Tuesday, April 29, 2008

community, connecting, and change

donaghy once told me that as soon as you start finding dots and accepting the challenge of connecting them, the more they start flying out at you. that couldn't be more true than right now.

i met today with someone who is an osi fellow in baltimore. she has been working towards this idea of displaying "art banners" in neighborhoods, and came across "a neighborhood called baltimore" when we had a table set up at the walters a few weeks ago. she sent paula an email, suprised that she had never heard of our project, because it was so similar to what she was working on. i gathered a group of mica students who are all simultaneously working towards the same sort of baltimore oriented stuff (lauren and stephanie from ancb. carey who is working on selecting colors with and for communities. and andy who is making a vectorized map of baltimore, something that has some pretty huge potential.) and we all met with her at cafe doris to hear her plans. i didn't quite know what to think afterwards. what is our role in all of it? besides the obvious connections. and can i really commit to another collaboration? to be honest though, i think she needs us on her team.

afterwards, carey and i talked, each trying to figure out how we felt about the meeting and idea. we're both graphic designers, so the way we see things is very similar. besides the font and color choice on her mock up, there were obvious flaws in her concept that we were able to pick up on just from the work we've done in the community since coming to baltimore. sometime during our conversation we realized that we both have bernard canniffe next monday for graphic design 1. carey started talking about all of the amazing things bernard is doing. and the role he sees graphic design playing in baltimore. he told me about piece studio, which i was clueless about. i had him send me the link to the website right away.

i had the weirdest feeling as i watched the page load and began to read the text. maybe its the feeling that the world isn't as big as you had once thought. that it's even smaller. so many of us are on the same page. how can i have been here for so long, and not know this existed? i can't believe that such a force was coming out of mica, and i had no idea.

and especially to find this all after leaving my critique with fabienne yesterday a little bit unsure about the direction i would be pushed in by the graphic design department next year. now, more than ever, i know that this is where i need to be. next year i will get to learn from, and work with, these extremely talented designers who are practicing design in a way that gets me really giddy. and to go back even further and make a connection... two of them have been big players in something called project m. they did some incredible stuff last summer that i remember reading about in good magazine. i ripped it out and stuck it in my cap sketchbook last summer. because that is truly my idea of community arts.

drawing final

if me and closure got along, this critique would have done it.

fabienne talked about just how much i have grown this past year, in drawing and in general. and not growth in a cliched sense of the term. but real, nitty gritty growth you can feel. and i think that is what college is all about. it's overwhelming. even my hair and my clothes have changed, she says. i visibly more comfortable with where i am at.

we talked about my work and social justice. and she brought up kate. it's crazy to think that it was a whole school year ago that i got here, and brought all of that history with me. and no one knew. the first full day of drawing, fabienne had everyone share a piece they had done that represented them, and a piece by an artist that they liked. the piece i shared of my own was advokate. i still can't believe i actually shared it. it was me at my most vulnerable. but i knew i had to put it out there in the atmosphere. i needed to. but in the same breath i shared calliebotte's "rainy day, paris street" as my favorite piece. fabienne challenged me right off the bat. how could those two possibly relate? how could i find pleasure in a painting that simply hung on a wall when all the art that i did was about actually getting things done? i froze. i remember answering by saying that i didn't exactly know, but it was something i hoped to figure out this year. and i think i have gotten closer to a resolution.

fabienne told me she gets so excited when she finds a student who pushes that envelope. and we both agreed with how lucky i am to have found a place where that dialogue exists. when she went to school, that wasn't heard of. and especially in grad school, she just felt frustrated. there was no room in the technical and conceptual rigor of art school for art that screamed social justice. and coming from canada to the us, she realized the urgency of such art. here, she said, those issues surround you even more intensely. it's almost impossible to separate your art from these things, but at the same time, it's that much harder to find harmony between the two.

she said the challenge for me will be to keep challenging myself for the next three years. to not let mica get too easy. to study abroad. and i think next year will be drastically different. actually taking graphic design classes will be totally different for me. and i am so glad that i have had the foundation of classes like drawing, because i know that my idea of design does not have to be limited by a computer.

my final was a project i never would have done first semester. first semester was about assignments. and feeling things out. and making typical art. i finished in december and realized that i was playing it way too safe. so i came back in january and sought to not only blur the lines between classes, but to blur the lines between my life and my art. if i felt something, thought something, i wanted my art to be a direct composite of those things. this final built off of a very open ended assignment about presences and context. it was due the day i got back from states. so i had this elaborate plan to take advantage of all of the time in transit and draw in the airport. i wanted to pick text as my presence (or more fundamentally, just a letter itself) pull it out of context, and abstract everything around it. i got one done on the way to traverse city. and i started to realize it was a bad idea. i was letting art interefere with my ability to experience something huge. why would i worry about an assignment when my life right now was about spending a weekend in emmanuel's presence? coming from the airport after picking up emmanuel, we drove by these park benches and picnic tables all leaning up against each other. the ice had just thawed on the lake behind them. and these arrangements spotted the side of the road for at least a quarter of a mile. it was the most beautiful thing. simple compositions. it was like my drawing project just got handed to me. which does not happen often, so i took advantage of it. so my final became about that instance of finding the art in the everyday. and actually installing it in a corner of my drawing room - coming in the night before and responding to the space and getting it done. i love making art that way.

one down, four to go.

Friday, April 25, 2008

last blast

last blast is basically the college version of spring fest (my baby last year...) except with much less intense planning. this was something the program managers pulled together. each of us kinda coordinated our own separate parts and hoped it would all come together at the end. and it did... the elements involved were pretty straightforward: food, inflatables, music, a pie throwing contest, an eating contest. the theme was indiana jones. beautiful, hot weather. and after classes got out on friday, it was hard for mica students not to wonder "what have i stumbled upon?" and stay for some fun.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

plans and post its

always an unbeatable combination. registration opens for incoming sophomores tomorrow morning, and i am ready to go. i've got my shopping cart full (mica finally converted to online registration) and i've known pretty much exactly what i've wanted before even coming here. i remember sitting in the hotel room in chicago after looking at lake forest and planning my next four years at mica out. (obviously my decision was already made.) i ran that course book ragged.

and today i finally looked at the logistics of cross-registering at johns hopkins to take french. i was starting to get nervous that it wouldn't work out, i've heard it's really hard to fit those classes (which meet 3-4 times a week for an hour or so) into the mica schedule (which consists of 6 hour straight studio classes.) but i found their course catalog online, and, (ding! ding! ding!) there's a class that fits! it basically says in bold: this class is designed for students with scheduling conflicts. it's for "self-motivated students" who don't mind spending 1-2 more hours a week with on-line materials. sweet. sign me up.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

catching up

so... since i lost my camera at the state conference, i have been slacking in the blog department. momsie kindly reminded me today that she has no clue what has been happening in my neck of the woods. and frankly, i'm not too sure either. but one biggie was the mica annual fashion show. it's a huge deal here. tara and stephanie roped me into this one. (and ironically neither of them got call backs.) i had no idea how crazy conceptual some of the lines would be... so after sitting through the show, i was so grateful that i got to wear something that was actually my style. and ashley's stuff totally belongs in anthropology. it took me a lot of coaxing and training to get me to be able to walk down that runway semi-modely, but in the end it was pretty fun. maybe i'll do it again next year...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

block party

it seems like forever ago that i sat in a starbucks with donaghy and rapidly took these notes when discussing baltimore and ambitious and unformed plans for a block party.

on monday it happened. and it was amazing.

we kept it simple. and all the elements came together just right. we hung all of our houses (well over 200 now. we've stopped counting) on the clothesline installation we've always dreamed of. the way we meant it to be displayed when we formulated this vision last fall in finding baltimore. parkhurst set up a tent with hot dogs, hamburgers, garden burgers (you can't forget where we're at...). mount royal choir came and kicked it off. e the poet emcee and his entourage of rappers and beat boxers and poets infused the entire thing with energy and honesty. and the simplest concept of all, we set up a table covered with art supplies and cloth and cardboard houses, and asked mica students and community members to add their creation of community to the clothesline. make a house, get an ancb button. and a cookie.

what makes community arts really work is supporting an idea with the right combination of people and place. i can't think of a better place to have done a block party. now it seems like that space in front of the meyerhoff was made for it. nothing is ever really done there, but there was an ample amount of grassy space, lots of railings and lampposts for hanging clothesline, a consistent amount of traffic (mica students going to their dorm or to the dining hall, kids walking home from school, and community members passing by.) kids from the better waverly art club came. a kid that had made a house when we had a table set up at the walters last friday. (he was me & tara's favorite. he asked us if it was alright if he put an alias on the back of his house. he was like 6 years old.) and the group of kids and their teachers from our most recent workshop last wednesday in patterson park. paula walked over with some maca students. my elements teacher katherine came for a bit. chuck the madd-ox, e's beat boxer, brought his little boy. a lot of the kitchen workers came out and made houses. and so many of the little neighborhood kids got sucked into the chalk and couldn't be torn away. it was pretty cool to see them all come. it was really just such a good, fun day.

(it was not an easy task at all to edit 700 pictures down to the ones you see here. i'm working on uploading them all to the ancb website.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

things have to fall apart before they can get better

there was a point this year in elements where i realized that i needed to stop beating around the bush with my projects and really get to what matters to me. and i started making art about one thing that is always on my mind: baltimore.

this was my project for today. (zoom in for details...) we covered a lot of ground with critiques. the power of words. both on their own and in context. the meaning of yellow (aka optimism) the fleeting role of newspapers. their strange existence between past and future. respect for history. the apathy or action that can come with picking one up to read. the daily intelligence inherent in their structure. the definition of falling apart. progression, abandonment, and ignorance.

and from it came some serious thinking about bringing this concept into the community. if you went to get the newspaper in the morning, and there was a word on the bag, just one word, what is the potential power that one word could have? it reminded me of pepon osorio's work in the community. (which, at first, i was unsure of. just a lesson to never trust art 21. he was much better live and in person when he visited mica a week or so ago.)

and i just found out from a friend today about two very cool things that related: a place called braddock in pennsylvania and a design/planning organization in west baltimore called neighborhood design center. (i can't believe i didn't know about this earlier. i need to work there!)

i'm at a really exciting place with my art. the lines between art and assignment and life are blurred more than ever.

i don't believe in coincidences

photos taken in traverse city this past weekend.

Monday, April 7, 2008

inspire action

there was definitely a divine being at work with this one. there was a reason why it ended with emmanuel, donaghy, and me sitting and having lunch. and truly talking about huge things that can come of this all.

so what's next? there are already dots i know need to be connected. and they are pretty big dots. baltimore. boys of baraka. kenya. ghana. mica. bikes. velocipide. my mind is working trying to put it all together. but after the past few days, i am just emotionally, phsically, and mentally drained. (i'm sure along with the entire rest of the avondale crew, who has been busting their butts even more than me and sacrificing even more sleep and sanity.) that's ok with me. this one can take some time. i'm not worried that the urge to do something will escape me. not at all. and i've got a crazy five weeks ahead of me. but when i think about everything from the last five weeks, it's a really exciting place to be at.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

overcome challenges

this was such an emotional, powerful, day for me.

it's hard, because i'm here. but i'm not here. my mind is 9 hours away in baltimore. and everything that is said brings me back to that.

the structured activity today was a simulation created to mimic class systems. everyone was separated into three groups (two of which got chairs, and the last was just told, "sorry, i guess you have to sit on the floor.") and everyone got five chips with varying point values. except the initial distribution was very calculated. the first group got really good chips, the third, not so much. and from there they were instructed to trade. there were lots of levels at play: political, social, economic. things went as they do in the real world. the top basked in their success. (and even worked to prevent anyone from rising to join them.) the middle stayed comfortable. the bottom completely drowned. when the opportunity for bonus points was offered to each group, i stayed with the lowest group to see how they would distribute amongst themselves. one girl was adamant. "we're trying to move people up. he has the most potential. you don't." another thought that they should "give it to the lowest so that everyone has a fair shot." no one wanted to take that risk. now these activities have some power when you are participating and caught in the middle of it all. but for me, it was much more fascinating to observe from the outside. to take note of what people were saying and see it all go down.

after that, i met emmanuel at the airport. he was so little. so soft spoken. and the weird thing was it didn't hit me until much later that he had a prosthetic leg. it hadn't even crossed my mind. we snuck him in the back door, because no one knew that he was coming. before he would suprise everyone later that night at the awards banquet, we took him to lunch. (pretty fancy.) and he shared with us what he is doing now. later this year he's planning a bike race with disabled citizens to promote a peaceful presidential election in ghana this december. and he's collecting bikes to give to students who walk hours to get to school everyday. i'm amazed at all that he is continuing to take on. or maybe i assumed he would feel like the stuff he had accomplished leading up to the movie was enough. not at all. he just keeps going. nothing is too unreasonable.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

change perceptions

i'm going to attempt to do a day-by-day, play-by-play (i make no guarantees. as with everything, it is so much better in real life.) of this crazy thing called the masc/mahs state student leadership conference that i left mica for a weekend to be a part of. and that my old high school, avondale, is hosting. (it's weird looking back, because states was really the start of it all for me. as overdramatic as that sounds. i went to the state conference four years ago, not knowing anything at all. and i left after a whirlwind weekend with a position on the michigan association of honor society state board of delegates. and the rest is history...)

day one of the state conference was all about changing perceptions. (one of the themes that was pulled out of the movie "emmanuel's gift"- the motivation behind the conference. ) typically this conference consists of 3 semi-decent speakers. (which seems to be more like irrelevant filler time. or "if it ain't broke don't fix it.") but this year, it was all about doing things the avondale way. raising standards and pushing innovation. they decided that they didn't need speakers at all. (shock!) they would just show the movie, because it is that good.

it was a smart move. during structured activities, everyone was spot on. making connections between the start of the movie and this activity based on labels and stereotypes and power. and there was very little prodding on my part that needed to be done. they were getting it. which is exciting because i know what this is building up to...

here's the video donaghy made to show at the opening ceremony:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

my advice on eating, sleeping, and breathing art

a few thoughts from where i'm at right now: (chock full of contradictions, things that will make my mom worry, and things i may totally disagree with in the ease of summer.)

drink diet coke. there's no shame. everyone has their addictions. mine could be much worse. i like that the newest cans all say "live positively" on the side.

getting more than four hours of sleep is unproductive. (or so a wise tv sitcom character once advised...)

there is just too much work to be done to be sleeping all the time. if you're bored, you're doing something wrong.

take on all that you can. and do what you want to do and need to do. figure out how to make it all work later. and if it means you don't sleep for a day, a week, or an entire semester, so be it.

when possible, catch up. weekends are prime time for sleeping in and stocking up.

multi-task. it's a beautiful thing.

my prioritizing means that i know there is more to college than assignments. (don't get me wrong, that part is important too... but if you stay in that comfort zone you only know so much.)

put everything in perspective. what seems like stress now won't even be remembered years from now. but you will look back and wonder how you did it all. and that is much better than wondering if you missed out on something.

you're always supposed to go too far, because that's what living is all about.