Author Archives: Aaron

PATH experiments…

2019-03-02 21.20.17

The idea of a “pocket PATH” – a little pamphlet to remind one of the seven steps in a PATH – came from one of our first teachers, Joanne Proctor.  When, years later, the one she’d made was tattered and had been copied so many times it was hard to read it, I decided to make a new “zine” version.

Over the last 23 or so years I’ve done at least hundreds if not thousands of PATHs…  sometimes I think oh it couldn’t be that many but then I remember times when I did a few PATHs a day for a few days and think, well, maybe…

And, still, there’s always something to learn.  In one of the small community based research projects we are working on, thanks to a grant from the Taos Institute, we are following social constructionist research principles – we are working in “future forming” ways with a small church congregation.  We’ve had a great community dialogue and pinned down some themes to follow, and one of the things that has come up is the need for some strategic planning.   In many research methods one would wait until the dust had settled and that slice of reality had been pinned down like a butterfly in a frame before going on.  It wouldn’t really be the job of a researcher to be “helpful”.  The need for a strategic plan might go into the recommendations section…  and one would wish them luck.

But here we are, in relationship, ready to go, so when the idea came up, we offered several strategic planning models that we might work on together.  Liz and Barb, familiar with PATH as a format used for and with people with disabilities for about four decades, thought it would be a great method; the church agreed.  That Barb and Liz can see that the method, almost always used for individuals, can also work for groups, projects and strategic planning, is evidence of their active and thoughtful participation as co-facilitators.   PATH is a great tool – it can be directed towards lives, networks, projects big and small, and can involve almost unlimited numbers of people if that is planned for.  It was developed and continues to evolve with the folks from Inclusion Press.

PlanningWIthLizAndNova

Me, Nova and Liz working on some planning.  A thing that was cool about this was that Liz decided to facilitate, rather than do the graphic recording.  And she was amazing and created such a safe space for dreaming and went directions that were really inspiring.

However, no one in the congregation knows about PATH.  There was a time when I liked the mystery and the way a group discovered the process of what we were doing – I liked mapping it out in fine pencil lines and the tension of the participants as the diagram of the planning, drawn with markers in images, formed a circle, and then an arrow, moving from “now” to a positive and possible future.  It was like a performance!  Tomorrow, however, we need people to quickly understand our method and walk with us as they lead us, moving into planning based on whatever their dream is as a group.

So we decided to distribute a little pamphlet about PATH which I’ve been using in trainings.  You can find a copy of it here, at the bottom of the page, or here, with the link to my chapter from the anthology, Drawn Together Through Visual Practice, edited by Brandy Agerbeck, Kelvy Bird, Sam Bradd and Jennifer Shepherd.  We’ve never tried this before but, at best, it will give people a way to stay on top of where we are in the process.

We will see how it goes!

We’re also getting ready to host another PATH training workshop.  Check here for dates, costs and place.  It’s looking like a really interesting group of people so far!  Come and be part of it.

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Everything is art

quote-the-arts-it-has-been-said-cannot-change-the-world-but-they-may-change-human-beings-who-maxine-greene-93-20-31I spent two years in art school, doing little else but make art.  When I graduated they invited me to apply for a place in a new diploma program where I could focus on nothing but print-making, with access to a studio and supplies and assistance for larger projects.  I made hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pieces.  I rented a small studio in a building full of artists and in the common space where we made tea and took breaks we had great conversations about things like the techniques used by Japanese masters in watercolor woodblock prints, and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s use of pop drug culture and the idea of framing ontology in classical painting.  I got a job as an art history research assistant with responsibilities for editing visuals in a classy academic journal and they sent me to New York and Toronto to do things with architecture and check out galleries.  It was a heady transition for a kid from the farmlands and I never thought I’d do anything else.

Aaron Monet Waterlilies May 2018

May 2018, celebrating my 61st birthday with Monet’s Waterlilies at Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.

However, not long after that I received the tiniest inheritance, a few hundred dollars – it seemed like so much money at the time – and when I was reflecting and meditating on what to do with it, it came to me that I needed to have my feet on the ground and my hands in the earth.  So I moved out of the city and rented a tiny house with a tiny garden and got a largeish dog.  I applied for and got accepted into a university education program to teach art in schools, but it got shut down the week I began so I transferred into English and Classics.  I studied all day, all week, and at night I cleaned offices and on the weekends I silk-screened logs onto bathing caps.  And, one day, when I was having lunch with an art school friend, and she said, “It’s such a shame you’re not making art.”  That hadn’t occurred to me.  Was I even missing it?  Not that I’d noticed.

I went home and was weeding the garden and looked around at the flowers, herbs and vegetables and at my hands covered in earth and everything moving in the slight breeze and thought, “I think this, too, is art.”  And then the neighbour lady, who was a drug addict, came over to ask if she could have some flowers to take to her sister, who was also a drug addict, and had been beaten up and raped in the downtown east side and was now in the hospital recovering.  “I just love your flowers, I look at them all the time.”  I picked poppies that I grew because Monet did, and roses from a bush that Vita Sackville-West wrote about and sunflowers that van Gogh had loved…  you get the idea.  It was a garden built on art.  When I laid the bouquet into her arms, the rose thorns scratched her and I said, “Oh, I’m sorry!” and she laughed and said, “No harm done!  My sister will love these flowers.  I bet no one has ever brought her flowers before.”  And I looked at her arms, pocked with needle marks, now scratched and bleeding a little, and I thought, this too, is art.

graphic recording moving into my self 2018-06-30As I come to the end of one career after thirty years in social services and supports to people with disabilities, and vibrate in a whole new and exciting way in a new career teaching college students, I think, “this, too, is art.”  Everything is art.  I have somehow, after so many years, started using art in research and facilitation so that now I spend hours making art, with all kinds of partners and all kinds of colleagues, bringing everything I’ve learned into one package.  Some graphic recorders differentiate between their “art-making” and their graphic recording.  I don’t.  The recording of free ranging conversations with large groups of people and the clarification of the directions people want to go in to create a future that I am able to help them picture, is art.

I am preparing to teach a class in policy development and Indigenous experiences through a lens of truth and reconciliation.  That, too, is art.  I will begin with the metaphor of fire: policy is fire.  It can warm us and make us safe, and if we let it get out of control it can force us to flee in unwanted directions.  We can cook with it, we can get burned by it.  We can learn how to use it.  The most useful manifestos in my life have been those that were written by artists.  I think I will begin our class with some drawing…

Best wishes to a New Year, 2019, full of all kinds of art that you care about.

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How to have better meetings – Sam Bradd’s 2018 round-up…

We are lucky to have Sam Bradd among us here on the coast.  He sets the bar for those who work in alternative, serious ways, and is a tireless, compassionate, generative friend and colleague to a whole community.   After years of wanting to, I finally got a chance to work with him, as I facilitated a small group in planning and he handled the graphics…  it was one of the best dances I’ve been part of.  I’ll post the graphics one day.  He’s one of the people I could work with all the time.  Sam has collected a host of great graphic recorders and facilitators and you can see his work and meet them on his site, Drawing Change.  

For the last couple of years, Sam has put together really fun and interesting collections of ideas from his network of facilitators and graphic process workers (including me).  This year’s prompt was “In 2019, we wish more meetings would…”   Click the image below to see some great ideas.  Can you guess which one is mine from the graphic?  Do you have other ideas about how to have better meetings?  What might a better meeting look like for you?

2018-Year-End-Wrap-Up-600x298@2x

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