This semester, I gave my online students a new assignment. A Hmm… Collection, which I adapted from Doren and Millington (2019). I asked my students to collect and document 10 objects from their work spaces and reflect on the objects as well as the process. Halfway through grading their responses, I decided that it was only fair to do the same assignment as a way for them to get to know me a little better. Two collections emerged. The first, I realized, was something I began years earlier in the pedagogy of the home post, documenting the mess of my overlapping spaces of work, homeschool, artmaking and play.
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:
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.
Ruth M. Smith
Community arts educator and researcher. Drinking coffee. Home educating. Making art. Listening intentionally.