Tag Archives: Education

Artist Feature: Michael Summer

Michael Summer, one of our fellow Berkeley High School alumni, is a saxophonist whose journey has taken him through Santa Cruz , Berklee College of Music in Boston, and now New York City. Highlighting the importance and strength of Reflection and Response listening, Michael stresses the centrality of using his ears in his creative process. He also brings up the beauty that can result from artists who learn the difficult task of stripping away desires to participate in creative dialogue. A recent New York transplant, he’s been working in various local musical spaces, including playing with Tiger Speak , The Love Experiment, and MoRuf. We look forward to hearing more from these bands along with Mike’s plans to record solo material later on this year!

Michael Summer

Reflection and Response really is about listening for me. It’s a hard art, and seems to be a creative tool that is being less and less stressed these days. Whether it be in music, physical or digital art, dance, poetry, or day to day conversation and interaction, truly listening and being aware of what’s out there can be a very difficult thing to do.

– Michael Summer

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?
MS: Born in Oakland, CA and spent my high school years in Berkeley. Moved on to Santa Cruz for three years where I studied physics and later got involved in music and studying the saxophone. After living in a beach paradise, scooted off to frigid Boston where I went to Berklee College of Music and did jazz studies. Moved to Harlem in November of 2013 and moved to Brooklyn 2 weeks ago. I’m finally feeling settled into this glorious madness of a city.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

MS: Reflection and Response really is about listening for me. It’s a hard art, and seems to be a creative tool that is being less and less stressed these days. Whether it be in music, physical or digital art, dance, poetry, or day to day conversation and interaction, truly listening and being aware of what’s out there can be a very difficult thing to do. The world of facebook statuses and twitter posts has made it easy to broadcast and yell out to the ethersphere with a minimum amount of dialogue and discourse at times. Honest interaction can be tough to come by. So whenever I’m playing with a group of musicians, or trying to help run a rehearsal, I really try to do my absolute best to listen for what the music needs and where everyone is falling into place in the moment that is being created. I love to make improvised music with friends and really create a conversation. If you can remove ego, the need to be self-satisfied, and put aside the hunger for validation, you can make some amazing things happen. It’s one of the hardest things to do in my opinion. And most people, myself included, are scared at times to open up in that honest way without letting your human desires get in the way of honest expression. It’s amazing to witness when it happens though, and an incredible thing to be a part of. This dude Thundercat gave one of the best performances I’ve ever witnessed about a month ago that left me on cloud nine.

One of my favorite interviews is with Bruce Lee where he discusses honest expression.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

MS: I’m in a hip hop group called Tiger Speak that I’m very excited about. We’ve been together for a bit now, and I think the concept of listening is really coming together for us. I can be a pain in the ass sometimes during rehearsals, trying to get the “mix” just right be it dynamics, fills, intonation, form, flow, or improvisation. Of course, micro-managing a piece of music or a group of musicians can be mighty dangerous artistically, so you really have to have a balance of letting people go and doing their thing and reining in the group as a whole. It’s really the collision of the technical and the artistic, the age old battle (or harmony) of the classical versus the romantic approach.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Feature: Tanya Jackson

We’re honored to present this week’s feature on East Harlem-based educator, documentary artist, and performing artist Tanya Jackson. Collaboration is hard work sometimes, but nonetheless forces everyone invested in the process to grow—Tanya discusses her experiences working with other artists on some inspiring film projects and how she herself grows and develops through each project. Watch as she builds an exhibition of how we as people can be reflections of one another as we respond to the brush strokes that paint the canvas of our lives.

Tanya Jackson

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

TJ: I’m a native New Yorker. I was born in Long Island and during the early years of my childhood, I bounced around various sections of the city. At about age 12, I moved to Hudson, New York where I finished high school. From there I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of New York at Albany – SUNY.

I lived in Philly for about 11 years and recently moved back to New York where I currently reside in East Harlem. But I spend a good amount of my free time in the artistic bed of Brooklyn.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

TJ: Reflection is a process used for recalling experiences in order to analyze and evaluate our thoughts, feelings and actions, as well as the social context that informs how we address those experiences.  Reflection is how we make sense of our lives and the world around us.  Response is replying, answering or reacting to something – and the reaction can take many forms.

Artistically, I respond through my role as an educator, media maker and performing artist.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

TJ: I recently worked with Visual and Performing Artist Frances Bradley shooting and editing the promotional video for the Womanhood or Woman’s-Hurt? project.  The project is a depiction of her experience as a victim and survivor of sexual assault.

When Frances and I first started discussing ideas, I found myself reluctant to take it on because I was dealing with a lot personally – including the loss of my father and my younger sister within a few months of each other. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and all those things made me feel defeated. But creativity has the power to revitalize.

As a documentary artist, it is always challenging to document someone’s personal life. It requires you to be present as a human being but detached as an artist so you can operate from an objective standpoint that allows you to convey their message in the best way. Even though Frances only needed basic videography services, it ended up being a pretty tough project.

The experience depicted in Womanhood or Woman’s-Hurt? is not isolated. One in six women are victims of sexual violence, and through visual art, Frances managed to capture themes that reflect the psychological and emotional trauma every victim deals with after being sexually violated. You can’t spend countless hours shooting and editing that type of footage and ignore that.

Retrospectively, learning about Frances’ experience and working to capture the message she was trying to convey challenged me to reflect and cope with my personal history of being sexualized at an early age. I was on a creative journey that no other project had ever taken me on. Womanhood or Woman’s-Hurt? is truly the Art of Healing and working on the project helped my own healing process. My contribution to Womanhood or Woman’s-Hurt is paralleled with Frances’ work – and is the response to that reflection.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

TJ: Ironically, the majority of projects I’ve worked on for the past year focused on relationship and sexual violence.

I’m co-director of an after school program where I also teach high school students documentary filmmaking around social issues. This past spring, my students chose to explore dating violence for their term project after one of their peers shared her experience of being in a violent relationship with her child’s father. After showing my students the Womanhood or Woman’s-Hurt? promotional video, the same student who shared her violent relationship experience, shared how inspired she was by Frances’ courage to give voice to her trauma, and work to heal. Frances’ story, in part, helped this student find the courage to profile her own story in the students’ film, Journey to Survival, which confirms the necessity of the Womanhood or Woman’s-Hurt? project.

Last year, I co-starred in the short film, Bottom, written by up and coming director Chinonye Chukwu.  Bottom addresses sexual trauma’s effect on intimate relationships. That film is currently in distribution and recently premiered at the Los Angeles OutFest Festival.

Promo photo from "Bottom," a story of love between girlfriends taking an unexpected turn.

Promo photo from “Bottom,” a story of love between girlfriends taking an unexpected turn.

In the beginning of July I (humbly) served as a production assistant for an episode of Lisa Ling’s Our America series, which airs on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network.  I say humbly because I haven’t been a production assistant in a couple of moons and I certainly didn’t see myself chiefly responsible for getting coffee and loading camera equipment at this age. But the experience and networking opportunities were well worth it!

I am currently working to finish the documentary for Womanhood or Woman’s-Hurt?. And I will also be working with Ms. Chukwu on her next short narrative, A Long Walk, a story that takes place in Philadelphia during the 1980s, and explores the effects of staying silent after witnessing injustice.

Who or what inspires you?

TJ: I find inspiration in lots of places.  Throughout the course of my life, the Black experience in the world, the struggle—how people fight against various forms of oppression in this world has always moved and churned my spirit.  As a youth I danced, wrote poems and made speeches about the Black experience. Ms. Debbie Allen was a huge inspiration to me in my youth because of her ability to channel different forms of artistic talent as a means of expression.

Learning inspires me! I earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in media studies, with a specialization in media literacy education (MLE).  As a student I was always excited about investigating all kinds of interests, especially when it came to studying how people consume media. The best practices of MLE rest in the awareness that inquiry and co-creating knowledge in an educational setting cultivates learning that requires constant reflection and encourages intentional, conscious response.

The energy of NYC inspires me.  I am inspired by my students and the communities where I work. I find the perspective, courage and vulnerability of other artists inspiring. Beautiful imagery in still and moving images cause me to soar. Direct engagement with all sorts of art is inspiring to me. I especially like being pleasantly surprised by art and nature when I’m walking about in the world.  I tend to get lost in my head a lot when walking and when art or nature unexpectedly jumps out at me, I’m immediately reminded that beauty can be just as real as it can be imagined.  Of course, a well made documentary film or video can inspire creative ideas.  Lastly, and most importantly, I find inspiration in myself when I am centered and in tune with my own creativity—true inspiration comes from the inside out.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

TJ: Art is a universal language and the life-size art of Womanhood or Woman’s-Hurt? tells a story that the majority of women in our lives are experiencing. People are becoming more visually oriented and conversations about sexual violence, it’s impact on victims and the healing process, needs to reflect that trend.

Only four out of 12 pieces of Womanhood or Woman’s-Hurt? are finished and we’re raising $25,000 to complete the project and we need all the support we can get. Every dollar counts so please contribute to this project.

I’m just beginning momentum for my company, Life Happens Media Works.  The Reflection and Response theme of LIFESTYLE resonates with the direction I plan to develop future work; taking part in this interview has been very helpful in developing these concepts. Thank you for your time and interest in my story.

I also want the Collective to know that our gifts matter! Our existence matters, even when we don’t feel like it does. We must continue to reflect and respond through our work and just Being the unique expressions of Love that we are; we are messengers!

Shout out to…?

TJ: All my homies! The driving force and PR department of the Womanhood or Woman’s Hurt Project, Frances Bradley and LaToya English; Frances Bradley again for her courage, power and artistry, she definitely inspires me in multiple ways.  Thanks to the Educational Video Center where I currently teach documentary filmmaking. EVC has been such a great place to merge my skill sets in education and media making. As I enhance my artistic skills, I can’t ask for a better day-job set up. Thanks to filmmaker, Chinonye Chukwu for being my artistic angel. She has lovingly included me on really amazing projects in ways that challenge and honor my gifts. She has provided a significant amount of loving support and encouraged me to continue being a true artist! Shout outs to all artists! Shout outs to my family and friends who ground me, save me and love me through thick and thin, Shout out to the city and people of Philadelphia for helping me mature and cultivate my work ethic. Thanks to New York City for its energy, urban beauty, diversity of people, and its art and experiences. Thanks to the Universe for everything!

Check out more of Tanya’s work below:

Breathing Easy: Environmental Hazards in Public Housing (Trailer)

Tanya currently serves as co-director of Educational Video Center’s Youth Documentary Workshop. Breathing Easy: Environmental Hazards in Public Housing, is one of the student-made films in her workshop. Breathing Easy was produced by high school students who participated in EVC’s fall 2012 Youth Documentary Workshop. Students focus their attention and cameras on the harmful impact that lead poisoning, mold, and pests and pesticides in low-income housing has on the health and wellbeing of their communities. They investigate how these pollutants affect their fellow student’s Harlem apartment, and show how the information and advocacy provided by WE ACT for Environmental Justice and other health experts give hope to a family in need.

Alaskaland (Trailer)

One of Tanya’s artistic roles is as a script supervisor for film productions. In 2011, She served as the script supervisor for the feature length film, Alaskaland, shot on location in Fairbanks, Alaska. “Alaskaland tells the story of Chukwuma, an Alaska-raised Nigerian struggling to balance his cultural heritage with the pressures of the larger world around him.  After a family tragedy forces a two-year estrangement from his younger sister Chidinma, the siblings reconnect in their hometown. Although their time apart has created new frictions, they find their reconciliation bringing them closer to each other and to their roots in this gorgeous, knowing debut film.

Reflection and Response.

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Original Mondays: Hip Hop English With Peter

This project started as a collaboration between the bad-ass teacher I work with in second grade English and Science, Ricardo , and the textbook we were using at the time. The unit the kids were doing was on animal habitats and we decided it would be dope to write a song and have me record it to rap later with the kids to see how they would respond. Ricardo wrote the first version of lyrics that would become my first track, “Habitats.”

The version I brought to class turned out to be too fast so I went home and slowed it down. Then we were on a roll. As summer is approaching, I thought it would cool to record a full album of tracks so my students can listen to something different in English in July and August. Thus, “Hip Hop English With Peter,” was born. For a week and a half, I’ve been recording and rerecording tracks based on units from textbooks we work with at school as well as consulting English teachers on common mistakes.

The album contains a range of levels and goals for learning and comprehension. The first 4 tracks were written specifically for second grade, “Work” for third grade, and the last 3 tracks are aimed at practicing 5th and 6th grade common mistakes.

I am also nearly finished with a preschool edition of Hip Hop English, and am working with a preschool teacher who is helping me make songs more enjoyable for younger language learners.

I look forward to working further on this project. This is only the beginning, Below are the lyrics from the first Hip Hop English With Peter for Elementary School English Learners:

 

Habitats

I am oviparous

I lay eggs

I am a toucan

Fly with friends

I live in a habitat

Rainforest

Weather is warm

Rain is pouring

Wet rainforest, dry desert

Cold polar region

Forest trees birds and bees

All the animals singing

I am viviparous

I don’t lay eggs

I am a camel

With friends

I live in a habitat

Yes, the desert

Night is cold

Day is hot weather

Wet rainforest, dry desert

Cold polar region

Forest trees birds and bees

All the animals singing

I am oviparous

I lay eggs

I am a penguin

with friends

I live in a habitat

The polar region

The weather is cold

No chameleons

Wet rainforest, dry desert

Cold polar region

Forest trees birds and bees

All the animals singing

Wet rainforest, dry desert

Cold polar region

Forest trees birds and bees

All the animals singing

Towns and Cities

Towns and cities

Cities and towns

Cities are bigger more noise and sounds

Towns are smaller buildings are lower

And the streets those are shorter

We can do many things

Go shopping then go out in the evening

And some are by the sea

Others by in the mountains it’s so pretty

Towns and cities have a mayor

With counselors at town hall they work there

organize services for all

Festivals, like the winter ball

Towns and cities

Cities and towns

Cities are bigger more noise and sounds

Towns are smaller buildings are lower

And the streets those are shorter

So What’s in the city?

Some public transport

Underground and the bus

Get my toys at department store

Watch a movie at the cinema

In the town smaller buildings

My house is next to a square

Medicine at the chemist

There is a school, my friends are there

Forces

Push your table

Pull your hair

Forces move objects from here to there

Drop a pencil don’t be scared

Gravity a force in the air

Push and pull forces move objects in different ways

A big object means a big force

They can even change shape

Blow a balloon- it changes shape

Push a rock- it doesn’t change

Squeeze a sponge it changes shape

Forces happen everyday

How does a force make an object move?

A force is invisible but we can see what they do?

Start moving kick a ball

Stop moving block that ball

Move faster go on the swing

Change direction move slower please

Seasons and Months

Autumn September, October,

Wear a jacket it is colder

Back to school to learn new things

My new T shirt is cool to me

It’s Winter it’s cold outside

Please put on your jacket don’t cry

Put on a coat and wear some trousers

Make a snowman for an hour

It’s Spring March April May

Take off your coat put on a shirt is great

It is windy sometimes it rains

Sometimes it’s a sunny day

It’s Summer June July August

Put on shorts outside it’s hottest

Put on your suncap and shorts

Put on sunscreen open the door!

Means of Transport

Train, bus, helicopter, and car

Means of transport, yes they are

Underground, ships, and planes,

Carry passengers goods, and freight

Boats. Motorbikes, and lorries,

Move people and things fast and slowly,

Roads have one lane going each way

Motorways have more lanes

Vroom vrrom goes the car

Choo choo I am a train

Ummm I am a boat

Now wings fly like a plane

Vroom vrrom goes the car

Choo choo I am a train

Ummm I am a boat

Now wings fly like a plane

Train, bus, helicopter, and car

Means of transport, yes they are

Underground, ships, and planes,

Carry passengers goods, and freight

Boats. Motorbikes, and lorries,

Move people and things fast and slowly,

Roads have one lane going each way

Motorways have more lanes

Trains stop at stations

Plans land at airports

Buses taxis underground

Public transportation

Ships stop at ports

Taxis and cars road vehicles

Cars, bicycles, bikes

Private transportation

Train, bus, helicopter, and car

Means of transport, yes they are

Underground, ships, and planes,

Carry passengers goods, and freight

Boats. Motorbikes, and lorries,

Move people and things fast and slowly,

Roads have one lane going each way

Motorways have more lanes

Work

We work we do activities

We get money from the work we do

For example people work on trousers

And work to sell them to me and you

Some jobs use resources from nature

Mining, fishing, farmers with a cow

Some jobs make products

in the industries of furniture, textile, automotive, wow!

We work we do activities

We get money from the work we do

For example people work on trousers

And work to sell them to me and you

Some jobs provide services like

a doctor that helps patients

Some work in retail

As shop owners or shop assistants

We work we do activities

We get money from the work we do

For example people work on trousers

And work to sell them to me and you

 

Present Perfect

I haven’t ever been to London

But I’m planning on going later on this summer

I have lived in Spain for all my life

I go to school everyday see my friends at night

This is the story of my daily routine

I use the simple present with regular things

Use the present perfect to talk about facts

That are still happening but started in the past

Everyday wake up and have breakfast

Get to school at 9 for a science lesson

After that I have maths then the playground

snack is an apple tastes great wow!

Then more class, lengua and math

When the bell rings I meet my friends to relax

Next to the park I finish my homework

After is dinner san jacobos are so good!

I clear the table after the meal

then we watch a movie that’s our family’s deal

next I brush my teeth and I go to bed

And tomorrow the routine starts over again

I haven’t ever been to London

But I’m planning on going later on this summer

I have lived in Spain for all my life

I go to school everyday see my friends at night

This is the story of my daily routine

I use the simple present with regular things

Use the present perfect to talk about facts

That are still happening but started in the past

What is the present perfect?

Actions in the past that are still current

Like “Hi my name is Peter, the class assistant

I’ve worked at school since 2011 teaching English

Or I have just made a cake.

Why is that current?

Well… I still have a piece and if you are hungry

And I would just love to serve it

I haven’t ever been to London

But I’m planning on going later on this summer

I have lived in Spain for all my life

I go to school everyday see my friends at night

This is the story of my daily routine

I use the simple present with regular things

Use the present perfect to talk about facts

That are still happening but started in the past

The Right Way to Ask

I forgot my homework in the other class

May I go and get it is the right way to ask

May I come in? not “I can pass?”

May I go to the restroom, not I can.

If you are late ask “may I come in.”

We shouldn’t disrupt the other students

If I need a pencil ask “may I borrow one,”

and remember to bring one tomorrow son

After school I ask “may I play.”

Depends on what myp arents say

After dinner I ask “may I watch TV?”

Only if you finish studying.

I forgot my homework in the other class

May I go and get it is the right way to ask

May I come in? not “I can pass?”

May I go to the restroom, not I can.

At the breakfast table I need the butter

I say “Would you pass me the butter, mother.”

With a smile she says “here you go honey,”

I tell her thank you, the pancakes are lovely

My friend Alex from school fell down

I asked “would you like some help right now?”

I went and got a teacher, she said it was fine

she put on a band-aid Alex gave me 5

I forgot my homework in the other class

May I go and get it is the right way to ask

May I come in? not “I can pass?”

May I go to the restroom, not I can.

Once A Week

I listen to music, he watches TV

She looks at a picture. What does she see?

It is a man sitting at a table

Having lunch using a fork to eat

On a Saturday in September

Talking with my friend Vanessa

She told me hello, I said “what’s up?”

Just took an exam, man it was tough

Once a week at 5 P.M.

I go to Maria’s house with all my friends

All day I can’t wait to go

Will it be fun? Yes, I think so

I am good at speaking English

I am bad at dancing tango

But I’m better than my teacher Peter

Man, he dances like a flamingo

I have a brother, I am ten years old

Do we have homework? I hope so.

I wrote it down in my agenda

and I’ll do it, ‘cus I always remember.

Once a week at 5 P.M.

I go to Maria’s house with all my friends

All day I can’t wait to go

Will it be fun? Yes, I think so

Reflection and Response.

-P

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Feature: Hannah Connor and Flor Macías Delgado

The LIFESTYLE Feature series expands. Tonight we add two new voices to the ongoing conversation. Hannah Connor and  Flor Macías Delgado are two creators and agents of change that come to us from Madrid by way of Washington DC, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Maine, Bologna, and Amsterdam. These two minds engage with the interview on a personal level and bring us their unique perspectives on Reflection and Response and experiences directing the Madrid theatre group “The Auxiliares” for their performances of Eve Ensler’s award winning play, The Vagina Monologues opening on March 11th.

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

HC: I tell people I’m from Washington, DC. I moved there when I was 10 years old and I feel like the city has defined a huge part of who I am. Free museums, beautiful cherry blossom trees, AND Barack Obama, who couldn’t love it?! But I was actually born in a small town in Maine and grew up in a farm house that was 200 years old. My dad wanted to have goats, but instead he had three daughters…

Right now I’m living in Madrid, Spain on a Fulbright grant. By day I teach at a bilingual high school in the outskirts on Madrid and by night I explore the millions of things to do around Madrid, cook exotic foods and play board games.

FMD: It’s a complicated question, really; and never coming to terms with answering that question is what has guided my interests in life. I am originally from Los Angeles, CA but I moved to Mexico City when I was five years old and lived there for ten years. I spent the last three years of high school in Los Angeles, then moved to Philadelphia for college. Besides that, I have lived in Bologna, Italy; Amsterdam; and most recently Madrid, where I’ll be until next summer. After that, who knows. I have yet to figure out my next move! There is so much of the world left to see!

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

HC: Before I go to sleep at night, I often lie in bed and think about three positive or happy things that happened that day. Sometimes they are little things like someone saying hello as they pass me on the street or bigger events, such as, finally finishing a project that I was working on. I think that reflections (whether daily, weekly, or whenever it feels right) is an incredibly important part of being in touch with yourself and the world around you. They are a way of looking back and asking yourself “Am I doing what I want to do with my life? Am I spending my time that way I want it to be spent?”

Reflections are how we notice what is happening in the world. And response is what we do in reaction to those reflections. Our responses are the actions we take to work towards ending injustice and improving the lives of ourselves and those around us.

FMD:I think any art is a reaction, whether it is to a social cause, or your mere inspiration, art is always a response. I want to direct, write and produce pieces that make you reflect about society, and incite an immediate response from the audience. I think that pieces that leave the audience in a happy state of “Aw, that was nice” are a waste of time. I want people to have a definite reaction to my art: be it anger, shock, or even disgust. I want to bring to light issues that are not usually talked about in theater pieces. I am all for the responses.

How does The Vagina Monologues fit in with that definition?

HC: The Vagina Monologues (TVM) and the entire V-day movement is a response to violence toward women. TVM is a play based on interviews with women that raises awareness about issues related to women. The monologues cover a range of emotions and many topics, focusing on women’s sexuality and the stigma surrounding rape and sexual assault. Discussing these issues, especially through a theatrical work, is a powerful way of creating a conversation about these very important topics.

FMD: The Vagina Monologues is all about inciting the audience to reflect on women’s issues and has brief episodes of audience participation. It’s not a play you watch and then go out and live your life the same way. It challenges you to do something to stop violence towards women. At some productions, people are asked to stand if they–or someone they know–has ever been a victim of sexual violence. I am always shocked to see how many women stand up. The first time I was ever involved in TVM I couldn’t believe how many of them were people I knew personally. It really did change me. It made me see that TVM wasn’t just a play, it was part of a movement, and it did more than just entertain people for an hour and a half.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

HC: In college I studied urban studies, and as a city lover, I’ve been spending my time in Madrid learning about the history and confluence of cultures in the city. Over the next half year, while I’m still living here, I’m excited to continue these explorations.

At the end of the school year I’m planning on moving back to the States and next year I’ll hopefully be teaching in a public school in a city back home. Our urban education system in the United States needs a lot of work and I’m looking forward to becoming part of the movement to fix it. 

FMD: Artistically, I have been quite dormant. I have been working on grad school applications, specifically to Migration and Ethnic Studies programs around Europe. I am interested in working with immigrant teens, and using art and theatre as means for social change. I currently work at two high schools in Madrid and plan cultural activities that challenge the students to look at their culture from a different standpoint. I want them to talk about racism, gay rights, discrimination, abortion, and what those issues mean to them as Spanish teens. I try to keep busy learning French, and getting involved with animal rights activism.

Who or what inspires you? 

HC: More than anything I’m inspired by people who find unique ways to follow their passions and impact the world in a positive way.  Besides these people who make my life interesting and eventful, I’m inspired by the little things that keep me smiling every day: watching the sunrise over the Reina Sofia on my way to work, seeing the masses of people constantly walking on the streets of Madrid, or drinking tea at one of my favorite cafes.

FMD: I am constantly looking for inspiration and find it in the simplest ways. My students inspire me. Working with teenagers is what I want to do in life, and their passion for living is refreshing. They see the world in a different way, they believe they can achieve anything they set out for, and I think that as we get older we lose part of that. We become more realistic and forget the passion we had when younger. I see inspiration in simple acts of kindness. I want to create art that inspires people to do something about the society they live in. I want to inspire change in some way. Lately, I have been obsessed with “What Would You Do?” clips, so I would also have to say that John Quiñones is the man.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

HC: Come see the Vagina Monologues!! If you are in Madrid, our show is going to be baller. And if you are somewhere else in the world, find a show near you!

And just as importantly: Stay informed on the issues. One in three women on this planet will be impacted by violence in her lifetime. That is an alarmingly high number. The first step in changing those statistics is being aware of the facts. Change comes from within and every person on this planet can do their part in ending violence against women.

FMD: We are really proud of our cast and crew, and cannot wait until we put up our bilingual production in Madrid. Also, we are always looking for help, so if you are in Madrid and want to get involved, let us know at vdaymadrid2013@gmail.com

Shout out to…?

HC: All the “Bobs” of the world! One of the Monologues in TVM,Because He Liked to Look at It, is about a woman who learns to love vaginas after she is with a guy named Bob. Bob loves vaginas and understands how they are magical, beautiful, powerful, and oh so very important (we all came from a vagina!). We need more men like him in the world!

FMD: Eve Ensler, the author of TVM; and all artists, and activists who work hard to make the world a better place. My very own “Bob” and my mom, hi mom!

-Reflection and Response.

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Feature: Michele Jules

This week’s Reflection and Response featured artist is Brooklyn-based writer, educator, academic, and social entrepreneur Michele Jules. With a focus on youth empowerment, Michele utilizes dialogue grounded in historical truths to build toward the future. We’re excited to have her voice participate in the ongoing global conversation on Reflection and Response. Check out her interview and an excerpt from her writing below!

Reflection: Is being able to take in and respect all aspects of art, word and music…

– Michele Jules

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

MJ: Originally from California, Westside! My dad was a Marine… but was raised in Brooklyn, NY. Both, my parents families are live in Brooklyn. Im a New Yorker at Heart!!

I’ve grown here, failed and succeeded here. I still reside in Brooklyn, but I believe my time here in this city is ending, its time to start another chapter in a new setting, set a new foundation. My family will always be here, New York City is my home.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

MJ: Reflection: Is being able to take in and respect all aspects of art, word and music seeing life through others’ eyes. If you can’t relate, you can in some way understand the emotion or point the person is trying to project.

Whether you agree or not, and how it makes you feel and think, your overall reaction is Response.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

MJ: I’m writing my first book, Yay!! I’m all about empowerment of youth, focusing my attention right now on young black women of all ages from their teens to late 20’s and maybe even older.

I see the world through a bigger picture, I’m not the only one on this planet, and I’m at point in my life where I’ve realized, I have to leave something behind and help in projecting better reflections, for the black youth in this world.

And I need help, so I’m sending out a global S.O.S. to black youth, women and men, all over the world. Its a basic interpretation of “If you don’t know where you came from, you’ll never know where your going”, aspect.
I love working with young kids they have so much energy and love for life and laughter. Its important to let them be themselves but be disciplined in teaching them realities of life, their world and the importance of education overall, starting with who they are and where they come from, with no holds barred honesty. That’s the first start to success and the best love story, which starts with yourself.
Young black children have got to see not just their world, but the whole world as a playground. There’s just so many morsels of beauty and genius to take in on this planet.
I’m in total love of this world, my history and I’m also aware of how small we all are compared to the universe, (Let alone the planet Venus), I think that keeps me grounded along with my brutally honest family and friends.
Keeping all this in perspective, I try my best to write realistically and honestly, no sense in sugar coating whats real.

What have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

MJ: Working on a business with a great partner, catering to fitness and pursuing my M.A. in adolescent psychology. Staying focused with writing, which is so hard when there are so many other distractions.

My next project would be focused on young black men, they are harder targets to reach, but i’m gonna give it a shot, with help of-course!

Who or what inspires you all?

MJ: Faith, inspires me, I have a real relationship with God, we have deep conversations. I also, have a great support system filled with family and friends that keep me on track when I lose focus.

Writing, watching children learn, and empowering confidence in youth, by educating them on their history. I feel I’m doing a devotion to my ancestors by educating young children and families.
And of course to me “life” is so great, If I wake up I’m a happy person, I don’t need much to be happy, it’s the little things that count. If it can be fixed, fix it!.. Life is hard..get a Helmet! 🙂

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

MJI have a dire, deep love for animals, they are they only living creatures on this earth who do exactly, what they were put here to do.❤❤

I am big on Education, it’s power, it’s key and it’s the only thing the government can’t take from you.

Shout out to…

MJ: President Obama and Michelle, I Love you Guys! You show us the true meaning of hope, determination and family…

My family and friends and anyone who have helped in anyway to get me where I am today… You’re Awesome! Hug A Tree, peace! God is Love!

The LIFESTYLE for giving an aspiring writer this opportunity…. You’re Awesome too!

Do You Know Your “Real” History? I Know and Love Mine!

Hello World! 

I’m a proud black woman with a passion for the betterment of my fellow black people, especially our children. I love all people, the world is full of beautiful people, but I hear a cry for help within our communities and in black youth and I’m destined to answer that call or at least reach a few cries before they become silent. I hope you enjoy the topics and please comment as your comments are what keep me aware and connected. 

Sincerely,
An 80’s baby doing her part to help…. 🙂

So… I have come to realize so many black people, no matter what background have no idea about thier history and how great it is. And as some of you may not understand how this comes to bother me so much, I say in my defense that it sets a person back when they have no knowledge of where they come from. The struggles of our people were the highlights of our education, while the unbelievable accomplishments and contributions we have made in history were seldom or irrelevant. I come to understand this from working with black children of all ages, now I single out black children only because I relate to them personally. Our futures are merely a reflection of our pasts and so many young children have a dreadful reflection to look at, but that does not determine who they will be if surrounded by the right influences. “It takes a village to raise a child” parents can do what they can, but sometimes it takes someone else to see the value in that child and encourage achievement.
Community is almost completely lost, hard times are getting harder and uniting seems out of the question! Get your hands dirty, learn about yourself , your history and what qualities you bring to the table. Improvise on them! I was once told if you can do something good then perfect it! Your twenties allow you to get to know yourself and the world around you, as young children our parents guide us the best way they know how, in adulthood is where you truly find your own balance and knowledge for your life ahead.Be proud of who you are and especially of where you come from, if you have children teach them this, dont leave it to the television or other young children to knowledge your child. Get involved! I know that it can be challenging to be a parent but with all brutal honesty, you made the choice or was given the blessing to have a child… Now lets get to work!
We must encourage our youth to love themselves, educate themselves and represent themselves!

Peace and love

Jules

Reflection and Response.

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Events from the Collective

October 2012

  • Tuesday, October 9 @ 9:30pm: Megan Branch (Theater, Actor)
    • CLEAN by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Christie Clark
    • Location: The New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., New York, NY 10014
    • FREE
  • Wednesday, October 10 @ 7:00pm: Megan Branch (Theater, Actor)
    • CLEAN by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Christie Clark
    • Location: The New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., New York, NY 10014
    • FREE
  • Thursday, October 11 @ 9:30pm: Megan Branch (Theater, Actor)
    • CLEAN by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Christie Clark
    • Location: The New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., New York, NY 10014
    • FREE
  • Thursday, October 11 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia (Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE
  • Friday, October 12 @ 7:00pm: Megan Branch (Theater, Actor)
    • CLEAN by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Christie Clark
    • Location: The New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., New York, NY 10014
    • FREE
  • Monday, October 15 @ 6pm-9pm: MAP4College: Journey to a Brighter Future (Fundraiser/Benefit, Art Auction)
    • From MAP4College: “The Map4College team proudly presents our first annual benefit featuring several art pieces from up and coming artists as well as some veterans. There will be a silent and traditional auction.”
    • MAP4College is a mentorship program that aims to provide personalized, college-oriented support for high school students from low income families. All proceeds from the art auction and food/drink at the restaurant will go towards supporting our students’ college application fees and relevant programming throughout the school year.
    • Location: Gonzalez y Gonzalez, 192 Mercer St., New York, NY 10012
  • Thursday, October 18 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia (Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE
  • Thursday, October 25 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia (Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE

November 2012

  • Thursday, November 1 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia (Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE
  • Thursday, November 8 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia (Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE
  • Thursday, November 15 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia (Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE
  • Thursday, November 22 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia (Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE
  • Thursday, November 29 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia (Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE

Reflection and Response.

Events from the Collective is a calendar of upcoming events from the LIFESTYLE collective’s international community. Events can be submitted at anytime to the.lifestyle.rr@gmail.com or @LIFESTYLE_RR and will be added to the calendar as they roll in.

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Events from the Collective

October 2012

  • Thursday, October 4 @ 7:00pm: Megan Branch (Theater, Actor)
    • CLEAN by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Christie Clark
    • Location: The New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., New York, NY 10014
    • FREE
  • Thursday, October 4 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia(Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE
  • Friday, October 5 @ 9:30pm: Megan Branch (Theater, Actor)
    • CLEAN by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Christie Clark
    • Location: The New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., New York, NY 10014
    • FREE
  • Saturday, October 6 @ 7:00pm: Megan Branch (Theater, Actor)
    • CLEAN by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Christie Clark
    • Location: The New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., New York, NY 10014
    • FREE
  • Tuesday, October 9 @ 9:30pm: Megan Branch (Theater, Actor)
    • CLEAN by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Christie Clark
    • Location: The New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., New York, NY 10014
    • FREE
  • Wednesday, October 10 @ 7:00pm: Megan Branch (Theater, Actor)
    • CLEAN by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Christie Clark
    • Location: The New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., New York, NY 10014
    • FREE
  • Thursday, October 11 @ 9:30pm: Megan Branch (Theater, Actor)
    • CLEAN by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Christie Clark
    • Location: The New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., New York, NY 10014
    • FREE
  • Thursday, October 11 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia (Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE
  • Friday, October 12 @ 7:00pm: Megan Branch (Theater, Actor)
    • CLEAN by Edwin Sanchez, directed by Christie Clark
    • Location: The New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., New York, NY 10014
    • FREE
  • Monday, October 15 @ 6pm-9pm: MAP4College: Journey to a Brighter Future (Fundraiser/Benefit, Art Auction)
    • From MAP4College: “The Map4College team proudly presents our first annual benefit featuring several art pieces from up and coming artists as well as some veterans. There will be a silent and traditional auction.”
    • MAP4College is a mentorship program that aims to provide personalized, college-oriented support for high school students from low income families. All proceeds from the art auction and food/drink at the restaurant will go towards supporting our students’ college application fees and relevant programming throughout the school year.
    • Location: Gonzalez y Gonzalez, 192 Mercer St., New York, NY 10012
  • Thursday, October 18 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia (Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE
  • Thursday, October 25 @ Midnight: Peter Muller, Vivian Garcia (Open Mic Music)
    • Location: Triskel Tavern, Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 3, 28004 Madrid, Spain
    • FREE

Reflection and Response.

Events from the Collective is a calendar of upcoming events from the LIFESTYLE collective’s international community. Events can be submitted at anytime to the.lifestyle.rr@gmail.com or @LIFESTYLE_RR and will be added to the calendar as they roll in.

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Feature: Casey Wong

This week we’re PROUD to present our next Reflection and Response Feature artist – Casey Wong. A student of the world, beatmaker, wordsmith, martial artist, and educator, Casey powerfully and creatively challenges social injustices through his various forms of craft, expression, and action. A genuine and inspiring person to all those around him, Casey guides us through an insightful Reflection and Response interview, followed by a presentation of his music..

While you can expose your own reflections, only you can know the whole story, feel me? Only you know the true colors, the font, the images, the ideas in their wholeness.

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

CW: Home has always been where my family’s at, so since my parents passed away, home has been elusive.  I grew up in San Bernardino and Colton, but since no one I know really lives out there anymore, they really aren’t places that feel like home or places I go back to now.  I have an older brother who lives in San Diego and a younger sister who lives in the Bay Area, and I feel the most at home when I’m with them.  Berkeley and Oakland have a special place in my heart because I spent so many years out there living, going to school, and working, so I definitely got to shout out Oakland and Berkeley when I acknowledge where I’m from.  Another area where I feel at home is this little California beach town outside Los Angeles called Playa del Rey.  It was rare, but every once in a while our Mom used to take us to see her adopted Mother (we used to call her “Aunt Garth” because she didn’t like Grandma) and it was always a good time.  We reconnected with her in recent years and it’s always great going to visit.  So most of the time when people ask me where I’m from, due to all the above, I just say “California.” Right now I’m living in Brooklyn, NY, and it’s great, fa sho! I got to know some special people out here, but I’m def ready to head back to California!

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

CW: Reflection is kind of a heavy word… the first thing that comes to my mind is the legendary project Reflection Eternal by Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek.  They do an incredible job elucidating that word, “reflection.”  That track “Memories Live,” you feel me?

But on the philosophical tip… I believe that reflection should pre-empt any serious action that you take.  A serious move for the most part requires premeditated contemplation in order to be effective.  Reflection is a manifestation of your dreams, desires, worries, and critical thinking, amongst the other processes reeling through your head.  Reflection is also very personal.  While you can expose your own reflections, only you can know the whole story, feel me?  Only you know the true colors, the font, the images, the ideas in their wholeness. What we tell others is really just an outline of the entirety of our reflection, a piece of the whole project which came to unfold during our very personal meditation on self, our placement and relationship to others and ideas in the world.  There are some masters who have managed to craft their reflections into the physical world in some remarkable ways.  Right now I think of James Baldwin, Nelson Mandela, Nas, Chimamanda Adichie, Bruce Lee, Nina Simone, Emory Douglas, I could go on . . .

While some would attach response to reflection, I don’t think every response is a result of reflection, but that doesn’t invalidate such a response or the meaning that such a response can have.  Take for instance a race riot.  A race riot is usually a spontaneous response to a dehumanizing action related to race made up of accumulated anger and frustration, without reflection.  However, that race riot can serve as a powerful response, though destructive, which hopefully can inspire reflection to change the unjust circumstances which caused that race riot.  When a response is tied to a reflection, the response often takes on a character which is more complete and cohesive, although that is not always the case.  It should not be a surprise that a response to a reflection often comes out in the form of art or a project which pays more serious attention to the details and different dimensions, however that response is articulated . . .

How do your beats “Sound of the Beast,” “Thug Life,” “Meant to Love You Baby 2.0,” and “Feel That Music (Trust In Me Remix)” fit in with that definition?

CW: The beats I’m posting here are responses to my own reflections upon injustice, music, reflection itself, and of course love. “Sound of the Beast” is a brief interlude expressing my own response to my reflections on the New Jim Crow, the police state, the use of force, both physical and symbolic, against particularly people of color and poor people. In the track I pay homage and respond to a piece that all you heads should recognize by KRS-One. “Thug Life” is a piece I made while working at a local middle school in Oakland, CA.  I worked with an MC there, and a lot of that beat is inspired by our conversations.  More specifically, the beat is my response to my reflection on a brief excerpt by 2pac which appears at the beginning of the track. “Meant to Love you Baby 2.0” is on the love tip.  The track is on and about a relationship, about the words, the feelings, and the passion. “Feel That Music (Trust In Me Remix)” is a quick and dirty, reflective conversation I had with a track by Slakah the Beatchild (I don’t even think I could call it a remix).  I was feeling the beat, which I barely altered, and I just infused some familiar voices that captured the story going on in my head when I heard the track. Enjoy!

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

CW: In the beatmaking game, I recently expanded my collection of tools, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these new tools help me to evolve as an artist.  I am hoping to acquire more high quality recording equipment to allow me to expand into the realm of producer.  Also working on up-ing my DJ skills to inform my craft!

Who or what inspires you?

CW: I am inspired by the passionate change-makers of the world.  I am inspired by those self-aware dedicated men and women who see social inequality and make it a point to confront it in collaborative, creative, honest, and powerful ways.  Probably the most notable inspirations in my life right now are Dr. Pedro Noguera, Martha Diaz, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Bruce Lee.  My Mom of course continues to be an inspiration to me in the way she dedicated her life to confronting injustice, something which she worked hard to instill in me from a young age, and my Dad for the compassion he lived by, day by day, until the day he passed away. As an artist, Nas definitely has been a big inspiration in moving me to understand the world with a critical eye.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

CW: The secret not so secret moniker I go by is Phakamani (pronounced pa-ga-ma-nee).  It’s an isiZulu name I acquired while studying isiZulu at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzberg), South Africa from my Professors there, BabuTsangase and Mam’Nonhlanhla.  The name was created during Apartheid, and the closest translation to English is “Everyone stand up.” That’s me.

While beatmaking is a form of expression I’m very passionate about, I also live my life as a martial artist.  Recently in seeking to progress my self-cultivation as a martial artist I have been studying Wing Chun for the past year with Sifu Henry Moy.  The Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee continues to be a guide in my learning to honestly express myself as a martial artist.

Also I can’t end this interview without expressing my passion for teaching children (and for making their education more meaningful, fun, safe, and equitable), especially through the arts, particularly music.  The youth are the truth!

Shout out to…?

CW: I have to give a shout out to my sister who is another passionate educator in the family, utilizing dance, the arts, and her amazing linguistic talents to grow the youth! Shout out to my humble brother constructing the future as an engineer, always keeping your eye out for how you can help others!  Shout out to Ms. Mercy Agyepong, constantly checking me, and inspiring me with the wisdom you hold, and for your remarkable ways of distilling knowledge with a raw perspicacious flavor that the world needs to keep in touch with, can’t wait to call you Dr. Agyepong! Of course shout out to my boy Vicken, living life by the truth, you’re a beast for continuing to strive to open the world through your empathy and love of the arts.  Shout out to Emmanuel for inspiring youth through the love and that film thing.  Shout out to Martha Diaz for your faith and passion for equity and justice, helping to develop me and open the door of opportunity for me anytime and whenever you can, I could go on!

Reflection and Response.

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Feature: Ellie Cross

the LIFESTYLE is a place for a global dialogue on creativity, Reflection, and Response associated with the arts. This week we are proud to feature Ellie Cross, whose commitment to community arts has led her to opportunities to interact with people around the world. She currently is part of a team that is starting an International School in Mumbai, India where she will become an art teacher after the school opens its doors in August. Check the dialogue below and view some recent work Ellie has been a part of in Mumbai!

That’s why I love community art projects and arts education, because it challenges the myth of the artist as some talented genius-loner making things that regular people can only appreciate.

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

EC: I’m from Seattle, but I’m living in Mumbai, India at the moment. My day job is helping start up a new International School, where I’ll be teaching art once we open up in August. This has fed my brain as I’ve explored the educational landscape here, plus supported and grounded me as I feed my insatiable inner appetite for community art projects.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

EC: Reflection means your brain thoughtfully digesting things, and according to the dictionary, it also means “the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it.” I believe the most powerful art does both of these. It shines some truth straight into your face by revealing something that’s been in front of you, previously unexamined. I think that’s what James Baldwin meant when he said: “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.”

As for response, I think art is response. The way I see it, humans are like little dust bunnies that roll around collecting tiny sparkles of dust, aka inspiration. Sometimes a dust-sparkle punches you in the stomach and you lose your breath with the truth of it. Sometimes it just gets filed away unceremoniously into your fold of pre-accumulated dust and it doesn’t germinate until much later. Sometimes it swirls around the tip of your tongue until something else catalyzes it, and art is born! We might create the art as individuals but it’s always the product of much more than that. Which is helpful to remember as an artist, because it takes the weight off of you a bit. 

How do your current artistic endeavors fit in with that definition?


EC: That’s why I love community art projects and arts education, because it challenges the myth of the artist as some talented genius-loner making things that regular people can only appreciate. I do think some artists deserve disproportionate acknowledgement for putting in the 10,000 hours and challenging some incredible ideas into beautiful music/dance/visual arts, etc. I’m just more interested in awakening/nourishing creativity in kids and people that aren’t being celebrated as artists. I also love using art to change spaces, which I see as reflecting back a different reality. Especially in the murals we’ve been doing in Children’s Home, which was previously a jail and no changes have been made to make it feel like a home for kids. Even though painting the walls seems like a relatively superficial solution to a challenging situation, I think that spending the time and investing the thoughtful creative energy into those walls fundamentally alters the space. Especially when the kids have painted it themselves.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

EC: I’ve been taking a bunch of art classes in the traditional Indian arts. One of my favorites is Madhubani Painting, which is a tribal art form in which anything living gets a double outline. The outside line is the body, and the inside one is the soul. My friend and I wrote a Children’s Book about a kid’s tumultuous relationship with a bean plant, which is based on real life. We’re trying to get it published, so if anyone’s interested I do hope they holler. Also, I’m super excited to do a series of murals called “Blanks” in which certain sections are painted in chalkboard paint, so that passer-by’s can participate in the mural by contributing their chalk art.

Who or what inspires you?

EC: Abdul Sattar Edhi, this 84 year-old Pakistani that has only driven an ambulance in his life because he’s dedicated to helping people. Also, a Ghanaian man named Professor Smiles who believed in art the way religious fanatics believe in God. Caine’s Arcade and all the people that flashmobbed it. Great art blogs, like http://www.thisiscolossal.com/ and kids’ fearless faith that magic is pretty real. And definitely the Christian the Lion video when the lion hugs his long-lost human friends. I always cry with delight at that one.

Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?

EC: When I tell people I’m either an artist or an art teacher, they quickly respond by telling me they “can’t draw.” I don’t know when being an artist got smooshed into the tiny box of fine motor skills and training associated with drawing, but I’m continually saddened by the fear many people face in the pursuit of artistic endeavors. I also think it’s important that visual arts get added to that often cited proverb from Zimbabwe, “If you can talk, you can sing.  If you can walk, you can dance.”  And if you can make any mark on any surface you can draw. Maybe you can’t draw the way you want to or the way you think the world wants you to. However, when you try and draw a horse and it looks unlike any horse anyone’s ever seen before–you’ve got to respect that horse. Because no one else living or dead could have made it. That doesn’t mean you have to like the horse, and you can definitely try again to make one you like more, but please stop hating on your horse and yourself. You’re not a camera and you’re not a photocopier. We have those now. You’re way more interesting than that.

Shout out to…?

EC: All the friendships, particularly the Art or Choke Collective and my amazing India collaborators that have helped make all the public art possible. The absurdly great family, the steady sweetheart, the internet, revolutionaries, manatees, and all the people doing the good work daily to cultivate love, justice, and magic.

Children’s Home mural project (Mumbai, India)

Check out Ellie’s blog for more information on the Children’s Home mural project and more photos documenting the process!

Also check out Ellie’s website to learn about powerful community arts projects she has facilitated in Ghana, Thailand, Malaysia, Tibet, Cambodia, United States, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala!

Reflection and Response.

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