Catch the Fire:
An Art-Full Guide to Unleashing the Creative Power
of Youth, Adults and Community

by Peggy Taylor & Charlie Murphy

New Society Publishers, 2014. ISBN 978-0-865-71757-2.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 10/30/2014

Nonfiction: Creative Life

If I hadn't been drawn to Catch the Fire by its subject matter, the cover would definitely have caught my eye. Diane McIntosh is credited with the vibrant design, an enticing invitation to the inspiration inside.

I'm a strong proponent of the arts being part of any sort of gathering to enhance learning, build community and have fun—all while getting the work at hand done. As the authors say in their introduction: "You might be a teacher who finds ways to slip creative practices into the classroom or a business person who uses arts-based practices to lead exciting and motivating staff meetings."

Even if you aren't already someone who finds way to slip creative practices into your gatherings or meetings, you'll be inspired to do so by this book. Community organizers, social workers, government officials can all use the exercises described in Catch the Fire. Anyone can become a "social artist" according to the authors, Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy.

The first part of Catch the Fire, "The Call for Creative Community," gives many examples of people who pay attention to the right brain in their work with others. Poet David Whyte, David Pink and the late Angeles Arrien are among them.

A list of the benefits of the arts as "good medicine" are helpful reminders to readers. Art elicits joy, promotes health, develops empathy, strengthens human connection.

During their two decades of work, Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy have developed the Creative Community Model. They share stories of how their model has been used for youth and adults in settings around the world. For example, Bahia, Brazil, was the location of a four-day training camp where employers of Agrifirma, Brazil, sponsors of the camp, engaged with volunteers and youth for a positive and transformative intergenerational learning experience.

A drawing of the model developed by the authors and their colleagues helps to illustrate the Creative Community Model approach. Other illustrations including "The Nine Core Tasks of the Facilitator" help to describe a typical training camp experience.

The authors believe you don't have to be a professional artist to use the arts in your work. In Part Three, "Creative Facilitator's Playbook," all sorts of activities are described. I've participated in many of them and was glad to be reminded of visual arts and crafts; creative writing with others; theater improvisation; storytelling, music, rhythm and dance.

There are always challenges in working with groups and the authors describe some approaches to and resources for working with diverse groups in Part Four, "Facilitation Tools."

The work of Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy is based on a "learn-by-doing model" and through their years of working with others they have had the pleasure of seeing many people "waken to innate creativity." Their book is an inspiring resource, as it is about their work of "re-enchanting the world through arts for everyone." There are so many possibilities for individuals and groups. Integrating even a few of the practices described in Catch the Fire into our own communities will make a huge difference in how we connect with one another.

Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy are co-founders of PYE Global: partners for Youth Empowerment and developers of the Creative Community Model, a process for building creative, heart-centered learning communities with youth and adults from diverse cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. To find more resources and to connect with this international network please visit the PYE Global website.

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