Roseanna Frechette dons more hats than she has fingers to count them on: Writer, poet, publisher, dancer, creative youth programs director and yoga instructor are just a few of the titles she wears with aplomb. Then there are her efforts on behalf of bohemian Denver — as an organizer, speaker, dedicated scenester, and now founder of Denver Artists for Rent Control. How does she manage it all? Read Frechette's answers to the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Roseanna Frechette: Back in 2001, I visited the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and was thrilled to find a room of art file drawers full of interesting stuff, each labeled for a particular time in Warhol's life, referred to as “Time Capsules.” This was thrilling to me, as I'd had a similar fifteen-year method of storing phases of my life, and what my boxes and large padded envelopes contained were what I called “The Wall,” as in all the crazy notes, striking images, little fortune-cookie sayings and slogans from magazines, plus haiku bits, printed photos, cool event postcards and creatively highlighted aha moments from which poems might evolve.
This accumulated patchwork wallpaper had been my writer's inspiration, and in time, each particular wall would have grown to encompass an entire era, so that when I moved to the next office or studio or home, it would become “The Wall: circa….”
So then all those walls later, I found Warhol's “Time Capsules” and fantasized what a collaboration might be like if he and I were to combine my walls with his capsules: We’d create a crazy sort of artistic lifeline to which I would add spoken-word performance, and we could engage dancers and musicians (think saxophone) while he might just stand in his classic posture, being himself. So yeah, Andy Warhol.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
All the researchers and educators in the field of neuroscience who I have read, studied with and learned from, because they understand and share the good news that we are not stuck with our inherited genetics when it comes to how we think and behave. Our brains have what is called neuroplasticity and are capable of shifting, changing and expanding as much as, or perhaps even more than, they are capable of being stuck in ruts and shrinking. All that is required is awareness and understanding, as well as a good amount of time spent in meditation practices.
A great person to study this with is my trail-blazing comrade Lisa Wimberger at her Neurosculpting Institute here in Denver. I've also studied with Dr. Joe Dispenza (of What the Bleep Do We Know? fame), who comes to Colorado now and then. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief, is another whose teachings on this I find logical and fascinating. It gets plenty interesting and exciting once you understand you can have a neon-bright brain, positively wired for greater possibilities!
What's the one art trend you would like to see die this year?
What's your day job?
I'm self-employed with multiple revenue streams, which suits the Gemini changeling that I am, as no two days are the same, and I get to visit many work sites in a week. Primarily, I am a yoga instructor and teacher trainer with a nationally accredited training program that I designed and facilitate. I bring stress-management practices of yoga and meditation to corporate sites and teach an integrative approach to restorative yoga at Pura Vida Club and Mudra Yoga Studio, as well as in private sessions. Alongside that, I am a publicist and a sort of concert ambassador for Denver Eclectic Concerts. As a writer/editor/proofreader, odd jobs show up here and there. I enjoy the mix.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I would dedicate a good portion of these funds to building and maintaining an inner-city writer's retreat for serious Denver writers to take a much-needed timeout for writing about their urban experiences of life, and for small-press publishers to have community-building meetings of minds. And then I would take a long sabbatical on the island of Nevis, West Indies, which is the setting for an autobiographical novel, the notes for which are in a good-sized file box, where they've been stored since my year of sailing from stateside to the Caribbean.
While in my twenties, I answered an ad in SAIL magazine, and out of 300 applicants got the position to be one of three crew on a beautiful sloop docked in Mystic Sea Port. We left the East Coast into the Atlantic, sailed through the tip of the Bermuda Triangle and far south. It took fifteen days of open ocean sailing with a lot of heavy storms and squalls, to arrive at St. Thomas. I went down-island from there to eventually find Nevis, the island of my dreams that I had never even known existed. The theme of that story is a young woman's journey 4,000 miles from her U.S. point of origin in order to be free of culture shock for the first time in her life.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here – or makes you want to leave?
To me, Colorado is the most beautiful state in the union. Having traveled the Caribbean for nearly a year, I feel confident saying the sunsets don't get any more beautiful than the ones we have here. I wrote a poem, “Colorado Woman Song,” that describes my deep love of this place. It was the best place for me to pioneer to at age nineteen.
I grew up in northern Indiana, between Gary and Chicago, a steel-mill-industrial area with much overgrowth, noise and its share of grim backdrops. Lake Michigan is awesome, and I enjoyed my home town of Hammond, but I knew there was someplace else for me. I spent the days of my youth with my head in a book, dreaming of living in a far more nature-rich environment. I seemed to be longing for something like Thoreau's Walden. And although I had a phase of hitting the backpacking trails of Rocky Mountain National Park, it turns out the bohemian urban culture of Denver is what has definitely held me here. All these years later, I continue to feel like this is where I belong.
What's the one thing Denver could do to help the arts?
Rent control. I am amazed that our mayor and governor (and whoever else makes decisions re: allocation of focus and funds) seem oblivious to the ways in which Denver's growth in the name of commerce and industry are driving rents astronomically high for everything from housing to studio and gallery space, as well as community gathering places and even parking spots. I say they’re oblivious, but to be fair, I should also say it's a complicated issue, and I am gonna trust that we can communicate with the higher-ups about this.
Skyrocketing rents are seriously undermining the ground of an otherwise thriving art scene, threatening our entire community of artists, including dancers and musicians, as well as writers, actors, poets, visual artists and others. It seems nothing is being done to take care of the folks who have been here long-term, eking out a modest living while contributing to a rich bohemian culture that has always played a significant role in the identity of this town.
It's sad so many artists are considering moving out, but I refuse to see us as victims. We need to organize and speak up. Loudly. With positive energy. Which is why I am starting a movement that I hope organizes well and grows into serious effectiveness: Denver Artists for Rent Control (DARC).
Who is your favorite Colorado creative?
Wow, that’s tough to answer, since we have so many stellar creatives here. My fave is not a person but rather a group. I love the Flobots and their NOENEMIES project, which is amazing and picking up momentum. That band is not only super-talented and wildly energetic, but they truly care about making a positive difference re: our world's strife by unifying the voices of social activism through song. With the late Vincent Harding (comrade to Martin Luther King) for a mentor, Flobots' NOENEMIES project has infused many a march and demonstration for any number of causes with the spirit and energy of song.
As a trained song leader in this project, I am thrilled to have felt effective during gatherings in places like the sidewalk at Ellie Caulkins Opera House during Mayor Hancock's inauguration. My understanding is that Flobots' next CD will be a double recording, including the band's new work but also the NOENEMIES Choir. How powerfully cool!
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I am writing more flash fiction, which is the creative writing form I started with long ago and have gotten back into by joining Denver's F-Bomb community (aka the flash-fiction center of the universe). My hope is to continue getting those pieces published as well as to perform them live in unique ways.
This July I again will take part in Beyond Academia Free Skool Camp in Nederland, where I was recently named Chair of Contemplative Poetics by the school's founder, Marcus If. I teach things like “Spoken Word Performance as Dynamic Meditation” and “Writing Tadasana: the mountain pose of pure potentiality.”
There are more festivals coming up, including the 100,000 Poets for Change (Denver) series under the Howling Dog Press umbrella in September. It's also an election year, so I'll be getting involved in a theatrical production at Mercury Cafe, The Allied Witches Presidential Election, where we will stage a mock election, nominate all amazing women through time for president, deliver their monologues along with skits and spoofs and then ask the audience to vote. It's political satire at its best, and Marilyn Megenity is very much heading it up. Takes place Fridays in October.
Beyond all that I hope to host a Rosebud Forum thirty-year-anniversary reading. This would be to commemorate a quarterly humanitarian journal I co-published with a group of progressive comrades in the late ’80s. We hosted live public forums at Swallow Hill and poetry readings at places like St. Mary's Vinegar Factory and Paris on the Platte. The journal had subscribers as far-reaching as Japan, was sold in many independent bookstores including City Lights in San Francisco, and was a labor of love for many Colorado artists, several of whom are still living in the Denver area. I've had it in mind to regather that artistic herd just for the fun of it.
Oh, yeah, and I would love to take a writer's road trip to anywhere... or ride the train to S.F.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Cristofer Lix is a truly great performance artist, poet, musician, writer, actor and director who has been living with AIDS for 25 years. He and I have collaborated some over the past year, and he will again be my feature in August when I host a “Bad Dog Days” (of summer) F-Bomb reading at Mercury Cafe. Much of Cristofer's current work has to do with the tumultuous modern-day plague of AIDS, as well as its effects culturally and personally. His work is hard-hitting but also soft to the touch. He, together with Andrew Novick, Daniel Landes and a few others including myself, brainstormed into being the LINK Denver movement and its inaugural weekend this past December. Cristofer then gave an amazing tribute performance for David Bowie in February's Bowie LINK. A main premise in all of this has to do with the indomitable spirit of artists and the power that comes from connecting through creativity and art. I love that Cristofer's art ethic encapsulates this premise fantastically, and I believe his audience will continue to grow.
See Roseanna Frechette in a performance of "A Poetry Affair” with Marcus If at 8:45 p.m. Friday, April 22, during the 2016 Poetry Rodeo (aka Podeo), which runs from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, and features poetry readings, slam poetry, musical improv jams, flash fiction, an open mike and more. Admission is $10 at the door between 7 and 10:30 p.m. (free all other times); learn more at the Facebook event page.