This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, July 22, 1998

July 22, 1998 - Russian Artist Exchange

I once read that it was the custom among the leaders of certain Plains Indian tribes to exchange sons. The exchange lasted from the ages of 8 through adulthood. The sons guaranteed peace -- who would attack his own children?

The practice also bespoke the willingness of tribal leaders to pass on to their own children the lifestyles and perspectives of former enemies.

Could YOU do that? I would imagine that there would be at least three hard transitions: letting your own son go, accepting a stranger and raising him as your son, and finally, re-integrating the long absent son back into your heart, with all of his foreign experiences.

As difficult as it seems, this old practice (if indeed it happened this way) may point the way to the future. If we are ever to eliminate the many forms of tribal hatred in this world, we must somehow learn to enlarge our idea of "family."

I've been considering this from several angles lately. It happens that I'm a member of the Castle Rock Rotary Club. Recently, one of our members, Jim Watson, took a trip to the Russia east of the Ural mountains. The intent was to charter a new club in Tyumen. Jim doesn't speak a word of Russian. Most of the people he needed to talk to didn't speak a word of English.

But through perseverance, even, perhaps, through a practical demonstration of Rotary principles, he made significant progress. There is now a core group of Russians willing to give it a try. (Incidentally, most of Russia falls within what was already the largest Rotary "district" in the world: Alaska.)

Just last week, one of our local Renaissance Festival folks -- a portrait artist by the name of Nancy Christensen (or NanC, as she signs herself) stopped by our Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock. She had a videotape, an interview the cable company in Minneapolis had done after her trip from Moscow through Siberia.

Traveling by train, staying with the parents of a children's pen pal program, bureaucrats, and other artists, she managed to tour the country almost immediately after the breakup of the Soviet Union (and just after the tearing down of the Berlin Wall). In her quiet, compelling way, liberally illustrated with her sketches and portraits, NanC describes a way of life most Americans can barely imagine.

I liked her comments about the Russian people: they were cold and stern in public, but once you stepped into their homes, were abruptly warm, intimate, loving, generous. (They were also great readers.)

NanC offered the tape as a library program. I am most pleased to accept. So, at the Philip S. Miller Library, on Wednesday, July 29, beginning at noon, the public is warmly invited to watch a video that runs about an hour and a half. I hope to have NanC there, and will even try to cajole Jim Watson to sit in. Feel free to bring your lunch.

In could be that an artists' exchange -- swapping our creative talent across nations -- is the first step toward something like planetary understanding.

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