Community Mental Health staff, June 2012.

This week is the final chance to see the exhibit “Words & Afterwards: Moving from Violence to Healing” at (SCENE) Metrospace of East Lansing, 110 Charles Street. Gallery hours continue Thursday 2pm to 5pm, Friday and Saturday 2pm to 6pm, and Sunday 12pm to 4pm. Admission is free.

The experience of putting together this exhibit — making the artwork, collaborating with artists and community members — has been inspiring. One of my hopes throughout this project was to see the exhibit inspire others as well. This inspiration clearly stands out as I reflect upon group visits to the gallery.

 

CMH staff visit.

Staff from Community Mental Health came to the exhibit to explore the use of collage with adults with developmental disabilities. Individuals from Red Cedar Friends Meeting (Religious Society of Friends) viewed the artwork and shared a silent circle in closing the visit. And before the exhibit is taken down, volunteers from SACI — the Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention team, a student organization that works with the Sexual Assault Programat Michigan State University — will come to discuss a future art project of its own.

 

Ruth Borgelt at workshop with teens at REACH, March 2012.

It’s good news that the book art from the exhibit will become available on this web site soon after the exhibit’s closing! Ongoing access to the inspiring work by community members and artists was another goal in this project’s vision. The digitizing of collages was made possible thanks to the technical assistance of Ruth Borgelt, grant project manager with the Peace Education Center of Greater Lansing.

For those who found inspiration in Words & Afterwards, your reflections and stories are valued. If you would like to share a word of your own, you are invited to send it for publishing here on the web site, including anonymous guests; just email me at MelissaHasbrook @gmail.com. Also, comments to existing posts are available for your use. So stay tuned for more from Words & Afterwards!

Here is a word from Kate Darnell, one of the featured artists of Words & Afterwards. The exhibit continues to be open through June 24, at (SCENE) Metrospace of East Lansing, 110 Charles Street.

One of Kate Darnell's pieces now showing in the exhibit.

This project both motivated and supported the start of a series of pieces that I have been thinking on for some time, and hope to expand into a larger body of work.

The creation of several calligraphic paintings based on a theme of non-violence and hope has kept me considering and reconsidering the idea of words as both literal meaning and visual image. It has also allowed me to put my convictions (and also questions) about the tragedy and futility of war into my art in a way that I hope is both conceptually clear and visually beautiful.

The notion that words can be used as both written utterance and as visual rhythms and color is nothing new, but for a calligrapher accustomed to creating more traditional pages, and an artist whose work is generally not abstract or overtly topical, breaking away from convention has been creatively stimulating and liberating.

Tragedy, violence and suffering in art and poetry are also nothing new, and it has always been a difficult notion that we can call such imagery “beautiful”. William Butler Yeats wrote of a “terrible beauty” in his poem about the 1916 Easter uprising against the British in Ireland, and this phrase has often been used to describe art that deals with war and other horrible unlovely acts of violence. But poetry and art help us make sense of our world. Beautiful sounds and exquisitely composed images can comfort, condemn and mourn, as well as praise or celebrate.

Art and poetry are complex and really well-suited to express the ambiguities and contradictions that will always exist in our feelings about war. Honoring these tangled knots — the coupled contrasts of heroism and brutality, victory and loss or the deeply personal — in the midst of the powerful collective experience, is delicate business. However, a short poem or painting may be a more complete story than detailed descriptions of fact by journalists, politicians or writers of history. Art can help us move beyond the overly simple anecdote or the jingoism of propaganda, to see deeper and think carefully. (I say this with full knowledge that art and poetry also can and always has been used as propaganda).

The very act of creating a piece of art with a horrific subject can also be an act of hope, as part of the grace in expressions of “terrible beauty” is the sense of truth that we experience in such work. For the artist there is the satisfaction or catharsis of using their “voice” to acknowledge or witness. For the reader or viewer there is the rush of recognition; here is something of our own experience or awareness or thought. Here is affirmation or revelation vividly expressed in a way that makes us weep, sets the hairs on the back of our neck to rise, or just lets us know we are not alone.

This was my response to the poetry I used in my calligraphic paintings, and I hope that my interpretations do those poets’ words justice.

A recent comment on the web site found inspiration in the poem found within the book art Instrument of Peace, now being exhibited at (SCENE) Metrospace of East Lansing until June 24, 2012. The poem is a revised secular version of the Prayer of Saint Francis, and was penned by artist Jen Loforese. One line inspired each collage in the book art, and these collages were created at REACH Studio Art Center‘s Teen Open Studio program. The collages also incorporate key words of calligraphy created by artist Kate Darnell. The vision for the book art Instrument of Peace was shaped by artists Jen Loforese, Gail Bohner, and myself as we planned the collage workshops that preceded the exhibit. The book art will be gifted after the exhibit to the Peace Education Center of Greater Lansing.

I will be an instrument of peace.

Book art "Instrument of Peace" cover by Jen Loforese.

Where there is hatred, I will spread love.
Where there is wrong, I will do what’s right.
Where there is arguing, I will work to achieve harmony.
Where there is false information, I will speak the truth.
Where there is doubt, I will have faith.
Where there is despair, I will share hope.
Where there are shadows, I will look for sunlight.
Where there is sadness, I will bring joy.

Where someone cannot speak, I will be their voice.
Where someone is rejected, I will open my arms in welcome.
Where someone is troubled, I will offer a word of comfort.
Where someone struggles, I will lift them up and cheer.
Where some see disability, I will see extraordinary gifts.
Where someone is judged, I will share kind words.
Where any are overlooked, I will help the lights of all to shine.

For it is when we comfort others that we find comfort.
It is when we forgive others that we are given second chances.
It is when we are unsure or scared that we are inspired to hope.
It is in facing our greatest challenges that we discover our deepest strengths.
And it is when we feel most lost that we find the way home.

A series about how this community-arts collaboration shaped from idea into action now is available! The new page “The Origins of Words & Afterwards,” provides links to these posts published on my direct blog Dey of the Phoenix. (There are separate subscriptions for each blog, though they share a domain name.)

April 9, 2012, with activists Sandra Cade (left) and Ann Francis (right), both members of the Peace Education Center, using Mod Podge on collages. Photo by MDH.

As project coordinator, it’s my hope that these stories deepen Greater Lansing’s understanding about how Words & Afterwardsevolved into a compelling art exhibit. And more back stories are in the works! Please stay tuned for forthcoming additions.

We also have more pictures available! Check out the new Flickr album from our group session that transformed collages into book art. Thanks to Ruth Borgelt of the Peace Education Center for contributing to this documentation.

Also, tomorrow is Thursday, which means that (SCENE) Metrospace begins its gallery hours for the week: Thursdays, 2-5pm; Fridays and Saturdays, 2-6pm; and Sundays, 12-4pm. Groups able to visit outside of normal gallery hours are invited to contact me about an alternate possibility: MelissaHasbrook @gmail.com; 517.897.5833.

Thanks to everyone who joined the opening for the exhibition Words & Afterwards! And also to those who sent us well wishes in your absence.

Photo by Tom Schouten

Check out the night’s celebration from Flickr albums with the Peace Education Center, photos by co-chair Tom Rico; and with Dey of the Phoenix, photos by Tom Schouten who also programmed my multimedia installation Eyes Wide Open. A special thanks to the jam band Headz for performing all night!

The exhibition stands through June 24, so we continue to spread the word about this fantastic community-arts collaboration! (SCENE) Metrospace‘s gallery hours are Thursdays 2:00pm to 5:00pm; Fridays and Saturdays 2:00pm to 6:00pm; and Sundays 12:00pm to 4:00pm. (SCENE) puts on wonderful programs as well, mostly evenings, which gives another opportunity to take in the exhibit.

Groups interested in visits outside of gallery hours may contact myself by email at MelissaHasbrook[at]gmail.com or phone (517) 897-5833. Schools, organizations, worship communities, and others are welcome to inquire! Hopefully, the art work inspires guests to explore collage and the theme of moving from violence to healing when they return to daily life.

It’s been a busy week in the news for Words & Afterwards! The project is highlighted in the May 2012 edition of the Lansing State Journal’s Greater Lansing Woman. The article by Anne Erickson is titled “‘Words and AfterWords’ brings arts, community together: experiences with violence, healing explored in exhibit,” with photography by Matthew Dae Smith, and was released online April 24. Thanks to them both for great coverage! And the print edition is available in Greater Lansing on April 26.

My interview with the program Lansing Online News Radio took place April 23, 2012, via WLNZ 89.7FM, Lansing Community College Radio. Currently, the segment — which begins after the 30-minute mark — is available by podcast and streaming: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/lansing-online-news . Our conversation traversed the vision for the project, work by featured artists, issues for survivors of violence, and more!

Words & Afterwards is reaching its culmination! On Friday, April 27, the exhibition for the project opens from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at (SCENE) Metrospace of East Lansing, Michigan, located at 110 Charles Street. Visit our Facebook event listing! Musical guests include the jam band Headz and harpist Melissa Osborn, who is co-chair of the Peace Education Center. Recognition of grant partners and project contributors will take place around 7:00pm.

 

Prepping collages into book art. Photo by Melissa Dey Hasbrook.

For background, Words & Afterwards began last spring as a vision. And over the year, partners established a robust community collaboration. More than 40 workshop participants created collages, which featured artists have transformed into book art. After the exhibition, the book art will be gifted to the Peace Education Center, the Sexual Assault Program of Michigan State University, and the MSU Women’s Council.

 

 

The project has reach, and it’s been amazing to see it unfold from start to finish! A glimpse of the exhibition’s art work is available in this poster: “Spectrum” by featured artist Jen Loforese (top), “Angel at La Romita, Earth Memories V” by featured artist Gail Trapp-Bohner (center),¬†and a collage by workshop participant Heather Paris (bottom). Also featured in the exhibition are artists Kathryn Darnell and myself.

 

And in anticipation of the opening, tune into the program Lansing Online News Radio on Monday, April 23, around 7:30pm EST. I will be interviewed by co-hosts Bonnie Bucqueroux and Bill Castanier, which is broadcast on Lansing Community College Radio, WLNZ 89.7FM. Stream the station here: http://www.lcc.edu/radio/onair/!

Updated April 25, 2012.

Thanks to Assistant Professor Amy Drees of Defiance College (Ohio) and her students for designing the poster for the exhibit “Words & Afterwards: Moving from Violence to Healing”! Stay tuned for opening night details, Apr. 27, 6:00-9:00pm, at (SCENE) Metrospace.

More thanks goes out to REACH Studio Art Center, artist Jen Loforese, and Ruth Borgelt of the Peace Education Center for documenting the Words & Afterwards workshops at REACH’s Teen Open Studio! The images are collected on Flickr through this album. The sessions took place March 1 and 8, with 18 teens, volunteers, and staff. Jen Loforese and I co-led the workshops, which were collectively designed by us alongside artist Gail Trapp-Bohner.

Photo by Jen Loforese

Photo from REACH Studio Art Center

Thanks to the contributions of Karen Hooker and Judith Morrigan, February workshops were documented! Check out participants creating collages with the direction of artists Gail Trapp-Bohner and myself. The online album is available on Flickr.

Photo by Karen Hooker

Photo by Judith Morrigan