Kate Joranson's WAAG experience
So what is the role of an artist in a community-based project like this?
As the lead artist on this project, I wanted to make sure that what was painted on the boards would come from neighborhood. I wanted to set up a subtle framework for the project that would:
- encourage workshop participants to design the boards
- allow unity to develop among the different boards, even though they would be painted by a variety of different people
- build thematic connections among the boards, and to the neighborhood
- allow for a changing group of people for each workshop. Some people could come to most of the workshops, others needed the freedom to drop in for an hour or two here and there. I wanted each kind of participant to have a meaningful experience, and feel a part of the process
- allow us to finish on time!
Most of all, I wanted these paintings to grow from our collective experience over the course of the workshop.
We spent the first workshops walking around the vacant houses on Whitney Ave, responding to a series of prompts. People were encouraged to write, draw, or collect in response to these prompts:
Find an object or space that has been overlooked. This might be a shoe, doorknob, windowsill, a plant, etc. Notice the colors, textures, shape, and describe why it speaks to you.
Find a pattern, something that repeats over and over. This might be an architectural detail on the house, a pattern of vines or shadows, anything at all.
Find a house that speaks to you, that seems to have a story to tell. Is it a story about an individual or group? A neighborhood story?
We then talked as a group, sharing our objects and drawings, and noticing themes we wanted to work with. People were most interested in:
- making the boards have a “stained-glass look”
- honeycomb patterns visible in the architecture of many of the houses
- vines and weeds that covered many of the houses
- andirons from an old fireplace, chunks of fence ironwork
- poetry discovered on the inside of one of the houses.
- metamorphosis, change, time passing, and rebirth. These ideas all came out of the discussion of the initial theme, “houses in waiting”
We made cardboard stencils of the objects and patterns collected at the houses, and used them to design board after board after board. For example, a stencil made from pieces of metalwork gates were rotated and repeated on several boards, appearing as plant shapes as well as abstract geometric patterns. A tiny flower on the metalwork was magnified and repeated throughout several more boards. Each painted board has elements that connect it to the other painted boards, to the history of the houses, and to the people who live on/nearby Whitney Avenue.
I feel extremely lucky to have been able to spend time with such an energetic, committed group of people. It was especially exciting to see so many residents gardening and tending the nearby lots. Our workshop drew inspiration from their work.
And a very special thanks to project manager, Lazae LaSpina, who brought amazing amounts of energy and detailed attention to the behind-the-scenes coordination of this project.
click here to learn more about Kate on her bio page