Documentation, Self Care and Community Organizing – Hatch Artists’ Blogs Part 1

Part of the ongoing Hatch blog series, today’s blogs are reflections by our Hatch artists on their experience from the previous weeks’ class by Katina Parker, documentary filmmaker and Black Lives Matter activist. A staff recap of the session is available on our blog.

For this class, we ask the artists to reflect on the following thoughts:

  • Referring to the slides from the presentations  – What is your position? Why do you want to do the work that you do? What are some of the challenges, privileges and “tools of the colonizer” you must be aware of in order to do your work?
  • What are some of your struggles with “self care”? Are there safety concerns in your work that you must be aware of?
  • How has documentation been a part of your artistic process in the past? Are there forms of documentation you wish to explore in order to more fully realize your vision or in order to best express the communities you are working within?

We hope you enjoy their thoughtful responses!

My exploration of the human experience through art is not so much activism as it is advocacy. I wouldn’t define my art to be radical. I do however, spend time creating art with communities as a way to be supportive and more integrated. I do this because I believe in the powers of community, acts of service and using art to intersect the two.

Mural by Lauren Pallotta for Unifying Youth at Douglass High School, in participation with re:Imagine/ATL. Photo by Lauren Pallotta.
Mural by Lauren Pallotta for Unifying Youth at Douglass High School, in participation with re:Imagine/ATL. Photo by Lauren Pallotta.

With any outreach, there is generally privilege. Parker’s words to “identify it and check it” were a pertinent reminder to be conscious of our place, our true intentions, our assumptions. It brings to mind the notion of “being a wombat” that Emily Hopkins discussed. Sometimes people mean well doing the things they think are right, but in reality it may be more destructive than helpful to the community if it’s not being done sustainably, alongside them, underpinned by their input.

I aim to work with communities that express a need: maybe it’s a mural or a children’s book or art sessions that coax out self-reflection and healing. I’m typically not a face of these communities, but rather an outsider who is welcomed in based on consistent mutual respect. As an outsider, I have to, as Parker put it, “be cool,” otherwise I become the stereotype these communities may have of me.

Then there is public art – sometimes created alongside a community, sometimes not. There is a school of thought that questions whether altruism is truly unselfish. It seems to me public art is entering the same sphere of ambiguity, something I need to be mindful of as an aspiring street artist.

Part of Foward Warrior, mural by Lauren Pallotta located along Wylie Street in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta.
Part of Foward Warrior, mural by Lauren Pallotta located along Wylie Street in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Lauren Pallotta

When I painted my first mural in Atlanta, the opportunity came from a demand in the community for more street art, but I was basically allowed to do whatever I wanted, as long as the wallkeeper/curator approved it. With total artistic freedom, this was as much of an ego piece as it was a community piece, because I needed to paint something to be considered valid, to be considered at all. Does that make it less relevant? I’ve found myself wrestling with this idea throughout the Hatch process. Am I being too sensitive or not sensitive enough? Am I being too egocentric or not egocentric enough? Am I being too controversial or not controversial enough? Am I being… enough?

For me, I think the biggest takeaway from Parker’s session was the notion that this sensitivity and consciousness are, in some ways, enough. Even if we aren’t a face of a community, that doesn’t mean we can’t be supporters of it. What’s more, we can utilize our places of privilege to combat the forces or voices that may be – knowingly or unknowingly – encouraging systemic oppression. That is to say, by being advocates as outsiders, we can be activists as insiders.

By Lauren Pallotta

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