Last weekend, our family took a day trip to visit some friends in Cincinnati. I brought the Cincinnati postcards. Of the 18 cards, only 6 had writing on them. The earliest card was printed in 1909 and the latest, 1964. There are several series of prints in the collection, including a group of five cards from 1940-1942. Three were printed by the same company, Cincinnati Postal Views Distributors, and two by Kraemer Art Company in Cincinnati. They all are "views," offset print, and part of the Linen Era (1930-1950) of postcards. What caught my attention, however, was not the image on the front, but rather the line of communication on the back.
My grandparents - Barbara Ann Crosby and David Cornell - recently passed away. My grandma was a letter writer. She would send little notes, letters, and postcards. Oh, the postcards. She collected them - saved all the postcards she received in the mail and ones she bought wherever she went. And then she filed them by state in archival boxes. Some are in plastic sleeves. Others, not. There are so many - boxes and boxes.
Since moving to Lafayette, I felt disconnect with my local community. Yes, we found a supporting church family and made some good friends. But, the commitment to working to improve my neighborhood, my city was not present like it was when we lived in Columbus. Marc and I often wax on about the bike trail, the kayaking, the food, our friends, being able to walk to everything, the bus system, and even (heaven forbid) Easton. (Marc and I would complain every time we had to go to Easton about the driving, so to have any sort of fondness is indeed a sign of our love). Yet, in the past month or so, opportunities to engage here in Indiana have presented themselves.
I recently reread my life vision statement:
I dedicate my art making to improving the lives of those around me by adding beauty, creating opportunities for people to learn about each other through making and viewing art, and to create spaces for people to engage with difficult topics through art making.
I haven't dedicated myself to anything in Lafayette. I have not been living courageously. I started to regain my excitement about community art when Qorsho and I began our new project, Urur Dhex-Dhexad Ah/Community in Between (interviews and photography begin this May), but still nothing in Lafayette.
Marc started an initiative to create a network of churches in Lafayette to support the local Muslim community if there were any local demonstrations or attacks. Part of that is public education. He began arranging opportunities for a group of Muslim students to speak at churches, mostly Sunday school classes. After the first one, it occurred to me that I could help. So I offered to create a photo narrative project for them to share their experiences being Muslim American.
Is it artmaking? Yes. I am creating opportunities for learning and growth and centralizing art as a vehicle for doing that. I may not be painting, but I am making art.
That being said, this year, I have three resolutions:
1. To take better care of my body, mainly through 20 minutes of daily physical activity.
2. To take better care of my spirit, through daily scripture reading.
3. To take better care of my art, through daily artmaking.
I've been trying to workout or take walks everyday. Jonah has been a help - he asks to do "the exercise video" with me and he loves to paint on the easel and all things craft. It's not much, but I asked my mom to get me a book of 365 drawing challenges for my birthday (29 years last week). It was on the rack at JoAnn's next to the adult coloring books. She laughed a little at me and asked if I was serious. I said yes. It gives me a chance to practice drawing everyday. With all the jobs I have and the parenting, sometimes I just want someone to tell me what to do. So for now, this will do.
Ruth M. Smith
Community arts educator and researcher. Drinking coffee. Home educating. Making art. Listening intentionally.