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Film preview, panel talk to get creative juices flowing

The Age of Reason, The Bloomsbury Group, Gertrude Stein’s salon. Aspen may soon follow suit under the aegis of a first-ever collaborative experiment conducted by the Aspen Filmfest, the Anderson Ranch Arts Center and The Aspen Institute.

On June 9, directors of all three organizations will host an evening of intellectual and artistic exploration with a special preview of the Academy award-winning film, “The Living Museum: Art, Creativity and the Human Mind.” A discussion will follow the screening and a dialogue, in the true sense of the word, will unfold between a panel of local artists, intellectuals and visionaries.

“We have a hunger for there to be more dialogue” said Laura Thielen, Filmfest director. “So many people come here and consume art. They go to performances, screenings, lectures, and they are filled with all sorts of things. This is an opportunity to involve the community in really thinking about something – showing a provocative film. Hopefully it will be followed by a provocative discussion that will get people beyond consuming art, but reaching inside themselves to find their own need to have their lives filled with creative acts.”



Jessica Yu’s film, “The Living Museum” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The documentary profiles a very unusual art museum. “It’s an art therapy program in the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens. This program has been set up by two people, one is an art psychologist and the other is an artist who is no longer living, to promote mental health in patients. It’s a living museum, a very active facility,” Thielen explained.

“Laura called me up and said there’s a film that’s very interesting, I’d like to hear an artist’s view on that,” recalled Jim Baker, executive director of Anderson Ranch. “She explained it. I got to see it. I realized that it was very interesting material. We have had a lot of fun working together to plan this evening, to pick the panel, and talk about some of the questions we want to ask,” he said.




The documentary follows the lives and works of six artists with mental illness and their gentle “curator,” Dr. Janos Marton. Dr. Marton is dedicated to helping each of his patients shift his or her identity from “that of a mental patient to that of an artist.” The film resonates with the creative impulse of these artists, while showing how each one adjusts and copes with their challenging lives. The film questions the definitions of sanity and insanity while taking an unsentimental look at the intersection of art and madness, as well as art’s spiritual capacity to heal.

But the film is about more than art, notes John Bennett, vice president of the Aspen campus of The Aspen Institute. “Creativity is obviously associated with art. Creativity should exist in all human endeavors and this film and this discussion might be an opportunity for a lot of people to demystify the creative process a bit.”

For the “patients” at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, art builds self-esteem and centers them by providing an emotional release.

“It’s using art to give people a method of connecting themselves to the outside world and to themselves,” Bennett said.

“What qualifies as insane or sane, for that matter? “What relationship do they have to the creative act? Do they come before or after, with, or separate from the expressions?” Baker will call upon a panel of artists, writers and musicians to explore and probe these ideas.

The panel comprises a group of broad thinkers and speakers with sensitivity to a lot of different media. Jungian analyst Dr. Linda Leonard, author James Salter, architect Harry Teague, physicist and author Jeremy Bernstein, gallery owner David Flora and visual artist Linda Girvin, and Michael Franklin, an art therapist from the Naropa Institute, will explore the connection between the human mind and the creative process

Organizers hope the evening will generate future programming that will foster the exploration of different disciplines. “An essential part of my new job at the Institute is re-engaging the Institute with the Aspen community in general with the arts and humanities,” Bennett said.

“This is a rare opportunity to make Aspen what Aspen really is, which is a place of intellectual discourse,” Baker added.

The film screens at 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception hosted by Aspen Magazine. The audience is then invited to join the panel discussion next door in the Lauder Seminar Room.


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