Update on the Arcosanti spoken word festival

Business / organizer stuff: This may or may not be of interest to general readers of this site, but if you've participated in the Slab City Slam / spoken word festival at Arcosanti in Arizona over the last seven years, you might be interested in these two letters explaining why the festival won't be held in 2008. Not what I had hoped for, but así es. The letters are here:

A Letter of Thanks to the AZ Poetry Community(s):


More than 8 years ago, three lovers of word collaborated on a mesa in Central Arizona to create a place and time for the Poetic Community(s) of our state to gather. The purpose was simple and stated: “Create a ‘neutral ground’ for poets and poetry groups to express, experience, and share outside of their normal venue and perception“.

For a year, Ira Murfin and Dan Seaman contacted, queried, listened, negotiated, brainstormed, and re-thought this process within all the groups and parameters that could foresee-ably be involved. The Arcosanti Spoken Word Festival & Slab City Slam was then born in 2001.

Many fantastic individuals stepped up to the task of helping produce this festival over its lifespan. Particular “thanks” to Jewel, Bob, Andre’, Christopher, Logan, Teresa, and the Arcosanti Community, et al.

Recently, an internationally circulated magazine ran a story which created concern for me about being involved with Arcosanti in the future (“O” July 2007, story by Margie Goldsmith). Further -- and similar -- information was brought forward in a long-time Arcosanti resident’s Live Journal (herteethflashfear Oct 8, 2007). Combined, these accounts reflect on what I can only conclude to be an environment of chauvinism, opportunistic sexism, authoritarian manipulation, and ongoing breaches of faith between artist and model from the highest level of representation at Arcosanti. That is my personal conclusion, from years of working with victims.

It can be said that I hold too high a standard to which I expect others to abide. However, it is the standard to which I hold myself as an artist: The model, subject, or student is not to be taken advantage of in any way, by the artist or teacher.

It can be said that I am too strongly influenced by having experienced a childhood in a single-parent upbringing in the 1950‘s and 60‘s, as my mother fought for her equal rights as an individual, rather than be subjected to a societal placement and continued degradation as “just another woman”.

Many things “can” be said, but this must be said: As organizers, promoters, and artists we have an obligation to our audience, our performers, our venue, and our selves to continue moving forward with positive social change… and to not ignore injustice for the sake of convenience. That’s just my opinion.

My most sincere love and thanks to all who have worked toward these goals through our Slab City Slam SpokenWord Festival, in the past. My best wishes to those who will continue on this path in the future. Until Women’s Rights are fully recognized there, I cannot allow myself to be involved with any festival at Arcosanti.

Dan Seaman Co-Creator/Organizer/emcee Slab City Slam 2001-2007

“… to do nothing, is to give approval”

January 8th, 2008

To the Arizona poetry community(s), past participants of the spoken word festival at Arcosanti,

Given that many people are asking, I thought it might be useful to give a little background of the organizational efforts that have taken place since the 2007 festival last May. I write this personally, not as a representative of the now-disbanded Advisory Board.

I was asked by Dan Seaman last summer to take over for him in hosting the Slab City Slam. After years of participating in the Festival, I felt that I was up to the task despite no longer living in Arizona, and had many ideas on how to grow and cultivate the Festival into a financially and organizationally sustainable event.

I asked six members of the statewide community to become an Advisory Board that would help me with the daunting task of creating a "New Festival" at Arcosanti to take up the torch. Dan Seaman, Ira Murfin, Jewel Blackfeather, Christopher Lane, Teresa Driver and Bob Nelson all accepted, having past involvement in organizing the Festival, and/or having extensive organizational experience in their local communities. I took on the role of director.

In my view, the Festival was never going to be held in 2008 unless we did something about it. Dan and other key organizers had made the choice to move on to other things, until they were convinced to stay on as Advisors. Additionally, the Festival has always been a grassroots, underground effort that operated without a budget, largely thanks to huge work put in by people like Jewel, Dan and Ira, among others. I think many people felt that 2007 was the "best year yet," it certainly seemed to me to be as far as the Festival could go without new organizational direction. It had simply gotten too big as it was.

For many who only participated in the Slab City Slam or attended the Festival, it was never evident that the entire event was usually organized on the backs and wallets of three or fewer key volunteers, who put in countless unpaid and under-recognized hours.

I spent the summer and fall with the Advisory Board exploring how to move forward: finding a new identity for the festival, investigating granting opportunities, promotion, budget, etc. It was clear that it was going to be a big task.

In the middle of that came the "O" magazine article referred to by Dan in his letter. As I learned more, it seemed to me that the incidents described were not isolated but rather indicative of an endemic issue at Arcosanti that had yet to be addressed in any meaningful way.

During the discussions on how to address the issue, and if we should move forward with a festival at Arcosanti, many key members of the Advisory Board resigned. This in turn lead to the dissolution of the Advisory Board that had formed last summer.

So what now? I'm not sure. It seems that a new beginning is in order, and it seems most appropriate to me that it happens somewhere besides Arcosanti. That is my personal view. I won't be directly involved in organizing any festival this year, where ever it may be. If invited to be involved by any future organizers / organizing committees, I would reevaluate at that time.

It has been a fantastic seven years, and I am truly thankful for even being able to see the Festival, let alone participate or help make it happen.

Thanks for the willingness to understand. Any questions about the above can be made to me directly, at 520.456.xxxx over the next week or at 520.413.xxxx thereafter.

logan phillips Former participant/organizer/emcee Slab City Slam 2002-2005, 2007