Valya Dudycz Lupescu

Writer, fueled by coffee

Building a Container

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My dear friend Angie is a master at crafting celebrations, rituals, and events. She calls it “building a container.” I love that expression—the idea that we create a time and space to be filled with intention: be it with art, performance, remembrance, initiation, and so on.

Presented with an opportunity to host a photography workshop with Kyle Cassidy, I saw a chance to “build a container”: to create an opportunity for friends and artists to get together, learn from a talented teacher, and commit to making their art.

On Friday evening, Molly Robison, Lindsay, Madeline, and I picked up Kyle from the airport and drove to Kate’s lovely home, where we enjoyed bottles of Spanish wine and tapas. We met Kate’s dogs, admired her yard and amazing playhouse, listened to the fabulous Molly play, and sat on the deck enjoying the cool Chicago evening in the company of good friends (thanks Kate and Sam).

Saturday morning began with coffee, tea, and snacks as folks trickled in. After breakfast, participants discussed their experience and expectations. I wasn’t participating in the workshop, so I stayed in the kitchen chopping vegetables for the black bean soup and salad I planned to serve for lunch. (I was also eavesdropping and would occasionally peek through the doorway.)


(Fuzzy photo by my phone)

My parents were watching the kids for the weekend—affording Mark the time to work in the yard and giving me the time and space to be fully present.


(photo by Ellen of 8 Eyes Photography)

The weekend was filled with so many great moments as I watched people wander through Casa del Lobos and around the neighborhood—searching for perfect sunlight or appropriate background for this or that shot. I was able to spend time with some of my favorite people, and I made new friends I can’t wait to see again. I also had the opportunity to spend more time with Kyle, whom I genuinely like and respect; and I love that he’s a creative catalyst inspiring people to make art.


(photo by Ellen of 8 Eyes Photography)

It was creative bliss: meandering through cameras, light stands, portfolios, and notebooks; watching people view the world through their own particular lenses.

The weekend culminated in a wine & cheese gallery night on Sunday, where fantastic photographs from the weekend were displayed around our backyard, waiting to be discovered by friends and family while we savored wines and cheeses.


(photo of lovely assistant/model Angela Enos by Carl Hertz)

At one point, my parents brought over the kids to see the photos. It’s important to me that they grow up watching people pursue their passions, knowing that they too can create art and dream big. The kids left with my folks; and amidst tiki torches and candles, we gathered around Molly Robison to hear her play. It was the perfect close to the night and weekend.

On Monday, after a few photo shoots (Kyle was able to take a few portraits of Chicago area veterans for his newest book, War Paint), we stopped by the home of novelist Ysabeau Wilce, author of Flora Segunda (read it: fantastic world-building and compelling characters). I was introduced to Ysabeau and her husband, and we met Molly for lunch. After a delicious meal at Reza’s and lively conversation about Clarion, writing, giving birth, motherhood, schedules, and secret projects, it was suddenly time to get Kyle to the airport. The fabulous weekend was over.

The Sufi poet Rumi wrote: “Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah…it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.” (Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi)
I hope that everyone who came into contact with Kyle that weekend starts a “huge, foolish project.” I look forward to watching what happens next. I have no doubt it will be wonder-filled.

Author: Valya

Valya Dudycz Lupescu is the author of THE SILENCE OF TREES and STICKS & BONES, as well as the founding editor of CONCLAVE: A Journal of Character. Born and raised in Chicago, Valya received her degree in English at DePaul University and her MFA in Writing as part of the inaugural class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since receiving her MFA, Valya has worked as a college professor, obituary writer, content manager, internal communications specialist, co-producer of an independent feature film, and Goth cocktail waitress.

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