Monday, October 29, 2007


This word plays a pretty important role in the mission statement of Ayuda and the Community Arts Program as well (as stated in an August post). The art programs are developing the creativity that already exists here in Hunting Park and providing a way for that creativity to be expressed. And the overarching goal is this word: Transformation. What needs to be transformed? I was talking to my parents yesterday and they were again attacked by the media as the nightly news had some story about North Philadelphia and the intense violence and poverty that rules the streets. My parents have been here on my block in Hunting Park and know that life here is a mixed bag: true sorrow and tragedy side-by-side with true joy. I had a piece of that on Friday at work and wanted to share.

While Ryan and I were working on a grant proposal, a fight broke out right outside our door. It was Ameere and another little guy (they are probably both 8 or 9) and they were really going at it. Daquan stepped in and broke it up then I walked Ameere home to keep them apart. Daquan is a boy who lives 2 doors down from our community center; he makes daily visits. He loves Ryan. They build model cars together and Ryan takes him along on lunches and such. He's a great kid; he's also spending time at Boone, a disciplinary school, b/c he was kicked out of the local school. He struggles; life is challenging. He's been coming to the Alpha meetings at our church for several years and now he is a helper. I was asking him on Friday, "Why do you think Ameere fights?" I worry about Ameere. He and I worked pretty closely when I did the first mosaic in Hunting Park around the doorway to Ayuda. He was there every day in the cold w/ me and we laughed a lot. It's not just that he fights alot. He beats kids up pretty bad. I had my neighbors bring a young boy to me who was pretty bloody and they told me it was Ameere. He's so young that it feels odd to say so, but I'm afraid he's on his way to prison. Daquan told me that Ameere fights to prove to his older brothers that he's not a punk. I said, "You know Daquan, I don't hear about you fighting much at all." He said, "I used to, but I don't anymore." I asked him why and he said quickly, "Because I'm changing."

There it is. I told Daquan that Ameere needs his help; he needs to see other options than just fighting your way through life w/ your fists.
About 5 minutes later, Daquan shows back up w/ Ameere and told him that I wanted to talk to him. It was so hard to talk to him; he quickly climbs nearly up on my lap and I feel so much love for his little life and such weight at what is facing him every day in HP. The quote I put in the margin "Violence and addiction reveals a lack of imagination" came from the Arts in Criminal Justice Conference. I want my days to be about work that exercises imagination in an effort to see the possibility of transformation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Music Theorist Wanted

For anyone local in or around Philadelphia, I would really like to offer a Youth Art Class in Music Theory. There are a few budding musicians that I would love to help them expand their skills in performing and writing music. If you're interested or know someone who might be, post a comment. Thanks!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The work that gives life a human face

My friend Dan pointed out this excerpt from Daniel Berrigan's book Isaiah exploring 33:2. In light of recent struggles we have been experiencing in our neighborhood, I feel a slight struggle to wake up and try it all again. Berrigan captures the ache of waking up, intending to go out again and turning the morning into a prayer of hope for the day ahead:
"One thinks of the difficulty of starting anew each day. One is haunted by a conviction that one's work will never be finished as long as life lasts... What one sees one undoubtedly will continue to see into the indefinite future...
The morning prayer day after day, year after year, makes the long haul bearable. Life, and the work that gives life a human face, must be renewed, started over, again and yet again... To pray... is to taste death, to let go, cut loose. The world is in better hands than ours even though it is also in our hands."
I'm so thankful for the work that gives life a human face.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday Night Art Classes

We gathered together tonight for Oil Painting and Graphic Arts and we were two students down. One student was left at home to care for her little sibling and wasn't able to leave the house to come to class and the other student's mom said that he didn't have time between school and his job to be taking an art class. Things do come up, I know, but...

After Painting class was over, I was chatting w/ one of the students, Tyshae, (17) about some of the rough stuff that has been happening on our block lately; she lives close by. I was up 4 times last night because of loud fighting and other crazy stuff. Her response was, "All I know is that I was glad to be painting tonight; I feel alot better. I needed that purple!" It's her favorite color.

I hope the other two will be able to make it next week.

Good reviews on the Mosaic Mural

My friend Randy just sent me this fun news in an email:

"...BTW, I was just admiring your work on the mural at the community garden on Saturday, and another woman from the neighborhood came by to do the same. She had brought a visitor from out of the country to see it--so now you can say that the work has attracted international attention!"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

One more post for the day:

My friend Tyler just let me know that our tickets for Sinead O'Connor just arrived. October 30th. 13 days left.
Most of you will know what this means to me... to see Sinead. And our tickets are REALLY good. (I'm trying not to use any exclamation points.)

Ayuda's Fall Newsletter

If you haven't seen it and would like to, email us at and specify whether you would like to receive it by snail mail or email as a PDF file and please include the appropriate address. This newsletter includes lots of pix and a great letter from our Interim Executive Director Kate Perez. (Clicking on the image should opening a larger version in another window.)

"What does your voice look like?"

This is the theme for our fall youth art classes. We are in week 4: Graphic Arts, Intermediate Drawing, and Oil Painting. We have been talking to the student artist about how creating art is a way to express our thoughts, feelings, and ideas. When we create visual work, we create through our own lens.

I'm continuing my own classes at Fleisher downtown (free for adults!) and I'm taking Oil Painting this semester. I am always glad to do the "classroom walk" after we have all worked on a still life for a couple of hours. We're all painting the same objects and while we're working, we're all in our own zone. When we look around, every painting is different; every painter is different. I remember once during my Figure Drawing class, I asked the model what it was like to see herself on everyone's drawing tablets. She said, "Oh, you all are just beginners. You're not drawing me; you're drawing yourself. It takes a master to draw what is really before you." I find that I look at creative work differently since that conversation.

I was talking with my good friend Dan about the prevailing presence of God in both the light and the dark places, in the joy and in the sorrows that I see in my days here in Hunting Park. He told me he'd be interested to see how the "holding" of all of that is coming out in my own artwork. I told him I'd be interested as well...

I'm now thoroughly saturated...

in rainbows

Rocky Video

If you haven't seen Ayuda's the new ROCKY VIDEO, check it out. We had a LOT of fun.

Arts In Criminal Justice Conference

I was there. I'm still processing it all. More to come, but you can read about it here.