Wednesday, March 19, 2008

national community arts convening & research project at mica

these pictures are courtesy of stephanie, who caught right onto the concept of deep dive!

this was the start to my spring break. staying around in baltimore for a few more days (i had no problem whatsoever with that, there's still snow on the ground in michigan.) and volunteering at the community arts convening. there was just so much to process leaving the conference and coming back home, so this post is my attempt to articulate it all...

paula and ken have been busting their butts for this conference since last fall, building it from the ground up. (at one point i asked paula how things were going, and she said "it's a lot of work. but you know what? it's going to happen. because we started it and it's going to happen.") they asked community arts practitioners, students, faculty, and administrators to submit texts. these essays would become the starting point for the groups. categories were: critical pedagogy in the academy, partnerships: campus and community, community practices: values, belief, and aesthetic forms, and community arts and artists. and a hint from ken? they're all about the same thing... from there the conference attendees spring boarded into conversations, sharing, lots of questions, and lots of dancing. there were three things guiding it all: 1. where have we been? 2. where are we going? 3. how will we get there?

fred lazarus opened the conference. (donning a curious neck brace...) his support was very important for me to hear. it became clear that the prominence of community arts at mica is not to be taken as an accident, he reassured me that it is very purposeful. he addressed the many quid pro quo pieces of community arts and shared his own frustration with learning that the institution is always a support player in baltimore. but he called on us to continue to refine what we do and professionalize it. professionalizing is not a bad thing, he put it. and that was evident throughout the entire conference. it was classy. and i loved when he mentioned that for so long the conferences were about convincing each other that what we do is valid. we know that, he said. now it's about telling those who aren't here, engaging the community.

stephanie and i were volunteers. observing the conference with fresh new eyes and from outside of the structure of being in groups. for usit was really all about just soaking it all in. there was so much to be gained from just being able to sit and read the abstracts and take notes and talk to each other about it all, going endlessly off on tangents.

during one chunk of time, sitting at the registration table, i grabbed a book from a nearby table titled: "undoing the silence: six tools for social change writing." i liked it a lot. caught up in the world of the "visual arts" is easy to forget that it is not always the right medium for the message. sometimes you just gotta write. i thought to myself, "there is a reason why i picked up this book." i want to write a book. and i've got to believe that the author, a college aged activist during the free speech movement, knows what she's talking about when she asserts that the written word drives social change for the long haul. i started to think of writing that makes things happen. what about "common sense?" talk about writing that started a revolution.

i also had my own little revelation sitting there. i realized that i chose to come to an art school because i had these ideals. it was a leap of faith and a surrendering to the signs. but in all honesty, if i had come here and not been shown cap or not been placed in the "finding baltimore" class, i wouldn't have lasted. i would have worn down quickly, clinging on to my vision for design that can save the world as i battled upstream among artists contempt with art for art's sake. i would have shifted my focus elsewhere. maybe i wouldn't have even known that something was lost. or it would have frustrated me under the surface and deposited doubt that maybe, just maybe i should have played it safe at lake forest. but after having all of the opportunities i've been given this year, one of them being able to crash the conference as a freshman, i have the reassurance that there is an undercurrent going in the same direction.

so why community arts?
(a compilation of words working to articulate this abstract thing we call "community arts." things i underlined in the texts or wrote down as they were shared in conversation.)

because "my ego dictates that i do something that must make a lasting impact."
because "the academy's preoccupation with aesthetics - the unquestioned 'arbitrator of rightness' and aligned schools of thought - may not serve the community' interests well enough."
because "we are visionaries. pulling the world as it is into the world it should be."
because "we're all really just making this up as we go along."
because of "the unwavering faith we have in people."
because "who else will urge its brilliant color to jump forward, not stopping until all is made anew?"
because "no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."


Lauren said...

*HIGH FIVE!* yesssss becky. you are such a sponge. and get your boy fred lazurus in his neck brace! haha. but hey, i totally havent even uploaded all of the pics to facebook yet, so when i do, you can add on if you so desire. anyways. sweet weekend. peace!

Tierney said...

=) the one thing that I miss about MICA, besides everyone I left behind, is the CAP program. Reading what you had to say about the national community arts convening, and about Paula made me smile.

There is actually a CAP program based in Chicago, so I am trying to get involved with that, even if I don't attend the actual school that the CAP program is located at.

Anyways, I miss you and everyone else at MICA tons. I hope that this semester has been a huge success for you.