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Sudye Cauthen

“Tell me the landscape in which you live, and I will tell you who you are.”
-Jose Ortega y Gasset

Hello there,

Welcome to my home and the home of North Florida Center for Documentary Studies, Inc., this house on stilts in the floodplain of Florida's Suwannee River. Come on in and look out one of these windows onto the world of north Florida, this area I've spent my life exploring. My work is all about stories.

Our stories tell us who we are, where we come from, and what we expect of the future. We are, each of us, every minute of every day—no matter how unconsciously—constructing narratives that will explain to us the meaning of our lives.

In early childhood, my father’s tales of growing up in the hand-sawn cypress house of my Grandfather George Cauthen of Monteocha (northeast of Gainesville), took root in my head where, enlarged by imagination and strengthened by research, they continue to dominate my life, sending me out every day in search of deer tracks, the names of trees, berries, bushes, stars, and the collection of other people’s stories. That’s why I’m here in Florida’s least-developed area; I’m trying to get it all down while there’s still time.

In my travels, I often discover that many of us have no sense of place from which our stories spring. Actually, we are more individual than we know, our stories more personal and idiosyncratic than many young people today realize; they do not know the stories of their beautiful and irreplaceable selves so crucial to our understanding of one another and our future. “When you’ve got your own, you can enjoy somebody else’s..."*

Lest we conceive ourselves invisible cogs in the huge machine of internet news, let us know the shape of our lives, their interiors and architectural details. Each community, crossroads, corner, block, and lamppost has its many stories and, when we know them, we know, in part, ourselves. This sort of knowledge—respect for self—is essential. Until we have it, we cannot respect the multitudinous other selves in this world.

The stories of each community comprise a sort of conservatory without walls. Regional stories unfold wherever people live and those stories most particularly belong to them. They should know their stories.

-Sudye Cauthen

*COMING TO OUR SENSES: The Significance of the Arts for American Education, report of the Arts, Education and Americans Panel, Mc-Graw-Hill Book Company, 1976.



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