Sanctuary

Sanctuary

A place of refuge or safety

A nature preserve

A sacred place

The innermost recess or holiest part of a temple or church

I am once again on Peaks Island.

It is a place where I wake to the caws of crows as they trail after the trash truck.

It is a place where bird sightings – snowy owls, guillemot, night herons, downy woodpeckers –are shared via the Nextdoor listserv https://peaksisland.nextdoor.com/news_feed/.

It is a place where the eider ducks are busy protecting their babies from the newly arrived eagles. The adults form fortresses with their bodies as they shepherd their babies to and fro. https://youtu.be/2rlHaF4vq1g

It is a place when in 1946, the Davies sisters bequeathed their property to the “preservation and development of the wild beauty of the estate and the attraction, propagation and preservation of song birds.”

Sanctuary – A place of refuge or safety.

I am staying in what was formerly called the Lemon Cottage. Scheduled for demolition in 2001, my landlords – avid architectural preservationists – purchased, dismantled, relocated and rebuilt the circa 1860 style cottage – minus its kitchen and bathroom. Due to the fact they had not numbered the boards, there were a few leftover pieces post reconstruction. The cottage now serves as a woodshop, boathouse, and my “nest.”

 

Surrounded by trees, the Nest is ‘feathered’ with side-of-the-road furniture. In exchange for the use of the Nest, I open their cottage at the beginning of the summer. There is a 2-page list of “to do’s” – posted on Leonard (the refrigerator) including but not limited to:

Outside:

Turn on the water (requires crawling under a building,) arrange for electric (flip circuits), remove tarps, charge the car battery and test brakes, remove shutters, rake leaves—take leaves to the compost bins at the community garden.

Inside:

Spray for ants, vacuum up bodies; look for rodent evidence (don’t vacuum up their bodies), unpack EVERYTHING stored in plastic bags, discard dryer sheets used to deter rodents (sometimes effective.)

As I unwrap their art, I recognize works created by many of the island artists. My hosts support of all forms of art – paintings, ceramics, clothing – even my community-based work Welcoming the Stranger.

This year, I am adding sculpture to their collection. In 1998 I built labyrinths throughout Maryland. https://thestonepath.wordpress.com/2013/02/

Since then, three 8’ ceramic reliefs – Demeter, Persephone, and Hecate – have been waiting for a permanent home. They have found it at the Nest.

 

Here I can focus on being a naturalist, an artist, a writer. (And a cottage concierge.)

Here I can give myself permission to not worry.

Here I rest until I am renewed.

Here I am supported by friends.

It is a sanctuary built on kindness.

 

Sanctuary: A nature preserve

I have a bucket list. I no longer wish to visit creations produced by humans but want to experience creations that existed before humans. Each adventure requires travel and specific timing:

  • Witness the monarch migration in California;
  • Experience the aurora borealis in Iceland (with a few active volcanoes and hot springs thrown in); and
  • Kayak with humpback whales in Tongo.

There are two ‘families’ of butterflies. Those east of the Rockies migrate to Mexico; those west of the Rockies stay in California and occupy towns along the Monterey coast from October to February. http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/monarch-migration.html

For my February birthday, my sister and I ‘migrated’ to the Monarch Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, California. Since the 1930’s, Pacific Grove has been Butterfly Town USA.

http://www.cityofpacificgrove.org/visiting/monarch-butterfly-sanctuary

It is easier to locate a coffee shop in Pacific Grove than to witness monarchs flying. For butterflies to fly, it must be sunny, 60 degrees or above and NOT raining. 2017 has been the wettest winter in 122 years along the Monterey peninsula (and elsewhere in California.)

According to the docent, sightings were down dramatically. No one is exactly sure why. The butterfly is now a ‘climate refugee.’

There are 5 stages from egg to adult monarch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocWgSgMGxOc

Milkweed is critical to the process. It is the only plant on which monarch butterflies will lay their eggs and is the primary food source for monarch caterpillars.

The plant decreased 21 percent in the United States between 1995 and 2013. Scientists, conservationists, and butterfly enthusiasts are encouraging people to grow milkweed in their own yards and gardens – to create Monarch Waystations – pesticide free zones – sanctuaries.

The community gardens at both the Pipe Creek Meeting house in Maryland and on Peaks Island are home to pollinator plants and native milkweed. (And we compost.)

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140819-monarch-butterfly-milkweed-environment-ecology-science/

 

Sanctuary: A place of refuge or safety.

Linda Rabben in her book: Give Refuge to the Stranger traces the history of sanctuary since ancient times. She believes altruism – in primates and other animals – is at its foundation. The historical roots of the movement derive from the right of sanctuary in medieval law and Jewish and Christian social teachings.

“ ….Human beings may have given refuge to strangers for 100,000 years or more. So many societies around the world practice or have practiced it that it can be considered a human universal, a characteristic of our species as a whole.”

The Sanctuary Movement was a religious and political campaign that began in the early 1980s to provide safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. The movement was a response to federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult for Central Americans.

At its peak, Sanctuary involved over 500 congregations in the United States which, by declaring themselves official “sanctuaries,” committed to providing shelter, protection, material goods and often legal advice to Central American refugees. Various denominations were involved.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanctuary_movement

Several prominent Sanctuary figures were arrested and put on trial in the mid 1980s, including its two “founders”: Rev. John Fife – Southside Presbyterian Church and Jim Corbett – a Quaker.

Busted by Federal Agents, a Tucson Pastor Keeps the Sanctuary Light Aflame for Fleeing Salvadorans – Vol. 23 No. 12

Today, Reverend Fife continues the work of welcoming strangers to Tucson.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwHOACm3Yaw

 

Sanctuary: A sacred place

 The word sanctuary comes from the Latin word for sacred place.

 Tucson is located about 100 miles from the border with Mexico. It is surrounded by the Santa Catalina, Rincon, and Santa Rita mountain ranges.

It is a city that welcomes strangers.

 

I met Mary Koopman on the Peaks Island ferry. On our ride to Portland, we had a conversation about death and dying. She is a nurse specializing in hospice care. We have kept in touch over the years as our lives evolved. She moved to Tucson, was ordained as a Buddhist priest and established the Sky Island Zen sangha. She volunteers with a refugee resettlement program. (On my first day visiting her, we transported donated furniture to a newly arrived refugee family.)

She believes Tucson may be a place to install Abraham’s Tent and pursue another exhibition of Welcoming the Stranger. https://www.facebook.com/welcomingthestrangerart

Once again, I research possible venues, make appointments and follow leads. I travel to Tucson.

I attend the Handweavers and Spinners Guild annual meeting. More than 200 weavers and spinners were there. A member invited me to speak to her college class about community-based art.

I visit the Warehouse Arts Management Organization Gallery – housed in a 4000 sq ft historic warehouse in downtown Tucson. It has been a catalyst in the renaissance of the downtown arts district. It could house the exhibit and provide space for additional events.I meet with gallery curators and advocacy organization directors including The Jewish Historical Museum of Tucson, Jewish Community Center, YWCA.

 

 

 

 

All make time to talk with me.

All are underfunded.

 

Sanctuary: the innermost recess or holiest part of a temple or church From Latin sanctuarium, from sanctus ‘holy.’

My last day in Tucson, I attended the Religious Society of Friends meeting. http://pima.quaker.org

Quakers sit in silence and listen for that still, small voice within for guidance. It was a warm spring day. The windows were open. The curtains fluttered in the breeze.

The hour passed in complete silence.

At the potluck lunch, I spoke about Welcoming the Stranger and my ‘call’ to create the work. I provided hand outs on the history of the project, what was needed to mount the show and how unclear I was about whether to exhibit in Tucson.

Someone suggested a book in the meeting’s library: Callings – Finding and Following an Authentic Life 1998 by Gregg Levoy.

http://www.gregglevoy.com/callings/index.html

As I flipped through the pages – a phrase caught my eye:

Saying No to a Calling.

In 2015, Welcoming the Stranger was exhibited at the Maine Jewish Museum and examined the history of immigration in Maine and immigration today.

In 2016, Guilford College, a Quaker school and home of Every Campus A Refuge, sponsored its installation in the City of Greensboro, NC – an official sanctuary city.

To exhibit Welcoming the Stranger in Tucson, I would have to proceed without secured financial support or a sponsor.

A clearness committee is a group of Friends (Quakers) appointed to help a member of the meeting find clarity around a leading. A clearness committee’s job is to help the person discover whether there is clarity to move forward with a matter, wait, or take other action.

https://www.fgcquaker.org/resources/clearness-committees-what-they-are-and-what-they-do

As I write this blog entry, the United States government is considering legislation to cut federal funding to all cities that declare themselves ‘sanctuary cities. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/02/us/sanctuary-cities.html action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

 

How did medieval societies decide to pursue the rule of law rather than allow mob rule?

How did the members of the Sanctuary Movement decide that their spiritual beliefs superceded the law of the land?

How does a city and its people decide to remain a sanctuary city rather than receive federal funds?

How does an artist choose between following a calling or letting it go?

 

I continue to listen for the still, small voice within.

 

Welcoming the Stranger is a 501 3c organization. If you would like to make a donation, make check payable to the Welcoming the Stranger Fund and send to:

Community Foundation of Carroll County

355 Clifton Blvd # 313

Westminster MD 21157

Or donate directly with Pay Pal:

http://www.carrollcommunityfoundation.org/funds.asp?fund_id=252

 

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Next?

Every year since 1987, Super Bowl MVP winners are asked in a commercial:

What are you going to do next?

They always respond with great exuberance:Disney

I’m going to Disney World.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_going_to_Disney_World!

At the closing of the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit – a 2-year community-based art project – everyone asked me:

What are you going to do next?

I replied:

Recover.

Recover

  • return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength
  • recuperate, get better, convalesce, regain one’s strength, get stronger, get back on one’s feet 

In October, the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit closed.

http://www.pressherald.com/2015/09/04/exhibition-at-maine-jewish-museum-examines-portland-immigration-then-and-now/

In November, my Mom died. **

In December, I returned to Maryland. firehousesnow

In January, ‘snowzilla’ led to a decision to paint the firehouse walls.01 snow

In February, I fell.

Scaffolding

I fell 12’ from scaffolding.

I broke my ankle.

Foot

 

In’ valid

  • Latin in (not) + validus (strong) = weak
  • Suffering from disease or disability

 

 

I live in one of the least accessible places you can imagine. There are 17 steps from my front door to my living space. There are 3 more steps to the kitchen; 7 more to the bedroom in the loft. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1272771?preview

I would be bed-ridden with my leg elevated above my heart for 6 weeks. I would spend most of my time establishing my own version of the intricate systems I had created for my Mom when she broke her hip.

I used a computer chair with wheels to transfer in and out of bed. I set up an “ accessible” kitchen. I borrowed a mini fridge into which multiple Tupperware containers appeared daily. (The empties eventually made their way back to their original owners.)Tupperware

I devised a job chart (remember I was a 1st grade teacher) listing a variety of tasks – laundry, transport, library, dishes, boredom reduction. Friends signed up for a shift. I will be forever grateful for their continuous support.

I would eventually go to Physical Therapy twice a week for several months.

I slept – a lot.

I watched Netflix – a lot.

I celebrated my birthday – not so much.

I did not make art.

Inva’lid

  • Being without foundation or force in fact, truth or force

There is a legacy of making art while bed ridden.

http://www.huckmagazine.com/art-and-culture/art-2/artists-bed/

Renior continued to paint while suffering from rheumatoid arthritis so crippling that his son applied the paint to the brush and placed it in Renoir’s hand. http://www.openculture.com/2012/07/astonishing_film_of_arthritic_impressionist_painter_pierre-auguste_renoir_1915.html

Kahlo in bedFrida Kahlo spent 9 months in bed after an accident in which her bus collided with a trolley car. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. During her confinement, she created a series of works referencing her accident and recovery. Kahlo art

Henri Matisse turned to cut outs when a chronic illness made painting too difficult. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/carving-into-color-matisses-stunning-cut-outs/

foto_cutoutThe cut out was not a renunciation of painting and sculpture: he called it “painting with scissors.” Matisse said, “Only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated.” Moreover, experimentation with cut-outs offered Matisse innumerable opportunities to fashion a new, aesthetically pleasing environment: http://www.henri-matisse.net/cut_outs.html

When a young Henri Matisse asked Renoir why he kept painting [ in chronic pain], Renoir is said to have replied, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”

Learn

My hat

If you are not making art,  are you still an artist?

I had spent the greater part of 2 years creating the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit. And now, I was spending most of the day staring at the walls, re-arranging my pillows and planning for the next action I would take – retrieving an object, transferring to the chair, brushing my teeth. I allowed myself 2 hours a day to be depressed.

I do not make art.

I learn.

I learn how long a bone takes to heal.

I learn how to depend on friends.

I learn how to be humble.

I learn how to be patient.

I learn how to be grateful.

I learn that chicken soup is not just a Jewish thing.

Recover

  • find or regain possession of (something stolen or lost).
  • retrieve, regain (possession of), get back, recoup, reclaim, repossess, redeem, recuperate, find (again), track down 

My art career started with the death of my Dad. In his last few months of life, he encouraged us to live our dreams – – and not wait. He had hoped to spend his retirement painting. He died at age 61.

My return to Maine and Peaks Island was to sculpt a granite memorial on the 20th anniversary of his death and to film a documentary of the process. https://vimeo.com/29998120

My mother visited my exhibit just before she died. She wove on the Journey Loom, wrote comments on the chalkboard, viewed the aprons and Abraham’s  tent. As a result of many falls and several broken bones, she was confined to a walker. Our visit to the Maine Jewish Museum two years before had led to the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit.

The CDC reports that falls are the leading cause of accidental deaths and 43% of those are from ladders. After my friends elicit a promise that I will never climb scaffolding again, they then ask:

What are you going to do next?

Just to recover physically will not be enough. I need to reclaim my life – my artist life. I need to learn to walk again on the stone path. I am not sure about what that will require, but I know one thing for sure:

I know, I’m not going to Disney World!

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” Pablo Picasso

 

**Caroline Borofski Israelson

Community activist and long time Munjoy Hill resident.

In the 1960’s when the East End Beach was closed due to pollution, Munjoy Hill (PTA) mothers marched on City Hall demanding a swimming pool be provided for their children. Leading the march was Caroline Israelson.

Caroline Israelson passed away, November 22, 2015. She was born on March 20, 1929 the daughter of Joseph Borofski and Elizabeth (Levinsky) Borofski.

An ardent Democrat, her first foray into the world of politics and community activism was when she wrote to President Roosevelt requesting a photo with his signature. In support of the war effort, she joined others of her generation and collected scrap metal for recycling.

Caroline bequeathed a ‘Legacy of Values’ to her children. She lived by two principles:

Tikkun Olam – a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or ‘mend the world.’

and

The Golden Rule to treat others fairly and respectfully no matter race, religion, sexual orientation (or during the 1960’s, length of hair.)

A lifetime resident of Munjoy Hill, she adhered to an ‘open door’ policy at her Moody St. home. Anyone in need of food, shelter, coffee, conversation or counseling was welcomed at her table – day or night – whether the dishes were done or the floors washed or the laundry put away.

Throughout her life, she continued to serve the community. As an organizer and advocate – politically and socially – she sought to improve the lives of those less fortunate. She was one of the first members of the Portland Chapter of the NAACP and attended the annual Martin Luther King Day breakfasts.

She was also a member of the Anti- Defamation League, Hadassah, B’Nai Brith, National Council of Jewish Women, Etz Chaim and Bet Ha’am Synagogues.

Caroline volunteered at St. Paul’s Soup kitchen and served on the board of Serenity House. She worked with young children as a volunteer for Head Start and as a mentor at the Juvenile Youth Detention Center.

As a Notary Pubic, Justice of the Peace, Caroline performed many marriages in her Moody St. living room.

At the People Regional Opportunity Program (PROP) she worked to keep youth safe by improving recreation opportunities, advocated for affordable safe housing, and food access.

She never lived more than a mile from the corner of Moody and Munjoy Streets. After her move to Bayview Apartments, she remained political – participating in resident meetings, registering voters and monitoring at polling stations. Although her bid for a seat on the City Council ( ‘Go with Experience” ) was unsuccessful, her mentorship and endorsement was sought by first timers seeking elected office.

A tireless campaigner, she supported efforts to elect the first African American President. She had hoped to witness the election of a woman President and reminds everyone to vote in 2016.

Until her health declined in recent years, Caroline (wearing one of her colorful bandanas) was a familiar figure to East End residents . Her daily walk along the Eastern Promenade culminated in a cup of coffee – regular, cream, 2 sugars and donut – at the Hilltop Café. On her return loop, there were brief stops to pet a cat or two along the way. She continued her neighborhood forays even using a walker.

She became a die hard Red Sox fan while attending Red Sox games at Fenway when dating her husband, Leon. They saw Ted Williams play.

Caroline was sure if she were the manager, she could make them win the World Series and finally got her wish in 2003 with the arrival of Pedro, Manny and Pappi.

Known for her sense of humor as well as her sense of adventure – including a solo trip to Australia at the age of 60 – she took bus trips throughout New England with Anne Jordan and other friends….

She never stopped learning and growing. She was an early adopter of yoga and reflexology and practitioner of (TM) meditation. As a Member of Codependents Anonymous, Caroline believed in the healing power of counseling. She was often asked by neighbors to include prayers for a job or health during her Shabbat candle lighting ritual.

Caroline made her home wherever she lived. In declining health, she accepted her move to Southridge Assisted Living in Biddeford with both grace and grumbling. There she became a beloved member of that community – staff and residents alike.

She treated everyone with respect and valued her friends as much as family. Caroline cherished her life-long friend Margaret Carter that she met in kindergarten.

She was one of the first participants in a study of the use of Lithium for Bi-polar disorder. Founding member of the Polar Bears –that offered support to many individuals suffering from bi-polar disorder and depression.

Pre-deceased by her husband Leon of almost 40 years and her sister Sylvia Glantz, she will be missed by her family and friends especially the Margaret and Robert Carter Family.

Family: Jo Israelson, Union Bridge Maryland, Katherine Scott of Palo Alto California, Lynne Israelson Mason and husband David of Newburyport Mass, Michael Israelson and his wife Norma of Westbrook, Maine. Her grand children, Christine Henry, New York City, Emily and Elizabeth Scott of Palo Alto CA, Rachael Israelson and Michael Israelson of Westbrook and her nephews and nieces Joseph Glantz of Bridgton, Faith Glantz and Sasha Morelli of Portland.

Service to be held Tuesday November 24 at Congregation Bet Ha’am, 81 Westbrook St. South Portland, Maine 10:30 am followed by interment Temple Beth El cemetery, Portland 04103.

Temple Beth El Memorial Park

Following the interment, A Celebration of Caroline’s Life and luncheon will be held at Bet Ha’am beginning at approximately 12:30 p.m. All are welcome. Please bring a canned food item to be donated to local food banks in her name.

Tuesday evening from 6 pm – 8 pm, friends are encouraged to come with stories and stay for coffee at Becky’s Diner, Commercial St. Just say you are a “Friend of Caroline’s “.

In honor of Caroline’s unique fashion sense, the wearing of bandanas and/or Red Sox regalia is encouraged.

In lieu of flowers and cards, donations can be made to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention www.afsp.org , Portland Chapter of the NAACP or the charity of your choice.

 

-ING Part 3 (a)

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.

IMG_2573Anyone and everyone can weave – over and under, under and over.

(Think paper placemats in school or potholders at camp.)IMG_2523

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.
2 girls

IMG_2872At 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.

IMG_2662

 

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.IMG_2659
IMG_2879

 

 

 

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.IMG_2225 The PortFiber Thursday spinning group spun, warped, wove.  http://portfiber.com IMG_2292

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

IMG_2788

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

http://agatheringofstitches.com

Samantha Hoyt Lindgren created a maker space for fiber and textile artists. You can rent a full time studio, attend classes and workshops, or arrange for time on the various machines.IMG_2801

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.IMG_2778

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.IMG_2776

I now know I couldn’t be a printmaker; too many variables to analyze when it doesn’t come out the way you hoped.

 

 

At the “The Nest:” Peaks IslandIMG_0402

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.’

Install-ING

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.IMG_2930

And, naturally, ‘Murphy’ would make an appearance in ways I could never have predicted.

 

http://www.murphys-laws.com/murphy/murphy-true.html

 

*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. 

 Goals include:

 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.

 

 

 

 

 

-ING Part 2

Newton’s Second Law: Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object).

Travel – INGIMG_1967

This is the itinerary from March through October. This is not an exhaustive list and does not include all the #weavethetent events. I would say, however, it is an “exhaust-ING list.”

From the Firehouse Studio in Maryland to Colby College in Waterville, Maine (intermittent stop to eat some hot out of the oven bread prepared by Cheryl Hobart – a weaver and owner of Nomad Breads) http://www.nhmagazine.com/January-2015/The-International-Breads-of-Nomad-Bakery/ )

IMG_1897From Waterville to Portland, Maine (intermittent stop – Biddeford to see Mom – coffee at Elements)

From Portland to Peaks Island and back for 5 months on the ferry (DAILY stop for coffee at the Peaks Cafe) IMG_2401

From Peaks Island back to Waterville (intermittent stop – Maine Sheep and Wool Festival  http://www.fiberfrolic.com/  ( Coffee at Dunkin Donuts http://www.dunkindonuts.com/)

From Peaks Island to Union Bridge, Maryland (intermittent stop – Northfield Conference http://northfieldconference.org)  Not sure where I will find coffee…

From Union Bridge to Kennebunkport for a Kayak Self Rescue refresher class at Coastal Maine Kayak  http://www.coastalmainekayak.com  (Usually drink tea there due to being near frozen after the class.)

Kennebunkport to Peaks Island in time for July 4th!!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQUq9p7pgkc

Keeping a community-based art project that involves many people and many events moving forward requires lots of energy and of course, lots of coffee.

Consum – ING

Global consumption of caffeine has been estimated at 120,000 tons per year, making it the world’s most popular psychoactive substance. (This amounts to one serving of a caffeinated beverage for every person every day. YIKES)

‘The first coffeehouses established in Oxford, England were known as penny universities. The coffeehouses would charge a penny admission, which would include access to newspapers and conversation. In a society that placed such a high importance on class and economic status, the coffeehouses were unique because the patrons were people from all levels of society. ” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffeehouse

Following the Boston Tea Party, Congress passed a resolution against tea consumption and coffee became part of the economic development of the country. Some historians believe that the introduction of coffee contributed to the overall advancement of Western society – since caffeine is a stimulant vs the consumption of alcohol – a depressant. https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/p/pendergrast-grounds.html

It seems that most of my discussions and meetings about Welcoming the Stranger (not to mention caffeine consumption) have taken place in coffee shops. It seems appropriate since the journey that coffee beans take to the U.S. often mirrors the countries represented by many of the new immigrants arriving in Maine including El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, Honduras, Guatamala, Colombia, Brazil , Ethiopia , Zimbabwe, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda Sumatra, Sulawesi, Papua New Guinea, Timor, Java.

Like the early ‘penny universities’, my coffee shop conversations were educational – political – and critical to creating my artwork. (Tho’ no longer costing a penny for a cup.) Over a cup of coffee, I discussed with Alain Nahimana the issues confronting the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition. http://www.aclumaine.org/meet-alain-nahimana.

Our conversation was the first of many in which I became more educated about the ongoing needs of New Mainers and the politics of changing minds and hearts of Old Mainers. http://www.ilapmaine.org/advocacy.html.

I learned about how the arrival of Somali refugees (some from villages in which she had worked in 1987-8) transformed the cities of Lewiston and Auburn when I met with Catherine Besteman, Colby College Professor of Anthropology.

In a meeting held at Arabica, http://www.arabicacoffeeportland.com/ Jen Hutchins and Jess Lauren Lipton, Creative Portland invited me to hold the first Weave the Tent event as part of their series: “Integrating New Mainers into the Art Community.” https://www.facebook.com/LiveWorkPortland

IMG_1912The event took place on First Friday at the Portland Public Library where I learned of ethnic-based places of worship in Portland from a Serbian security guard who learned to weave from his grandmother.

Art in a Cup

My mom is a coffee connoisseur (or maybe she just likes the ambience – conversation and news.)

Before moving to her assisted living facility, she walked from her apartment to Hilltop where she poured a ½ cup of ‘regular’ coffee and mixed in half and half and a package of sugar. She chatted with the baristas; knew their names and listened to surrounding conversations. http://www.hilltopcoffeeshop.com/

After moving her to a Biddeford assisted living facility, I discovered Elements. It is my place of respite and a go-to place of entertainment for Mom: books, music, coffee (and beer…. ) http://www.elementsbookscoffeebeer.com/

IMG_1920 Like coffee houses of old, Elements seems to be a place to learn about local happenings. Like my mom, I talk with the baristas, learn their names and listen to surrounding conversations.

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That was how I met Tammy Ackerman of Engine  http://www.feedtheengine.org, heard about Heart of Biddeford http://www.heartofbiddeford.org, and learned about the first mosque in Maine.

 

Art in Mills

To artists, empty brick buildings signify affordable studio space; to economic development officials, artists mean the introduction of the “creative economy.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_sqYD3vskc

The textile history of Maine is reflected in the abandoned mills of Biddeford. Located along the Saco River, the York and Pepperell Mills took advantage of the hydro power. By the late 1800’s, the boom in textile manufacturing required an influx of much needed workers. By 1880 almost 50% of Biddeford’s residents were foreign-born. When the mills needed fabric dye experts, they brought in Muslim Albanians. It is now believed that a room in the Pepperell Mill housed the first Mosque in America. The workers died during the 1918 flu epidemic. Their graves face east and are marked with the crescent. http://www.muslimsinamerica.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17&Itemid=28

Walk – ING

Since returning to Portland, I walk more. Most of my forays are along the same streets that immigrants have walked since the first ships landed at the Portland docks: Map 1914 I walk from the cottage on Peaks to the ferry; from the Casco Bay Lines terminal to my studio space. On the way, I walk along India St. past the synagogue that my great grandfather built and where I will install Welcoming the Stranger.

I continue onto Smith St. past Union Bagels (organic) and down Anderson St. towards the heart of Bayside. During the 1960’s, there was an urban renewal effort to eradicate the “slums” of Portland thereby creating a need for low-income housing. (This need is once again exacerbated – due to the gentrification currently taking place.)

My mother worked on housing issues as well as civil rights issues. Many mornings we would wake up to find neighborhood activists strategizing at our kitchen table – drinking coffee. One hard hit area was Bayside. Bayside

 

 

“Most of Bayside today was in a section of Back Cove filled with debris from the Great Fire of 1866 — which burned most of the Old Port. “Over the decades, Bayside established two identities. It was an industrial center of Maine — connected to immigrant labor and a relatively large and active rail line and seaport. It was also a burgeoning melting pot of new Americans — a diversity that is still reflected there today.

Bayside, which has also become known as West Bayside, was the industrial zone, with foundries, lumber companies, soldering shops and junkyards. East Bayside was a lower middle class neighborhood where immigrants settled. It spans from Franklin Street to Washington Avenue. The Irish were among the first to settle there, followed by Scandinavians in the 1880s, Eastern Europeans in the 1890s and more recently African and Middle East refugees.” http://www.pressherald.com/2015/03/03/portland-approves-long-planned-midtown-project-in-bayside/July Blog?

 I walk pass multi-family dwellings, children waiting for school buses, men repairing cars, young girls in hajibs. The past feels very present to me and the present feels a great deal like the past.

This once nearly abandoned area is now considered to be thriving with co-operatives, collaborative, and creatives. Euphemistically referred to as Brewside or Yeastside, Bayside is now headquarters for Welcoming the Stranger. http://www.pressherald.com/2013/12/09/bayside_poised_for_a_project

PortFiber 

Since Casey Ryder took over PortFiber, “the focus of the shop remains the same–to support and inspire the fiberarts community with quality supplies and amazing classes taught by local instructors.  Fiberarts is in our collective blood.  It’s a connection to our past, to our ancestors, to the earth and it’s fiber producing creatures.  It is the aim of PortFiber to embrace those connections and make new ones with those who share the love of wool!  “ http://www.downeast.com/fiber/IMG_2292

Casey took less than a minute to agree to be the collection site for Welcoming the Stranger yarn donations. Her weekly spinning group is weaving a panel for the exhibit using the yarn they spin at PortFiber. http://portfiber.com/calendar/2015/2/26/portspinners

Running with Scissors http://www.rwsartstudios.com IMG_2330 …is a diverse artist studio collective thriving in the industrial and eclectic East Bayside neighborhood of Portland, ME.  A dedicated work space, it serves over 50 artists working in various mediums sharing equipment, space, community, ideas, support and tools. … It is also the home of The Bayside Clay Center, a branch of RWS dedicated to clay with 11 resident members and 12 associate members.

After my first Creative Portland #weavethetent event, Kate Aker invited me to establish a studio at RWS . Everyone there has been supportive and best of all – my Journey Looms can fit through the doorways.IMG_2336

Gathering of Stitches http://www.agatheringofstitches.org

“A Gathering of Stitches is a maker space for fiber and textile artists. Its a place for those of you who like to work with your hands, with fabric and yarn, to use shared equipment and resources, learn new skills, or hone old ones, and join in a community of folks who love fiber.”

After speaking at a 2 Degrees http://www.liveworkportland.org/connect-visit/2-degrees-portland event held at A Gathering of Stitches, I met with Samantha Hoyt Lindgren and reserved a sewing machine and a table in July and August to create the installation work.IMG_2458

Bayside is also a ‘caffeine corridor.’

Coffee By Design http://www.coffeebydesign.com Coffee By Design Headquarters is located in Bayside just off the bike trail. They purchase from more than 30 growers around the world. They give back to the local community through their Rebel Blend Fund. Tadim makes great “art in a cup.”

IMG_2515 Tandem Coffee http://www.tandemcoffee.com Tandem is not only is located between Port Fiber and Running with Scissors but shares a parking lot with a local mosque. Owner Will Platt has okayed a #weavethetent event there.

 

Creat-ING

John Adams wrote: “I am a revolutionary so my son can be a farmer so his son can be a poet.

Sometimes it takes years for the disparate pieces of an idea to weave themselves into a full-fledged cohesive work of art.

Some artists are disciplined and labor daily to practice their craft – improve their skills, develop a style, master a material.

Others are driven by deadlines, available materials or a competition. Environments influence their output – large studios, large work; etc. Alma Thomas created works all the same size due to the size of her kitchen table… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alma_Thomas

Some of us wait for the Flash – the aha moment.

Welcoming the Stranger appeared whole cloth – a conversation in a taxi cab, a tour of a former synagogue and kayaking around an island formed the nucleus of an exhibition and a community-based art work. But I have lots of work to do….

I have materials.

I have a space.

I have community.

I have a deadline.

And I have gratitude for all those helping me along the way.

I will continue on the stone path….as long as there is enough coffee.

 

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