Category: community

School of the Americas Watch Border Encuentro (November 10 – 12)

This past weekend was spent at the SOAW Border Encuentro in Tucson, AZ and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.  The U.S. Army School of the Americas, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is located at Fort Benning, Georgia.  As stated on Wikipedia “The School of the Americas was founded in 1946 and from 1961 was assigned the specific goal of teaching “anti-communist counterinsurgency training,” a role which it would fulfill for the rest of the Cold War.[3] In this period, it educated several Latin American dictators, generations of their military and, during the 1980s, included the uses of torture in its curriculum.[4][5]In 2000/2001, the institute was renamed to WHINSEC.[6][7]:233 [8]”

“During the Cold War Colombia supplied the largest number of students from any client country.[7]:17 As the Cold War drew to a close around 1990, United States foreign policy shifted focus from “anti-communism” to the War on Drugs, with narcoguerillas replacing “communists”.[7]:10

“School of the Americas Watch is an advocacy organization founded by former Maryknoll Father Roy Bourgeois and a small group of supporters in 1990 to protest the training of mainly Latin American military officers, by the United States Department of Defense, at the School of the Americas (SOA). Most notably, SOA Watch conducts a vigil each November at the site of the academy, located on the grounds of Fort Benning, a U.S. Army military base near Columbus, Georgia, in protest over human rights abuses committed by some graduates of the academy or under their leadership, including murdersrapes and torture and contraventions of the Geneva Conventions.[1]”

Since 2016 School of the Americas Watch moved their vigil from Fort Benning, GA to the border wall in Nogales to protest the militarization of  the border.  As taken from the SOAW website “…SOA Watch is a nonviolent grassroots movement working to close the SOA / WHINSEC and similar centers that train state actors such as military, law enforcement and border patrol. We strive to expose, denounce, and end US militarization, oppressive US policies and other forms of state violence in the Americas.  We act in solidarity with organizations and movements working for justice and peace throughout the Americas.”

Proceedings began in Tucson with a block printing workshop by fellow Justseeds member Thea Gahr.

My collaborators in creating the image used for the backdrop, Raechel Running and Thea Gahr. (The above 3 photos are by Saiyare Refaei.)

That evening there was a vigil at Eloy Detention Center outside Tucson. Opened in 1994 Eloy Detention Center is a private prison contracted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement where immigrants from surrounding cities are detained sometimes for years.  The center houses both men and women.  An investigation by The Arizona Republic in 2016 found the center to have the highest number of deaths in the U.S.  There have been 15 deaths since 2003 including 5 suicides.  One of the more moving aspects of the vigil was seeing silhouettes of detainees in windows who communicated with demonstrators by turning lights on + off in their cells and by banging on windows.  We learned that the price the detainees pay for this communication is a restriction of their privileges such as visitations with family and legal representation.

 

 

The time in Nogales included workshops, speeches, music and art.  One of the more moving moments included the arrival and participation of a group of activists from Oaxaca who traveled 3 days to participate.  Their journey included stopping along the way to meet with and lend solidarity to other immigration grass roots groups.

(The 2 photos above are by Saiyare Refaei.)

Screen printed posters were made at the event and were given away for free.   We also printed on t shirts and other pieces of clothing provided by participants.

 

Thea getting assistance from across the border.

 

Sweet sage smudge blessing through the border wall with crosses along the bottom of the wall bearing the names of migrants who died over the past year while crossing the Sonoran Desert or in detention.

Crosses with a name of the deceased are raised as people say “presente!” upon hearing the names of those who have perished trying to cross the Sonoran Desert in pursuit of their dreams. An image of hope saying “tear down the walls; build up the people” is in the background.

SOAW demands:

  • An end to US economic, military and political intervention in Latin America
  • Demilitarization and divestment of the borders
  • An end to the racist systems of oppression that criminalize and kill migrants, refugees and communities of color
  • Respect, dignity, justice and the right to self-determination of communities
  • An end to Plan Mérida and the Alliance for Prosperity

End of the encuentro but the struggle continues…

full circle

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2011

eu amo o brasil!

big shout out to raul zito, photographer and wheat paste artist in sao paulo, brasil.  i’ve been following his work on various street art blogs and learned through flickr he’s been following mine as well.  here’s an example of his work in sao paulo.

 

he and i got in touch with one another late 2010 and he offered to get a piece of mine up in sao paulo.  the piece isn’t finished yet but here’s what he’s done so far.  i absolutely love it.  he put me beside magrela mag who did the piece on the second apartment in the first photo (up top).  sweet!  i love the way jamaal is flying into the mama bird’s mouth, through the basketball hoop while the beautiful, nude woman checks it all out.  wicked piece!

stay tuned.  he’ll be getting files of his to me soon to paste here.  how cool is that?!

 

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2011

rain dance…

it never fails.  whenever i do a big installation, it rains.  such was the case last week and this weekend in phoenix.  so after a week, stephanie’s photo on the billboard, the collab with breeze, is already starting to come down.  one week later.  that hurts.  steve, julia’s husband and partner in managing the hive, said he’d try to paste her back up.  i left some wheat paste with him that had started to turn sour.  yum.

meanwhile, i met niba yesterday.  he’s a photographer who is based in tucson, i think.  it was one of those moments when virtual reality becomes real and you meet someone from your social networking sites.  in truth, i thought niba, also known as “dead now” on twitter was a woman.  o well.  instead, he’s a great guy with 2 beautiful children.  here are some of his images from yesterday’s installation.  thanks niba!

i mentioned above that raul zito of sao paulo pasted one of my pieces in sao paulo.  i returned the favor + pasted one of his images in phoenix.  what comes around…

shout out to the british two tone movement

with miguel

 

kicking it with breeze + erin gramzinski

 

July 9, 2017

I don’t often read posts from back in the day when I started pasting especially posts found on my Blogspot site. (I miss that url – http://www.speakingloudandsayingnothing.blogspot.com, aka “yo mama.”) It’s fun seeing my enthusiasm for everything about the art form.  In this case it’s especially exciting to read through these posts from early 2011 to reflect on how long I’ve been aware of Zito’s work and to remember that dreams can come true.  He’ll be coming to the rez in just under a month.  Full circle.  Yay!

 

 

Ruben Aguirre + Twyla Hunt’s food truck

On a hot day on the Colorado Plateau in early June Chicago based writer + street artist “Looks_1” (Ruben Aguirre) met with Twyla Hunt to paint her food truck.  Ruben, Twyla’s mom, Mary + Twyla discussed what he might paint while Twyla’s son swam in the sprinkler…

 

Kate Deciccio at Navajo Mountain

 

florence with her portrait of she + gloria

 

hosteen buck navajo with his portrait

 

portraits of florence + bahe ketchum

 

Washington, DC based artist, community organizer + activist Kate Deciccio recently completed a 2 week project with the Navajo Mountain Chapter House. Here’s what she said about her experience…

I arrived to Navajo Mountain, Naatsis’aan and met with Lorena Atene, Community Services Coordinator & Hank Stevens, Chapter President to talk about their vision for the project. “What is the purpose of the art? What stories are we trying to tell through this project?” I asked. Lorena & Hank shared several main objectives.
We want to engage our youth in something creative where they explore the mythology of the mountain & also have a chance to be expressive.
We want to honor the importance of the struggle to protect Bear Ears Monument for its significance as a place where healers collect medicine, hold ceremonies & hunt.
We want art for the Stronger & Healthier Navajo Nation & Eehaniih Celebrations in July & August. Specifically Eehaniih honors the people who were able to avoid internment by hiding in the canyons behind the mountain, our veterans, our elders & people who have left & returned to our community.

The next morning Lorena & I were off make house visits to elders who she & Hank felt embodied the spirit of Eehaniih. We knocked on Grandpa Buck Navajo’s hogan & he & his daughter invited us in for a visit filled with stories about his 84 years of healing. Grandpa Buck is animated but his speech is quiet & I don’t know Navajo. Thankfully his daughter Lena & Lorena were there to translate.
“I began studying ceremonies when I was 10. I’m 94 now, the oldest medicine man here, and when I was 18, people from this community began going to fight WWII,” Buck shared. He went on to talk about all that he’s seen and the responsibility of the medicine man to care for the community during, WWII, the Korean War, land partition, livestock reduction, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm & today. He was light & warm & pointed to boxes of fresh Navajo tea and the tobacco he was chopping on the floor. While talking about ceremonies that took him years to learn, the use of singing & baskets, he also made jokes & shared the Spanish words he learned from his Mexican co-workers when he worked on the railroad, “Nada Mamacita!”

I would have been happy staying all day listening to Grandpa’s Buck’s stories but I took his photograph and Lorena & I headed to meet Gloria & Florence. Gloria grew up in Navajo Mountain and left with her husband to live in Chicago for 44 years. She lives down the hill from Florence who has spent her entire life caring for herds of sheep and goats who graze in the giant open pastures between their houses tucked behind the mountain. Gloria was eager to sit down, drink pink lemonade & reminisce about her days riding horses & how she met her husband. I was curious to learn more about the corner of her living room dedicated to Elvis but she wanted to share about how her son married an Indian girl who she loves but that she always tell him, “You married the wrong kind of indian.”
Meanwhile Florence kept peeking her head out the door, looking up the hill, noting that it was hot & that the sheep & goats were in the coral. Despite that Florence who have been just fine avoiding photos all together, I followed Gloria’s lead & photographed them together both inside & in front of the hogan.

Lastly we reached out to the family of Bahe Ketchum, one of the Navajo Code Talkers who was from Navajo Mountain & died just a few years ago. His son Arthur shared photos and new articles about his dad’s experience in WWII.

For the next few days I split my time between rendering the portraits to make stencils of the elders & painting a mural in the meeting house that features the native plants used most often in Navajo plant medicine.Thanks to Nizhóní, I had great help and input making it possible to finish the wall in just 4 days.

The following week I met the 7 student workers assigned to the art project. Lorena was like, “If you can please paint, 8 palettes for the park, 6 picnic tables that match, 2 5×12′ canvases & if you finish…. I have a list of other spots where we’d love art.” No big deal.
The youth were like, “We’re not sure what to expect but if we can spray paint, we’re on board!”
We looked at some Navajo textiles & pottery designs, talked about pattern structures & symmetry & began painting. By the end of day 1, the kids had painted all 8 palettes with beautiful layered patterns and were each beginning to experiment with fading and color transitions. As the week unfolded, we researched the connections between the land features & Navajo deities. The students talked to their parents & grandparents about the stories they had learned about the land and we quickly realized that depending on each clan, the significance of each place really varied. Some people thought Rainbow Bridge was very sacred, other people said, “That place doesn’t mean much to us, I’ve walked under there.” Some people believed the Twins, the children of the Sun resided in the mountain, other people believed they lived in a mountain near Window Rock. Here I was attempting to support the kids to discover “The Story,” but we learned together that actually there were many stories & a diversity of connection & offense to each perspective. The students collectively agreed that to them, being from Navajo Mountain means feeling deeply connected to the beauty and vastness of the land. They shared about how grateful they feel for living in a place where there is very little commercial development & we made big lists of all of the animals & plants that to them capture the essence of their community. Together we worked out a mural composition integrating patterns from rugs, petroglyphs, animals, & text about how the land makes the kids feel.

Each day we talked about the strengths and struggles of Navajo Mountain to support youth. The kids agreed that small town drama and feelings of boredom & isolation drive alcoholism & depression for many people in the community, that lack of access to healthy food and opportunity has big implications on people’s ability to believe they can do what they want with their lives. They helped cut out the large stencils of Grandpa Buck, Gloria, Florence & Bahe and we talked about what they hope to accomplish in the community as they become leaders.
By the end of the week I found myself inventing small jobs so they could work independently and experiment developing their individual styles. They paint the chapter’s backhoe, cold planer, electric meters, a bunch of picnic tables, and definitely a few things without permission.

Spending 12 days painting at the Navajo Mountain chapter house was an opportunity to be with people and attempt to create art that reflects back all that the community shared with me about who they are and how they see themselves. Wrapping up last night, we agreed that in our time together, we were exceptionally productive but that also projects like this unveil how much more could be possible….. What could happen if we committed to using art to explore community stories all year long? How could we support the students to learn the skills to resist depression and alcoholism by engaging in art? I feel good about leaving this project with new questions and inspiration. Huge thanks to The Painted Desert Project for getting the art & dialogue started.

 

Thank you Kate for your passion, dedication + amazing work!

Live + Direct from Penland School of Crafts

Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina is one of the country’s oldest and most respected schools of craft.  Opened in 1929 by Lucy Morgan who focused her initial instruction on weaving in order to help local women build cottage industries to help support their families.  As noted on Wikipedia “…The school now offers Spring, Summer, and Fall workshops in craft disciplines, including weaving and dyeing, bead work, glassblowing, pottery, paper making, metalworking, and woodworking. It also offers fine arts subjects, such as printmaking, painting, and photography.[2][4] Workshops are taught by visiting American and international artists and professors.”

Having known of Penland since 1970 when I first visited while attending a nearby alternative, Quaker school (the Arthur Morgan School), we went there twice during my middle school years for folk and contra dancing.  It was at Penland that I learned to clog in 1971 so I was honored and thrilled when I was asked to return this spring for a 1 and a half week long residency.

My time at Penland was like an episode of Project Runway in that I had 9 days to arrive, acquaint myself with the community, photograph something or someone that represented the gestalt of the educational center, get this work printed, prepped and pasted.  It didn’t help that my first 3 days there coincided with a stomach flu presenting as explosive diarrhea, fatigue and fever.  I soldiered on.  Arriving late Sunday night I spent the first day on the down low meeting students and staff in various studios.  I started photographing on Tuesday knowing that in order to get the work printed, prepped and pasted I’d have to get the files to a printer by the following day.  After deciding upon an image to paste, I drove to a printer and hour away in Asheville.  Despite having been assured by the printing company that they could complete the job by Friday I was told when I arrived that the job required too much of their black ink and they wouldn’t be able to do it.

Hearing the voice of Project Runway mentor and spirit guide Tim Gunn I had to figure out a way to make it work.  I called the printing company in Tucson, AZ I’ve been using for the past 2 years and told them my situation.  I was assured that if I could upload the files to them by noon their time Wednesday (the day I was calling them), they’d be able to get them back to me by Friday.  I sat the office of the print company in Asheville that bailed on the job to use their wifi and uploaded the files to Reproductions, Inc.  (Let me take a moment to give this company a shout out.  They’re a small, non-corporate, employee-owned print shop with personable service who charge me 12 cents per square foot for large format, black and white, toner based prints as compared to 80 cents per square foot at companies like FedEx Office.  I love them.)

I informed the program director of my situation.  Unbeknownst to me she called Reproductions, Inc and asked them to express ship the order such that I’d receive it the following day (which i did.  I point this out only to express the irony that FedEx was able to get this order across country in a day when I’ve often ordered shipments from Reproductions, Inc the next day only to have it arrive 2 days later and I’m in the same state.)  Regardless, I got the work and the count down was on.  Because my glue doesn’t dry properly below 50 degrees and it snowed the day I placed the order, I waited until Sunday to begin pasting knowing full well I had to represent since I was in my home state.

The site I selected for the installation was a 1950s era, cottage with asbestos shingles used to store gardening equipment.  It’s called Green Acres.  And why did I chose Green Acres?  Because Green Acres is the place to be.  Farm living is the life for me.  That, and it has great visibility.  The images chosen was clay pieces waiting to be fired over 8 days in a wood kiln.  Thus, the title for the installation is “Clay Pieces Pretending to be Contestants on The Apprentice (i.e., pots waiting to be fired.)”

Green Acres

Dawn

Sunrise

Textiles student + hardcore, ready to go the distance assistant, Krysten Watson (You rule.)

Adam + Onay adding stoking the kiln to fire the pieces pretending to be contestants on “The Apprentice.”

Much love to the good people at Penland.  Thanks for the opportunity and the experience.  I hope we get to do it again.

Brooklyn Street Art coverage:  http://www.brooklynstreetart.com/theblog/2017/04/17/chip-thomas-wraps-a-house-with-pots-in-penland-north-carolina/

 

event horizon

I was invited to participate in the 2017 Joshua Treenial.  The theme this year was event horizon.  I ventured to Joshua Tree in January to find a potential location for an installation and to obtain source photos.

Thanks to local resident and artist Diane Best I was able to find an abandoned house on the property of Blake Simpson.  Per Blake the house hadn’t been occupied for 10 years or more.   Upon completion of the installation Blake was moved to use the space for community art happenings.  My artist statement describes my thinking about this project.

In general relativity theory, an event horizon is a boundary in space-time beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman’s terms, it is defined as “the point of no return, the point at which gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible, even for light.”

My piece, “Inside out” focuses on an environmental point of no return.  Environmental scientists identify 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere as being the point of no return.  As stated on the website of the environmental organization 350.org:

“…Since the beginning of human civilization, our atmosphere contained about 275 ppm of carbon dioxide. That is the planet “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal, gas, and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly. Many of the activities we do every day like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating our homes rely on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. We’re taking millions of years worth of carbon, once stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere.

Right now we’re at over 400 ppm, and we’re adding 2 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Unless we are able to rapidly turn that around and return to below 350 ppm this century, we risk triggering tipping points and irreversible impacts that could send climate change spinning truly beyond our control.”

Wildlife biologists predict that at the current rate of temperature rise, 1/3 of all anmal [animal] special are at risk of extinction by 2050 unless CO2 emissions are reduced by 30%.  For this reason, stark imagery from the Salton Sea was used to dramatize the urgency with which we need to act to limit CO2 emissions and subsequent temperature and ocean level increases.

“It would take about 30 feet of sea level rise to connect the Salton Sink to the ocean and permanently fill it again. Realistically, climatologists expect at most 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) of sea level rise by 2100. Without significant reductions to our carbon emissions and/or physical intervention to block sea level rise, the Salton Sink (as well as all of the area reaching from Imperial Valley to the Sea of Cortez) will eventually be permanently under water. (https://saltonseasense.com/2016/01/14/the-other-changing-sea-level/#more-1166)

Our pattern of carbon based energy exploitation and consumption has turned our planet upside down and inside out.  The Hopi have a word for this called “koyaanisqatsi” which means crazy life or life out of balance.

The time to act is now.

Images by Diane Best are below:

Images by Gabrielle Houeix are below:

My artist statement was included in the structure with the hopes of raising awareness and prompting people to action.

Video of the dancing joshua tree: https://vimeo.com/212393820

Brooklyn Street Art blog coverage of the Joshua Tree installation is here.

 

off with a bang!

So here we are on the cusp of a new year.  It’s 2017’s turn to bring forth a new beginning, an opportunity for a re-do or maybe a resetting of our imaginations.  I want to give thanks for the beauty around me and to people like Cori Bearshield + her family and to the Hurleys who share moments of beauty from their lives with me.   Thank you for the goodness.

 

cori-adjusting-daughters-sash-1

Tahnee on hoverboard while Tehya gets her moccasins tied.

cori-adjusting-daughters-sash-5

cori-adjusting-daughters-sash-2

cori-adjusting-daughters-sash-3

Cori adjusting Tahnee’s sash belt.

The Hurleys

the-hurleys-with-great-grandchild-bw

mr-mrs-hurley-bw

The Hurleys with + without their great grandson, Batman.

Let’s do this 2017!  Happy New Year!

Indigenous People’s Day at Fort Lewis College

standing-with-standing-rock

stop-police-brutality

end-racism

 

drum-circle

jc-with-mom-dog-full-installation

family-on-stage

mural

I’m honored to have been invited by students and staff and Fort Lewis College to create a mural in recognition of their first celebration of Indigenous People’s Day October 10, 2016 choosing to tell history from the perspective of First Nations people.  Goodbye Columbus Day.  The effort to get the city of Durango and the college to recognize Indigenous People’s Day was the result of a long struggle for Dine’ writer, poet and artist Esther Belin, resident of Durango.  The day began with an indigenous student led demonstration in solidarity with the protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota, those victimized by police brutality and a call for an end to racism.  The highlight of the day was having JC Morningstar, her family and the dog pictured in the mural travel to Durango, CO to attend the festivities.  The highlight of their day was getting down to the technotribal sounds of A Tribe Called Red later in the evening.

Dine’ poet, artist, activist Demian Dineyazhi met JC and her family and wrote a poem for the occasion titled Two Stars Rising in the North at Dusk which speaks to the family’s recent loss of JC’s 16 year old brother by suicide.

“Two Stars Rising In the North swings at dusk

One star creates her form in the glittering world

It is inherited strength from resilient ancestors

The other follows her and blesses her journey

It is the wild, steadfast spirit of fallen warriors

Together they breeze through cosmic wind

Intertwined in horse hair and kinetic genesis

Together they guide her movement:

In beauty you are reborn again

In beauty he is reborn again

In beauty she is reborn again

In beauty we are reborn again”

Shout out to Nancy Stoffer, the students at Fort Lewis, Demian Dineyazhi and my assistant Brian Gonnella for helping to make this possible.

Brooklyn Street Art write up.

Painted Desert Project Summary, Artist: Demian DinéYazhi

From September 6th – 9th, 2016 I was invited out to the Painted Desert Project by Chip Thomas (Jetsonorama) to engage with students at the Shonto Preparatory School on the Navajo Nation. Prior to my time with the Painted Desert Project, Chip and myself discussed making artwork with the immediate community that would result in a wheatpaste and text-based mural. My target community was an Indigenous LGBTQ2S and/or intergenerational group whom I could workshop and collaborate alongside before leading up to the production of artwork for a proper mural. Eventually, we agreed on connecting with a local school over the course of a week to establish a group of youth to work with on a longer engagement slated for the spring of 2017.

As established by Chip, my main point of contact at Shonto Prep was the Jane of all trades, Orleta Slick, whom set up prior arrangements with the interim art teacher, Nicole Laughter. My first day in the classroom was spent introducing the kids ( 5th grade to 8th grade) to my artwork and the themes explored through the imagery. For instance, I began speaking to the kids about Indigenous identity and the importance of self-representation. By showing them images that appropriated photographs taken from a non-Native photographer that simultaneously address Indigenous Feminism, I asked the students to look up definitions of patriarchy, matriarchy, appropriation, and subversion.

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-11-52-20-am

Introducing the kids to these themes was no easy task, I realized the concepts I was bringing to the classroom was likely the first time the kids had been introduced to these words and definitions. Ultimately, I was able to link it back to reservation issues that are often seen in Navajo communities and referenced historical events, like the Long Walk, as a way to create context for the students. It was inspiring to see the kids thumb through their dictionary after being prompted to look up some of these words in their dictionaries, but also to see the children make connections between Hopi maidens and Princess Leia without being asked to consider the potential connection and appropriation of Indigenous Hopi culture.

In spite of the challenge of trying to demystify complex concepts to a group of students whom likely hadn’t grasped the social hierarchies embedded into the fabric of Indigenous and contemporary society, I felt my first day with the students was a success. After introducing my work and projects I am a part of, I took a moment and introduced the kids to the main reason why I was in their classroom: to create a mural that was a reflection of their community. Some of the students were familiar with the Painted Desert Project, so I asked them to consider how these images and murals made them feel the next time they came across them in passing. For instance, “do these images make you feel a sense of pride in who you are as Diné people?

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-11-52-48-am

The next day I started the students off with a 5-minute “free write”. After giving the students a prompt—such as, “write about one of your favorite memories or dreams”, “what do yourself doing when you’re 18”, or “write about whatever inspires you most in life”—I told the students that they did not need to share this with the class and that whatever they wrote they were free to do with as they saw fit. I wanted the kids to walk away from the exercise with two things: 1) to spend time with their thoughts and using their hands as a tool of expression; 2) to feel secure knowing that whatever they wrote wasn’t for an adult or for a participation grade, but that writing could serve various purposes outside of conventional school assignments.

After the writing assignment I spoke briefly again about the Painted Desert Project and whether the students wanted to do a group collage together or create monoprints in the classroom on the last day of my residency. The curiosity of the kids all gravitated toward monoprinting. After that was decided, Nicole Laughter and myself accompanied the students outside for a drawing assignment focused on drawing the surroundings of Shonto Prep. Some kids drew large trees that tower over anthills, the water tower off in the distance, stink bugs that slowly walked by, or imagined entirely different landscapes. This was a short exercise, but it afforded the students the opportunity to engage with the world and consider drawing from real life.

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-11-53-04-am

My last day at Shonto Prep started off with a 5-minute “free write”, and was followed by an interactive monoprint workshop with each class. I showed the students some examples of the different types of screenprinting and letterpress (text-based) printing that I have worked on over the last few years. Initially I had anticipated a group project, but the students all gravitated toward individual text, which ended up being really effective because it challenged the students by having them consider how the image gets printed—in reverse. Some students printed their names, characters from popular app games (i.e. Minecraft), school sport team logos, hearts with “MOM” written above them, or the name of their schoolyard crushes.

What interested me the most about this project was the amount the students opened up in such a confined space. They were challenged to work together on a limited surface and while some people were compelled to work on images and prints, other students were more drawn to focus on spreading ink or applying pressure to get a good print. This fascinated me because it was a true example of the benefits of working together and respecting the labor involved with each process. Another thing that I didn’t consider is that not all the students felt inspired to be creative in the exact same way, because for others, physical labor is as valid of a form of creative expression and holds as much purpose as creating a piece of art.

Upon my departure from Shonto Prep, I felt that the workshops and class exercises were successful in exposing students to alternative ways of thinking about creative practice. Another goal was to create a relationship with students and a community that could be nurtured through the coming months. While my time at Shonto was limited, it was important for me to create a prolonged engagement with the community in order to familiarize myself with the landscape and the community that takes care of it and survives in the comforts of what it has to offer.

I also wanted to get a sense of what I felt would be a meaningful interaction and reflection of the community. It became evident that the best representation of this community would come through the form of a photography collage project that asks the students to photograph their families, landscapes, animals, or things that make them proud, and then take those photographs and create a mural that will be displayed outside the front of their school building.

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