aAt the beginning of a new year, I am taking some time to breathe. I am between projects and the semester has not yet begun. It is snowing outside. So I am starting to work my way through a reading list on peacemaking with some social justice advocacy on the side. Some I've already read, but I'm excited to learn more about the theological foundations for the practices and principles that guide my community building and interfaith dialogue efforts. What's more, I have plans in the works to engage in these topics with a small group of Christian and Muslim women. We've named ourselves Sustain: Nourishing bodies and spirits through food and faith. Who's excited and has two thumbs? This girl.
I've also been working on two watercolors that I started several months ago. Now that Qorsho and I have submitted our forthcoming book, Urur Dhex-Dhexaad Ah / A Community in Between, with Trillium Press (shameless plug) and are waiting on copyedits, and I haven't yet begun building the project website, or any plans for the exhibition, I decompressed a little by painting Global Mall. I've been attempting to make something visual that encompasses my relationship with that space since 2011 (see below, Global Mall throughout the ages of my research), and have countless abandoned pieces. But, as Jonah reminded me as we sat down to paint together, "Mommy, you are an artist. You paint pictures." Significant partly because I rarely paint these days, and also because it was a nice reminder that I understood myself first as an artist, then as an educator, and then as a researcher. These roles frequently shift, and at this point are so intertwined that to think of not doing one element in favor of another is fairly incomprehensible. But, I've learned that to do one, for me, is to do them all, which is why, I suppose, I love arts-based community research so much.
There is much I am looking forward to this year:
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.
Much has changed since my last post. I have two part-time jobs, which have cut drastically into my artmaking time and changed the rhythm of our family life. And probably more life-changing is that I am 8 months pregnant. I've redirected much of my creative energies to crafting in preparation for the new baby and the acquisition of an entire kitchen's worth of cupboard doors.
I was thinking today about the difference between crafting and artmaking. Crafting is so useful. It making usable things aesthetic. I like it; it's therapeutic and makes me feel accomplished and that I am doing something good for my family. But artmaking - it's something different. It's creating meaning for yourself and other people; it can be creating a whole new world, or understanding, or outlook. It has the power to change.
So what art am I making? I am still working on the Columbus painting; albeit very slowly. I'm layering, and waiting (partially because I don't want to use oils while pregnant and partially because I want room to do some other things in my art/craft area). I'm also starting a series of paper cut outs. I think they'll eventually go into a book form for my kids, but we'll see. I want to work with colors and shapes and building up layers without the issues of oil paints. And I'm contemplating pulling out the watercolors to start working on some postcards...
We will see.
Ruth M. Smith
Community arts educator and researcher. Drinking coffee. Home educating. Making art. Listening intentionally.