“Why are you all here?”
“To serve the community and help you.”
“Community. You got on planes in all different places and landed in Todos Santos together for the sake of community. That’s what’s going to heal America.”
And that happy, beautiful misunderstanding – the question being about the whole trip, the answer about that specific day – is how our time with Donna began. We didn’t bother correcting the notion that we just met on this trip. We let the beauty of the idea carry us through the day.
And carry us it did. Donna is the founder of Todos Artes – an art compound here in Todos Santos. She went on to tell us how she ended up in that place, doing that work, — and what our part in that work would be for the day — but it felt more like a wise lesson on the value of art and connection. She told us about how artifacts are how we connect to people in the future. She told us how they let people know “we were not oppressed, depressed, or suppressed.” That the expression of art is the cleanest line of communication.
She told us how when you work alone, you can do this much (holding up a pinch of two fingers), but when you work together, you can do this much (you guessed it – her entire wingspan). That was the theme of our time with Donna – collaborating, not competing.
She talked about her work with Jerry Brown and the value she sees in displaying art done by groups of people. She likes when there’s not a man’s name on something – or a woman’s.
She talked about the science / art fusion program she started at UC Davis because why would we not have all perspectives at the table?
Her compound was a reflection of her values. There were mosaics everywhere, done by all different people – and very few names on them. Almost every work was a collaborative effort. We got to be part of it.
She was covering some columns in mosaics as a “gallery,” so every group could display little ceramic works that they created. The column we were covering was for her son’s wedding, coming up. Their guests were going to add works from clay, and they would forever have this beautiful momento. We got to leave some of our own for her to put up, as well.
Donna’s vibe was a strong one. I wanted to just listen to her talk. She used words like “yo” and “the bomb” and then dropped gems of wisdom that you could easily miss, if you weren’t paying attention. She let out a stream of instructions and threw in thoughts about politics in the middle of explaining how to break the tile. I got the feeling I could spend years with her and still be surprised by her carefree, uninhibited depth.
It’s funny how you can meet people who leave you wondering. I knew I wanted to pull out more from her, but I didn’t know what to ask.
I will do my best to not fill in too much with my imagination. I’ll try to not to picture her work displayed around town, her collaborations with artists in the future, the way she mothers, her community of people who came and went during our time there. I’ll try not to imagine the locals she’ll build relationships with, like the woman who brought her salsa mid-morning. I will definitely remember her unapologetic value of community – and I’ll continue my struggling effort to emulate it – but otherwise, I’ll try to keep her that way in my mind – a delightful, community-driven mystery.