Art is woven into fabric of Stroll's Slow Living Summit


BRATTLEBORO -- Dr. Samantha Eagle is no stranger to public speaking.

Founder and Medical Director of Biologic Integrative Healthcare and the Biologic Wellness Center, Eagle has given countless talks on the practice of sustainable heath care which strives to balance body, mind and spirit through the application of environmental, social, psychological, behavioral and medical science.

"I lecture nationally, generally to health care providers, so I get to stand behind a podium and use a slide deck and a clicker," she said.

But on Wednesday, June 4, during the opening plenary session of the Strolling of the Heifers Slow Living Summit at 6:20 p.m., at the Latchis Theatre, Eagle's presentation on "The Well Being: Health, Healing and Community Lifestyle Medicine" will happen a different way.

"I have thrown out my Powerpoint and my LCD projector. I'm going to be up there without a podium to hide behind," she said.

She will, however, have two friends with her on the Latchis stage, and their presence represents a significant new initiative of the Slow Living Summit, a three-day conference from June 4-6 about connections that make communities resilient, sustainable and strong.

Eagle will be joined in her presentation by Lindel Hart, a yoga instructor and dancer, and John Sheldon, a Pioneer Valley guitar standout and songwriter who has toured with Van Morrison and written songs for James Taylor.

Together, Eagle, Hart and Sheldon will engage in movement, dance, music, visual art and more to try and exemplify and elaborate on some of the points Eagle makes with her words.

Their collaboration is one of several during the Summit's plenary sessions in which presenters and artists were invited to work closely together. In the past, artists had been part of the Summit but often as complementary players. This year, the Summit aims to weave art into the fabric of the sessions, offering chances to amplify, depict and interpret the messages of the speakers ... to bring story into the Summit.

To do that, Summit organizers brought in Linda McInerney, founder of Old Deerfield Productions in Deerfield, Mass., to become artistic director. She connected the speakers with artists and helped facilitate their collaborations. The idea grew out of conversations McInerney had with Strolling of the Heifers Founder Orly Munzing.

"Last year was my first opportunity to attend Slow Living. I was excited about the brilliant speakers, but I had to tell Orly afterwards that I was disappointed," stated McInerney in information released by Strolling of the Heifers. "I was disappointed because the whole thing seemed very left brain. It was lots of talking heads. Now, they were very smart heads, to be sure, and I loved their thinking but I couldn't help my own thoughts: ‘Isn't all this cognitive stuff what got us into this pickle? And aren't we missing the whole idea of Slow by focusing on Power-Pointing our way to the answers? And where is the art? Isn't art woven into a Slow Life? How can we leave it out?'"

Munzing agreed and asked her to come on board to fix it.

"Too often, in conferences of all kinds, there are no stories. Speakers talk about problems and about solutions. They show Powerpoints full of charts and figures. They may get their points across, we may hear the solutions they are proposing, but without stories, we're really not learning something new and gaining a new understanding," writes Munzing in the program book. "The Slow Living Summit is a unique intergenerational conversation about connections -- connections between life, health and happiness; between soil, soul and food; between money, community and bioregions; between arts, humor and love. Behind all of those connections are stories."

The question remains: Will it work?

"I definitely think so," said Eagle. "The creativity that has flown has actually fed all three of us on a personal level."

It also fits with what she's talking about.

"I'm going to be presenting about stress and transforming stress, and a lot of people look at art as a way of doing that," she said. "When I look at health care and the health of our communities, we cannot have a conversation about that without bringing in the health of the environment and sustainability. Healing, health, wellness, nutrition, sustainability, environment ... they're all woven together."

All Slow Living Summit plenary sessions featuring prominent speakers and artists, will be open to the public, free of charge. Also included in the free sessions is the showing of a film, "Food for Change," about the growth of the co-ops movement. A voluntary donation may be made at the door.

Other collaborations include:

* Thursday, June 5 at 8:30 a.m. -- "Time is running out, let's slow down" -- Charles Eisenstein, author of "The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible," "The Ascent of Humanity," "Sacred Economics" and "The Yoga of Eating," with artistic collaborator Eugene Friesen, world-renowned cellist known for his ground-breaking improvisational work and long-time work with the Paul Winter Consort.

* Thursday, June 5 at 1:45 p.m. -- "The Free-co-system: Investing for personal and community wealth" -- Amit Sharma, investment professional who has works at the intersection of commercial enterprise, public policy and the capital markets, with artistic collaborator Amy Johnquest, aka the Banner Queen, a painter who offers hand-painted sideshow banners reminiscent of old carnivals and traveling circuses.

* Film: Thursday, June 5 at 3:45 p.m. -- Also open to the public is the presentation of the film "Food for Change: The story of co-operation in America," which tells the story of the cooperative movement in the United States from the Great Depression to the present. Presented with the support of the Brattleboro Food Co-op and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association.

* Friday, June 6 at 8:30 a.m. -- "Soil, Soul, and Society: A love story in three movements" -- Martin Ping, executive director of Hawthorne Valley in Ghent, N. Y., an organization aimed at promoting the integration of society and culture with education and arts, with artistic collaborators guitarist Seamus Maynard, violinist Jonathan Talbott and cellist Jonah Thomas, members of the group Quiet in the Head.

* Friday, June 6 at 3:25 p.m. -- "Arts, humor, love and story" -- Linda McInerney, the Summit's artistic director, founder/director of Old Deerfield Productions, with artistic collaborator John Sheldon, guitarist. McInerney is collaborating with singer/songwriter Erica Wheeler to kick things off on Wednesday, June 4, at 6:20 p.m.

Registration for the full Summit is also available at the door. For those unable to pay the full cost, there is a sliding-scale registration option, subsidized by donors and sponsors, which enables people to register for the full two-and-a-half day Summit for $45 or more, depending on ability to pay. The Summit particularly invites students, seniors, artists and farmers to take advantage of the sliding-scale opportunity.

Full schedule and registration is available at


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