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.
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.
I am done for the time being on my Jonah series. I've enjoyed spending time with his drawings, and turning his thoughts into my own. The early drawings featured lots of circles, while lately it is all about lines. I continue to be amazed at the way he fills the page when he draws or paints. There is much to be learned about composition.
Great question! I've started a painting for some friends in Columbus, a landscape of the botanical gardens. I started it last summer, dabbling in acrylics (a medium I rarely use - I'm not fond of the texture or the way that the colors mix). I pulled the painting back out a few weeks ago and worked on it some more, even letting Jonah paint some, before deciding that it couldn't be saved. Instead, I began painting from my painting (rather than the photograph that I had been using - also something I don't particularly like to do) and realized that it was a love note to Columbus. Having been absent over a year now, I feel at home in Lafayette, but Columbus was the first place I lived with my husband. It is where my son was born. It is where I researched and went to school. It has my favorite restaurants and parks. So although it is a painting of Franklin Park Conservatory, I am going to map onto it the places I love.
Ruth M. Smith
Community arts educator and researcher. Drinking coffee. Home educating. Making art. Listening intentionally.