ideas interact as human beings and spiritual people, is really very powerful. It has felt very organic.