Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sorting it out

It has been a great few weeks getting ready to do this project, going through it, and now living in the aftermath. We finished all of the tiling on Saturday, May 26th and then grouted the mosaic mural on Sunday, May 27th. We were all cleaned up by 4PM! Everyone left very tired, but also very full. I said before that I was most excited about the gathering of a whole bunch of people coming together to create something beautiful. Now looking back on the two days of doing the mosaic, I reflect most on conversations that were had, interactions that others tell me about, time w/ some old friends and getting to know new ones, and the "looky-lou's" as the block captain, Jeff, calls those who slow down as they drive by to check it out. There was, and still is, a ton of enthusiasm for the project. A woman in the neighborhood told me that this is the most beautiful thing she has seen happen in our neighborhood since she moved her 11 years ago. It did "happen." It's not just piece of public art work for all to enjoy; the process was quite a creative, beautiful thing itself.

I said in the intro to my blog that I started blogging b/c life is very full here in Hunting Park. My main struggle is that it is all passing me by too fast and too full for me to make attempts to grasp it all for reflection and growth. There is just so much to think about, pray about, talk about, laugh about... This mosaic mural simply has my head spinning. I have never witnessed such a diverse group of people creating art together. I loved the points of tension as well as the points of connection for they both teach me so much about myself and about those who are different than me.

I am learning that I am a very controlling person; I like to know exactly what to expect and I have very strong opinions how things should be done. Maybe you all knew, but I didn't really know that about myself before I started working at Ayuda Community Center. Being involved in Community Arts could be one of the most "out of control" environments possible! Various artists within and without of the community, children, other community members... all together trying to do something... who knows what to expect?? When I was working in the theatre, I always had such a strong framework to work within. There were certain structures in place (budget, industry standards, expectations of collaboration, etc) that I could expect and strive for when they were not there. Now, as I am striving to develop an arts program at Ayuda, everything seems a bit up for grabs. I'm beginning to see the whole POINT of doing are projects within the community setting is to let go of that need to control and let the creativity evolve because of the people who have gathered. I definitely got a taste of that from doing the workshop w/ Isaiah Zagar in South Philly (Spring 06). He is all about the process and holds the product very loosely.

As I do more projects like this, I hope to learn to let go of that need to control my circumstances, bit-by-bit. I think that this is why I am so drawn by this type of work. I have faith in a God that seeks to provide uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and yes even "out-of-control" circumstances for me in order to teach me to look towards Him for transformation. I want to become more loving. I want to choose more often to be kind and gentle. I want to provide a safe place for people to be who they are. I want to be generous and to be a good listener. I think I'm in the right line of work to practice all of the above.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Check out this video!

My friend Ryan put this together with our pictures and videos from our weekend. Ryan is our Director of Development at Ayuda Community Center. It takes a while to load but it's worth it. Nice tunes, too. (By the way, I posted a few pictures at the end of the blogs; scroll down to check them out.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Posting some more pix

Update on mosaic mural

Just a note to let you all know that the mosaic mural at the Hunting Park Community Garden is DONE! We had a tremendously successful weekend: weather, participation, food and beverages, and lots of good conversation and fun! I'll get some pictures posted soon and try to tell some of the stories of the two days. We are all pretty excited and it is truly beautiful. More to come...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Project Details:

Hunting Park Community Garden, North Philadelphia
Corner of W. Courtland Street and 6th Street.
Dates and Times:
Saturday, May 26th; 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Sunday, May 27th; 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Rain date: Monday, May 28th (Memorial Day); same times.

Preparations for the weekend

(Photo: Last Memorial Day's Mosaic Mural. Located in my friend Lourdes' backyard.)
Well, I admit that as Saturday approaches, I am becoming more and more anxious. It's not the task of doing the mosaic mural that worries me. I feel pretty confident that with all of the people gathering together to do this project, something will be created which will be stunning. It's the details of the preparations that I am consumed with and that are keeping me up late at night. I have never been the point person before: the one hosting the project, making all of the arrangements, buying all of the supplies, organizing food, etc. I keep telling myself, "when it all falls through, (because it always will, whether majorly or a little bit), just roll with it." That is one thing I have learned these past 9 months working at Ayuda Community Center: gotta stay flexible!

But I'm not just anxious; I am really getting excited. I am ready for my hands to be busy doing; I am ready to glue some stuff to a wall! I'm also ready to enjoy learning more about Community Arts by doing. I am so grateful for the past 9 months and the opportunities I have had to glean from the years of experience of other organizations and artists through networking meetings, conferences, site visits, lectures, or just great conversations. As I go into this first community arts project with Ayuda Community Center, I feel certain that the only 2 things I can count on are chaos and greatness! It's really the WHO of the day that I'm most excited about: the residents of W. Courtland St., my after-school kids, mosaic artist friends, soon-to-be mosaic artist friends, W. Wingohocking kids, Spirit and Truth people (my church), and all in between. Let's gather to create; let's respond to each other; let's try out the ideas of those next to us; let us invite the kids surrounding us into our "zone" as we place our tesserae; let's be together.
Side note: When I called Isaiah Zagar with some detail questions and I told him about our project he said, "That's beautiful; decorate the world, honey." Yes. Let's. Come on out!

(If you're unfamiliar with Isaiah's work, check out his site: I did a workshop with him in Spring 2006 along with two of my friends, Lourdes and Lance, who will be joining us this weekend.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Title: Tesserae to Invest

Tesserae refers to one of the small pieces used in mosaic arts to create a larger work of art. Most tesserae are gathered fragments of some object that has been broken... sometimes accidentally... sometimes for the purpose of creating. A conversation that I recently had with my housemate got me thinking about investments. I was expressing to her my feeling that as I turn 30 this year, I should be establishing some sort of goal or path or plan or whathaveyou in order to further my career/self as an person and as an artist and to begin to make some sort of financial progress. Investments for the future. Then she began to speak about investments: time, care, space, of self in others, from others in self, within, toward God... Invest in a person that interrupts you. Allow a child to invest in you by telling the WHOLE story. Light a candle and invest in you soul for a moment. Read; invest in your brain. Paint, draw, and capture to invest in the object at hand. It is true that nothing is free; each investment costs something. Especially time: If you spend 15 minutes talking to the neighbor, that is 15 minutes you have invested in that relationship that can be spent nowhere else. If alone, you spend 15 minutes in prayer or simply being alone, that is 15 minutes you cannot give to someone else.

Why Tessarae to Invest? Anything we have worth investing usually comes from brokenness. From that broken place, lasting investments become possible to both give and receive.