1st Law of Motion – Law of Inertia
Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.
There’s no stopping us now… Supremes
Weav – ING
I thought continuously changing designs and altering plans were endemic only to site-specific installation artists.
However, writers change their story lines, musicians re-write their compositions, dancers revise their choreography; the second mark on a canvas may change the trajectory of the work and a crack in the stone releases a new image.
Eighteen months ago, I proposed the Welcoming the Stranger exhibition. Based on the mandate in the Quran, the Bible, and the Torah to ‘welcome the stranger’ – the exhibit would compare the treatment of immigrants of the 1920’s in Portland, Maine with that of “New Mainers” today. There would be 3 components of the show: Abraham’s Tent, Sarah’s Generosity, Habeas Corpus.
The community would participate in a dialogue about immigration – past and present. The form of that community involvement was still to be determined*.
Twelve months passed in which I conducted research into the lives of the National Council of Women who assisted immigrants arriving in the 1920’s at the House Island Quarantine and Immigration station.
I initiated the campaign to prevent the development of House Island. The City of Portland designated House Island, the “Ellis Island of the North,” as an historic district. The remaining structures from the quarantine and immigration station would be retained. http://www.pressherald.com/2015/01/05/portland-council-grants-protection-for-historic-house-island/
Six months ago, I arrived in the city of my birth – a stranger – and was welcomed and supported and encouraged by the city of today. Creating community involvement – with organizations, religious institutions, schools, artists, individuals, and businesses – became the focus of my work for 3 months.
(Think paper placemats in school or potholders at camp.)
I loaded and unloaded the Journey Loom onto my truck, attached a banner to the tailgate, and set up weavings throughout the city.
Using donated fabric, “citizen weavers” at First Friday Art Walks, World Refugee Day, Portland High School, The Children’s Museum, Levey Day School, Anderson Street Mosque, Tandem Coffee, Running With Scissors, Peaks Island, Root Cellar, Kennedy Park, Trinity Episcopal church and others created weavings.
At each event, participants recorded ideas of how to ‘welcome a stranger.’ Their responses were posted on the welcoming the stranger art Facebook page and served as a way to continue the dialogue.
The Journey Loom weavings – created a powerful visual symbol that captured the underlying theme of weaving together a community – a city – a country – a world. They became the 4th component of the exhibit.
Journey – ING
Simultaneously, the panels for Abraham’s Tent were being woven on traditional looms using donated and hand spun yarn from around the country. Donations arrived from Ravelry.com readers. The PortFiber Thursday spinning group spun, warped, wove. http://portfiber.com
Between weaving events, planning with community groups, materials collection, and ‘commuting’ via the ferry from Peaks Island, I created the remaining components of the installation:
At Running with Scissors: artist studios and community http://www.rwsartstudios.com
My studio space was headquarters for the project, storage for the looms and materials, apron design and genealogy research lab. I used RWS woodworking tools and the biggest light table I had ever seen for creating stencils. Kate Anker, founder, was the go to person for everything art. The resident artists provided their expertise, words of encouragement – and of course, coffee.
At Gathering of Stitches: A Making Space for Fiber and Textile People
Samantha is the most flexible person I know. I popped in weekly to revise the calendar. She would calmly erase the blocked out dates and write in the next. Eventually, we didn’t even bother writing in a date. She assured me there would be a space and place when needed.
At MECA: Maine College of Art http://www.meca.edu/
Elizabeth Jabar and I appeared on a panel at the Migrations Conference sponsored by Colby College in April. http://web.colby.edu/mainemigrations/ She is the Associate Professor of Printmaking and Foundation at MECA.
Her work is socially conscious and frequently community based. http://www.Futuremothers.org. Over coffee, I admitted I was terrified to print for the following reason:
I had never done ANY print making. (OK. Potato printing with my first graders.) http://www.marthastewart.com/1004012/potato-printing-craft
Elizabeth offered her studio and her expertise. On the hottest, most humid day of the summer, we mixed ink colors, printed test strips and practiced a paper lithography transfer process using gum Arabic, reversed photocopies of the 1924 map of Portland and lots of patience.
I now know I couldn’t be a printmaker; too many variables to analyze when it doesn’t come out the way you hoped.
I have a small studio space in a boathouse called ” The Nest.” At night, I researched Hebrew and Muslim prayers, adhesives, immigration law, transport companies, photographers, inks. I wrote scripts for audio collages, listened to hours of sound effects, conducted interviews, and produced recordings.
I photocopied and photocopied; signage; labels; brochures, letters, images.
And, I continued to meet with anyone and everyone who wanted to ‘welcome the stranger.’
Within the whirling dervish of my life, the underlying theme behind Welcoming the Stranger remained constant: To tell the story of the House Island Quarantine and Immigration station, the role of the National Council of Jewish Women, create an Abraham’s tent and compare the present day treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees to their welcome in the 1920’s.
The Welcoming the Stranger exhibit requires a 10-day installation. (A day defined as 14+ hours.) Lack of funding means relying on the generous spirit and labor of friends and volunteers. Everyone would be paid in donuts, lots and lots of coffee and heart felt appreciation.
And, naturally, ‘Murphy’ would make an appearance in ways I could never have predicted.
*Welcoming the Stranger (WTS): building understanding through community based art is a forum for community and arts related organizations to explore the theme of immigration, belonging and “building bridges” of appreciation and understanding with people of all backgrounds.
To promote a sense of commonality among diverse communities;
To provide forums to discuss how the historic issues surrounding immigration are reflected in a contemporary context;
To honor the contributions that diverse groups of immigrants provide to the American experience.