Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Great Turning Mural Project

Last week my partner Jodi and I traveled to New Hampshire to attend the Great Turning Conference; Education, Leadership and Activism for A Life Sustaining Civilization. The conference was organized by the Audubon Expedition Institute at Lesley University. We honored to be invited to facilitate a group mobile-mural. The goal was to create a visual collective record of the ideas, conversations and spirit of the gathering. The project stared on Wednesday as we gathered ideas and explained the project to people as arrived to register, greet old friends and introduce themselves to new faces. We would have until Saturday afternoon to finish the mural.

The mural was one way for people to contextualize the ideas generated in a series of four workshop strands; Environmental Justice, Environmental Leadership, Ecological Teaching and Learning and the Great Turning. Between attending workshops, or hearing inspirational speakers such as Winona LaDuke, Bill McKibben, cultural ecologist David Abram or the music of Dana Lyons participants would come to eat in the cafeteria next to the mural site. Before or after meals people would add ideas, sketch or map out images and look at and discuss what people had created. The design emerged slowly as people wove their ideas together. Words became images, and images were transferred to the mural. By the end of the day Thursday we were finally painting. It was great during the moments when musicians would come to the site and start playing music and singing truly animated the process. Part of the magic of this process is when people get a chance to paint and talk about the Great Turning, and what it meant to them. By late Friday night the mural was nearly finished.

Participants came up with lots of ideas that are represented in the mural. Here is a sample of what people said the Great Turning was to them;

“Agricultural Policy is based on Military Policy/ agriCULTURE vs. aggroCULTURE/ Deconstruct Empire/ sustainability/inclusion/ participation/ democracy/community empowerment/ contemplation/ meditation/ Fire, Challenge, Heat/ Biological and Cultural Diversity/ Culture of Waste/Local Living Economies/ Reallocate War Funds/
Earth is our homeland/ security through Love/ courage in community/Homeland Security /vs insecurity/ Building from the HeartLand/ The great turning: Winona “the most important thing we can do is find a place and be there, stay there, do your work there, (not really a quote but the essence. vigil-presence, becoming part of the story of the place/ transformation/radical shift in perception/ bring your heart into your brain/ cycles of nutrients/ joy/ awakening/ Love Centered/ opening hearts and minds to connect with the truth of interdependence of all life. Humans claiming our animal natures/ ancestors and future beings/ Lake within a Lake/Being Outdoors/ Pollinators/ Trees/ Kids in Nature/ Dance and play together/ rain to river to oceans/ prints/ clarinet playing outrageously”

There are two panels to the project. The first depicts a green blue tree in fall. In the center of the tree is a heart within a heart, a phoenix rising alongside a “Great Turning 2007” banner. On the right we the local Old Country Store, being animated with a mural, in the midst of farms, vessels in the foreground collect maple syrup and corn. On the left we see a rainbow of life emerging from the multi armed monster of addiction and greed.

The second panel has a bear, representing a protective spirit, and based on a participants childhood dream. The bear is holding, and protecting the earth. We see turtle ina a lake within a lake, in the mountains are people building community listening to the earth, on the left we see the web of life binding together the circle of life.

The high light of the process is always watching as people open up their creative minds, There is a buzz that grows around the murals as people combine ideas, becoming engaged with the colors and brushes animating the area. If people say they can’t draw we encourage people to create idea maps, to doodle, to have fun. Its always amazing to see what happens when intelligent warm people join together to create a work of art in a safe, non judgmental learning environment. It is my hope that some of this rubs off into peoples’ personal artistic lives.

Our work in healing and mending the earth, in being part of a great turning, is a lifelong process. Creativity is a vital part of the transformation that is necessary to adapt to the earths changing climate. Like it or not the time has come for significant change in the wy we live our lives. As we imagine the world we want to live in, the process of recovering our understanding of the places we live, in creating new communities and industries, the arts will become part of our daily lives. Throughout this project I was reminded how important it is for artists of all disciplines to be called upon and honored by organizations working towards social, cultural, economic and environmental justice and transformation. Artists are the glue that tie together our many voices, concerns and organizations. This mural was a great illustration of just how effective and powerful that process can be.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Open Studio Oct. 27- 28

My studio at 4007 Chestnut St. will be open both days (12 - 6pm). Refreshments, greeting cards, lots of images to look at and purchase. Also you will get to see some of my latest work in progress. Hope to see you there.

Also you can see some of my work on display at the Green Line Cafe 4239 Baltimore Ave.

For a full list of West Philly Artists Open Studio click here. Thank you to CEVA, JJ Tiziou and Zoe Cohen for all their hard work !

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Collective Imprints: Invitation

pictured: rotunda logo

Dear Friends,

You are cordially invited to participate in Collective Imprints, a once-in-a-lifetime project that will be as much about you as it will be about the other participants.

Over the past few months, visiting community artist Michael Schwartz and I have met with various local activists and artists to envision a project that is like very few in the world.

Our goal is to bring together diverse groups and individuals who make The Rotunda the vital venue that it is. In doing so, we will discuss The Rotunda's mission statement, and then define it through visual art. In other words, we want to create visual art WITH you from YOUR visions of, and ideas about, The Rotunda's place in arts, culture, and community.

We will discuss The Rotunda's success in these areas and the work that still needs to be done. In addition, we will talk about the surrounding West Philadelphia neighborhood, your own neighborhood, and our hopes for a better city. We will then mount the finished product inside of The Rotunda, where it will remain on display for years to come.

To participate in this project, you do not need to be an artist. In fact, you do not need to come with any prior experience. Instead, please share your stories about events you have attended and planned here, what you think the venue still needs to do, how you define community in general, how you support the arts, etc.

You have already left your mark on The Rotunda through your support, so why not leave a larger imprint?

What sets this project apart from so many other participatory arts projects is the following:

• All participants will have the opportunity to draw, paint, glue, etc. You will get to design, create, and finish the art that you want to see. Artist(s) who will be facilitating the workshops will help to instruct you on how to draw that perfect hand or shadow that lovely face, but the pencils and paint brushes will not leave your hands. After all, these are YOUR stories and ideas.

• We will document the process via video and photographs. Each participant will be given a journal in which to write about the project, to ensure that all of us have the chance to tell our stories. In addition, we will submit our video footage to be aired on WYBE, a local public television station.

• We will utilize several environmentally responsible products and practices, such as recycled art supplies, methods that reduce water pollution while cleaning paint brushes, and biodegradable cutlery for our refreshments.

Through this project, you will develop: basic skills in drawing, painting, creating collages, and transforming abstract ideas into tangible works of art; the tools to work successfully within a large group; and the opportunity to inspire and be inspired.

This project will be comprised of 10 workshops beginning on November 6, 2007 and ending on January 22, 2008. These will occur every Tuesday, with the exception of December 25 and January 1. The workshops will begin at 6pm and end at 8pm. All workshops will take place at The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street in Philadelphia.

We are having a planning meeting on Tuesday, October 23 at 6pm at The Rotunda.

If you can attend this meeting, please RSVP to Gina Renzi:

If you are interested in participating but cannot attend the meeting listed above, please contact me so that we can talk on the phone or meet in person. Or just come to the workshops! You do not need to attend the meeting in order to participate in the project, but we would appreciate a sense of how many people plan to attend the workshops, so please reply with your interest and availability.

We invite you/your group to join us in building community through this inclusive, honest, and significant project. We hope that you'll be a part of Collective Imprints.


Gina Renzi

The Rotunda
4014 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104