During the day, Amy Watson rarely leaves her Las Olas Isles home. A self-employed public relations consultant, she spends half her time working for clients, the other half plugging away at her first novel. The canalside, '40s-era brick house is decorated with abstract expressionist paintings, an eclectic mix of antiques -- including an 1880s American armoire -- and a pewter-and-glass dining table. So, who wouldn't rather be there than in some stuffy office?
"I have my writing studio near the living room," says Watson, age 31. "It's my sanctuary and where I do my most creative work. And that's really important to me -- my surroundings -- creatively."
Just as important are the people she hangs out with. "I've found that interacting with other types of creative people is very helpful to my own creative process," says the former freelance writer, who's worked for the Los Angeles Times and the Denver Post.
In an attempt to bring together creative minds, she plans to turn her home into the Las Olas Salon one night each month. But nobody's going to be doing any nails or hair. "Salon" is French for "sitting room," which is where, during the 17th Century, intellectuals and artists would meet informally to swap ideas.
Watson says she got the idea from the Utne Reader, which supports neighborhood salons and offers a virtual salon on its Website. But nothing beats face-to-face interaction, especially when different kinds of creative minds get together.
For example, Watson says, actors deliver their lines directly to their audiences, so talking to actors about gauging audience reaction may help her think about reader response when she's sitting in front of the computer. But it's a two-way street. "I've had other performers -- actors and dancers -- tell me that interacting with me has helped their creative process, like how language can be brought into their medium," Watson explains.
Salon members will decide on an agenda, but as facilitator Watson envisions throwing out questions to prompt discussions -- for example, "What does art in everyday life mean to you?" The group may also play games during the meetings, which she expects will last two to three hours. She's hoping to attract actors, musicians, and other creative types, but the salon won't be exclusionary.
"I just think those are the type of people who would be the most attracted to it," Watson says. "Couch potato TV addicts are not what we're looking for."
-- John Ferri
The Las Olas Salon will begin holding meetings in mid-October. Admission will be $1. For more information call Amy Watson at 954-764-4540.
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