From the Archives: Project M

From the Archives: Project M

Still images are included at the bottom of this page.

Project M, founded by John Bielenberg in 2003, is a mental gymnastics camp for young creatives who are already inspired to contribute to the greater good, but are looking for a platform to collaborate and generate ideas and projects bigger than themselves. While maintaining a permanent presence in Greensboro, Alabama, Project M traveled all around, hosting multi-week intensive “laboratories” for young designers to eat, live, and work together. From March 9 – 21 in 2009, Project M made its way north to Belfast and investigated problem solving in our community, using Waterfall Arts as home base.

The graphic document highlighted here caught our eye for its stark and impactful design–as well as its message. Printed on newsprint (a hallmark of accessibility) and pitting two choices against each another, the message is clear: you can do something “normal,” or you can do something wildly interesting and dynamic. At the end, it is clear that all you must do is choose the “interesting” option, and you’ve landed at what makes Waterfall Arts the vital organization it has become. The very last line of the document says it all:

Waterfall Arts uses the universal power of the arts to help restore a deep harmonious balance between art, earth and life.

The final image in this series gives readers the choice to “Do Nothing” or simply “” This is resonating with us now, as we approach the end of 2020, and reflect on our 20 years as an organization. Our programming has necessarily shifted recently, as we have worked to stay connected at a distance and online. While offering virtual alternatives to our exhibitions, classes and programs, we are reimagining how we can –effectively and powerfully– continue to serve as an activator of creative potential within our community. 

Co-founder of Waterfall Arts, Al Crichton, recalls, “In 2009, Bielenberg came out to ‘The Kingdom,’ [the original Waterfall Arts location in Montville, Maine], and proposed that Waterfall Arts make the shift from operating seasonally at Kingdom Falls, to running year-round at the former Governor Anderson School in Belfast. That was a huge idea that we eventually embraced, with Beilenberg’s enthusiasm behind us.”

If you’d like to read more about this work from 2009-2010, when Maine Magazine profiled Bielenberg and his concept of “Thinking Wrong,” that link is here

As mentioned in the article linked above, Bielenberg’s goal was to “inspire young creative people to shape a more positive future.” Certainly, this work is as important now as ever. Do you have memories of Project M? What do you think about “Thinking Wrong” as a means of problem solving? How might this perspective help us work through contemporary challenges, and inspire or imagine new opportunities? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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