Tag Archives: communication

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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the stuff of better conversations…

here are six people I admire (in this moment), having great conversations about a transforming world, while in the process of being part of that transformation and “leading” in different ways…  to create the opportunities for better conversations.

Russell Brand

Charles Eistenstein (google his blog / site too)

bell hooks on twitter

Kenneth Gergen

Al Etmanski (and Vickie and Liz)

and the incredible artist Hernan Bas because I needed an artist in here…

HernanBas

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#clmooc Learning and Gaming Cycle 3

The stone game is a great way to communicate with teenagers :) (given that it involves listening!)

The stone game is a great way to communicate with teenagers 🙂 (given that it involves listening!)

Many good conversations and makings during this third cycle of #clmooc.   It got me thinking about the stone game, and then I remembered this video I made.  This was one of the first gigs* that I had, in which I was graphically recording what was happening in the room and, in this case, online as the facilitator was on an island across the strait, leading the group in a conversation that began with “the stone game.”  I had just taken some basic training in graphic recording and my only rule was that I wouldn’t say “no” – a game I play with myself when I’m entering new territory as I know it is my tendency to want to say no and think I can’t do things.

From afar, David had given each participants a pile of stones and then used them to negotiate a conversation, with them paying attention to their dynamics.  This led them to a very fruitful conversation about their goals and how they were moving forward together.  One of the most brilliant pieces of facilitation I’ve seen and transformational for me…

It began a long lovely recipricol relationship for me with the Family Support Institute of B.C. (I volunteer as much as I can with them and they let me get experimental), was the first of many many graphic recording and facilitation gigs, started us working for a couple of years on projects with David Wetherow, one of my heros who I never expected to work with and a fascination with the stone game, which I’ve used with smaller groups as a facilitation tool.

*While I am now a bit embarrassed by the quality of the graphic recording, it is still one of my favourite sessions and videos.  The distance between what I wanted to do and what I could do compelled me to go learn more 🙂

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

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