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 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.