Monday, July 30, 2007

Wall #2 in Yonkers, NY

Lance, Lourdes, Sara and I worked a few weekends ago to mosaic the 2nd retaining wall in Lourdes' backyard in Yonkers. The lower wall was done Memorial Day Weekend 2006; it was much larger. This upper wall ran almost as long but was not as tall. The terrain presented quite the challenge though. Thought I'd share some pix. We were lovin' that blue!

The Grand Tetons, Wyoming

I just returned from being there for a week. It was an amazing place to get away and gain some head-space. I went with 3 friends of mine and we did about 35 miles of hiking and lots of relaxing and soaking in the sights of those mountains. The mountain range is pretty unique and I found myself constantly reaching for my camera in an effort to capture what was before me; impossible, but I kept trying. I took over 500 photos while I was there. The whole trip was truly a gift. I thought about the beauty of those mountains; whether I or anyone else was there to take it in or not, they were always that spectacular. It didn't take a human eye to call it beautiful for the mountains to be so beautiful. They are created by a God who seems to find joy in creating beauty for the sake of beauty. After climbing up "Hanging Canyon" (ouch, my quads!), we came upon a field lavished with many different kinds of wildflowers. I felt like I was being let in on a wonderful secret. I thought about the kids on my block and how when Isaiah smiles and waves "hello" or Makia siddles up for a hug, I feel the same emotion... like I'm getting a precious opportunity to see something that not everyone get the chance to see.

It's all making me think about the creative process. Most of our creativity is squelched or paralyzed by the thought of what an observer will have to say about the product. Creating for the sake of "correct-ness;" seeking to make the beauty that others will call beautiful. In fact, these types of inhibitions can be transferred over into the way we live our lives; we're paralyzed by our fear of failure in the eyes of any observer that may have an opinion about what we have done. I know that I fall prey to that sort of mental struggle whether I am working on an art project or even picking out an outfit for the day. I would like to gain the freedom to take more risks; I would like to spend more time creating for the sake of the process as opposed to the product. How can this be part of the character of the community arts at Ayuda?

How can we spend our days as those wildflowers? Bloom... just fully go there and lay it all out whether anyone passes by to take note or not, enjoying the beauty of being and the beauty of the surroundings we find ourselves in, and then pass when the time comes. Shine simply for the sake of the glory of the One who created us; find pleasure in seeing the work of God in other's faces and in where we find ourselves planted. Driving into Philly at 1AM early Sunday morning, I was glad to see the familiar skyline (although returning to the Philly humidity was quite a shock). It's good to be back on our block and good to be back at my work here at Ayuda. I'm feeling excited to be here, create here, and partake of the creative work of those around me.

Friday, July 13, 2007

My new curriculum available online

The theme for our summer camp this year is "Opening Doors to New Beginnings through Literacy." I worked with my friend Matthew Miller to compile a packet for the summer camp staff to give them some methods for exploring literacy through various avenues of art. I met recently with Dr. Nathan Corbitt who is the President, CEO and C0-founder of Buildabridge International. I have done some painting for BI in the past and have attended some of their excellent trainings provide for their teaching artists. Dr. Corbitt was discussing the new expansions of BI and the latest additions to their website and requested to post some of the curriculum that I've written this year under their resource page for their teaching artists. It's really great to be able to work with people of like-mind and be able to share our research and our resources. Dr. Corbitt is a true visionary; when you check out the link, explore the site. BI is growing by leaps and bounds!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Check out this video about the recent fire in Kensington, Philadelphia.

2007-2008 Ayuda Community Art Goals

I've been doing some writing about my goals for my next year as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Ayuda. Check them out and let me know your thoughts:

Goal #1: Create a sustainable Community Arts Program which will include three components:
  • advanced art training for youth ages12-18
  • monthly community art workshops for ages 18+ taught by local artists
  • the creation of public art work by the members of the community for the ongoing beautification of the neighborhood of Hunting Park

Activities from August 07 - August08 to accomplish this goal: Recruit volunteer art teachers to teach 2 - 10 weeks sessions of art classes for the fall and spring. Recruit students to take these classes (2 students per instructor). Recruit instructors from the community to teach the monthly art workshops and advertise these events. Request in-kind and cash donations for the creation of the public works of art. Compile a resource manual to effectively establish time-lines, contact lists, recruitment techniques, form templates, and assessment tools to be used for future programing. Pursue sources of sustainable funding which will provide a yearly budget for supplies for the youth art classes and the monthly art workshops as well as provide a part-time salary for an Art Director to supervise the community arts program after August 2008.

Goal #2: Develop a business plan to purchase and renovate a "Community Art House" which will house the art programs of Ayuda Community Center in the future and provide for an expansion of its existing programs.

Intended result: Ayuda Community Center will be able to use the business plan to begin a fundraising campaign in the future.

Ayuda Benefit Pancake Breakfast

Community Arts July Update

I know, it's been way too long; I am the worst blogger... but I'm working on it! I've added a feature to my blog to alleviate frustrations when I post so infrequently. You can subscribe to my blog over on the right; when I actually do post, you'll get an email of the post and can visit the blog for new pix and such. Hopefully, this will keep all interested parties involved!

As you can see, we finally added the lines back into the mosaic mural in the signature Isaiah Zagar technique (; it really changed the look of the mural! We are all very happy. We had a potluck celebration on Sunday, July 8th where we were hosted by the Mansons yet again. Great food and lots of good conversations about what we are excited about for the future of the garden. The next art project: a removable mural to be attached to the wall that is adjacent to the garden. Two local artist volunteered to render a design for this mural, Bernie Wilkie and Matthew Miller, and we have been gathering reactions to the design from community members with suggestions for improvement. Due to current financial circumstances, I am projecting that we will focus on this project in Spring 2008.

I have recently decided to do a second year as an volunteer with AmeriCorps VISTA. This means that the VISTA program will continue to fund my position here at Ayuda Community Center until August 2008. I felt that because community art is such different work for me, my first year was spent learning so much. Often I spent time focusing on something that headed in the entirely wrong direction; once I'd realize this, I would stop, re-evaluate, and re-direct. I have spent some time this week setting up goals for my next year and I am getting pretty excited about the possibilities. I have outlined the new goals in a separate post for you to check out. Also, once I post my goal on the www, that means it's for real, right?

Making the decision to stay here at Ayuda took some time. When I asked myself what I would do if I left, I knew some things that I didn't want to do: I didn't want to seek a full-time scenic art job at a theatre and go back to that work (I truly miss the work of painting; I don't miss the rest.) I didn't want to seek a job that would pull me out of the community I live in for 40 hours/week. My work here at Ayuda involves much more than what happens when I'm in the building on Cayuga and N. Marshall; everything seems to inform and contribute to my work: my walks to and from work, my time on my neighbors' porches, the fun w/ my kids on the block (dodgeball, bowling, summer movies projected on the side of houses, etc.), conversations with block captains about their dreams for our neighborhood, time spent with my church, the many guests and roommates that come and go at our house... it feels kind of like a new way to live life; so intertwined. I'm loving it. So let's keep going. Let's see what happens here in Hunting Park...