Festival Feels

A Passion Reignited

Time has passed and my voice is regaining its strength as I have vowed to come back better but also, now realizing that I am coming alive again. It’s strange to find myself in this place as Fall begins to show its colors and its temperament, as this time usually weighs heavily on me. The pull of inspiration came weeks ago during a spur of the moment experience. The weekend of sept 23rd was originally set aside for a first-time trip to Chicago for a chance to get a more in-depth understanding of the work by American Sculptor, Nick Cave, who’s exhibition was nearing its end. A little over a week before taking the 8-hour drive, a friend shared information with me regarding another upcoming event, The Format Festival, which quickly caught my interest.

Format Festival entryway arch 2022

The music, art and technology focused festival debuted in Bentonville, Arkansas. Set for the same weekend as Chicago, I didn’t hesitate to switch gears once I saw that Cave was scheduled to show among other world renown artists. Within days my hotel was booked, and my route was now in a new direction and thankfully for a shorter distance. On the three- and half-hour drive, I chose an audio book for listening entertainment instead of music, which is usually my go to. But I would have enough music to experience at the festival, I thought. There was no need overwhelming my senses before. I wanted nothing to get in the way of the full embrace of the harmonies that awaited me.

Format Festival 2022

The wonderful people I met, the eye-catching stages, the monumental art installations, the comfortable and safe atmosphere (and the cleanest porta-potties I’d ever seen), all welcomed my spirit, while calming my anxieties that had grown over the past 5 years. For 3 consecutive days, my eyes and ears almost couldn’t believe that I was physically there. It was a feeling of being securely enveloped in the prolific sounds from stand-out musicians such as Thundercat, Nile Rodgers and Chic, Robert Glasper, Jamila Woods, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, and the one and only Herbie Hancock. That keytar was something special. It was a spectacular, otherworldly artistic experience from start to finish. Although I made the trip alone, by coincidence I reconnected with a fellow teacher from back home in Kansas City. I was thankful to have someone else there as a witness of the greatness lain before me.


The icing on this cake, was of course what I had come for, those signature Nick Cave pieces. His sound suits were delivered in vibrant hues and crafted movements, that encouraged intent observation with each surprise performance. My wonder grew as I compared it to the last time, I had seen his work in person, back at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art  in 2019. I can say that both instances brought a new curiosity to my perspective, a need to understand the mysteriousness of the art itself. Neither one, more intriguing than the other. Just different. Though both similar in calling me to create, to dive in and fully submerged myself into my craft. To accept my individuality.

Each night, my vibrational cup was filled, and I danced in the overflow of emotions. I danced for my body, for the muscles and joints that missed the raw instrumentals as much as I did. The playful pain in my soles, the good hurt swinging from my hips. I let the sun kiss my palms with its sweetness and the warm wind gently swaying my outstretched arms. I DAAANCED with my whole being. It was as if I was a lamp that had been finally plugged in after years of sitting in a dark, dusty closet. Not only was I connected to this outlet, but I also felt like my bulb had been replaced even. I felt more luminous that ever before. My body was coming alive again. A rebirth of energy and inspiration.

Format Festival 2022

During the drive back alone, a lot of thoughts came to mind. I thought of the ways the exuberant weekend had clung to me, how I could hold onto that moment, how much my body would ache the next day, what tasks were ahead of me in the coming weeks, and what my future projects looked like. There was so much joy, yet sadness slid its way in there suddenly. My mind went to my father. The last time I felt this kind of electricity, he’d be at home waiting to hear every small detail and somehow, prying more out of me than I even remembered from whatever event I attended. I thought about the hours of conversation that wouldn’t happen with him or anyone else with the same type of interest and excitement that I felt. Eight years, it has been. I can’t lie, that stung. He was such a critical influence on me when it came to music and the arts. I’ve been in search of someone to share all the colors and textures of my being, transcribed through these nostalgic wave lengths. Admittedly, disappointment has met me in return, many times.

Woman sitting on grass, wearing sunglasses, a black visor and a pink mermaid shirt.
Michelle L. Hill

As I reached the home stretch of my drive home close to midnight, something sunk in. My father was a teacher in his own respectful way. He taught me many things, but I believe unintentionally he brought forth an understanding and responsibility in sharing my art form. How to hold my power in the palm of my hand, literally and figurately. I’ve heard that the best ways to honor your favorite teachers is to become one yourself. That is what I have become. And it is you, everyone choosing to read these words that I am meant to share these experiences with. Authentically pouring my love back into each of you, while continuing the cycle of learning and growing for myself. More blossoming to come-from all of us.

Happy Birthday Daddy-

Michelle L. Hill
Michelle L. Hill

Embodies the peace adventure yields, is home in the beyond, and establishes foundations needed for others to experience true wonder for themselves. Creator of The Black Sunflower.

2 responses to “Festival Feels”

  1. This was beautiful! Thank you for sharing your experience and then realizing the connection to your father. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Love how you spoke from your heart and how you conva details of your bodily experiences on your journey from your mental to your physical. I appreciate how you saw dad as your first teacher and it holds value to you on your journey. I’m in tears, so very proud of you. My Lil sis ms hill. THE BLACK SUNFLOWER!@

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