g. Ella King Torrey, Orcas key talk

Ella King Torrey, then program officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts, attended “Imaginary Needs” at Montauk, and, then at Orcas, she was our opening speaker over dinner the first night, with “Reflections on Montauk.” In many respects, Ella captured the spirit of both conferences with her intelligence and enthusiasm.

She spoke about the inspiration the Montauk gathering had given her and her colleagues at Pew. “The word artist is an active part of our vocabulary – I can still remember the first time I gingerly floated it in an internal document.” At dinner that night,she was able to announce that they had received preliminary approval from the Pew board to develop a fellowship program for Philadelphia artists.

She also revealed her sense of humor when she opened her talk with this story:

Now Ted still pretends to blanch when reminded of the rush hour traffic on the Long Island Expressway that day, but I think the choice of route and travel time demonstrated very shrewd planning on the part of conference organizers.

You see, for the first hour on the bus, we all pretended that there wasn’t anything unusual about traveling 10 miles in 20 minutes. We read our conference materials, chatted politely – acted pretty much the way grown-ups are supposed to.

But when it became clear that the world around us was in a perilous state – that we were trying to travel in a system whose infrastructure was bordering on collapse, if it had ever worked at all; that we were actually covering 2 miles in every 20 minutes, at that point it became clear that we could no longer just sit there, running out of polite professional chit-chat.

Somewhere around Jamaica Plains, people started standing up, the conversations changed, goto more animated, more crazy, more complex and chaotic.

The barriers between us were beginning to be challenged and to erode.

Even the physical barriers became only obstacles, not limitations – I remember at one point actually crawling over a bank of seats to better pursue a conversation with Bob Ashley.

In essence, the intimacy forced upon us by the deteriorated condition of our environment was propelling us to new connections, dialogue, and individual initiative and action.

For her complete talk, go here:  E.K. Torrey, featured talk

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