Lara Oppenheimer is facilitating a gift circle at the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center on Sunday, October 5 -- during the 2014 Chicago Calling Arts Festival.
Here is some information about gift circles and the gift economy that Lara Oppenheimer has provided:
Gift economy is the original economy, the family economy, the tribal economy - where you ask for what you need and offer what you have. Barter and money are for outside the tribe. Lots more about gift economy in Lewis Hyde's book The Gift.
Gift economy is the human economic equivalent of the mycelial network that connects trees and other plants in an ecosystem, moving resources from areas of abundance to areas of need. See Mother Tree video.
A gift circle is a very simple form of gift economy, developed by Alpha Lo (featured in the Fairfax gift circle video below)
What happens at a gift circle?
We meet, mingle and eat. Then we form a circle and people take turns expressing a need. All kinds of things have been asked for: bodywork, milkcrates for organizing, help healing a broken heart, garden help, career counseling, new recipes, etc. The need is spoken with no expectation of it being fulfilled. People in the circle respond if they feel it.
Then people go around again and offer a gift, something they would like to share with no expectation of it being accepted. A wide range of things have been offered: a bag of pears, an Indian dinner delivered to your door, instruction on how to make the perfect pie crust, conversation in Arabic, French, Italian & Spanish, research help (from a librarian), help writing a simple will (from a lawyer), etc, etc.
Afterwards, people check in with those who responded to the gifts/needs/wishes and schedule them! (Bring your calendars/planners/phones!
Short videos of some gift circles on the West Coast:
Lara Oppenheimer learned about gift circles at the 2010 Social Forum in Detroit. She brought the idea back to Chicago starting a gift circle series in homes and galleries as well as a 10 month series at the former Mess Hall. In her partnership with the Chicago Time Exchange and her recent LinkUP residency at Links Hall, she explored how the exchange of needs and gifts fits into art making and creative community, developing a performance piece about the shame and power of need and paying all collaborators with time credits. Currently she is working in eco-restoration to experience a healthy human place in nature's economies and gather inspiration for art, events and exchanges.