Collage, A Medium for Community: Origins, Part 2

This story is the second installation in the series, “The Origins of Words & Afterwards,” to share the back story to the Greater Lansing community-arts collaboration. Please note that there are separate subscriptions for my direct blog Dey of the Phoenix and that of the project Words & Afterwards, which is “housed” within the same domain name.

Ann Francis as invited speaker at the 2009 Take Back the Night of Greater Lansing. Photo by MDH.

In the spring of 2011, I sought out the insights of activist and Lansing resident Ann Francis, who draws upon decades of experience in peace and social justice organizing. She shared with me the area’s peacemaking history since moving here in the 1970s, when Ann became the first director of the Peace Education Center of Greater Lansing (PEC), a nonprofit that both creates programs and initiates actions. I didn’t know it at the time, but the PEC would become the grantee for the project I was hoping to develop in the community.

Dec. 3, 2010, peace vigil at the State Capitol of Michigan. Ann Francis is in the front row, blue coat, about 4th person over from the right. I am in the mddle kneeling, red coat. Photo by Tom Rico.

Ann is a member of the PEC and participates in the Greater Lansing Network Against War and Injustice (GLNAWI), a grassroots group that rose up as a nonviolent response to the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Both of these circles have maintained a weekly peace vigil at the State Capitol of Michigan at noon on Fridays for over 10 years. Check out this short documentary about the sustained presence.

Through my conversation with Ann, I learned about a community program for peacemaking that paired a documentary screening with collage making. These events were held at several location in Greater Lansing. Ann recalled the positive and enthusiastic response of participants, which sparked my imagination for the potential community-art collaboration pairing workshops and an art exhibit.

March 1, 2012, first of two workshops with REACH Studio Art Center's teen program. Photo compliments of REACH.

And what about collage workshops that would bring together image and word around the common theme? The prospect of collage appealed greatly as a medium new to my creative journey and, better yet, promised accessibility for community members new to the arts. With Ann’s resourceful and generous nature, the shape of the program began to emerge. Ultimately, the workshops did “team up” word and image in distinct ways — a story that merits its own post as part of this Origins series.

April 9, 2012, group session for book art with collages. Activists Sandra Cade (left) and Ann Francis (right), both members of the PEC and part of Red Cedar Friends. Photo by MDH.

I extend a special thanks to Ann — also is kindred spirit from the local Quaker meeting Red Cedar Friends — for her open door, joyful activism, and inspiring service to Greater Lansing and the wider world, including her work with the American Friends Service Committee as an executive board member.

In close, here’s a “prayer” poem about peace that I wrote in February 2012, while planning Words & Afterwards workshops with artists Jen Loforese and Gail Trapp Bohner:

May there be peace…

between families
between neighbors
across streets

between young
between old
across ages

between peoples
between species
across borders

between mountains
between oceans
across sky

between dawns
between seasons
across generations

between you
between us
between all

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