Chapter 1: The Compact Chronicles
Twenty-five years of nurturing community!
As I set (real) pen to paper to exhume the stories of this grass-roots organization far out on the tip of our beloved country, I ask: Why celebrate 25? Is it a magic number? Or are twenty-five year incremental celebrations in our DNA? So why should it be questioned? One reason, I guess, is that we question everything here in Provincetown. But we also look for results – with attitude.
So what do we see? Is there a symbiotic connection between our unfolding community and the transformational shifts of our spiral spit of sand?
How does The Compact help define this vortex of a community?
Sitting by a cozy fire in Fowler Dune Shack in the month of January, I write about this journey, about our stories of inspired individuals who imaginatively created positive community impact, some forming important, non-profit cultural organizations: The Compact Chronicles: 25 years of nurturing community.
As we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival in the New World in 1620 and honor the Wampanoag Nation, the vision of The Compact becomes increasingly relevant. Inspired by the signing of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor, The “Compact” broadens and elaborates on the legacy of Provincetown as a community with an historic global reach of inclusion and acknowledges that differences creates richness.
Do we see the world in a grain of sand?
1993: The Birth
It was the mid-1990s. The real estate bubble was taking off. AIDS was devastating the community and the fishing industry was in decline following tragic losses at sea. In 1976, seven men died on the Patricia Marie, four died on the Cap’n Bill in 1978 and three on the Victory II in 1984. There was much sadness and anger in the community.
Yet, like the prow of a ship on the edge of an expansive sea, we always look to the horizon, unobstructed, with no barriers. We are global hunters, spanning across the seas for the next bountiful whale grounds. Twice a day the powerful tidal dance sets the pulse of the town, biomimicking legendary artist Hans Hofmann’s famous “push and pull” painting philosophy. But our welcoming shores are both receptive and vulnerable to migrations, natural disturbances and invisible pathogens: Portuguese fishermen in the mid 1800s; the devastating Portland Gale of 1898; the foray of adventurous artists and radical thinkers in the early 1900s; the 1960s counterculture; queers; and HIV.
I lost many friends to the disease, attending weekly memorial services at the UU Meeting House, harbor beaches, the west end breakwater, Race Point and numerous other special locales that celebrated special lives. At one service I threw one of Paula’s high heel shoes off the breakwater in honor of her feisty drag persona. She was my tenant, as were Michael, John, Doug and…how can I forget someone? But there were so many.
The Compact was registered as a non-profit in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1993 after my return from massage school in Santa Fe, New Mexico. On May 13, 1994 it were granted tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.
The Swim for Life, an AIDS fundraiser, was founded five years earlier and had no fiscal sponsor. At the time I was also in need of a non-profit to apply for an art grant, along with others in the community. Thus was born The Compact and its embryonic community-centric mission from this original document.