I have previously reflected on the challenges for me of living in Fort Worth in the late 80s. Other than the joy of giving birth to my son, one of my top distractions was meeting and hanging with Renee Sherrer, who was working on her MFA at North Texas State in Denton.
I was not yet into making art - this was my public relations and marketing for non-profits phase - but what Renee was doing with fabric and postcard art and female identity combined with her endearing quirkiness, made me want to make the trip north as often as I could. One night we danced so wildly to Brave Combo's nuclear polka that I flew right off the raised floor, ending up several feet below with a sprained ankle - upside? the bartender installed me with a bucket of ice at the end of the bar and people bought me shots. downside? the effect of all those shots realized too late.
When her program was completed, she asked if I would be interested in helping her move to Montana, a state that had never been on my radar. It sounded like an epic road trip, but ... I couldn't get off work.
After a couple more years in Cowtown and a few in a quite different city, Portland, Oregon, Steve and I moved to Billings in 1993. I had lost contact with Renee and she wasn't on our minds when we happened to walk into Cafe Jones (currently Ebon Coffee). On the walls were a few oversized brassiere prints. Steve and I simultaneously exclaimed "Renee!" And, she was there, next door in her office above the current Montana Gallery (then a book store). She, and her cup and saucer embellished art car, did not stay in Billings long. But, this unexpected reunion set a sweet tone to our new city, underscoring how, despite moves and travels and changes, life can provide interesting reconnections as it weaves forward.
Renee talked about SirQ and he was credited with many of the photos in her postcard art. I have since been told he still lives in Billings. After 26+ years here, I have never run into him. But their postcards remain in my collection. This last image is from her MFA show "Designer Straight Jackets."
Softness Overcoming Hardness
Angela Davis, Keynote Speaker
#OpenEngagement Conference, Oakland
May 1st, International Worker's Day, 2016
[Angela starts at 11:30, this video is long, but so good, so settle in, it's Angela Davis! and it includes Q&A at the end]
#AngelaDavis starts with the recognition that we were on the colonized land of the Ohlone, that the Oakland area is the foundation of the #BlackPanthers movement (50 years hence), home of #Occupy, #BlackLivesMatter, #transgender movements, #restorativejustice, #foodsovereignty and so much more.
The title of this conference, which focuses on #sociallyengagedart, was Power (with the palpable and obvious subtext of privilege). It was necessarily uncomfortable and and educational and expanding and connecting.
Angela adds, of course, Power ... To The People. She talks about artists who have been inspired by the Black Power movement and how this inspired others to make art and make change. How art plays a pivotal role in changing the consciousness and drives of those who can change the world. Art does, indeed, change the status quo.
To my delight, she talks about #DollarBrand and #AbdullahIbrahim, to whose music I was introduced in the 80s, (yes, in retrospect I see the colonial connection) when I was helping friends renovate a 1700s home in Long Swamp, PA and we spent our late nights listening to their eclectic music collection. Abdullah’s music remains soulful to me today, particularly, "Soweto" (link in comments).
She talked about the importance of softness in overcoming hardness, that softness is a place of reflection, imagination, and possibility. That we must continue to move.
Creating Space for Dialogue
I am finishing up my home-made baba ganouj this morning and reflecting on the thought-provoking, conversation-inducing presentation (and delicious Palestinian food) by the staff (the director is Jewish) of @conflictkitchen during the Open Engagement Conference in Pittsburgh in 2015.
We talked about how important it is to keep dialogue open between people, even if governments and organizations find it politically incorrect. And how the sharing of food during can assist in these conversations, such as the meals the Half the Sky: Intersections of Social Practice Art delegates shared as we discussed, processed and problem-solved our time and interactions in China.[Mido Lee, Rosemary Meza DesPlas, Christine Giancola, Priscilla Otani and I presented a panel at Open Engagement, "Considerations and Challenges: Socially-Engaged Art in China" about our Half the Sky project in Shenyang in 2014.]
"Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, publications, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus region. The restaurant rotates identities in relation to current geopolitical events.... These diverse perspectives reflect a nuanced range of thought within each country and serves to instigate questioning, conversation, and debate with our customers."
Photo courtesy of conflict kitchen website
FLOW: Interactive Exhibition and Community Project
Northcutt Steele Gallery, Montana State University Billings, January 28 - March 18, 2016
It began with a big, but, initially, manageable goal, given our backgrounds - to bring more people into the gallery and to engage them across departments, across the city and between the two institutes of higher education in Billings around the theme of water issues and focused on the Yellowstone River. Early on, we consulted MSU Billings' long-range plans, goals, & strategies and ... Leanne K. Gilbertson, Ph.D of Art History and Nothcutt Steele Gallery Director at MSU Billings and me, an artist curator with a passion for community engagement, were soon neck deep in conversations with potential partners, who were enthusiastic and willing to sign on.
The gallery was set up as a laboratory and nexus for exploration and dialogue with an exhibition of my Grottoes - mixed media wall sculptures with video meditations on water - and juried works by students and alumni. We commissioned two students, Bonny Beth Luhman and Ariel Rebecca Grosfield, to create an animated short about river users. Art Ed students discussed water issues with the Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls and other K-8 students, who then made 5 x 7 panels with their responses. Presentation of research by Rocky Mountain College students. Precious McKenzie, teacher of English at Rocky Mountain College, donated her water-themed children's books to the MSU Billings library, which became the anchor for pre-school readings there. Poetry and jazz students held a water-themed reading and improvisation night. Northern Plains Resource Council and Eric Warren presented his film "Mixing Oil and Water" featuring conversations about oil & gas development along the river. Dr. Susan Gilbertz offered a course for students from both campus about the findings from the Yellowstone River Cultural Inventory, which was part of the 16 year, most comprehensive study in the world on a watershed, our Yellowstone River, which was the basis for our keynote symposium, which included Dr. Gilbertz' students, some of the key scientists of that study (Warren Kellogg, Burt Williams and Kayhan Ostovar) as well as a beautiful argument for personhood rights for rivers by Carrie La Seur.
The amount of creativity and information shared and the community of collaborators, brainstormers, participants and supporters was a heart-warming overlay and reward for the intensity of coordination: Gerard Baker, Sue Beug, Karin Eilertsen Calabrese, Reno Charette, Michelle Dyk, Teresa Erickson, Megan Fetters, Samantha Finch, Leanne Gilbertson, Ph.D, Susan Gilbertz, Ph.D, Ilene Goddard, Ariel Grossfield, Tami Haaland, Ruby Hahn, Joy Crissey Honea, Hannah Hostetter, Warren Kellogg, Luke Kestner, Korilynn Kessler, Carrie La Seur, Ph.D, J.D., Jodi Lightner, Bonny Beth Luhman, Larry Mayer, Precious McKenzie, Joel Miller, Patrick Mueller, Kelsey Nix, Carolyn Ostby, Kayhan Ostovar, Mara Pierce, Ph.D., Megan Poulette, Tabetha Rindahl, Brent Roberts, John J. Roberts, Maria Selvig, Stephanie Slavin, Rebecca Summers, Peter Pete Tolton, Patricia Vettel-Becker, Ph.D., Eric Warren, Burt Williams, Patrick Williams, Dylan Woods and so many more who came to share their thoughts, listen and expand the dialogue around water issues, rights, access and conservation in our region.
Project overview page with links to further details at https://www.sherricornett.com/flow-interactive-exhibition-and-community-project.html
The Ya-Yas Have Arrived
a tailgater + hot cars + a mall cop + a premiere + a jointly admired book + ebullient women
An organic seeding of an invitation and desire for frivolity lead us to gather in the parking lot of Rimrock Mall to be silly, to pre-game, to pose, and … just as we began to wonder if we were a bit over the top, the mall cop arrived with his small flashing light, warning us to be “appropriate” and yet … his official capacity wilted under the attention of all of our boas and neon pink and brilliant red womanhood.
By the time we entered the theater, the only seats together were in the front rows and we heard murmurs of “the Ya-Yas have arrived!”
Thank you to #thebillingsgazette and my husband and daughter for witnessing and documenting and to Rebecca Wells for writing “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”
Inspiration and Motivation ... Taking my community-engaged work to the next level, with a generosity of spirit .... that is what I came away with after having breakfast with Judy Baca after the Women's Caucus for Art's Honoring Women's Rights conference and exhibition at the National Steinbeck Center in 2012.
As the founder of the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program in 1974, which evolved into a community arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), she is best known for "The Great Wall of Los Angeles" which was "tattooed along a flood control channel in the San Fernando Valley and employed over 400 at risk youth and their families from diverse social and economic backgrounds working with artists, oral historians, ethnologists, scholars, and hundreds of community members. The Great Wall depicts a mile long multi-cultural history of California from pre-history through the 1950’s."
"Underlying all of Baca and SPARC’S activities is the profound conviction that the voices of disenfranchised communities need to be heard and that the preservation of a vital commons is critical to a healthy civil society."
Her other projects include:
The World Wall: A Vision of the Future Without Fear - "in addition to being able to imagine nuclear destruction, we must also be able to imagine peace,"
Tiny Ripples of Hope / Seeing Through Other’s Eyes (2010) - about the optimism–and hope–that surrounded Robert Kennedy’s pursuits
A Debacle of Bangs
Inevitably, the night before picture day, my mother would cut my hair. As I have often noted, sitting still was not my strong suit. But, as the last photo in this series demonstrates, she was not one to give up easily.
The Messiness, Democracy and Hope of Civil Society
The 64th Annual United Nations DPI/NGO Conference:
Sustainable Societies, Responsive Citizens
Bonn, Germany, 3-5 September 2011
Priscilla Otani, president-elect for our Women's Caucus for Art, and I attended as representatives of our NGO. Here is part of my report:
The happy sounds of many languages filled the six floors of the Maritim Hotel atrium as the conference began. At the Opening Ceremony, I found myself surrounded by businesswomen from China, people in niqab, saris, and caftans, youth, and many nuns (Catholic, Buddhist, Hindi) some of the representatives of more than 400 NGOs in attendance. We quickly coalesced into the "we the peoples" that starts the Charter of the United Nations. Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations.
I soon had a sense of both the messiness and wonder of civil society and how years of UN conferences have distilled a method for collecting the varied perspectives, views and recommendations asked for, in this case, by the General Assembly in preparation for the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development scheduled for June 2012 in Brazil. At each of the Roundtables, to which all were invited, high-level experts spoke on the topics after which respondents from government reflected back or challenged them on their thoughts. Four to five questions at a time were then taken from the audience and the panel responded. UN staff recorded each of these discussions. The same process, minus the respondents, occurred in the many workshops. Side events gave even more intimate discussion opportunities as did the exhibits, both of which WCA was a part. UN Conference board members worked tirelessly throughout the three days to add to, edit and condense all of this information into the final declaration that reflected the expectations of NGO participants and civil society leaders for the governments attending Rio+20. The declaration was openly discussed for a final time at the closing. Individuals were able to come to the mike, ask for word changes, minor deletions and additions, before the assembly was asked, by show of applause, to accept or reject the declaration before it was given to the German government for presentation to the U.N. General Assembly.
We need to TEACH PEOPLE FLEXIBILITY - how they can do best with current knowledge and how to change as new information arises, how to deal with a tomorrow that is so different from today without getting lost and fearful.
We no longer have TIME to polarize. We need to end cynicism. We need to celebrate courage and innovation.
Felix Dodds, Chair, 64th DPI/NGO Conference - "THE FUTURE IS NOT A GIFT, it is an achievement. The future does not belong to those who are content with today or to those who lack the courage to force change that is needed." Everyone needs to mobilize, volunteer and take action. At closing ceremony, Flavia Pansieri, Head of the Consultative Forum of the Heads of UN Agencies in Germany, asked everyone who has engaged in a cause without expectation of payment to stand - 100% stood. The spirit of VOLUNTARISM in participants from developing and developed countries alike was huge. "Of course we volunteer, why wouldn't we do our part for the future of the world."
Not everything is worse. Many positive accomplishments are not picked up by the world's media.
The eco village concept - conscious design for long-term sustainability and resilience - is rapidly expanding with over 600 established eco villages around the world and 100+ in the U.S. The country of Senegal is committing a large portion of its budget to transforming struggling traditional villages into ecovillages. Here is the story about Senegal's eco villages
Fair Trade Towns - communities in which people and organizations use their everyday choices to increase sales of Fairtrade products and bring about positive change for farmers and workers in developing countries - are also expanding with over 1000 internationally and 23 in the U.S. as of April. http://www.fairtradetowns.org
To combat the serious lack of drinking water in areas of western China, the Water Cellars for Mothers Project developed and built water collecting devices, each holding a year's worth of rain water for one family. Over 1 million people benefited from this project in 2010 Water Cellars for Mothers Project
Through a modern dance class at University of Houston, Sharon and I became quick and dear friends. She introduced me to the Dancemakers - a dance group, founded by Rebecca Clearman, that met on Sunday mornings to step out of our other lives (I was in middle of taking way too many hours in order to finish my PoliSci degree) and to create joyful, beautiful, meditative flow through contact improvisation. Occasionally, we organized enough to perform around town. The 1983 Houston Festival performance was certainly our apex ... sharing with the audience the vulnerability, fun, trust, strength and the give and take supporting of each other in unchoreographed, yet magically cohesive, movement. During our final piece, with songs from Michael Jackson's 1982 Thriller album, we invited the audience on stage for a high energy, celebration of music and dance, bringing folks together in all of their forms of expression.
I don’t know why I am wearing these ridiculous waders, because I don’t fish, much less go wade fishing,￼￼ but this was taken at our family’s fishing shack (see other photo) which both sets of grandparents built on an oyster reef off the coast of Port O’Connor, Texas, on the northern edge of the Arkansas Pass Wildlife Refuge (where the whooping cranes winter!) in the late 1960s. I have referred to the shack as our extended family’s spiritual center, in that multiple generations would gather here, overflowing the one room onto the porch, where I preferred to sleep due to the loud, collective snoring of the elders inside on the bunkbeds. Grandpa Junker would take his pocket knife out to the reef and slurp oysters straight from their shells. My brother was into shark fishing (Steve can tell the story about the boat being drug around the bay most of the night by a huge hammerhead before it snapped off the line). When the fisher folks were tired, we would boat out around the reefs and channels to the barrier islands to play in the waves and hunt for shells, most often being the only humans on the beach. After a morning of fishing for reds and sea trout, my grandmothers would return, empty the crab traps and spend seemingly hours picking the meat from their tiny claws, which was then stuffed into flounder, which were caught when they came up into the shallows at night.
There was no electricity or running water, so days begin and ended with the sun, somewhat extended by gas lanterns.￼
Not everyone in our family enjoyed being there, for various reasons, but my favorite time was dusk, when the birds began their evening songs and the sun set across the water ... glorious abalone colors. And, over the years, I read and wrote and sketched and let my eyes soften, taking in the bay views from that porch, protected from the sun and cooled by the breezes. ￼
Back to the photo ... This was the late 80s.￼ I am wearing one of the original Whole Foods t-shirts from their first store in Austin. Steve is wearing a dog training whistle, so our lab puppy must have been with us. It was a moment of silliness. Steve used this photo in his medical school graduation publication with the simple words “gone fishin’ “
A place to decant my brain, to capture inspiration and share fresh insights. [Posts from 2015 onward]