Adj Marshall

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

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.