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You can smell the creative juices simmering long before you enter the Williams theme house. Notes of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” drift out from the newly-acquired piano, sending messages that say, “Talent lives here” and “Visitors welcome.” Dried flowers hang in the stairwell, and a whiteboard with inspirational quotes, including the “German sentence of the day,” adorns the wall. Downstairs in the kitchen, herbal tea bags and paper cranes from an Origami workshop hang on a string across the ceiling as testaments to some of the major activities of the house. Tea is kind of a big deal here.
In the circular-countered kitchen, several students cook organic foods worthy of prime time on the Food Network. Senior Janet Irvine dined on leftover falafel, while sophomore Amber Dahlin cooked a dish using onions, kale (dark green leafy cabbage), cheese, and other natural ingredients. As Sophomore Austin Kingsbery chopped fresh vegetables, he discarded the stems and peels into a large compost jar sitting on the counter. He warned not to put lemons in the compost, because their high acidity throws off the process.
The Creative Living house of winter 2010 has been a marvelous success. The purpose of the theme house was to unite a group of students under the common purpose of sustainable living and to explore creative avenues of expression. Junior Erik Siegling said that the experience was great. He said there was tremendous support for each other’s projects: “It was easy to relax when I needed to relax, and easy to work hard when I needed to work hard.”
The theme house was successful in creating an atmosphere in which work could get done and creativity could blossom. Siegling said that the majority of the house goals were met; they were able to push themselves creatively, be conscientious of the environment, and live as sustainably as possible, which is easier than it seems.
Irvine said it was so nice to “live with a sense of purpose.” This is not to say that the rest of us on campus lack purpose and creativity, but members of the theme house said they truly value the special experience they gained from living together with this mission.
When Principia switches to semesters, Williams will be used for reasons other than a theme house, such as the education majors’ home. Current members of the house agree that they will miss the theme house, because it is truly fulfilling a campus need. Irvine gave the sense that everyone in the house really wanted to be there, which added to its enriching family atmosphere. Dahlin agreed and said, “There is a reason we’re all here.”
Siegling said that cooking was one of the best bonding and educational activities of the house. Preparing their own meals taught the group to not just buy any organic food, but to buy the right organic foods. Kingsbery and Dahlin researched to find what foods were the purest in terms of cultivation, up-bringing, and ingredients. They also sought locally grown foods.
Siegling continued by saying that he found cooking for himself to be therapeutic. He does not see cooking as a chore at all. He said it was a great opportunity for embracing the freer lifestyle, and he looks forward to having his own apartment so that he can cook on his own.
While members of the Creative Living house spent a good deal of time cooking, they also focused on other activities such as game nights, “acro-yoga,” and workshops featuring Origami, knitting, beat-boxing, and drumming. When asked what they could have done better in the house, Irvine answered that they are “still working on campus outreach.” They hope to hold a house event for the campus of assorted creative acts on buffer’s eve. Kingsbery said, this is “not your average Starbrooks.” Irvine said, “There will be music, drama, and baked goods present.”
Overall, the Creative Living experiment in the Williams theme house was a huge success. The members felt as though they accomplished their goals of living sustainably, preparing their own meals using organic foods, creating poetry, art, and music, and helping each other live with a creative mindset. Irvine said, “Although we were all doing separate things, you can bring them together and it’s beautiful.” She believes this was an overall blessing that the individual members can take back to their respective houses for spring quarter and she believes the creativity will spread.