Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Week 5 - Action

3 - 2 - 1 - ACTION!  Yes, action was the theme of this week's art project.  Whatever community we find ourselves a part of, we need to also find ourselves taking action - doing good - together.  Families, friends, roommates, neighbors, colleagues - bonds between people become strengthened when we work together for good.  Doing so allows us the opportunity to discover purpose, meaning, and the good in others and ourselves.  Taking action doesn't necessarily mean saving the world, rest assured that is in Jesus' hands , but we have the opportunity to join Him in the work of manifesting His kingdom here on earth.  What does that mean?  What does that look like?  You and your community have the freedom to decide the answers to those questions, but examining Jesus' life and the scriptures can get you thinking in the right direction - big ways and small!

This week the Village Art Project community worked together to pick up trash around the neighborhood.  Before we began "operation clean-up", the younger kids made cards for everyone to hand-out to our neighbors as we picked up trash.  One of the benefits of doing good together, especially picking up litter, is that it's actually fun!  The kids and adults enjoyed cleaning up the neighborhood.  One of the mom's I know well laughed as we picked up some things around her home and exclaimed, "I've tried to get my boys to do that many times before!"  (Well, mom, now you know how to get them to do it - just have them do it with friends!)  Cleaning up our neighborhoods is just one small way for a community to take action, and it benefits both the earth and the residents.  I've gotten ahead of myself though because that was the second part of our evening.  The first part of the night (while the younger kids painted cards) the older kids painted using "action" art.  The canvases of choice were two old wooden doors.  The paintbrushes of choice were raquetballs and tennis balls.  The kids each got a partner and one ball.  They took turns dipping/rolling the balls in paint and then rolled them across the first door, back and forth, to their partners.  It looked like a masterpiece by the end!  The second door was painted a little bit differently and the scene was a little more, shall we say, out of control :)  Once they dipped their ball in paint, they bounced the ball on the door - sometimes soft, sometimes hard - can you picture it?  As we wound up that project they all circled the door and on the count of three, simultaneously threw all of the balls at the door.  Let's just say some of the kids ended up with a bit of paint in their hair!

Now some of you may have noticed that picking up trash isn't exactly art (although we did arrange the bags at the end into a trash "sculpture" of a heart representing love for our communities).  We decided to lighten up the night a bit because of the heat wave that passed through last week, and that included a waterballoon fight.  Although we all love art, and we definitely did some, art in 98 degree weather with 80% humidity can be a bit challenging to focus on!  It was a fun night as usual, the kids didn't seem to mind the weather, and they loved the art and water balloons.  Let us all take some time this week to think about the different communities we're a part of, and consider doing some good together.  It's inside of each of us because it's inside of Jesus.  Let it out!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Action: Doing Good Together

This week our theme was ACTION! Check out the pictures here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Getting Real

Emotion Square in Progress
Courtesy Brooke Brown, 2011
Yesterday at Village Art Project, we talked about Empathy. What it looks like to really connect emotionally with other person with an experience of theirs, both good and bad. We started the time painting emotion squares. Basically, this involved the kids choosing an emotion (ex: love, anger, hopeful, ignored) that they possibly identified with and express it through painting on one half of a canvas. The other half of the canvas was reserved for their partner to paint on. Their objective was to copy the original painting with the exact colors and design. So both were challenged to pay attention to the details of their partner's painting so to "empathize" with them.

The kids ( and me) were then pushed out of their comfort zones a bit in the next project that required them to interview someone living in the park. Everyone, even us adults, got a chance to share our stories (one of the happiest moments in our life and something that we might have lost that caused us sadness). Like the kids, this in a way was a stretching/growing moment for me.

Week 4 - Empathy

Courageous. Content. Overwhelmed. Happy. Peaceful. Frustrated. How are you feeling today? More than that, who's the person you know you can go to when you're feeling however you're feeling and you know they'll totally get how you're feeling? Yesterday was the fourth week of the Village Art Project, and we focused on the first "E" of our C.R.E.A.T.E. Community theme - Empathy! Now I know it's easy to mix up sympathy and empathy, but after last night I'm sure that any of the kids there would be able to tell you for sure what empathy is (even if they could not tell you what sympathy is :P). Empathy is a vital part of community because it is at this point that we are able to experience deep connection with one another. When you get me and I get you - when you know how I feel because you've been there and you know how that situation made you feel so you can identify with me. Empathy is about learning to see life through another person's eyes; trying to understand what it's like to walk in another person's shoes. At the heart of empathy is opening up our minds and hearts, listening carefully to another person express their feelings, and validating that person by trying to understand how they feel. There isn't one person in this world who does not need empathy. When we let down our guards, let go of judgments, and step into another person's world, we learn a great deal about them as well as about ourselves. Empathy is so valuable to community because when we begin to learn about the ups and downs of someone's life, we are able to see them just like we see ourselves - as human! To see that there's more to them than meets the eye and maybe, just maybe, there's a reason that person that we dislike so much acts the way they do and maybe, just maybe, they need a little bit of love and a friend rather than judgment and rejection.
Thursday began with a lot of music - homemade, original music - as the kids played drums and other instruments brought in from CMU by our friend Mike List. Mike led the drum circle and kids and volunteers pounded on drums and played cowbells and other instruments that I don't even know the names of. There might have even been a little bit of dancing :) After the drum circle, the kids paired up and painted on one half of a divided canvas. The idea was to think about one specific feeling that you identify with often or that has been significant throughout your life and paint it using mostly colors and shapes. After that, the kids traded canvases with their partners who then had to try to enter in to what emotion their partner's painted and replicate their partner's painting on the other side of the canvas. We had an uneven number of kids so I ended up being partners with Skye, and let me tell you this was way harder than it sounded when Rob first explained it! The kids really did a spectacular job though! They really tried to focus on the detail in each other's paintings and to do justice to their partner's original work. At snack time some of the kids shared their art with the rest of the group. The feelings ranged from pain reflected with a darkened heart to feeling ignored and also loved. Check out the pictures to see some of the artwork!
The second half of the night we split up into groups of 4-5 and went to various houses throughout the Village to interview some of the residents about one of the happiest times in their lives and also one of the most disappointing times in their lives. With tape recorders in hand the kids and adults gathered on front porches and at kitchen tables to share their stories with each other and to practice empathy. In my group we only got through the "happiest" stories, but it was a valuable time for me and I'm pretty sure for the kids as well. We focused on listening so well to one another that we were able to repeat the other person's story and understand how they were feeling. I didn't realize there were so many different kinds of happy, but the stories reflected a "relieved" sense of happy, a "just being with friends" sense of happy, a "having fun" happy, a "never thought this would ever happen" sort of happy, and a "fulfilled" sense of happy. Afterwards, the kids took a portrait shot of the person(s) they interviewed, and then took turns taking a picture of each other in the same pose as the person they interviewed, so they actually got to sit or stand in someone else's life for a moment.
It was a beautiful, joyful night focused on empathy and as always the kids were amazing! May the God who understands us give us the willingness and the ability to enter into the lives of those we love and those we have a hard time loving, into the joy and into the pain. Thanks for reading!


This week's theme was "Empathy" and how seeking to understand each other can help CREATE COMMUNITY!
Check out the photos here!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Collage Monoprints

Week 3 of the Village Art Project was about Respect and how it is essential for building community. Our project was trying to communicate the importance of Respect through the art of collage monoprinting. The kids first planned out their pieces by sketching on pads of paper. Then they selected different types of textured paper, leaves, cut outs and items, arranging them on a piece of glass. Each item had to be coated with ink before going through a press. They also had to write a description of their piece and how it related to Respect. The kids worked hard and were very patient through the whole process! And the monoprints came out great. To see them click here.

A special thanks to the folks at Akua Waterbased Inks for the consistent help in selecting the right tools for the project! (

Friday, July 8, 2011

Even attempts are respectable.

In thriving communities, RESPECT for each individual's uniqueness is essential. Tonight, we talked about this theme, the R of our acronym C.R.E.A.T.E. Kids created mono-print collages, putting cut-out scrap paper together to form an image on a plexi-glass surface. In each image, kids were instructed to create something that represented the idea of RESPECT. I had to laugh because in almost every image displaying RESPECT, a sun could be seen shining. :)

After cutting the scrap pieces of paper, kids waited SO PATIENTLY (and I am serious when I say that) to have their plexi-glass background coated in black ink, and every scrap cut-out coated with another ink color of their choosing. The plexi-glass surface acted as a plate, and paper was gently placed on top and then put through a hand-driven press. You will have to look at pictures of each print, 'cause I am really failing at finding the right words to describe the awesomeness that was produced. And I like to describe things.

It seems whenever we discuss the theme RESPECT, I think of one of my parents. This week, I brought my mom to the Village.

My mom ... doesn't like art. She never really has. As we talked on Tuesday night over making dinner, she told me the horror stories of her failed art projects in grade school. "My 1st grade teacher once yelled at me for not cutting straight," she tells me, and I laugh. "Seriously?" Her face is solemn. "Yes she did, Jessie. I was 6 ... Did she really expect straight lines?" she ponders aloud. Mom also tells me of the clay figure of a mouse she tried to make in the 7th grade. "It didn't look like a mouse at all," she says, and then smiles, "so I told everyone I tried to make a made-up animal no one had ever heard of." She says this and I can't help but imagine Napoleon's "Liger," from Napoleon Dynamite ... her mouse turning out to be some three-legged, winged creation with one eye and tail.

Growing up, however, her lack of artistic talent never stopped her from supporting mine. Well, at least I like to think I had (and have) some artistic talent. I remember when photography became my obsession in high school. One day, out of the blue, she came home with a photo album. She had seen it in a catalog (you know, one of those fundraiser ones that kids tote to their parent's job, hoping to sell enough stuff to earn points for some really cool prize, like a t-shirt) and bought it, just for me. It was, for lack of a better word, ugly. It was covered in big, gaudy-looking orange flowers, and only held 5x7's, but it is probably one of the best gifts I have ever received. I hadn't even realized she noticed I liked to take pictures.

So tonight, for her to come, despite her knowledge of any kind of printmaking, and help with the Village Art Project, meant a lot. She knows how much it means to me to be there and I couldn't help but respect her willingness to try, just because she loves me.

Now if only she would stop trying to marry me off ...

Love in the King Jesus,