Archive for April, 2011

Reconnecting – It’s not just black and white

April is drawing to a close, and it has been an extremely busy month for projects associated with Gregory Sale’s Social Studies project It’s not just black and white.

The month began with the third public tour of Tent City Jail, another informative, eye-opening and direct experience opportunity for all involved.

On April 9, the Museum was fortunate to host a portion of the School of Social Transformation, Justice & Social Inquiry’s 1st Annual ASU Human Rights Film Festival. The afternoon, organized by the School of Social Transformation in collaboration with the Tempe Chapter of Amnesty International and ASU Art Museum, was based on the theme of Prisoner’s Rights and Militarization of Justice, screening the films Cointelpro 101 and The Response. The screening was followed by a lively discussion on the topics, led by Alan Eladio Gómez, Ph.D. Borderlands Scholar and Assistant Professor in the School of Justice and Social Inquiry at ASU.

The organization Reentry and Preparedness, Inc. (REAP) hosted a meeting on April 12 for its board of directors and advisory board. Reentry and Preparedness, Inc. (REAP) is dedicated to providing green job training, transition training, and mentorship for the families of the reintegrators from prisons and jails. The event was organized by Carol Manetta, Executive Director of REAP, as part of It’s not just black and white Open Bookings.

The Civil Dialogue Project on April 13 focused on creating a safe space for divergent viewpoints. Using the technique of civil dialogue, ASU faculty from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication facilitated a dialogue focused on two hot topics: incarceration and prisons. This project was an opportunity for students and the public to dialogue safely about issues that could be polarizing, in an effort to promote understanding. The event was facilitated by Clark Olson, Instructional Professional, and Jennifer Linde, Lecturer, at the Hugh Downs School of Communications.

Through arrangements made by the artist, working in direct relationship with the administrations of Adobe Mountain and Black Canyon high schools of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, fifteen male and female students joined us at the Museum on April 18th for their first of three full-day visits.  The students, along with their teachers, administration and ASU students, received a tour of the Museum and were provided a brief introduction to It’s not just black and white by the artist. We all walked to the School of Art, where we joined Stephen Gittins’ photo class and were given a tour of the studios and darkrooms. We took a walk through campus to the Memorial Union, where we enjoyed a lunch and conversation together. Upon arriving back at the museum, the art supplies were ready for the students to add their artistic expressions to the public wall within the gallery space. ASU Graduate Teaching Assistant Ashley Hare, of the ASU School of Theatre and Film, then led the students through a series of performance and improvisational workshops. Finally, the students walked over to the back of the Nelson Fine Arts Center theatre spaces and worked with graduate students through a puppetry workshop, creating their own puppets out of the masses of supplies made available to them.

A program the evening of April 19th combined two diverse groups in conversation.  The first group was criminal justice students of Professor Cathryn Mayer from Brookline College who arranged guest speaker Deputy Director Charles Flanagan from the Arizona Department of Corrections.  The second group were students from ASU professor Dr. Alesha Durfee’s Women and Social Change class who organized a panel including Maricopa County Chief Probation Officer Barbara Broderick of the Adult Probation Department, Sue Ellen Allen of Gina’s Team, Peggy Plews of Arizona Prison Watch and Donna Hamm of Middle Ground Prison Reform.  The entire group of sixty-five individual in attendance received a wide range of views and perspectives before engaging in respectful question and answer dialogue for an extremely successful event.

This past Saturday, April 23, as an Open Booking, The United Teams for Restorative Justice took over the space, providing a panel presentation of five organizations and their constituencies who engage with the criminal justice system, helping individuals heal and move forward in life. The five organizations in attendance and being recognized for their tireless efforts included Moma’s House, for its dedication to helping abused women escape the abuse and start a new life; Arizona Peace Alliance, for having a Department of Peace added as a cabinet level position in the government and for legislation aimed at teaching peaceful solutions; Gina’s Team, for its work to ensure inmates basic life needs are met; Reentry and Preparedness, Inc.,  for its dedication to support and renew those who have been incarcerated and deliver them gently back into society; and finally Phoenix Nonviolence Truth Force, for its trainings in peaceful solutions to everyday problems.  According to United Teams for Restorative Justice, it is is an organization dedicated to helping any party having contact with any criminal justice agency. They help not only the defendants and the victims but their families as well.  The event was organized by the United Teams David DeLozier.

This morning, April 26, the Maricopa County Adult Probation Executive Management Team (EMT) held their monthly meeting in the gallery. The EMT consists of a Chief Probation Officer, three Deputy Chief PO’s and eleven Division Directors. The Maricopa Adult Probation has about 1,100 employees and is responsible for supervising a monthly average of 58,264 probationers. The EMT meets monthly to focus on the strategic plan, managing for results and departmental goals in order to ensure that the departmental mission is realized. The meeting was organized by Therese Wagner as part of the Open Bookings.

And tonight we host the event “Incarceration and the Mentally Ill: Punitive or Restorative Justice?,” a formal dialogue with approximately twenty participants discussing the care and treatment of those with mental illness as their lives intersect with the criminal justice system. The goal is to bring together individuals with diverse perspectives and experiences, from the advocates for increasing rehabilitation of mentally ill offenders to those who feel the criminal justice system in place in Arizona is working well. The event is organized and managed by Mary Lou Brnick of the non-profit organization David’s Hope, with support from the Office of Individual and Family Affairs at the Arizona Department of Behavior Health Services and the Arizona Mental Health and Criminal Justice Coalition. The public is invited to observe the dialogue and participate during Q & A.

But it has been the past few days that have provided some amazing reconnections…

Last Friday a Cub Scout group visited the space. The scout leader, an Eagle Scout in ranking, was in the space sharing insights with his scouts. He encouraged them to express themselves artistically on the public wall as he spoke to them about the topics of the overall project. As he completed his conversation with the boys and allowed them time to draw, I approached and thanked him for his thoughtfulness toward the project and for sharing that thoughtfulness with his troop. It turns out their scout leader has a connection with the Museum; he toured the location many times and had been involved with educational outreach programs as a student at McClintock High School in Tempe.  He expressed how those experiences truly influenced his life and how he is so pleased to be able to share those similar experiences with his young troop.

On Monday our students from Adobe Mountain and Black Canyon reconnected with us for their second visit. It was so wonderful to see their smiling faces once again and hear of their eagerness to get started for another day of activities. Gregory began the day with a little presentation on the history of stripes, all through small black and white drawings.  He started with an image from “a mural in Italy painted around 1340 of three young women in stripes condemned to prostitution saved by Saint Nicolas,” shifted to image of Holocaust uniforms, then images of stripes as portrayed in the media and pop culture, shared the Razzle Dazzle camouflage used on ships during World War I, then the use of stripe in architecture, in patterning and finally examples of stripes used by contemporary artists. He talked about these historic stripes’ association with the current use of stripes in our community and within the exhibition, having the students consider their use and meaning more deeply.

Gregory then challenged the students to reconsider the stripes on the wall of his space. If they had the opportunity, how would they make adjustments to his vision? Each student was then invited to select an ASU student collaborator and express their vision through a painting workshop orchestrated on the floor of the gallery space. The results were fantastic, and each team had the opportunity to share their insight, creating a great dialogue with each other and the space of the Museum.

A walk across campus for lunch together at ASU’s Secret Garden provided the opportunity for a communal meal and insight from Heather Landes, Associate Dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and The Arts. Heather provided the students deeper knowledge of the opportunities available to them in the Arts and Design through ASU.   She talked about the application process and invited them all to join us as students at ASU upon the completion of their high school education.

After lunch our dynamo colleague, Elizabeth Johnson, Coordinator, Public Practice in the School of Dance, got the students moving. She worked with them collectively to get their bodies moving, first in basic movements then gradually building up to more choreographed series. The students broke off into groups and choreographed their own dances in relationship to the conversations of the day, then performed them for the other groups. We sat together and talked about the dances we had just observed and shared our overall impressions on the experiences. You could tell by the smiles and energy, it was extremely successful.

The students then loaded into their van and were shuttled off to the other side of campus to engage with School of Art Professor Angela Ellsworth’s intermedia performance art class. The student were greeted by the ASU students and given an overview of their studies. They talked about a current project they were developing and asked the high school students if they would assist. The project is titled “Cyborgs vs. Humans,” a parking lot tag style game that examines current culture and technologies. The rules for the activity were explained, and then everyone went to the parking lot for round one. The Cyborgs won round one in less than five minutes, then we all went back inside and debriefed. The information was gathered regarding successes and failure, differing options and possibilities. The game rules were adjusted and it was back to the parking lot for round two. Round two proved to be much more successful, a game lasting just over  10 minutes and exhausting everyone. At one point during the game, one of the high school students instructors turned to me and said, “It’s so good to see this kids get the opportunity to be kids,” and I would have to agree. It was good knowing that these students received a great day of activities and were probably going to get a great night’s sleep.

The students weren’t the only reconnection that happened on Monday. Mid-morning Erik, one of the original ALPHA program inmates who collaborated with Gregory to paint the stripes within the gallery, showed up at the Museum with his girlfriend, Lisa. Erik had been released, and it was so great to see him at the Museum in his own clothing. He toured Lisa through the space and shared the project and his experience with her, expressing the project’s intent as if he was leading a docent tour. He pointed out his contributions to the public wall as he reconnected with me, Gregory and Elizabeth Johnson, with whom he had performed a dance during his original visit. Before we knew it, Erik was down on one knee with a ring in his hand, proposing to Lisa, who immediately said YES!

Reconnecting is important, can be magical and is necessary at times in helping move forward in positive directions. I hope there are many more of these moments ahead!

-John Spiak, Curator

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Additional Blog Posts
Angela Davis, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Youth in Detention = Social Practice
Reconnecting – It’s not just black and white
Dream like you mean it: The Mother-Daughter Distance Dance
Another Active Week and the Schedule for April
Waiting for Release, Sentencing Reform & Welcoming Home
Invitation to Join Us for Volunteer Event – GINA’s Team
Inside & Outside – It’s not just black and white
More Similar Than Different + Tent City Jail Tour Opportunity
You can’t move forward until you know where you are
Olympic Gold Medalist, Gina’s Team and PVCC Students!
IT’S NOT JUST BLACK AND WHITE: Gregory Sale – Social Studies Project 6

April 27, 2011 at 12:06 am

And the LeBlanc Audience Choice Award winner is…

The 15th Annual ASU Art Museum Short Film and Video Festival is complete.  It was an amazing Saturday night here on the Museum’s outdoor plaza, with temperature during the festival in the 70s.  Twenty wonderful short works were presented and the audience of 1,218 individuals voted for their favorite films and videos.

And the Leblanc Audience Choice Award winner is…

Perspective by Jon Bryon of Orange, California.

April 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Re-Thinking the Museum: Curator Ian Berry on “A Manifesto of Yes: Optimistic Practices in Art and Teaching”

Here’s another in our series of “Re-Thinking” videos, this one an abridged version of Tang curator Ian Berry’s talk here at the Museum.

April 20, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Dream like you mean it: The Mother-Daughter Distance Dance — It’s not just black and white

As the mother of a 13-year-old girl, I am now learning, from the other side of the relationship, just how much adolescent girls both need and struggle against their mothers. The important part is keeping the vital lines of communication open, even if it’s just sitting in the car listening to the radio together as I drive her to school in the morning. I take being in the same space with my daughter for granted, the same way I took my mother’s presence for granted. But these are not givens.

Last Saturday, I witnessed the mother-daughter bond strung out over a distance that was both physical and emotional. The daughters – Chloe, a.k.a Coco (10), Alliyah (10) and Angel (20)– were here in the Museum; their mothers – Felicia, Neesha and Teresa respectively – were at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s Estrella Jail, where they are inmates.  

As part of Gregory Sale’s project “It’s not just black and white,” both mothers and daughters had been working with Teniqua Broughton, director of programs at Free Arts, and ASU’s Coordinator for Public Practice Elizabeth Johnson, as well as with Gregory, to develop dances that they would perform with and for each other via Skype, in what we were all calling “The Mother-Daughter Distance Dance.”

This idea – of mothers and daughters dancing together but apart – seems to strike a chord with everyone who hears about it. Somehow even the idea of the dance suggests the core issue that Gregory is exploring in his project: The real and too-little discussed impact of our incarceration system on all of us, as individuals and as a community.

It took a while to get the connection between the Museum and the jail working – technical difficulties were to be expected, since the point of jail is to isolate the inmates. When the connection finally succeeded and we could see the three women, standing in their baggy striped uniforms in a bare concrete jail yard, it was a relief: Although most of us watching didn’t know the women, they weren’t just anonymous inmates. They were the mothers of the three girls we’d been watching, in the gallery with us, as they waited patiently for their mothers to appear onscreen.

And the connection, when it was finally established, wasn’t perfect. It was like watching people on the moon – that same sense of delay and distance, of words and actions not synched with each other, of the unbridgeable gap between our world and theirs. Elizabeth became the interpreter on our end, and Gregory, who was at Estrella, seemed to take on the role of interpreter at the jail. Most of the small group of people in the gallery couldn’t hear exactly what the mothers were saying as they read their daughters the letters they’d written them, on subjects like change and beauty, but the daughters, huddled around the laptop that also showed their mothers’ images, drank their mothers’ words in and understood.

It was intensely clear how linked these women and their children were, regardless of whether they were able to communicate directly with each other, as if Skype was just the tool that laid bare that connection for the rest of us to grasp. We were the ones seeing the connection and the distance between the mothers and the daughters – the mothers and daughters were already well aware – and it was heartbreaking, all the more so when the screen suddenly went black and the words “Connection lost” appeared. It felt like losing something precious and knowing you might not find it again.

Once Gregory and Elizabeth managed to reestablish the connection, the mothers performed the dances they’d developed for their daughters, first individually, then together. The dances grew out of gestures the mothers had worked out in a workshop with Elizabeth that prompted them to think about the values they wanted to pass on to their daughters. Their movements were eloquent, powerful, real. They said so much with such economy, expressing in gestures the things they couldn’t say in words.

Then the daughters received gifts and notes from the mothers, and the mothers, on their end, received gifts and notes from their daughters. These notes weren’t shared in detail, which seemed appropriate. But it was clear that Angel, the oldest of the three girls, had a more difficult relationship with her mother than did the two younger girls. I learned later that unlike the younger girls, Angel had not grown up with her mother and had mixed feelings about participating initially. But in the letter she wrote to her mother, she said that she believed, for the first time in her life, that she and her mother were ready to live at peace with each other and to put the past behind them.

Finally, the mothers and daughters performed together, the same dance, the same moves, in their separate locations. They performed to an upbeat, up-tempo song with the refrain “You and me, baby, we’re stuck like glue.” Elizabeth explained later that the seed from which the dance grew was one main choreographed phrase, based on gestures that described the group’s collective definition of beauty.

When the performance had ended and the event was drawing to a close, MCSO Deputy Chief MaryEllen Sheppard, who has been instrumental in making Gregory’s project happen, addressed the three women in jail directly via the laptop. She thanked them for sharing their daughters with her and with the program, and told them what wonderful children they had. And she concluded by telling them precisely what all of us had just witnessed: “Where you are is not who you are. And we know that.”

 –Deborah Sussman

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Additional Blog Posts
Angela Davis, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Youth in Detention = Social Practice
Reconnecting – It’s not just black and white
Dream like you mean it: The Mother-Daughter Distance Dance
Another Active Week and the Schedule for April
Waiting for Release, Sentencing Reform & Welcoming Home
Invitation to Join Us for Volunteer Event – GINA’s Team
Inside & Outside – It’s not just black and white
More Similar Than Different + Tent City Jail Tour Opportunity
You can’t move forward until you know where you are
Olympic Gold Medalist, Gina’s Team and PVCC Students!
IT’S NOT JUST BLACK AND WHITE: Gregory Sale – Social Studies Project 6

April 8, 2011 at 4:41 pm 12 comments


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