The Sphere College Project

No, We Haven’t Given Up. We’re Not Going To.

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It’s been, what, almost a year since my last post. September 17, 2013. We were preparing to open Local Sphere in downtown Phoenixville, (which we did on September 26, in part to honor my dad’s birthday because of all the support he has shown). A lot of people had a lot of hope for something innovative and exciting in our community, and those of us who had been with the¬†Sphere College Project—some for several years—were convinced that we were finally going to have a home where we could hold regular classes and workshops, and support ourselves with a venue where local artisans could sell their wares. People put a lot of energy into the success of this venture, and some of the Local Sphere artisans were selling very well as we headed into the holiday season.

We were open for a couple of months, then we abruptly closed.

What happened??

A couple of things. Just prior to opening the store I had made a visit to my dad in NC. He was 82 years old and it had been too long since I had last visited and it looked as though it would be a long time before I could visit again. Up to that point he had been very independent and apparently doing very well for himself. On this visit, however, it became clear that he was no longer capable of continuing the independent lifestyle to which he had grown accustomed. For one thing, his hearing had slowly deteriorated until he is now effectively completely deaf. With this, his health was quickly deteriorating as well. I realized that I had little time to wrap things up as best I could and get down to NC to help him out.

Back in Phoenixville, a lot of wonderful things were happening. We were selling items made by people living in our community, and were signing up more. We were having musical events and poetry events and preparing for more. And we were just beginning classes.

However, we didn’t make our rent on time. Then the landlord for the building where Local Sphere was housed ignored the rental agreement she had drawn up that allowed us a couple of weeks to come up with the cash before taking any action. When she placed a large handwritten orange “For Rent” sign in the front window, it looked from the street as though we were already shut down.

Thus we discovered that our landlord was working against us and was not willing to discuss options. With this as the situation, it seemed clear that our storefront venture was going to fail. So rather than drawing out the inevitable, I made the decision to bail out of the Local Sphere game and move to NC to live with and help out my dad. I’m glad I did. He was in poor condition and needed help. He is now not only stabilized but improving considerably, even though it is rather a shock to his system to suddenly have me living with him. We are having to learn to adjust to each other’s lifestyle. But I’m extremely fortunate to be able to live with him in a beautiful place near Brevard, NC, to get to know him as I never did before, and to hear stories I had never heard about our family and about where he grew up. And play lots of gin rummy.

But what of the Sphere College Project? Is it dead?

*Sigh*. No. It surprises me that anyone would think so. Let me make this clear once again: I’m not going to rest until the Sphere College Project has become established and self-sufficient.

So if it’s not dead, what’s been happening with it?

I have stayed in regular contact with several of students who wish to see this project succeed. In particular, I’ve remained in contact with Virginia Stewart, Frank Wolfe, Wesley Frazier and Emily Neblock. This group of students has formed a strong core group who, while continuing to independently further their own education, supports each other in ways that people would do well to emulate widely to help our world change for the better. So I will continue talking with, supporting and learning from this group to the best of my abilities.

So besides helping out my dad, I am making significant progress with plans to expand the Sphere College Project in NC. My experience in Pennsylvania has taught me that the wisest course of action is to first map out the political and socioeconomic landscape before devising a strategy. I’m finding things to be quite different here in this part of NC. So I’ve been exploring Brevard, Hendersonville and Asheville as much as I can, meeting many, many people and making lots of contacts for when the time comes to make concrete moves. I look forward to establishing Sphere down here, linking up the students in Pennsylvania and NC and expanding in both locations. I’d like to meet people who can advocate for what we are doing. If anyone has recommendations for people I might talk with in NC, please put us in contact.

In the meantime I’ve become involved in a theatre group that is producing a play conceived by the director, Aaron Beck. The play is called La Reina (The Queen), playing in the Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville on August 23 and 24. This is proving to be one of the most marvelous groups of people I have ever been associated with. The actors are brilliant and everyone is pouring their hearts and minds into the production. I’m one of two musicians for the show, myself on trombone (among other things), and J Kornya on synthesizer (among other things)—an interesting combination that we are thoroughly enjoying making work. It’s going to be a splendid show, so please let your Asheville area friends know about it: http://lareinatheatre.com/, (Facebook event:¬†https://www.facebook.com/events/345353305598335/348110081989324/)

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Author: jrichardliston

Former musician and computer scientist who has discovered books. I'm creating a new college. Twitter @rliston

One thought on “No, We Haven’t Given Up. We’re Not Going To.

  1. Richard,
    It is good that you have been able to be with your father; may both he and you continue to be well!

    This latest post proves how putting priorities in order provides the greatest opportunities for learning. The wisdom you have gained from your experience can now be invested into furthering the Sphere Project. I admire your vision and hope your endeavors will bear much fruit!

    Cordially,
    Craig Tavani

    P.S. The theatre bit, which sound quite interesting is especially amusing and I am glad to see you taking part in it.

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