Adj Marshall

Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

Reconsider Columbus Day

In Education, History on October 10, 2011 at 6:34 pm

“Commemorations sanitize further the messy history lived by the actors. They contribute to the contentious myth-making process that give history its more definite shapes: they help to create modify, or sanction the public meaning attached to a historical events deemed worthy of mass celebration. As rituals that package history for public consumption, commemorations play the numbers game to create a past that seems both more real and more elementary. “

~Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Last year I was inspired by this beautiful video asking people to reconsider Columbus Day by engaging in a critical view of the contentious holiday.  While the video urges us to visit ReconsiderColumbusday.org, a website that is no longer in operation, I will further challenge you to conduct your own research to learn more about this complex narrative.

Today many celebrate Columbus Day with little thought of  its origins. While there is much media attention given to why we should reconsider our celebration little attention is given to the historical construction of the holiday.

So how and when did Columbus Day come to have so much sway in the United States? The answer is an unlikely source.

The Tammany Society incorporated in New York 1789 consisted of gentlemen who’s taste for public attention via parades and lavish banquets inspired their celebration of any date that fit their calendar. Columbus’s landfall as they referred it was listed on their calendar as early as 1790. By what seems a historical accident the Tammany’s most lavish celebration occurred on October 12, 1792; 300 years after the initial first landing. Despite the societies promised to continue the celebration for years to come, the holiday all but disappeared again for nearly another 60 years, where it found a new cult following by the recently immigrated populations whom needed an icon to legitimize their importance within the American narrative of stodgy WASPS.

Both the Spanish, who has sponsored Columbus’s travels and the Italians, which Columbus was by birth latched on to the Columbus Day celebration sponsored by Sharpshooters Association of New York and spread it across the nation.  While 1866 marked the rebirth of the holiday and launched similar celebrations from Philadelphia and Boston to New Orleans and San Francisco the cult following was still minuscule with only 3,679 individuals claiming Italian heritage in 1850.

Silencing the Past

An unlikely population also took up the cause, the Irish American, which numbered 962,000 by 1850. Many Irish became parts of the Knights of Columbus by way of their Catholic association.  The Catholic religion which crossed national boundaries allowed these groups to find common ground outside their immigrant status in this Catholic male fraternal order. The Knights of Columbus which promoted the concept of citizen culture was just the right group to help these marginalized individuals find a home within the WASP nation.

The Catholics felt vindicated by their hero’s national recognition at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1892. By the 1890’s the US’s appropriation of Columbus had became a national phenomenon. In 1892 one of the 400 year Anniversary celebrations held in New Haven Connecticut attracted 40,000 people including 6,000 Knights of Columbus and was deemed a celebration of holiness and patriotism. As Columbus became a national icon he also became more white, this new white status  lent itself to those who claimed his history as their own including the marginalized  Italians, Spanish, and Irish Catholics.

This story holds particular importance for Rhode Island as it is the most Catholic state in the nation and the ethnic identity claimed by more people than any other is Italian.  This little bit of history I have provided was lent to me through Michael- Rolph Trouillot’s book Silencing the Past which documents the holes in the Haitian story of Revolution and Independence. The cliche “history is written by the winners” should serve as a continual reminder that history needs to persistently be reevaluated to determine the complex nature that makes up our current conceptualization of the past.

In 2009 Brown University chose to rename Columbus Day to Fall Weekend a protest to the nature of Christopher Columbus’ conquests and treatment of Native Americans. This was decayed by national icons such as Rush Limbaugh and the then Providence Mayor David Cicillini who stated ” it diminished the accomplishments of explorer Christopher Columbus, an important historical figure for Italian-Americans and As an Italian-American, I take particular offense to this decision”.

As Columbus day is reevaluated and actions taken to reconcile the new knowledge offenses are sure to be voiced.  We must remember what is true for you may not be true for me. The Columbus day we all learn about in school is one devoid of the negative repercussions that resulted from Columbus’ interactions with the Taino natives who were all but wiped out by the arrival of Columbus and his men on Hispaniola. As Columbus has become a national icon his image has been sanitized and his myth like status is all that remains.

I challenge you to complicate your own understanding of the days history take the plunge and learn more.

Interesting Articles

A 1770’s Education + A 1970’s Education = ?

In Art, Education, History on September 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm


“Goodness without knowledge is weak…yet knowledge without goodness is dangerous”

~Phillips Academy 1778 Constitution

Many of you were with me at the beginning of my journey… that is when I officially decided I was going to document my LEAP (Liberal Arts Education Plan) through the articles here on Learned Curiosity. If you were not, I have probably met you somewhere along this journey and would encourage you to check out its beginning. While I must admit I have all but ignored the documentation these past few months my learning continues to prevail. In journeying, my physical and cultural awareness has been tested inspiring my intellectual and spiritual centers. I have made it across the country and back twice by train, plane and buss, for trainings, radical marching band events, rock-climbing adventures, hiking, adventures, back packing adventures, family history research quests and of course… to share my wealth of knowledge by serving as an educational facilitator.

When I first began contemplating my LEAP over 8 months ago I was grappling with the questions of “What does it mean to be educated?” “What is a valuable education?” and “Where does one find such an education?” In choosing my LEAP I was eschewing the Americentric educational view which values concrete classrooms with credentialed instructors and standardized outcomes. Instead I was choosing community, collaboration and creativity to serve as my guides. Sir Ken Robinson, a leading thinker in the field of educational reform, states “We have to think differently about human capacity, we have to get over this old conception of ours about academic, nonacademic, abstract, theoretical, vocational” and recognize that “most great learning happens in groups, and that “collaboration is the stuff of growth”. Check out the animation below Changing Educational Paradigms.

Choosing my LEAP over graduate school last year was essential in staying true to my values. I learned long ago that by serving as an active participant in my own education rather than a passive one I could come to a more in depth understanding of our global community. Education for me, has always extended beyond the confines of a classroom, necessitating a deep-rooted engagement with community.  So when I chose to look at graduate programs this year I only selected ones that valued the expertise of community and creativity as much as I did.

I applied to two institutions neither program having exactly what I was looking for… and the truth be told I don’t believe any one program could. Each was uniquely skilled in their field of expertise and allowed enough freedom for students to explore varying interests. I felt I could be comfortable at either. Being accepted to both programs allowed me the freedom to choose the educational program best fit for me… only I couldn’t.  In the end I decided that only by creating my own blend of the two programs would I be able to delve into the issues I hope to pursue.

Which leads us to today the day before I begin my studies at both World Learning’s Graduate School for International Training (SIT) in Conflict Transformation (Brattleboro VT) and Brown Universities M.A. in Public Humanities (Providence RI).  Combined, these two institutions will give me the international perspective on the positive use of arts in conflict situations while  allowing me the resources and knowledge to understand arts impact on social interactions.  As the year moves on I will be pursuing studies focused on how marginalized communities (most likely international ones) utilize the arts in their personal struggles for justice.

HONK A History of Musicianship and Community

In Art, History, Music on March 15, 2011 at 9:06 pm
HONK TX !

No Noise is Illegal !

~Bread and Puppet Theater

In only one city in Texas would you expect to find 20 alternative, radical, activist, community, brass, marching bands. This year marked the first annual HONK TX festival held the weekend before SXSW March 11-13th in public spaces across Austin.

A Combined Effort !

While this year marked the first Annual HONK TX festival, the concept of gathering activist marching bands to celebrate the community-centered union of art, activism and music finds its roots here on the east coast.

The very first HONK! made its debut on Columbus Day weekend of 2006 in Somerville MA, a community just outside the city limits of Boston. The concept of HONK was envisioned by local activist band, The Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band (SLAPS), who “saw the need for a gathering of like-minded souls interested in applying the joy of music to the work of promoting peace, social justice, and civic engagement.” That year a dozen socially conscious street bands from across the US and Canada descended upon Somerville and Cambridge to perform in Davis and Harvard Square.

The ERB in TX!

HONK Fest 2006 signaled the beginning of a tradition that would spread far and wide across the states. By HONK Fest 2009,  more than 29 bands were overflowing the streets of Somerville spreading the message of music, community, and access to public space. Between 2006 and 2010, HONKS! arose here in Providence (PRONK!), Brooklyn (BONK!), Seattle (HONK! Fest West), and now Austin (HONK! TX).

While each HONK! Festival and further each HONK Band’s structure mission and goals can vary widely, they all share a commitment to core values including the:

  • Creation of inclusive communities valuing diversity of all forms: not just the conventions of age, gender, class and orientation – but background, upbringing, and for many, level of musical experience.
  • Transformation of everyday locations into organic stages where the line between audience and performers is dissolved.
  •  Demonstration of the potential for the creative use of our public spaces without the need for amplification or artificial stages.
  • Celebration, serving as the soundtrack for community gardens, public school yards, puppet shows, pride parades, worker rallies, peace marches and neighborhood fundraisers.

Celebrating sleep with my Canadian friends

The shared values of the growing activist marching band moment are central in creating the environment that is HONK! Regardless of the city each HONK serves as a space where we as individuals learn and grow from each other musically, personally, politically, socially, and culturally.

This years ERB appearance at HONK TX represents the bands 6th HONK event. With 2 HONK, 2 PRONK, and 1 HONK Fest West under our belt we headed south of the Mason Dixon Line to make our appearance as part of HONK! TX. As the closing band of the entire weekend we were given the monumental task of bringing together the many elements that represent HONK! Staying true to the inclusive communal nature that is the HONK! experience we invited all 20 bands in attendance to join us on stage for our closing song Deep in the Heart of Texas. Carrying the message of hope, unity, and social change in our hearts and music we closed the weekend together on stage as One Band with One Sound conveying to our audience and ourselves the transformational nature that is HONK!

Sites of Interest:

The Big Adventure

In Art, Education, History, Physical Pursuits on March 4, 2011 at 9:40 am

Monkey Face part of my adventure in Oregon!

Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives.

~ Joseph Campbell

While taking a lunch break from my welding project  last week I found myself in a discussion with a fellow band member of our need to not be tied down to one kind of work. This year has allowed me the the opportunity to search out a bunch of differnt kinds of work all of which I find fulfilling. I have facilitated community building and leadership trainings, taught rock climbing lessons to high school students and special needs individuals, designed and welded bike racks and trash cans, and am now about to head off to lead a service learning course on Health Policy at Berkley in CA.

Around this course and training I have built a 6 week adventure that will take me across the country and back. It starts in Chicago, Illinois  where I will participate in a training for the Health Policy Class and meet my co-facilitators, I will then head down to Austin Texas to meet up with my band the Extraordinary Rendition Band to participate in HONK TX for a week, from there I am headed to Bend Oregon to Rock Climb at Smith Rock for 2 weeks.

Charting a Hero's Journey

After my time camping and climbing I will head back to civilization to meet my with my co-facilitators in San Francisco, one from nevada and the other from Israel, to teach the Health Policy Class. Upon the completion of the class I will move on to Charlotte North Carolina to visit with a friend who works in the Arts field there and was instrumental in the beginnings of my artistic stirrings and questionings. My adventure I hope will open me up to many new insights and allow me to continue on my path of growth I have set out for myself this year.

I first encountered the work of David Campbell in Lina Chisholm’s Charting a hero’s Journey. The book is a publication of the International Partnership for Service Learning and Leadership and was utilized as part of my studies in Ecuador . The book serves as a guided journaling prompt for those traveling for the first time, most often abroad. While my travel to Ecuador was not my first time abroad I still found it’s content quite useful in dissecting my experience while there. It gave me the space to be reflective about my intentions and the ability to recognize the personal conversations and changes that traveling was having on me.

Campbell speaks of the Monolyth, the basic elements common amongst all myths that chart a the heroines journey, a sort of rite of passage, in which the heros undergoes separation, initiation, and return. Linda Chisholm applies this structure to the experiences of the reflective traveler. From the following description you can see the parallels that can be drawn between Campbell’s story and that of a traveler in search of understanding their sense of self and their purpose and contributions to the world.

The Basis for Hero's Journey

“In laying out the monomyth, Campbell describes a number of stages or steps along this journey. The hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events (a call to adventure). If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, the hero must face tasks and trials (a road of trials), and may have to face these trials alone, or may have assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift (the goal or “boon”), which often results in the discovery of important self-knowledge. The hero must then decide whether to return with this boon (the return to the ordinary world), often facing challenges on the return journey. If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world (the application of the boon).”

Traveling for me opens my horizons it allows me to see the world in ways I that expand my small city nature. As a life long Providenceite I feel comfortable in the city and often times attempts to find ways to challenge myself. Climbing is a major component of this but so is just getting outside Rhode Island. As I embark on this 6 week adventure I look forward to the insights I will gain and the new found knowledge of myself and the world I will bring back with me.

Art Builds Community

In Art, Education, Photography, Uncategorized on February 25, 2011 at 2:24 am
Photo Making

“Community wisdom begins with being encountered”

-Kathleen Hirsch

Part of my LEAP this year has focused on seeking out educational opportunities that align with my interest in the intersection of art and social justice. While speaking with a friend this winter, I was informed about the class Community Lens, a joint venture between a number of departments and communities. The class is co-taught by faculty of the Public and Community Service Department and the Art Department at Providence College. The class’ students are partnering with the student artists of City Arts, a local after school arts program on the South Side. With so many moving parts this class can feel unwieldy sometimes but more often than not it creates a feeling of nervous potential, a sense of opportunity.

“Community Lens  is defined in its syllabus as an interdisciplinary course that focuses on the concept and practice of community using photography as a tool for understanding the lived reality of community among youth in Providence. Specifically students will read theories of community, learn photography skills, and teach youth in Providence to use photography to tell their own stories of community. ”

Photo Review at City Arts

The class has 3 objectives:

Creating a Learning Community– In which you can develop an understanding of the connections between art and social change with specific focus on the question “What dose community mean?”

Serving the Youth of Providence-Through a reciprocal partnership focused on teaching youth to use photography to define and understand the meaning of community.

Producing a Final Exhibition– using photographs and stories of local youth.

In a discussion about her own community of Jamaica Plain Kathleen Hirsch states. “Community wisdom begins with being encountered. Its teachers and lessons come in unexpected mostly humble forms and part of growing into a place is learning how to graft its native root system onto our hereto shiftless pattern of growth.”

Personally I love the image this quote evokes for me, that of an extensive root system, tangled and cluttered in some ways  yet beautiful and simple in others. This for me is the icon of community. A few weeks back while at a friends opening, the 2011 Newport Art Museum’s Annual Members’ Juried Exhibition, I encountered the work of an artist who’s name I do not know. Their piece was simple, a small plant with a tangled bush-like root system resembling a cloud shape, similar to the one pictured here. The plants delicate root system had been painted gold and mounted upside down so that that the plants root cloud sat atop the bush’s two main stalks. While viewing the piece I was intrigued by the new found ways in which our world can be interpreted when looked at from a different angle or through a different lens.

While I have been auditing classes this year from CCRI to Brown and everything in between few engage the community in a way that bridges the gap between the local college transplant and the local community member. As Kathleen suggestes in her piece A Home in the Heart of a City a we have to encounter our community to value its many assets. The Community Lens class is allowing its college students to graft the native root system of the community to their own learning experience finding teachers and lesson in unexpected and often times unintended situations. The Community Lens’ Class Blog chronicles these encounters, particularly the humbling lessons they gain from interacting with the City Arts student artists.

The Community Lens Blog

Pt III- Art of Environmentalism

In Art, Business, Education, Photography on February 18, 2011 at 12:42 am

Fork Sculpture

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say “It is yet more difficult than you thought.”

-Wendell Berry

For about two years now I have been creating and selling jewelry made from silverware. Every chance I get I work to tell the story of where my creative impetus for this medium came from (See previous 2 articles).  I however have yet to convey this message of environmental awareness in any cohesive manner while selling my work. The silverware I use in my jewelry creations often times come to me from friends and family members who do not know what to do with their mismatched eatery sets. When they pass them along to me they are partaking in a form of recycling by giving their often times personal family heirlooms a new life.If I run out of silverware from friend or find a particularly alluring pattern I will sometimes purchase silverware from Savers Thrift Store (a recycling project of its own) which has had a longstanding supportive relationship with the  Big Sisters Program in RI.

My Jewelry !

After collection, the silverware is then sorted and selected for upcycling ,as a necklace pendant, pair of earrings, ring or mini sculpture. In this process I am given creative license to re-imagine a life for this silverware as a decorative ornament that will highlight the aesthetic beauty created by the previous sculptor (the silverware designer). As I stated in my last article. The silverware I once revered also holds an ugly side, one which is wrought with the environmental implications wrecking havoc on our community today.

In terms of Environmental Awareness I have begun to take creative license in the creation of a tag that will feature the following graphic of the Gorham Silverware a map dated from 1920. This map is defined as a general map which includes depictions of the Gorahm Silverware factory campus layout and the Massapaug Cove/ Pond. I enjoy the historical /artistic nature of the graphic while recognizing its connection to our environmental issues.

1920 Goraham Site General Map

With the map on one side of the tag I have decided to feature the quote from EJLRI : For the nearly 100 years it operated, Gorham Silverware factory  used the pond and land around the factory as a dump for wastewater polluted with carcinogenic chemicals…

As lead is a widely recognized highly toxic child/containment known to be linked behavioral problems learning learning disabilities, hearing and speech impediments as well as seizures and death. I have chosen to focus the facts that will be listed below the quote on the tag on lead issues in Providence. This will allow the connection between silverware production in Providence and subsequent contamination particularly to lead to be drawn more clearly in my work.

In presenting some of these facts as part of my work, I hope to raise awareness about the seriousness of metals contamination in our city, particularly amongst our youth while using my interests in silverware as a source of inspiration. The Art of Environmentalism ie the tag I have visually designed here will be made available by the end of April and will serve to create a more holistic approach to the Social Justice nature of my work.

Below is some information on Lead Poisoning in the city of Providence and State of RI

In 2006 after construction on Alvarez High school had already begun a highly toxic slag pile, with high levels of lead and copper, was found on the banks of the Massapaug cove, Gorhams former factory site part of a Brownfield which shares land with Alvarez highchool. Under court order, Textron removed the slag pile, however the toxins are still present at the Gorham Manufacturing site and are of particular concern because they put already vulnerable populations at risk. Children and young adults, like the students attending Alvarez High School, are more vulnerable to toxins than adults and the fact that the school is located just feet from unremediated land undoubtedly makes these youth more susceptible to health issues. Article 1

Click on the Map to Enlarge

RI Kids count states that children absorb 30% to 75% of lead which reaches their digestive track, compared with 11% for adults. Poor nutritional status (particularly calcium, vitamin C, or iron deficiencies) increase an individuals susceptibility to lead poisoning by increasing lead absorption. Article 2

Providence Plan found that 1:6 Providence children under age 6 were exposed to lead in 2000. Statewide, 1:11 children under 6 were exposed to lead. Nationwide, this number was 1:25. These risks are unevenly distributed within the city based on racial, geographic, and economic factors. Article 3

RI Kids Count found that core cities (Central Falls, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick and Woonsocket ) had an 11% elevated lead level rate as opposed to the 4% rate for remaining cities. Article 2

Three Articles and a little under 2,500 words later I conclude the story behind my interest in and impetus for creating Jewelry fashioned from silverware.

Material Referenced in Above:

1 Center for Public Environmental Oversite: Providence Rhode Island Schools

2 RI Kids Count: Issue Brief Lead Poisoning

3 Providence Plan: Providence Neighborhood Profiles Lead Exposure

Pt II- Metals Contamination!

In Art, Education, History on February 11, 2011 at 10:06 am

“Mashagaug Pong is Sick – El Lago Mashapaug Está Enfremo-

For the nearly 100 years it operated, Gorham used the pond and land around the factory as a dump for wastewater polluted with carcinogenic chemicals…

-Environmental Justice League of RI

The Gorham Silverware facility located in the Reservoir Triangle neighborhood of Providence passed many hands from 1967 to the present. The Gorham Site passed from the Texton Corporation to the Winoker Group to Adelaide Development Corporation to Seaman Equity Group, and finally on to the City of Providence when the Seaman group defaulted on its taxes in 1992.

In 1987, a 55 Gallon waste drum was found at the bottom of the Massaugug pond by the Providence Police who reported that contact with the pond water was causing rashes. This prompted city, state and national agencies to conduct a variety of evaluations which found a number of industrial pollutants at the site, such as TCA, TCE, heating oil, PCE, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene, PCBs and metals including barium, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, silver, and zinc. Article 1 In 1995, groundwater plumes contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pollutants that can become gas that people may breathe, and heating oil were discovered on the Parcel A site. Article 2

These substances are known/ suspected to cause the following:

Perchloroethylene (PCE): Is an industrial solvent that has been linked to liver and kidney damage and is a known human carcinogen. Found in groundwater around Gorham site.

Trichloroethylene (TCE) : Is a solvent and metal degreaser which is linked to unusual cancers of the kidneys, liver, cervix, and lymphatic systems. TCE is also found in the groundwater near the Gorham site.

Lead:Is linked behavioral problems, learning disabilities, hearing and speech impediments as well as seizures and death.

Ethylbenzene and Xylene: Are industrial solvents that can cause respiratory irritation and neurological effects as well as kidney and liver damage over time.

PCBs: Are banned by US Congress in 1979, PCBs are part of a class of organic pollutants known as endocrine disruptors, meaning they disrupt hormone functioning in the human body. PCBs can cause rashes, birth defects, and cancer in humans.

Barium: Barium compounds can be poisonous, affecting nervous system function in some individuals.

Cadmium: Is classified as a probable human carcinogen, cadmium is known to cause kidney damage. Article 3

ADD

Despite the sites designation as a brownfield by the DEM, and knowledge of the sites contaminants, the City of Providence proposed and built Adelaide – now Alvarez High School upon this land which opened its doors in 2008. Currently over 500 students attend this school daily. The high school is located on Parcel B of the brownfield site, just  14 feet from the unremediated Gorham production site, which features an uncovered stockpile of contaminated soil. Dust and dirt from the site’s mound of pollution blows across school grounds and throughout the neighborhood on a regular basis. Article 4

The DEM subsequently sued the city of Providence, which is now under court order to maintain a well-signed barrier around the non-remediated parcels. Even this task however has proven difficult for the city.  It took 2 months, after community requests, for holes in fences to be mended and missing locks to be replaced on the site. The signs which the community had also asked be replaced were not and as a result the community took the matter into their own hands creating hand made signs warning of the lands contaminated status.  Article 5 With the work of the DOH (Department of Health), and Artist Holly Ewald organizer of  UPP (Urban Pond Procession)  new permanent and visually appealing signs (See the header photo of this article) in the three main languages of the community have replaced the old signs which were written solely in English despite the communities diverse constituency.

The former signs that disappeared

 

Since my humble and naive beginnings in a tiny 6ft x 4ft garden bed at Paul Cuffee School my research on metals contamination has taken me across across the city’s many neighborhoods and connected me to a variety of local environmental and community based organizations while reinforcing the essential place art holds within social justice movements.

Silverware’s aesthetic beauty and delicate design were always a fascination of mine. Who came up with this pattern, what inspired them, what were they hoping to convey in the design or the name? Now this same silverware I once revered also holds an ugly side, one which is wrought with the environmental implications wrecking havoc on our community today. To raise awareness about the this issue and quench my thirst to find artistically creative solutions to local issues I began to design jewelry from silverware, giving new life and value to these lost artifacts of our past.

Stay tuned for next weeks article on the creation of Silverware Jewelry and Environmental Awareness and my new initiative to connect  the two more concretely.

Material Referenced in Above:

1 EPA Article: Waste Site Cleanup and Reuse in New England :Gorham/Textron Disposal Area

2 RI Future Article: Still Contaminated Gorham Site Frustrates Residents

3 EJLRI: CARE Environmental Health Assessment

4 EJLRI Article: City’s Nonchalantness to Contamination Frustrated Residents

5 EJLRI Article: City Slow to Warn Neighbors of Toxic Contamination

Additional works of interest

Department of Environmental Management’s Document Index for the Gorham/Textron Site

Textron Newsletter: To Inform Public About Remediation Activities

Brown Student’s Environmental Blog on UPP

Pt 1-Environmental Justice

In Art, Education, History on February 4, 2011 at 5:23 pm
The Gorham Manufacturing Company 1897

Art is indeed all around us.  We just need to take the time to do three things, stop, breathe and open our eyes to see.

-The Society for Creative Sustainability

Last week in my article the Creative Impetus I spoke of my interest in upcycling, the act of taking something with a well worn past and giving it a new life through reincarnation as something new. One of the major elements in my upcycling work is silverware. Often times I am asked Why silverware? Most times I say Why not? But the truth is my fascination with silverware is a long and involved  story which requires so much context that It will be a 3 part article.

Paul Cuffee Namesake of the School

My interest in the material emerged from my work at Paul Cuffee Maritime Charter School where I was in charge of implementing an environmental art project incorporating, recycling and gardening and crafting. The School’s small stature is overshadowed by a matrix of industrial revolution mills including the ALCO Mill buildings, a steel transfer station, the local Coca Cola distribution plant and the Woonasquatucket River former dumping grounds for many of the local mills.

While meeting with the South Side Community Land Trust to gain insight into their community gardening initiative I was informed that due to the location of the school we would not be able to eat any of the vegetables/plants grown on sight. The vegetables  would be contaminated with the hazardous chemicals they absorbed from the ground in their growth process particularly lead, an already pervasive issue for the youth of Providence.

As I began to research this issue further I came across the term Brownfield referring to an abandoned or underused industrial and commercial facilities available for re- use.  Paul Cuffee was formerly a old bus depot maintenance facility for the city. A Brownfield is a  property for which the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant” via EPA website. In order for brownfields to be turned into viable land use spaces they either need to be capped with concrete to prevent further groundwater infiltration as Paul Cuffee did or re-mediated as The Steel Yard a neighboring local arts organization did.

Gorham an Empire Disappeared

Providence prides itself in its industrial history particularly its metal work. Remnants of this history are left behind now mostly in deteriorated facilities and name sake only. The jewelry and flatware factories of the Jewelry District have all but been replaced by medical administrative/research facilities like Brown Med School and Woman and Infants Hospital.  The Steel Industry of the Valley, where Paul Cuffee is situated, is still slowly gentrifying with various mills turning into upscale condominiums each year. While not all the buildings remain the contaminant metals surly do. Most industrial revolution revolutionary companies like Gorham Silverware Manufacturing have skirted their responsibilities by leaving the state before the time of environmental laws or selling their property to others who pick up the burden of the contamination.

Since my project with Paul Cuffee in 2005-2006 I have come to work with various educational, community and environmental institutions throughout the state, each in some way struggles with the chemical legacy our industrial history has left behind. Currently I am working with the UPP the Urban Pond Procession which began in 2008 as a collaboration between Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and the Department of Health to create new signs around Mashapaug Pond warning local residents against eating the fish and swimming in the water.

Providence Public Library Archives Gorham

Mashapauge pond area is the former site of Gorham Manufacturing which began in 1890. As one of the premiere silver and bronze flatware facilities for most of the 20th century, it gained both national and international recognition. The company situated on the banks of the Mashapaug Pond was composed of 30 buildings on a 37-acre facility which ran three shifts of 1000 workers each. Gorham’s manufacturing processes used “heavy metals, cyanides, corrosive stripping agents, lubricants, solvents, lacquers, thinners, and metal degreasing solvents”. Some of these are responsible for the pollution the pond and community is facing today.

Stay tuned for next weeks article on these chemicals impacts on the environment and local community.

The Creative Impetus

In Art on January 29, 2011 at 1:35 am

Earrings Created from Bicycle Inner Tubes

Create Interest by Using Unorthodox Materials

-Steve Dodds

So in the article Ritual Created Goal Accomplished I spoke of my dear crafting friend Carole Ann who embarked on an artistic journey of discovery with me starting back in 2008. As part of my continued artistic journey I have committed to creating one article a week for Learned Curiosity. This week my article will be featured on Connect the Dots Crafts where I am the guest blogger in the series My Creative Friend for Carole Ann’s Blog. The article published there speaks to the creative impetus behind my artistic work and origins of my interest in up-cycling.

I encourage you all to check out the article this week at Connect the Dots Crafts.

by

Clicking Here

The Ethics of Photography

In Art, Communication, History on January 21, 2011 at 11:57 am

My Mother at Age 4 Procured from Aunt Joan's Collection

Life for a photographer can not be a matter of indifference, it is important to see what is invisible to others.

-Robert Frank

In the fall of 2008 at a family gathering, my great aunt Joan, simply known as aunt Joan amongst us older grandchildren, was downsizing her collection of photos to clear some of the clutter from her now smaller living space. As we began to scour through the books and boxes of photos she had come to collect in her 70+ years I became fascinated by the concept of historical reconstruction through photography. If each photo tells a story then a collection of photos tells a lifetime of stories. When we cease to exist our likeness is carried on through the visual representation of our image in the photographs left behind.

In my mind I began to gauge my life’s story as told through photography. In doing this I realized that this story although true would be quite fractured and unrepresentative of my real existence. My own early childhood photo collection was marred by a housefire that destroyed everything we owned except a small book of photos my mother was able to save.  The VCR would be the next element to influence my own photographic story, followed by a lack of funding to put toward developing photos that were taken. At one point while in high school my mother developed a roll of film that had sitting in her draw for years to find pictures of me getting on the school bus for my first day of head start. Often times our lives, represented through these images, or lack there of, come together to construct what is termed our life’s story.

Looking At Photographs

This past week I started in Introductory Class to Photography at RISD. One of the suggested readings for the class is a book titled Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art. John Szarkowski the books author uses the Modern Art Museum’s Photographic collection to tell the story of photography since its creation in 1839. ” When Daguerre announced his great invention to the public in the summer of 1839, he explained how it worked but not really what it was for.” The purpose of photography to this day is still a topic that is is debated quite heavily amongst academics and individuals alike.

In its early days photography was almost exclusively a means to visually record information. People’s portraits, and landscapes were most common and the photographer served only as an extension of the equipment. Szarkowski states Photography as an [artistic] medium has received little serious study.” and  Photographs, “although often admired have seldom been seriously collected.”

For me the purpose of photography, beyond recording ones on life story, is to bring light to the social ills of our time and to use photographs for the betterment of humanity. William Henry Jackson was one of the first people to photograph  the Yellowstone area under the US geological Survey in 1870. “It has been said that Jackson’s pictures were instrumental in persuading congress to set aside the Yellowstone area as a preserve” becoming  the nations country’s first national park in 1872. Mr. Jacksons story is one what in which photography has been influential in bettering the world around us.

As a photographer concerned with brining light to today’s social ills, I am often confronted by the ethics of photography, especially when it concerns the photographing of individuals. I have had the opportunity to travel far and wide from Cape Verde, to East Timor and Ecuador to Tanzania. Here I have taken photographs of individuals with whom I have little to no connection in attempts to convey the basic element of child creativity and resourcefulness in the face of poverty. As I begin the local portion of my project which will draw comparisons between childhood poverty in Providence and that of the “developing world” I am again faced with the question of ethics. What is my responsibility as a photographer to the people I photograph?

In my research for this article I came across the following guidelines or code of ethics written by Chitrabani, a Christian communication center in Calcutta, India. While I do not agree with all the guidelines I find them to be most sincere their attempts to balance the needs of the individual with the need to bring to light the social ill that person will come to represent.

My photographic life story will be filled with images of not only my life but that of countless others who I have photographed.

The highlighted guidelines I find particularly interesting.

What to Photograph

  • What you shoot and how you shoot is determined by why you photograph and whom you photograph for.
  • When photographing people do not treat them as if they were things.
  • Do not take people’s pictures or give images to the imageless.
  • Never depict people as useless or inadequate. It is their helplessness which has to be shown.
  • Do not invade anybody’s privacy except when it is necessary for depicting certain social situations.
  • Yet, boldly reach into personal life, bearing in mind that the photographs you take are your brothers’ and sisters.

How to Photograph

  • Never photograph for art’s sake, just try to make the best possible picture.
  • There is no need to prettify people and objects; they have their beauty, and a good photograph exudes beauty.
  • Sensationalism diverts attention from the essential.
  • Shun extra long lenses. A short lens draws you near your subject.
  • Try to establish a rapport with the person you photograph.

Social Concern

  • Let not your photographs drift away from context.
  • Earn the right to see what you wish to show.
  • Your social concern is to document life with empathy.
  • Be true to the image people want to have of themselves, but at the same time do show what you believe is their real image. The dignity of the poor, in particular, demands that their situation be known.
  • A documentary coverage can never be total. Complete a biased image by another biased image.
  • Be an iconoclast – a destroyer of established images.

Your Public

  • Photos should not be used to exploit the persons portrayed.
  • Refrain from showing a photograph if undesirable manipulation cannot be averted.
  • Your photos have no place in art shows.
  • Lending your photographs for “illustrating” articles that have hardly anything to do with the persons photographed is like lending your voice to somebody else’s speech.
  • Destroy the myth that photographs are duplicates of reality.
  • Ethical documentary photography is not your sole responsibility. But your photographs encourage certain responses in the viewer.



Classism

In Communication, Education on January 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm

When I was in poverty day in and day out, I often heard people say things like, “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps. It’s such a ridiculous image– If you actually lean down and pull on your boot straps nothing happens.”

-Ellen Smith

On Monday evening a crusader in the Classism movement lost the battle against cancer. Felice Yeskel was the co-founder of Class Action, a non profit based in Boston, which  “inspires action to end classism by providing a dynamic framework and analysis, as well as safe space, for people from across the class spectrum to explore class and to identify and begin to dismantle classism.

I first heard of Felice’s work through Class Matters, a book I assigned my students to read for a community organizing class, I co-taught at a Private Liberal Arts College.  Class Matters: cross class alliance building for middle class activists, by Betsy Leondar-Wright, was the first piece of writing I encountered that was grappling with the difficult task of class dialogue on a grassroots level. While I had spent much time studying various class theories and models for change there was little to no material available on cross-class dialogue. As I delved further into the subject I came to realize these women were at the forefront of work in this field in 2005 and still are today as little conversation has materialized on a national scale in this subject.

Felice’s short two page piece in the Class Action book chronicled the issues that arise on college campuses when class is not included in diversity training. In facilitating support groups for poor and working class students at the college level, Felice stated she came to notice “If you’re white and you come from a poor-working class background, you show up on these [elite private college] campuses and you are having your mind blown hundreds of times a day, and your reality is never noticed or validated by anyone.” The piece gave voice to my own struggles as poor white undergraduate and became the impetus for my submersion in the classism work.

Class Matters

In teaching community organizing, I pushed my students to recognize the class differences that existed amongst themselves as co-organizers, before working towards solutions to break down barriers existing between organizers and the community. All too often my students would assume that their classmates /co -organizers were of the same background as themselves, making blanket statements about “common” values they all most hold as like minded college students. What they didn’t realize was that issues of class needed to be recognized within their own ranks before they could move forward with the important work of supporting their community in organizing itself.  Felice poignantly stated in her piece that “Diversity training on college campuses is problematic without classism because education itself functions as a primary access channel for transitioning across class” As much as education acts as a bridge between class divides one never looses the class lens with which they were raised. This is an essential element that is often times overlooked in class based advocacy.

My work in the classism arena has continued over the years in various forms, first serving as a proponent of class based affinity groups at an elite prep school in MA and then in the creation of a support structure for low income first generation students of RI entering college. In 2009 I saw a posting by Class Action, the organization that Felice had founded, soliciting short pieces for an anthology speaking to the experiences of individuals across the class spectrum. With the support of a number of friends, in particular Keith, I submitted my own story for inclusion. The suspense was unbearable as I waited nearly a year before being notified this past May that my piece will be published in the Class Action Anthology entitled: Caviar, College, Coupons and Cheese. My selection for inclusion in this anthology served as validation that my experience warrant reproduction and can serve as a learning experience for others.

Class Matters

At the moment I am reading Class Matters: Correspondents of The New York Times a book that was given to me by a college a few years back. I’m not particularly sure why I haven’t set myself down to delve into this book yet, despite owning it for over 2 years now, but  I would like to think it is because I knew it was important and I wanted to give it the full attention my LEAP is currently allowing.

The opening chapter of the book entitled : The Shadowy Lines That Still Divide opens with “One difficulty in talking about class is that the word means different things to different people. Class is rank, it is tribe, it is culture and taste. It is attitudes and assumptions, a source of identity, a system of exclusion.” This comment intrigues me because it is ripe with the ambiguity that makes class the taboo subject of our times. Despite the fact that class is becoming a larger factor than ever in determining who moves ahead in the pecking order and who doesn’t, the understanding of class mobility by society is the exact opposite. A Gallup Poll conducted in 2005 by the NYT found that most Americans believe class backgrounds has less of an impact on social mobility than it did 30 years ago.

These statistics are not surprising to me as I have repeatedly viewed the denial of class impact in numerous workshops I have led over the last 4 years. Despite the workshops varying topics including: understanding social class vs. socioeconomic class, cross class dialogue facilitation, and the impact of class on education, there is always an initial rebuff to my statement that we are all impacted by class in negative ways no matter whether we reside at the top or the bottom of the spectrum. It is this gut reaction that worries me. If we are not able to come to the table with open minds and hearts, to discuss in supportive ways the impact of class on our families, our communities and our institutions, will continue to suffer in silence.

In my research for this piece, I have found limited resources from which to draw upon for inspiration, as the conversation on this topic has advanced little in the last 5 years. When this is the case it becomes our responsibility to take action, to serve as that inspiration, becoming the change we want to see. I hope one day we will make this a topic one that is discussed openly. For without open and honest discussion there can never be change!




Ritual Created, Goal Accomplished !

In Art, Business on January 7, 2011 at 11:27 am

Selling my Art !

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.

– Pablo Picaso

About two years ago I began crafting with a good friend of mine Carole Ann we called it Crafternoon. At first it was just a way for us to get to know one another outside of book club. I would bring my sewing machine to her house and we would work together on projects or independently on our own projects. In the summer after our first year crafting together we decided to to make this thing we did together a little more formal. We started a blog (which Carole Ann still carries on today), we sold at our art work for the first time at the Down City Arts Festival, and even had our first business meeting where we created our Artistic Manifesto.

The manifesto, hatched in the living room of my Artist Residency at Firehouse XIII, was quite simple :

  • Stay True to the crafternoon philosophy (learning and creating as a part of a community)
  • Contribute to the artist community of creativity
  • Learn about art/specific skills
  • Earn a little money to sustain our studio/supply costs
  • Excite and energize others with our work
  • Network with other artists in Providence
  • Become comfortable in our skills as artists

While a lot has changed in the last year we have both kept true to the manifesto in our own ways. About midway into our year of time together Carole Ann and I realized that our art work had gone in two very different directions. I became obsessed with silverware utilizing the materials and tools available to me at the Steel Yard while Carole Ann kept on moving full steam ahead with her sewing. At this point, we decided to go our separate way, each supporting the others creative ventures. In this separation however, I lost my accountability partner, the person who would check in on me and make sure that I was reaching the goals I had set out for myself.

My Gift from Carole Ann

Reaching goals requires routine, routine however, can seem stifling. Twyla Tharp in her book the Creative Habit (which Carole Ann gave me as a gift last winter) states it best: “There’s a paradox in the notion that creativity should be a habit. We think of creativity as a way of keeping everything fresh and new, while habit implies routine and repetition.” What makes something a ritual is that you do it without questioning the need”… “It’s like going to church. We rarely question why we go to church and we don’t expect concrete answers when we do. We just know it feeds the our spirit somehow and so we do it”.

In creating rituals we get out of the habit of allowing ourselves to procrastinate the little steps that will help us reach our goal. If we make the steps of our goals a ritual we will will be less likely to find excuses for not completing them.

One of my professional goals is always to become a better writer. In order to become a better writer however, I need to write. Having a reason to write that I am held accountable is what often makes this goal a difficult one to pursue. Learned Curiosity has given me that reason.  In creating this blog I new that accountability would be essential. So when I began posting I attempted to create a ritual for myself.  I committed to posting on Learned Curiosity  for 7 days straight starting day 1 with with the LEAP plan. Day 3 I would go public and day seven I could scale back.   After day 7 ( Which Is Today !) I can honestly say I am quite proud of myself. Making posting an essential piece of my daily life I knew would allow me to set into motion a good habit for my long term once weekly posting plan.

Sticking to the posting regime this week has been a struggle. There were many other things I could have chosen to occupy my time with instead however I chose to  make Learned Curiosity my top priority. Creating the positive habit of posting I know will assist me in sustaining my commitment to becoming an active writer.

While I have accomplished my goal of posting for 7 days straight, there are still many more goals that lie within the pages of my LEAP, I only hope I can be as successful with those as I have been with Learned Curiosity this week.




Musical Activism

In Communication, Education, Music on January 6, 2011 at 11:49 am

ERB at Riverz Edge Fundraiser with Big Nazo

Any note is better than no note !

– ERB motto

As a bunch of costume wearing, alien fraternizing, activists, you may call us crazy we call it love… a love of music and community.  When or where you may ask did we fall in love, well the answer is different for all of us but one thing is for sure most of us had not played music in a decade or more if ever before joining the band.  The Extraordinary Rendition Band was formed in the fall of 2008 with an activist bent in mind, this is evident in the name that was chosen to represent the band. If you don’t know what I am talking about click here: Extraordinary Rendition. The Extraordinary Rendition Band or ERB as we like to refer to ourselves in short is a local activist marching band that calls Providence its home. I have been part of the ERB for just over a year now and am so thankful to have had the opportunity to learn and grown from such an amazingly diverse and wonderful group of individuals.

New Years 2011

How did I come to be part of an activist marching band…? My musical journey began at a table in my jr. high cafeteria where entire 7th grade took an aptitude test. I remember clearly the small dual cassette boom box that played notes as we all furiously scribbled onto our blank score sheets where we thought the notes belonged. The outcomes of the test would determined whether we were invited to be part of the band or not. Despite the alienating experience of not being invited I did not hesitate petitioning to be part of the band. My time with this group would however be short-lived, lasting a mere 10-month school year.  I bowed out quietly before having to put myself through the  chair test auditions (musical ranking process) that was to come in the fall.

I would avoid instrumental performance for close to 15 years before being introduced to the ERB by a friend at Wooly Fair 2009. I fell in love at first sight and defaulted to a position of groupie, as I continued to see myself lacking any musical skill. The fear of judgment and failure from my jr. high experience still lurked within me. The leap from groupie to official member came only after 5 months of steady encouragement from various band members.

Initially when I joined I knew very little about the intentional activism the band engaged in from its open band policy and democratic structure to its support of specific causes, now these are the things that endear me most to the band … and well of course all the amazing personalities that make up our awesome group. We have played in support of labor rights, queer rights, environmental awareness, arts and community organizations.

Here is an awesome short documentary of Activist Marching Bands from the HONK Fest: No Noise is Illegal !

Last years reading

Saul Alinsky, in his book Rules for Radicals, states “The spirit of democracy is the idea of importance and worth in the individual, and faith in the kind of world where the individual can achieve as much of their potential as possible”. In the ERB, we work to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential through our democratic structure, where people are expected to contribute whether it be leading practice, managing gigs or composing music.

Band Practice !

Often times the term activist  or radical is associated with crazy. In many ways we are no different than most of you. In our professional lives we are engineering professors, art professors, college counselors, college students, music teachers, high school teachers, speech pathologists, graphic designers, toy designers, editors, and much more. Our open band policy attracts individuals of all ages spanning the gambit of early 20’s to early 60’s. In our society we so rarely find ourselves in inter-generational situations. On many levels this has alienated us from our elders and reinforced the concept of older generation as “out of touch” relegating them to a place of marginalization. For us the intergenerational element of our band’s make up is an essential piece of our musical creativity.

Our open band policy also means there are no “try outs” we accept individuals of all musical backgrounds. While a goal is to operate as one coherent group that eventually produces recognizable music our first and foremost goals is sharing the love of music with others. We work to break down the barriers between the performer and audience whether that be avoiding stages or inviting the audience to be an integral part of our band.  In many ways we attempt to break the mold of a Marching Band redefining for our selves and hopefully others who a musician is and what musicianship is while making saving the world just a little bit more fun and weird.

Websites of Interest:

The ERB

HONK Fest

Marching for Change: Street Bands in the U.S. Podcast by the National Radio Project on Activist Marching Bands:

No Noise is Illegal: Documentary on Activist Street Marching Bands




Salsa and Patriarchy

In Art, Communication, Foriegn Language, Physical Pursuits on January 5, 2011 at 10:20 pm

“Let us read and let us dance – two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.”

-Voltaire

Last evening was the initial class for Level II Salsa. I have been taking salsa lessons for about 2 months now and find the physical and mental challenges of the art form something I look forward to each week.

Growing up in my household no one danced, so when I wanted to learn, I solicited the assistance of my friend Karin. A native Puerto Rican,  Karin had grown up dancing, it was a skill passed down from parent to child the way reading might be in most American households. Karen exposed me to a plethora of dance concepts most importantly that flexibility and freedom with your body and mind is a necessary element for making your motions flow into a dance.

Me and my salsa partner in Ecuador

As we grew older our friendship grew apart and I found other venues through which to dance. Almost a decade later I would find myself again immersed in the Latino culture this time while living in Ecuador for a summer.  While in Ecuador, I met a friend who would introduce me to the the local dancing scene, something few foreigners ever get to experience. Dancing a couple evenings each week my skills improved exponentially. I became a sought after dance partner which only served to increase my confidence in my own ability and allowed me the freedom to take liberty with my own style. Again while this was an amazing experience it only lasted a short time. Upon my return to the Sates I found few people I could dance with and went on another decade hiatus, returning to salsa only this fall as part of my LEAP.

As a strong independent minded woman I often find it difficult to not be in the leadership role. In salsa dancing as in the Latino culture as a whole there are norms that one may call gendered, sexist or even patriarchal. About  a month ago while having tea with a friend who is a native of Ecuador we got into a debate about Spanish as a gendered language and how the use of gendered words reinforces the sense of masculine as strong and powerful and feminine as demure and docile. My thoughts about this concept came to rest upon the implications of gendered thinking and practices within salsa dancing and its reinforcement of strict gender roles.

In salsa class the first thing you learn is that it is the woman’s role to follow and the man’s to lead. In class comments like this are plentiful: “Gentleman your responsibility is to lead and care for the woman on the dance floor, if you look bad it’s your fault, if she looks bad its your fault”.  While the concept of being faultless as a female may be alluring it leaves little room for recognizing ones own weaknesses and creating  space for growth. In salsa dancing the one place of fault for woman lies in her attempt to hold power ” ladies if something goes wrong it is 90 % the guys fault, if you however decide to lead it is 110 % your fault”. In her book All About Love, which I just finished last week, Bell Hooks states ” sexist socialization teaches females that self-assertiveness is a threat to femininity. Accepting this faulty logic lays the groundwork for low self esteem”.

While I have set the stage here for a diatribe on the patriarchal nature of salsa dancing I will digress. Not because I have not had these thoughts, for they have been running rampant in my own head these past couple days but because as my studies have moved forward my understanding of partnership.  I have come to recognize the give and take that is inherent in the art of salsa dancing. Comments like ” ladies men only lead you 10 % and you must follow though on the other 90%” and “Ladies don’t do the work for them they wont learn from their mistakes”,  gives a a more holistic sense of the give and take of the process required to make a salsa dance work between partners.

In any partnered activity there is a trust that is required, a trust that forces you to be vulnerable in the presence of another. In that vulnerability you must trust that your partner will take up the responsibility to care for you, whether on the rock wall, in a salsa class or in life. I dont know if it is the American understanding of rugged individualism that allows us to miss the subtleties of a give and take relationship where  equity–the giving of what one needs, in the amount that one needs it in, is at the center not equality, but I do know that we must always maintain a healthy critical awareness of the ways in which our societies gendered norms influence our everyday lives.

Eddie Torres: My salsa instructor’s instructor.




The Art of Climbing –Zines!

In Art, Physical Pursuits on January 4, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Climbing circa 1965 before modern climbing gear.

When I learn to let myself ebb and flow with how my situation pans out on the rock, I find the clarity and vision for problem-solving echoing in the canyons of my mind.

–Al Smith III

A few weeks back I got a package in the mail it was from my friend Luke who lives in Colorado. We met this summer while I was visiting a friend at the Rocky MountainBiological Laboratory in Gothic CO. I had headed out west to enjoy the great outdoors something often times hard to find in East Coast city life. Inside the package was the second installment of the Climbing Zine. I had received the first Climbing Zine as a going away present when I left Colorado this summer.

Climbing Zine Volume 2

So you may be wondering What a zine actually is? If you are one of those people don’t fret I wasn’t exposed to my first zine until after college in my work with New Urban Arts.  A zine pronounced (zeen) can generally be defined as a self published work reproduced via a photocopier with has a circulation of less than 1,000.

Quoting the publishing page  from Climbing Zine Volume 2, Luke says that ” Something that has always fascinated me about zines, and the process is the fact that they are produced simply for the sake of creating and sharing art…we are souls that have something to say and this is the venue where we can share that with an audience. He goes on to state that “there is an unquantifiable value in the exchange between a writer and a reader, rewarded in karma that is greater than money.”  These quotes epitomize the heart of zine culture –that of a deep appreciation for the art of creation.

In Luke’s Piece ” A Year in the Heart of a Climber”  I am reminded of my introduction to the climbing world. I first got hooked on climbing though my volunteering on the Leeuwin II tall ship  in Australia. While I loved climbing masts I didn’t know how this could be translated to a land based activity until I met Mark two years later. Mark was the lead Instructor of Search and Rescue, the experiential outdoors education program at Andover where we taught together.

All Hands on Deck route on Shipwreck Boulder Skyland Boulder Patch, Crested Bute C.O.

Showing interest I chose to volunteer as a staff support. Here I learned a few essential differences between climbing masts and climbing rocks. 1) You generally don’t climb barefoot unless you are a rock star climber, 2) Other people, not the mast will serve as your safety system 3) There is more than one type of climbing depending on the type of routes and protection and gear you employ.

When I first immersed myself in the climbing community I felt as if I had walked into another world. Fellow climbers were throwing around terms like beta, barn door, dyno, mantle, match, send, smear, stem, traverse. While these words held specific meanings in my own vocabulary their new definitions eluded me. Some one might say to me if you match you won’t barn door so much and will be able to send that stem climb. Each new piece of information shared with me about a climb, while utterly useless due to my lack of comprehension, made me feel a welcomed part of the community. Since my immersion almost three years ago I have watched my mastery of my physical technique and mental capacity grow.

Crack Climbing Left Arm Route in CO

Climbing has opened many doors for me and forged connections and friendships that will last a lifetime. It has given me reason to travel all over New England including NH, CT, MA and RI. This summer in CO I had the opportunity to climb thanks to Luke and another friend Shane. While in CA later in the summer I was taken under wing as an honorary member of the Bay Area Outdoor Rock Climbing Group . There is immediate acceptance and sense of community that exists amongst climbers –one I have rarely found elsewhere. I don’t know if this sense of community stems from the passion we share for the sport or the trust we place in one another when climbing a particularly risky venture.

Each climb I make influences my understanding of my own physical limitations as well as that of others. Each community member gives me a new appreciation for the role climbing can play in ones life.  Luke’s Zine offers a space for climbers like myself to explore the many ways in which climbing has influenced our lives. Each story I read inspires in me new thoughts about what it means to be part of a community that values pushing ones own physical limits in the pursuit of the next “great climb”. While I am far from an amazing climber I am very happy with my solid 5.10 /V2 status. In the spirit of the pay it forward climbing culture I work hard to create that same welcoming environment I first experienced when I joined the climbing community.

Note: If you would like to submit answers to more than one post please click on the heading of each post to go to to posts individual page.




A World of Education

In Education on January 3, 2011 at 9:50 am

“Schooling isn’t worth anything unless it creates for people the capacity to believe that they can change the world. If our kids don’t believe they can change the world then I think we ought to say that our education has not been strong enough”.

-Jean Piaget.

These past 8 years my life’s work has been Education. As a firm believer in service learning & experiential education I have come to embrace this methodology as my own teaching pedagogy. In particular I appreciate the pedagogy’s focus on the instructors learning  in the process of guiding others learning as well as utilizing education as a means for creating change.

In my past work I have had the opportunity to partake in and guide  service learning and experiential education programs across the country and globe. In the states, this has included programs in San Francisco CA, New York NY, John’s Island SC Jamez Pueblo NM, Lawrence MA, and Providence RI. Abroad I have worked with the communities of Mindelo Cape Verde, Guayaquil Ecuador, Wellstead Australia, and Ermera East Timor.

Oliver Hazard Perry RI (OHPRI)

Last week while surveying the local news I came across an article in the lifestyles section of the Go Local Prov news detailing RI Commissioner of Education, Deborah Gists’ approval of the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry to serve as the states At Sea School Ship upon its completion in 2013. The program is described as a “floating classroom” that will  “Incorporate at-sea, on-shore, and classroom experiences that transcend regional and cultural boundaries, OHPRI will bring students together to learn about the oceans and the marine environment and it will expose our young people to exciting maritime and oceanographic careers.”

I find the OHPRI project particularly exciting as it will take learning outside of the classroom. In the wake of RI’s educational crisis, I view learning methodologies that challenge the current practices of standardized testing as a  means to a more human centered and fulfilling educational experience.

While I was living in Australia I had the opportunity to partake in a month long experiential educational program upon the Leeuwin II  similar to what OPHRI hopes to offer. After my voyage upon the square rigged tall ship, I chose to volunteer as a crew member for 6 months, where I served as an experiential educator and honed my skills as a rigg climber. My experience instilled in me an affinity for sailing, which I don’t get to do very often, and also spurred my interest in rock climbing an integral activity to my current life. Below is a video detailing the experience of what a Tall Ship Classroom experience might be like.

I often ask students in my service learning/experiential programs  to share with one another their greatest learning experience. When we have completed the exercise I work with the students to find the commonalities and differences amongst their experiences. The one commonality I can be sure of with certainty is that their greatest learning experience will have happened outside the confines of a classroom.

Climbing the Rigging on the Leeuwin II

While no where in the article is the term experiential education mentioned what is being proposed  by OHPRI is exactly that.  The individual championed as the father of Experiential Education is John Dewy. I am currently reading Education in Democracy and skimming Experience in Education. Dewey’s approach to education relied heavily on experience as the central element in the educational process. For an experience to be educational Dewey believed it needed to have continuity, the idea that one experience fosters in an individual the interest to learn more and interaction that ability for one to grow by meeting their own learning goals or needs. Experiential education is often employed as a method of teaching that takes into account the variety of learning styles needs and goals each individual brings to their education.

As the only member of my immediate family non diagnosed with a learning difference, I have come to recognize the immense benefits of experiential learning. While I feel as comfortable in a book as I do in the real world I have deliberately chosen to make experiential learning a part of my education.

In a high school class of over 500 I was the only student to pursue both an AP college prep track  and vocational track. In college I chose to study the social ill’s of society through my Sociology degree while simultaneously choosing to make changes in these structures through my service learning work in my  Public and Community Service degree. In each of my jobs since college I have consciously chosen work that allows me the opportunity to work directly with individuals while offering me the freedom to step back, reflect and make alterations to the larger structures at hand.

This year I have chosen to focus my energies on creating my own self designed  LEAP( Liberal Arts Education Plan). Overarching themes include Education, Art, Business, Communication, Foreign Language, History, Music, and Physical Pursuits. In a variety of formal and informal ways I have chosen to pursue an experiential learning path that I direct. One where I learn music as part of a radical community marching band, foreign language as an ESL tutor, and history from the local library. This blog will be a space for me integrate my various educational LEAP objectives while serving as an arena to reflect upon the continuity and interaction, to use Deweys’ terms, of my experiential education this year.

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Where Do I Begin?

In History on January 2, 2011 at 10:49 pm

History is understanding the relationship between the past and the present. -unknown

Recently, while sailing with a new friend I was asked, ” Tell me your history”. The question, originating from a deeply authentic place of interest, caught me a bit off guard.  My friend noting my silence followed up by saying “For us to be friends I need to know you, and in order to know you, I need to know where you come from”.  As I mulled the question over, I thought to myself Where do I begin? and  How much am I willing to share with this new individual?

In that moment I was given the reigns to define my history, allowed to pick and choose the elements of my past I found most essential in defining who I was. It was refreshing. Often times those with means are given the power to define others history especially if you count yourself among the marginalized. While my past is static and unchangeable my history is ever evolving. With every new life experience, conversation, and interaction I am given the opportunity to redefine my history- the relationship between my past and my present.

Determining what I share about my past is always directly proportional to the sense of comfort I feel with a certain individual in a particular moment.  Determining where to begin however is often times more problematic.  Where does my history begin?  In the hyper individualized western culture I live in, history is often limited to ones own personal existence or possibly that of themselves and their parents. This concept made me question the relevance of ancestors  in our own personal history and the ways in which our individual history becomes a part of the larger fabric of a families’ history.

To determine my ancestors’ relevance, I had to first  determine who my ancestors were. With only one living parent and grandparent, my access to information was limited. This brought me back to ancestry.com For over a year I have been leisurely imputing information into a free ancestry account with no agenda or purpose other than to create a record.

Using the public library’s subscription to Ancestry I was able to access records my free home account could not. Each time a family member is added to your tree Ancestry informs you of records that may match your ancestors including, census records, military records, church records, community records and much more.

With the assistance of the data base and some prior research I was able to find records for:

Nellie Worthley my Fathers Grandmother

Nellie Worthley Age 5 1930 Census

 

Nellie O’Mahoney my Mothers Great Grandmother

Nellie O'Mahoney Age 10 Months 1910 Census

I also found the WWII Enlistment Record for my Fathers Father Charles Marshall

Charles Marshall WWII Enlistment

And a record of Mothers Grandfather  and Great Grandfather Floyd and William Kelly as boarders with the Mac Farlane family.

William and Floyd Kelly as Boarders 1930 Census

Each document I stumbled upon gave me more insight to my families past.

On my mothers side I learned that my Great Grandfather was born in Canada emigrating to the United states in 1909 and that my great great great grandparents were the generation to emigrate from Ireland.

On my fathers side I learned that my great grandmother was 108 upon her death and her parent my great great grandmother and father were married at 30 and 33 a bit late for their time period and unconventional as my great great grandmother was almost 4 years older than her husband.

So these were my ancestors… the generations that came before me. When I began my research I wasn’t sure what I was looking for but I know what I found will change the intersection of my past and present. Learning about our past allows for us to grow in our understanding of connections to others  and the world around us. This growth allows room for positive change to take place.

My research has changed the way I view community. I no longer see myself as an individual that exists in the present alone, but as part of a larger community that extends back generations into the past and extends forward generations into the future*. Communal family history is cyclical and I live somewhere along its continuum.

*That is of course if we don’t destroy it by then.

Websites of Interest:

Ancestry Website

Providence Public Library Subscriptions

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