Tag: Hatch

Announcing Hatch Training Intensive Selection Committee

Our Fall Hatch Training Intensive is right around the corner and applications are currently open for interested artists. C4 Atlanta is excited to announce our distinguished selection committee who will be choosing our next artist cohort for this program. We are excited to have the following esteemed public art professionals:

Katherine Dirga – Program Manager Arts Administration, MARTA Artbound
Brandon Jones – Head of the Creative Placemaking, WonderRoot
Josh Philipson – Principal Program Specialist, Arts & Culture, Atlanta Regional Commission 

Applications for Hatch close on August 14, 2017 at 11:59pm. For more information about this program, please visit the Hatch Training Page.

Click Here to Apply for Hatch.

Like a Southern Whisper By Latanya Hardaway

photo of Latanya Hardaway working with paints
Latanya Hardaway. Photo credit: Cindy Brown Photography

I wanted to share this poem by a C4 Atlanta Hatch artist, Latanya Hardaway. Latanya shared this poem with us during Hatch a few weeks ago. Prior to her reading this poem, we had lengthy and weighty discussions about race, white supremacy culture, privilege and considerations for artists working with community. I have to say, I admire the heck out of this cohort. Each person in that class listens intently to one another. They also provide amazing support to one another. Latanya is no exception. I have been fortunate to get to know her more, along with her son, Earl. Both are part of the C4 family.

I asked Latanya if she would allow me to share her poem. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Like a Southern Whisper By Latanya Hardaway

I walked in the circle of change.

I bend over and picked the flowers from the garden newly planted.

I felt the breeze and listened quietly as the birds chirped.

I saw things that I’d never seen here.

Here where Sunday dinners were at Mom and Dad’s house.

I saw organic coffee shops, neighborhood gardens.

The air’s not really better from how dad sees it.

Looking through dad’s eyes, he’s painted a picture of pain.

Looking through dad’s eyes, I see anger and feel the fear of his 70 plus years.

Looking through dad’s eyes I see the change made by the “green”. Looking through Dad’s eyes, I see the alien takeover: making nothing look like home.

Then I see in his eyes a question, “Will there be a place for me?” And like a southern whisper of a word you dare not say out loud; a green organic alien speaks to him and says,” Bless your heart. Of course there will be a place for you.”

Art as an Ally for Social Justice

Photo by Fibonacci Blue of Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo by Fibonacci Blue of Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The events of the past week are weighing heavy on my heart, as I’m sure they are for many of us. Personally, I was very struck by both the shootings that have occurred across the country and the resulting protests. I spent nearly a decade of my life living in Baton Rouge and the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex – nearly 3 years in Baton Rouge and 7 years in DFW. My uncle was also the Captain of Homicide for the Houston Police Department for many years, and it was not unusual to see his face on the local news as a child whenever a notable shooting or murder had occurred, sometimes as the investigating detective. For me, the face of law enforcement is very much tied to the face of a family member whom I love very much.

I have also had several friends share their terrifying experiences with law enforcement, and have had a few hostile experiences of my own with officers that have shaped my own point of view as an adult. Perhaps the most influential event I’ve experienced through art in the last year was a video shown by Katina Parker of a short documentary film she shot of children who had participated with their parents in the Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Each of the children was young, around 8 or younger. As they tearfully described being tear gassed and brutalized by law enforcement and struggled with understanding the motivation behind their experiences, I couldn’t help being moved to cry myself. And yet I am more than painfully aware that (despite my Latino roots), the way I look pretty much assures that it is likely I never have to experience what these innocent children have already had to endure in their young lives. The fact that young black children have experiences so much more hate than an adult because of how they look is truly disgusting to me.

In light of the tragedies in our world, and the frustrating, confounding and often upsetting times we have lived through recently, there is one thing that gives me some solace and piece of mind: art has the power to transform hearts and communities and overcome the oppressive dominance of white culture. As artists, we possess the power to say without speaking, to feel without touching, to create light and song where there is none. I see art as a power of hope in educating our communities about what we see happening in the world and to combat the injustices that persist in our communities.

Katina Parker presenting to the Hatch, artist cohort
Katina Parker presenting during the Hatch program pilot to artists and C4 Atlanta staff.

Through our Hatch pilot program, I was privileged to work with so many wonderful individuals, both artist-students and facilitators, toiling tirelessly to create change and address social ills in the world in a meaningful way. Their work and compassion for their communities is an inspiration to me as both an administrator and artist that our contributions are meaningful in some way in spite of injustice and inequality in the world. We must continue to work to create the reality we’d like to live in where everyone, regardless of background, race, origin, disability, sexuality, gender or any other identity expression can feel safe and pursue “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” without fear.

To do this work is more than placing a mural up in a neighborhood without regard for the deep wounds that need healing over beautification without connection to its audience. It is more than putting a paintbrush or a microphone in the hands of members of the community, although that’s sometimes a good start. To make clear, sustainable change in the world takes hard work and commitment to showing up. It takes an open heart and thick skin. And most of all, it takes extreme patience. While the immediacy of this situation (people dying in the streets) creates a sense of urgency to fix the problem as quickly as possible, the reality is that for any kind of lasting and meaningful progress to be made to change the status quo, it often takes YEARS of tedious, time consuming, relentless work with community members just to lay the groundwork to begin even the smallest of lasting changes.As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we are literally combatting systems of oppression and colonization that have existed almost as long as humans have lived in close proximity to one another.  That shouldn’t discourage us from doing the work, however. Small changes and even those that don’t last still help us to move the needle forward towards a world free of the oppressive dominance of White Culture.

Understanding the ways in which White Culture dominance affects our organizations, institutions and social systems is particularly important for non-POC (People of Color) allies trying to support and aid their POC friends in combating oppression, racism and xenophobia. In her essay “White Supremacy Culture“, Tema Okun details the characteristics of white culture found in organizations and why they are harmful to all, not just those of color:

…Culture is powerful precisely because it is so present and at the same time so very difficult to name or identify. The characteristics listed below are damaging because they are used as norms and standards without being proactively named or chosen by the group. They are damaging because they promote white supremacy thinking. Because we all live in a white supremacy culture, these characteristics show up in the attitudes and behaviors of all of us – people of color and white people. Therefore, these attitudes and behaviors can show up in any group or organization, whether it is white-led or predominantly white or people of color-led or predominantly people of color.

It is important to understand that Okun is speaking about White Supremacy not as a movement where participants believe that white people are superior to all other groups. Instead, Ms. Okun is referring to White Culture Supremacy – the notion that our society is dominated by characteristics of (traditional, hetero-normative, Anglo-Saxon) White Culture  that put those of other cultures, backgrounds and identities at an inherent disadvantage because those characteristics are attributed as a societal norm. To make the distinction, Okun does not believe that all white people and their culture are bad or that all white people are made to believe that they are better than everyone else. In fact, she is not referring to white PEOPLE as a group at all. The point she is trying to make instead is that allowing our society to be ruled and governed by aspects of a culture that not all ascribe to is harmful because it inherently asserts bias and preference to those who are perceived to be of the White European cultural persuasion, regardless of whether they want it or not. Additionally, people and groups of color can unknowingly also participate in perpetuating White Culture Supremacy . All other norms are therefore perceived to be of lesser value or “incorrect”.

Project Row Houses, a community based art and social impact project in Houston, TX. Photo taken while on a recent visit.
Project Row Houses, a community based art and social impact project in Houston, TX by artist Rob Lowe. Photo taken while on a recent visit.

By understanding the characteristics of White Culture Supremacy and identifying them as cultural bias instead of societal norms, we can begin to identify ways to be more inclusive of other perspectives and other individuals. Inclusivity strengthens us all by providing more creativity, more resources, more allies, more points of healing, more knowledge, more love, more respect and more appreciation for everyone.  Greater sharing of power amongst us all does not damage or or hurt those to whom power has been ascribed. It does not mean that those who have inadvertently benefited from privilege are bad people or should feel guilt. But ensuring that true equity and inclusion happen means understanding the roots of oppression and inequality and making them visible and obsolete.

Which brings me back to my original assertion that art is perhaps humanity’s best tool to help understand each other, create a world with power shared more equitably amongst all and insure that all receive equal protection and safety under the law. Every culture has art. Every community has artists. Every human being has both aesthetic and biological needs, wants, and desires. It is what makes us human.

Where we tend to differ is in semantics. Something as simple as how we define what mediums or forms of expression we call art or creativity can be the first step to creating a more inclusive and understanding world. Emphasizing process and inclusivity of community over product and ego can help us to realize a greater communal artistic vision that we could achieve on our own. We can also chose to utilize our artistic voice to shed light on the characteristics of White Supremacy culture that harm us all.

So for those that, like myself, who struggle with how to be an effect ally to our friends, neighbors and loved ones, here are three ways that you can help to continue to move the needle forward:

  1. Understand the privilege you have and utilize it in ways that dismantle systems of inequality and inequity. Voting, protesting, speaking to elected officials, and listening to others all fall under this category.
  2. Work to identify and eradicate the ways that you personally perpetuate White Culture Supremacy.
  3. Utilize your artwork and artistic voice as an expression of core values of equity and equality. And support organizations, institutions and other artists who maintain this core value as well.

And hopefully, then, one day, no one will need to write this blog post because the cultural constructs that harm us all will be obsolete.

Application for the Hatch Training Intensive is now open for the Fall 2016 session. For applications and more information about this training program, please check out the Hatch Training Intensive page. Deadline for application is August 15, 2016.

Hatch(ed) – Charmaine Minniefield Discusses Black Land Matters

In March, C4 Atlanta wrapped up a 6 month long pilot of our newest educational program, Hatch. This program is designed to help educate artists in the “soft” skills needed to perform art within a community context.

Recently, we at C4 Atlanta have heard of awesome new projects being created by our pilot Hatch cohort. As we are able, we would like to feature their stories of work within community.

Charmaine Minniefield is a visual artist in Atlanta who’s work centers around the African and African American ritual from a feminist perspective. She has also been an arts administrator in and around Atlanta nearly 20 years. Charmaine recently completed a mural project, in conjuction with a team of local artists, in Old Fourth Ward after the end of Hatch. Here is the story of her project, in her own words:

Photo by John Spink Sr. for the AJC
Photo by John Spink Sr. for the AJC

Painting for the Moment: Visual artist Charmaine Minniefield reflects on diversity and equity with her recent public art project in the King Historic District

I was recently granted the honor of being invited to paint a mural in the King Historic District for the Not A Crime campaign. This social justice campaign uses street art in cities around the world to bring attention to modern day Apartheid. The campaign recently made its debut here in Atlanta with the intention of making a direct connection to the Civil Rights history of the American south by inviting three Atlanta artists to create murals on a single building on Edgewood Avenue.  I was one of those artists.

 

The invitation came from fellow artist, Joe “King ATL” Dreher. Joe’s tagname speaks to his creative mission to uplift and reflect his hope for Atlanta. He sees our city through eyes of admiration and appreciation. His work, which is inspired by everyday folks walking the streets, has an element of hopefulness for our city and for our time. It was a great honor to have been invited by Joe King ATL to be a part of this project.

 

To sweeten the moment even more, Fabian Williams joined us as the third artist. Ok, see, I am a BIG fan of both Fabian’s artwork -which offers critical social commentary in the form of “contraptions” as of late- and his community work in the field to enable the artists of this city with his famous Art Battle events and other creative projects throughout the years. So, as you can see, participating with these two incredible artists, for this important cause, in the King Historic District, all meant so much to me.

 

When planning, the question of subject gave me pause. From my days as a producer with the National Black Arts Festival when we launched a Next Generation series and focused on the artist as activist; to my work with Hands On Atlanta and the King Center as the producer of King Holiday activities throughout the District for over 10 years; to more recently my own role in such social justice movements as Black Lives Matter and now the Not A Crime campaign, I knew that this was a chance to make my mark on the city as an artist activist.

 

The moment was right to counsel with my elders. I reached out and invited Civil Rights photographer, Dr. Doris Derby -an elder, mentor, and shero- to select the image. Her iconic work in the 1960s captured the importance of women in the Civil Rights Movement.  Given my own artistic focus on the power of women throughout history, the King District mural gave me the chance to realize my dream to collaborate with Dr. Derby.

 

Now the players were in place and the city was my stage.

 

I need to be clear about the state of the stage. The city had recently undergone a full overhaul of public art policies in response to the outcry of a community that felt disenfranchised by well-meaning artists and arts organizations. Our mural was in fact the first to go through the newly required rigorous process of community approval. Commissioned by the Baha’i Community Center, a longstanding faith and Civil Rights institution in the District, we were pleased that we were approved.

 

We began the work. I painted alongside Joe and Fabian for most hours of every day for a week to finish the murals. It was pretty cool as we weighed in and even painted on each other’s walls working together as collaborators. What was most amazing for me was painting in the King Historic District as an African-American artist, painting from a Civil Rights image taken by an elder and Civil Rights activist icon. I was intentional about these elements, given the recent changes in the District.

 

Once known as the hub of the African-American intelligentsia, the hotbed of the Civil Rights Movement and home to the birthplace, church, and final resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the District was now known for its party scene and amazing public art, but also predatory investors with scrupulous practices of gentrification. I was in the middle of the area’s controversial efforts of urban renewal at, what some would argue, the cost of some of the most precious elements of African-American history and identity: civil rights, business and entrepreneurship, political participation, and land ownership.

 

NOW, I can’t say by any means that I have not enjoyed a dance step or two in the O4W. I too have enjoyed Beltline springtime walks and the prospect of a thriving economic district versus a dying one. But there is something alarming about the changes that I see in our city that are   in some cases at the hands of the arts, that I could not ignore when given the opportunity to represent in the District with this mural.

 

My work, my presence, my choice of a Civil Rights image, wedged between two iconic images all within a stone’s throw from Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, commissioned by a community whose founding members built the original edifice so that folks of all races could pray together – I knew my work needed to speak to the moment.

 

So I painted an image of everyday folk in Mound Bayou, MS (an all Black town) who took matters into their own hands to ensure their education in a Jim Crow south. I hoped to invoke their bravery and wisdom. I hoped their gazes would extend beyond the wall into our changing city, onto the landscape of development, welcoming newcomers with a reminder of struggles and victories passed, warning them of the importance of inclusion, remembrance, and respect as they celebrate hope and embrace a new diversity, breaking antiquated barriers of race, class, and gender divides, much like the Civil Rights and faith leaders before.

 

You see, I took this moment to return to the King Historic District not as a producer, but as an artist activist -to stand present as an African-American woman pushing back against the wave of erasure and development by remembering our history and paying respect to our ancestors by preserving, celebrating, and reclaiming their space and their stories.

 

I am grateful to the campaign for doing the good work of making sure the content of these murals gave an opportunity for equity to Atlanta artists whose works can ignite discussion and engage the community -past and present- in which the murals reside. I am thankful that the faces of the artists resemble the community and a hope for a united future, and that each image can encourage education and enlightenment, critical discussion, and endurance for those who reside in the King Historic District and beyond at a moment when we are reminded that not only Black Lives Matter, but Black Land Matters as well.  

 

Charmaine Minniefield

@BlackAngelATL

Hatch(ed) – Lauren Pallotta

In March, C4 Atlanta wrapped up a 6 month long pilot of our newest educational program, Hatch. This program is designed to help educate artists in the “soft” skills needed to perform art within a community context.

While our C4 Atlanta team is hard at work this week mapping out the final curriculum of our Hatch program (look for application details this summer), we wanted to highlight one of the pilot program graduates who has been utilizing her skills to produce artwork in the Little Five Points Community.

Lauren Pallotta is a painter, mural artist and graphic designer who’s work in community has, until recently, been mostly confined to two dimensional artwork. Through her recent project as part of Little Five Arts Alive, Lauren was given the opportunity to not only explore work in a new community but also within a new context. Here is her story in her own words:

 

Since 2016 began, I have promised myself to better align my actions with my aspirations. The result so far – I have become more integrated with my community through art. The kaleidoscope of my creative offerings gained new complexity when I joined the Little Five Arts Alive roster. With the encouragement of Arts Alive Curator Rachel Parish, my community mural idea evolved into urban place-making, which became “spontaneous sculpture” from upcycled materials. I was asked to make things from junk, to “set the stage” per se for the performances in the plaza. I was not in my comfort zone. So of course my answer was a bold yet shaky yes.

 

I’ve spent lunch hours dumpster-diving to forage for materials. William [Massey] graciously offered me advice on materials (Nothing spongy or water-catching, check. Bailing wire, check.) My plan was to be plan-less, to show up with materials and let the community be my guide. Focus on the process! On April 15, I unloaded the trashy treasures into the plaza – old electronics, computer cords, landline telephones, plastic car seats, modular shelving, CDs, garden hoses, fire extinguisher canisters, etc. – and got out some bright paint.

Community Members in Little Five Points help construct and create the artwork conceived by Hatch participant Lauren Pallotta.
Community Members in Little Five Points help construct and create the artwork conceived by Hatch participant Lauren Pallotta.

Then we made stuff. We made stuff with teenagers from the suburbs, train kids from “that side” of the plaza, a mother and daughter on a day out, a little girl who liked pink, a human rights canvasser on her break, passersby, tourists and locals. Ava made a peace sign with a garden hose and some blinds. Fred painted flowers on an old amplifier. We teased out the creative capacities of the community with random acts of art-making. By the end of the weekend, we had jazzed up the space to mirror Little Five itself: eclectic, vibrant and a little weird.

Creative Loafing called me a “sculptor.” I laughed. I am hardly a sculptor. But I did get to build some awesome new experiences because of the social, experimental and exploratory aspect of Little Five Arts Alive. I am incredibly grateful. It has let to new friendships, new projects and new vigor to keep living the life I have imagined.

By Lauren Pallotta

You can see Lauren’s project on display now at Finley Plaza in the Little Five Points neighborhood as part of Little Five Arts Alive, running every weekend until November. Little Five Arts Alive is a community building arts project produced in partnership between Horizon Theatre Company and the Little Five Points Community Improvement District. To find our more about Little Five Arts Alive, please visit www.littlefiveartsalive.com.

Documentation, Self Care and Community Organizing – Hatch Artists’ Blogs Part 2

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!

in my work, I am fighting for the right of existence and recognition of a people who have been erased from the social landscape of our times, who’s history and images are sometimes rewritten as a falsehood in order to serve the gain of a dominant culture. My work speaks directly against that omission by creating monuments of freedom in the face of this oppression.

One artist at a conference I recently attended asked the question of how do we affect change for an issue that plagues us as well – in her case, poverty. Another artist (a bit older) answered, we are all responding through our work to the social injustices that we all face and are affected by in our own homes and communities. My work addresses the erasure of women (micro) and African-American communities (macro).

Charmaine Minniefield, in a selfie outside the Zora Neal Hurston house.
Charmaine Minniefield, in a selfie outside the Zora Neal Hurston house.

This made me think of how when I recently visit the home of Zora Neal Hurston, I realized this small community of color had survived the encroachment of public use, eminent domain and land speculators just 4 miles outside of Orlando, because of their reverence by the author/anthropologist as a public folkloric study. This community she called home is still poverty stricken as if without the turning over of its land and equity, economic gain wouldn’t be afforded them. But because Zora saw their cultural value and told their story, they remain. Her stories saved them.

This is how I see my work. I can see it saving lives, saving equity, preserving the ethics of a generation. The weight of it can be heavy. My persistence isn’t always welcomed. Self preservation and pacing is important. It can be discouraging to resist a system seemingly insurmountable.

Regarding documentation, the nature of my project is documentation – recapturing lost narratives – past and present. I’d like to explore more medium as forms of documentation (film and digital moving images, religious expression, musical lore, dance traditions, oral histories). All this intrigues and leads my collaborative interests.

by Charmaine Minniefield

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

Hatch Session #6 – Documentation, Self Care and Community Organizing

Our last Hatch session on February 10 was really something incredible. We were fortunate to welcome documentary filmmaker and Black Lives Matter activist Katina Parker to work with our Hatch artists. Katina’s unique experience working in a protest environment was an important perspective to present to our students. Working as a documentarian in community presents specific challenges, especially in a highly charged, protest environment.

Katina began the day with a explanation of the need for documenting community based work.

 

Specifically, pictures and video have the ability to capture a specific moment in time, as well as tell a distinct story. They can voice an unheard narrative that isn’t being depicted elsewhere. With the advent and proliferation of social media as a tool for documentation, our world is shrinking rapidly. Therefore, documentation can be seen and heard faster than ever before. Katina Parker

Because our world is shrinking, it is easy to delve into community work and ignore the importance of inherent biases, privileges or “tools of the colonizer” that we may inadvertently and unintentionally bring with us. In order to take the temperature of their own personal situations, Katina provided several sets of questions for the artists to use to dig deeper. Asking ourselves questions such as “Am I a part of the demographic I am documenting?” “How do I feel about police?” and “What assumptions are you making about the issues you see playing out?” aren’t just good due diligence; they are a critical part of the process of working in community.

Katina’s distinct experience is probably one of the most volatile and potentially dangerous examples of creating artwork in community that we have studied so far.

Katina Parker presenting to the Hatch, artist cohort
Hatch artists listen intently as Katina Parker presents

She has been in situations where she has been shot at and targeted, and it was important to understand that even work with the best of intentions can have very serious consequences. Self care is an important tool to not only maintain good mental health and clarity, but also your safety and humanity. Steps such as eating, taking showers, being around people who love you, and even seeking therapy when needed are necessary for being able to work adequately.

The stories we have to tell travel more quickly now than ever before. While this can be an incredible resource for spreading ideas, awareness of issues, and causes, it can also present very real and dangerous challenges for the artist documenting their work or a movement. Because cameras bring increased visibility, those wanting to detract from the visibility of what they are doing may perceive them as a threat. In protecting both your artistic assets as well as your personal safety, it is vital to be prepared for many different scenarios when documenting your work. Some of the strategies mentioned included: staying in groups, not lingering when it’s time to go, keeping your phone on you and in a secure place, and understanding that you may need to take precautions to prevent danger if you are being watched.

While Katina’s experiences were not always the comfortable, warm fuzzy feelings that one normally associates with working in community, they were a necessary reminder of the precautions, planning and self searching that must be accounted for as part of the process in order to adequately prepare ourselves. Her reminders that we must remember to “turn down so you can turn up” underscores the importance of taking care of ourselves so that we can take care of others.

Hatch Session #4 Recap – Planning + Art(ists)

Heather Alhadeff, President of Center Forward, shows our Hatch artists how desparate Atlanta is for FUN!!
Heather Alhadeff, President of Center Forward, shows our Hatch artists how desperate Atlanta is for FUN!!

Our last Hatch session provided perhaps the most insight into areas in which our artists had not previously worked, but could potentially be a great asset. We were joined by planners Heather Alhadeff and Allison Bustin of Center Forward who had a lot of great thoughts and information about how artists could be valuable in the city planning process.

Why do we even need to plan cities and public spaces in the first place? Firstly, planning provides us with a neutrally informed set of data that we can then use to make long term plans, prepared for the future and adjust for changing needs. It is, in essence, a way of thinking about the interrelatedness of different causes from a micro/macro context (how does one small decision affect the larger whole?). Communities can use and often need different types of plans when looking at overall sustainability and building quality of life within their jurisdiction. Planners often also interact with other disciplines including architects, engineers, city officials, developers, urban designers and public health officials.

Hatch artists digesting the history of city planning.
Hatch artists digesting the history of city planning.

A catalyst of city planning originated out of a need to plan cities because of public health. By planning how and where resources and housing was located, cities could hope to avoid large outbreaks of illness and plague. Through planning, we can anticipate and mitigate issues before they even arise. We can also protect private property rights as well as public expectations with a shared vision for the entire community.

There are six steps in the planning process – Visioning, Community Engagement, Assessment of Conditions, Recommendations, Client and Public Approval, and Implementation. Each step requires a collaborative effort among the planning team along with the community in order to achieve a shared vision. Proper due diligence and communication is imperative to creating a shared, sustainable vision for the community.

Artists can be a boon to planners and city developers in that their skill set helps to unite people and break down barriers. Artists can also use their skills to activate spaces that are vacant or might otherwise go unused. Heather stressed that artists can be an important part of any step in the planning process in a variety of different ways because of the creative problem solving skill set that is essential to their work. In Heather’s opinion, traditional city planning did a poor job of activating and engaging people in public spaces. This is largely as a result of trends in planning and space that led to lots of large unused public spaces and elaborate indoor environments. Because of this, we discussed several case studies where artists had been utilized during the planning process with very successful results. In particular, the creative skills that are artists have in spades are highly sought after already by the business community because of their problem-solving applicability. The economic impact of artists on the business community combined with recent cultural changes and qualities people associate with place make artists an ideal addition at any point in the planning process. Most interestingly, Heather had the artists brainstorm projects in the public realm that related to the specific skill sets they had to offer. Jessyca Holland has written a blog pertaining to this brainstorm activity. Her description of the artists’ contributions is available here.

Working with planners = working with people who think of everything! Our notes and handouts were incredibly thorough!
Working with planners = working with people who think of everything! Our notes and handouts were incredibly thorough!

Lastly, Heather and Allison gave the Hatch artists a crash course in best practices for RFPs and RFQs. We looked through all of the components that make up a good RFP/RFQ and how to derive as much information as possible from the posting. In general it seems as if the best projects generally have the most detailed RFPs, because the organization involved has a very clear idea of the project scope and what they are envisioning. The less detailed posting can sometimes indicate that the organization does not have a good grasp on what they need/want. Above all, it was emphasized that in each stage of the RFP proposal process, following all instructions and guidelines down to the letter was paramount. Typos, sloppiness in appearance, being even one minute late with your proposal, and not following directions are all very easy ways to self select yourself out of the process because of carelessness and lack of attention to details. Proposals often come from groups of people with a variety of backgrounds. Although projects may not be specifically art based, the skills of artists can still often be utilized. Therefore, artists should consider not just proposals related to the creation of a specific work but also those that deal all aspects of the public realm. Best practices for the interview process were also considered. Who presents is important as that person(s) should present clear messaging and possess sharp public speaking skills. We closed out the end of the day by thumbing through several sample proposals that were both good and bad to look at examples of the process.

C4 Atlanta would like to see artists engaged at every phase of planning in the city of Atlanta.

 

Working with (Not for, or to) Community – Hatch Artists’ Blogs – Part 3

Part of the ongoing Hatch blog series, today’s blogs are reflections by our Hatch artists on their experience from the previous weeks’ classes by Emily Hopkins from Side Street Projects in Pasadena, CA and McKenzie Wren from Clarkston Community Center in Clarkston, GA. Staff recaps of both sessions are available on our blog in the links above.

For these two classes, we ask the artists to reflect on the following thoughts:

Session #2 – Themes to consider:

  • depositing information vs. sharing information through dialogue
  • artists coming from a place of privilege
  • managing expectations through all aspects of working with community and with all of the stakeholders involved.

Session #3 – Themes and questions to consider:

  • What are the assets offer by the arts community of Atlanta?
  • What assets are available to you?
  • What are your personal assets?
  • What are the reflections that you had after the discussion about doing with the community (vs. for, or to) based on your own personal experiences?

We hope you enjoy their thoughtful responses!

Photo Nov 22, 10 16 05 AM
Danielle Deadwyler (left) with William Massey III (bottom right) participating in an activity called “What can I teach? What can I learn?”

I have always run to where the people are to connect/present/manifest my work. If not for or with the people, then what conversation or connection or relevance of the art. However, the Hatch: Expanding Definition of Community/Managing Expectations workshop query turns things on their head for my sometimes guerilla efforts in the community. My peers’ work (Angela Davis Johnson and Jessica Caldas) also forced me to reconsider my impact on the community. These peers in the programs, in a previous outside artist talk, once spoke about their wish to connect to the community in conversation. They were eager to have the casual/informal talks about their work, their intent, the feelings the work solicited for the viewer, et.al. I’m always down for dialogue. I’m down for silence too. I’m down for fleeting moments of connection, surprise engagements, raw reaction…but the origin of my inquiry, I now recognize, as wholly privileged. I’ve known long before I can remember that as a person of color and as a woman in my nation/global society I am in a place/space of being without privilege. However, my privilege as an artist lies in my ability to ponder, to make abstract, to create…I tussle with the value of that privilege alongside my lack of privilege as a black woman. What does it mean to work within the community, to create socially engaged work because you are who you are in the community, but not with the community? Isn’t the work I do always of the community? Especially when my work is a reflection of me, of where I live and reside and exist day in and day out. How can your work be reflective of colonial practices when you live there? Is it not of the community and with the community if you are an insider/observer and insider/participant all at the same time?

I know this much…my community deserves dialogue. My community deserves dialogue, if they choose.

My big question concerns the content I’m interested in ‘vibing’ with the needs of the community. My themes of sexuality and motherhood can be challenging to viewers. I’m forced to consider how to satisfy what intuitively comes up for me and how the community chooses to deal with controversial work (especially work that leans towards censorship in commercial/public spheres/media). Pedagogy of the oppressed was integral in my collegiate studies. No one is a trash receptor just taking in what a ‘master’ gives them. Rebellion happens, macro and micro. Emulating that in anyway is the antithesis of where I seek to grow. Calculating, individually and with the community, how to assuage the conversation of controversial themes in my community at large is one I haven’t discovered quite yet. My conversation spheres have been small. Expanding the dialogue is my aim. I do think with my work the outcome can come in more than one way, though. It can manifest in two or more ways that may/may not agree. It can be just my view, me and the community, just the community, and others. Inclusion is the ultimate factor moving forward though. LISTENING!

By Danielle Deadwyler

My outlook concerning the impact of my work has changed somewhat recently.South Broad Street, my current place of work and residence, is seen by most Atlanta residents as a wretched hive of crime and villainy, a forgotten wasteland that is best used for post apocalyptic movie sets, or a hurried pass through for lost tourists. This is rightfully so. At any given moment one may witness a frenzied blur of criminal activity, blatant and unafraid drug transactions, drug use,and violence. I hardly even bat an eye at a crack pipe any longer. Here, on our block, they are as ubiquitous as vaporizors on the Eastside of town. My friends and I are intruders here. We are conducting a grand experiment in creative placemaking that has been referred to by some as simply the first wave of the now typical gentrification process. As creatives and optimists, we wholeheartedly disagree. We are here to build a community we say, one that can’t be touched by the greedy hands of overzealous developers. What we can’t ignore, however, is the community that already exists and has established its own customs, friendships, routines, and hierarchies. A population of human beings, living within their own mutually defined parameters, whose hopes and Dreams are as connected and universal as our own, regardless of the legality of their actions or their stature in society. These human beings, in fact, are a valuable asset in our quest to create a new type of community.

“ It takes people. That’s what community is, people who look out for each other throughout their ups and downs. It takes a whole collective, cause you gotta realize that no one is better than anyone else.” says Patrick, a fixture in the neighborhood, he’s 46. Patrick is known to keep an eye out for things. He also has his ear to the street and enjoys sharing information. He’s friendly and outgoing. He’s willing to lend a hand, whether it’s taking the trash out, or sweeping the sidewalk. He’s the definition of a good neighbor. He also doesn’t have a home.

According to TC, another neighborhood denizen, “Everybody is out here working on something. It might not be the same things, but everyone has a little good in their hearts. What you gotta do is listen when people talk, it gives them hope, and we’re all out here looking out for each other.” There’s Victor, a regular on the street, who has become extremely involved in our burgeoning renaissance. When a recent Creative Loafing article concerning our actions in the neighborhood came to print, Victor spent hours on the street spreading the gospel to passersby. He carefully taped the article to the wall the way a proud parent posts a stellar report card on the fridge. He is now part time employed with two spaces on the block. Victor says he likes to earn his keep. The rapid progress on our space would not have been possible without him. That makes him an extremely powerful asset. Not only has his physical labor helped to propel the community forward faster, he has unknowingly acted as a sort of bridge between our group of hopeful artists and some of the more skeptical and “criminal” people on the block. Such as Rashad. Rashad deals drugs. I’m not quite sure what kind, and I’m not interested in knowing. He is a giant of a man, easily 6’5” and 300 pounds. He’s soft spoken at times, thunderous at others. When a building a few blocks down was left open and unsecured for a time, his crew sent a delegation to let me know that we should have it closed up for our own safety. He also helped me clear the building of unknown residents, while providing his own ski mask and gloves. He makes it a point to say hello, letting it be known that we are with him.

Kris Pilcher (center) with Charmaine Minniefield (left) and Shannon Willow (right) participating in an activity called "Yes, and..."
Kris Pilcher (center) with Charmaine Minniefield (left) and Shannon Willow (right) participating in an activity called “Yes, and…” Kris gets the Hatch award for best sweater ever.

While the lonesome tourist or hurried government worker’s heart may skip a beat when taking a wrong turn down our misunderstood street, my heart warms a bit knowing that I am finally back home, a part of a community, whether our morals and values are the same or not. This unexpected sort of community interaction has made me realize that the impact of my work can be much more than some sort of physical artifact of creativity. I am privileged to be in a position where I can use the idea of creating as a sort of catalyst for real quantifiable change in not only a community, but in an individual’s life. This sort of interaction has a reciprocal impact on the direction and thoughtfulness of my work. By simply inhabiting a space together, we are creating something much bigger than ourselves.

Our latest Hatch session, led by community organizer Mckenzie Wren, helped me to be able to understand in more direct terms what exactly it is that we are building in our community. We are individuals coming from a place of privilege and inserting ourselves into the fabric of a pre-established communal entity.It is our responsibility not only as artists, but as human beings to make sure that our actions embrace the assets that this community already has available, while offering our skills and ideas in return.