Bonner Update!

For Bonner we are allowed to post on a blog hollaaaaaaaaaaaar!
That means that a. I am saving paper via not printing out a three page write up and b. I can enhance my viewer’s experience by adding photos! I don’t have many, but the few I add will make this much more enjoyable, I promise.
So a few weekends ago I attended the conference “Convergence: The Intersection of Arts and Activism” at Tufts University. I was excited because it was unique chance to meet other artists who are interested in building community and making change through their work. It was also a chance to meet successful (gasp!), independent artist who were making a life doing what they love. I woke up bright and early Friday morning, hopped on a plane, and am now proudly proclaiming that I experienced a great amount of success in navigating my way around the grand ol’ city of Boston. I got from the airport to the campus, from the campus to the apartment at which I was staying, to and from the campus many times after that, and back to the airport on Sunday with time to spare. So before you get all worried thinking “Oh man. Did Sarah even make it back? We all know of her tendencies to get lost everywhere she goes…” no worries, mon petit pal, for I am back safe and sound.

When I got to Boston it was pouring down rain and so I trudged the 30 minute hike from the Davis Square Station to the academic building of choice on Turfs’ campus. Our first session explored “Performace as Protest.” We were joined by:

Abe Ryback—Artistic Director of The Theater Offensive, a Boston-based theater company whose mission is “to form and present the diverse realities of queer lives in art so bold it breaks through personal isolation and political orthodoxy to help build an honest, progressive community.”

Milan Kouhot—Performance artist who sought to bring human rights to his native Czechoslovakia before he was expelled in 1986 due to his political art activism.

Olivia Greer—Associate Director of Culture Project, an organization that “brings the national political conversation to life on the New York stage.”

Lenelle Moise—a Poet, Playwright, and Performance Artist who “creates jazz-infused, hip-hop bred, politicized performances and plays about Haitian-America identity.”

So many different topics were explored. The arguments and discussions and disagreements made the complexity of art and activism so evident—using your body as a form of art; connecting your art, something beautiful and honest, to a group of people that is so broken and so ugly that we often would rather ignore it; the idea of artistic prostitution where making a living with your art comes into conflict with making a lifestyle of your art; and the idea of loving humanity enough to fight for its survival (as stated, in some form or another, by Che Guavera).

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “this is so dramatic.” But the fact is that dramatic is one thing it is not, and honest is one thing that it is. Abe shared with us some stories from his childhood, getting treated so cruelly by his peers because of his sexuality. He sees this behavior now by grown adults to grown adults, grown adults to children, children to children. One of the services his theater group provides is going to a local park—one notorious for homosexual meetings, interactions, and sexual behavior by many with AIDS—and handing out free condoms to promote safe sex. Observers criticize and mock his efforts. He is doing what he can to connect to this population, to serve them, but somehow this population does not deserve our service? They are a group that has been mistreated by many and like I said, we would rather ignore it than fact something that is so broken.
My favorite part of the conference was a session called “Creating a Life: Making It as a Young Artist/Changemaker/Educator” that featured a panel of six artists seeking to change the communities around them through their work.

David Schlafman, an illustrator and animator, is currently partnered with PBS and is creating a healthy cooking (and eating, fo course) show for kids. The show focuses on teaching kids safe practices in the kitchen, helping them learn what is good for their bodies, and showing them how fun it can be to cook!

Nelson DaCosta is a painter working in Boston. His work is a reflection of his experience as a child, living in war-torn Angola. He witnessed horrible things—the murders of people he loved—and was hospitalized after being shot at age 12. When he was in the hospital, he got some art supplies, and from then on he has realized how wonderful art is, that he can tell his story using paint.

Nate Dubbs is a glass artist, and one of the managers at Goggleworks Center for the Arts in Pennsylvania. This center is a public center aiming to foster creativity and education within the community.

Nick Rodrigues is a sculptor and performance artist and some of his projects are so funny! He has an entire series on “human interactions.” One that is so funny is the Portaparty—a reflection of Nick seeing all these people walking around, cut off from the people around them because they have little earbuds in their ears, listening to their iPods. http://www.nickrodrigues.com/

Naomi Cohen was another panelist, and her work is so incredible—she is an art therapist at an all-girls school in Brooklyn, NY.

So many of the artists have taken it upon themselves to make a difference in their communities—through connecting to certain populations by making people more aware of the issues around them, telling their stories, providing resources, and just fostering a more inclusive and exciting atmosphere. It’s just so cool. It’s also ALWAYS incredible for me to see people who have made both a lifestyle and a living out of their artwork. It is my goal: to do something I truly love, something that involves art. That is why I felt so encouraged by Naomi’s stories—it is such a gift to use your love for art to help others have a voice. I feel that I have had only one experience where I felt that my art was really serving someone else, and it was a project a did last year:

It helped me think about my experience in Ecuador and how I was treated as a woman and the struggles that Ecuadorian women face everyday. I felt especially connected to the children there, and this work was just a step in my process to understand how my presence there affected me and affected the children with whom I worked.

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