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Art or advocacy?

Right now Steve Ryan is probably on the telephone arguing with somebody to help you.

It's what he does, all day long, in addition to his other work, his writings and being a student at Southern Oregon University.

A day in the life of Steve Ryan is like a chess game, one in which he advances laterally, upon a worn skateboard, a unique diplomacy and massive amounts of political wisdom. Ryan boosts a very retro "fight the power" mantra, but he fights the power with power of his own; the power of ascension through knowledge.

"'Bureaucratise' is a skill that takes a long time to learn," said Ryan. "You don't get anything by getting angry. I believe that people want to give you the answers you're looking for"&

166; you just have to ask them the right way."

One of the ways Ryan asks for the change he wants is by trying to broaden minds. A tool he has used to facilitate both that and the broadening of his own mind is through his poetry.

"Poetry happens just like growing nails or hair," said Ryan. "Some of it you clip off. Some of it you cultivate. I just cruise along with words to move through the day."

Ryan also cruises through laudation at open mics and poetry slams with the words he weaves.

"It's the things you see in the world which are so marvelous and enigmatic that you don't know how to explain them. So you try to find words to describe them to other people," said Ryan. "And then there's also that quest for immortality."

Ryan didn't just stumble into Ashland. He spent the better part of four decades traveling the country, seeking, learning.

"I moved around trying to find out what the world was like," said Ryan. Finally, after years of walking the American dream, Ryan settled upon Ashland as a place to flourish.

"I liked the climate and my perception of the town; where it's still okay to be liberal," said Ryan. "I just don't want to subscribe to certain (perceived) conservative values offered me; I believe in diversity thriving over conformity."

At Southern Oregon University, Ryan invested himself into BS degrees in economics and English, with focuses in both creative writing and professional-technical writing.

"I chose my degrees specifically so I could use the tools of people who have a concentrated wealth and influence through a market system where competitors enter with different starting positions," said Ryan. "Communication is probably the most important tool a manager will have, and economics permeates so much of what civilization and society are based upon."

As he explored the mechanics of the world and was baptized in the creative pulse of words and rhetoric, Ryan found a harmony through advocacy, using his art and technical prowess to write topical poems, create propaganda videos for disability advocacy groups like DUDE and work extensively with the Soapbox, SOU's alternative newspaper, and the Rogue Valley Independent media. He is now running for Rogue Valley Transportation District Board of Directors in the May election.

Ryan has settled upon public transportation as his focused war zone.

"Transportation has been the battleground for social justice since the Montgomery bus Boycott and Rosa Parks," said Ryan, citing issues such as college expansion, disability rights and the lack of evening availability for public transportation. "Ashland would be a great place to stay, but I'm not sure Ashland will have a job for us after graduation."

Ryan is considering moving north to pursue his PhD., but noted, "of course, nothing is ever quite what you expect it to be. But Ashland has been a very complete experience."

And of writing here? "Ashland is a goldmine for guys like us," Ryan said. "I write so I don't forget my thoughts. Once you write something down, you can change it. That provokes new configurations. "&

166;It's a fun game; an intricate puzzle box." Growing in infamy within certain circles, admiration in others and applause at open-mics and within underground circles, Ryan stands tall, long hair streaming behind him as he skates down Siskiyou, brimming with ambition, hungry for change.

"I'm proud to have been (verbally) attacked by Lars Larsen and Rosemary and Garth," said Ryan. "Look at that," said Ryan, pointing at car after car cruising down Siskiyou, past his skateboard, with only one person within. "It's a waste."