Artist’s Reflection

Mary Corrigan, Mariah Howard, and Avril Orloff, Artistic Facilitation

Mariah: We wanted to just take an opportunity to share with you the gift that it’s been to see you make art. And to make art with you. And I think something really magical has happened because as we’ve been looking at, very often in doing the work of visual recording we’re in the background, our back is turned to the room. And we’ve become labeled the artists. And here in this experience you shared that with us. And in making art for yourself, the collage, and making art in small groups, and making these murals, where your mark was on the page just as much as ours, a shift took place. And I think art came into the center. And there’s a role that was such a gift to me in the critical nature of making art together and of, as we say in improv, of “yes-and-ing” that part of ourselves that lives in color, that lives in symbol, that lives in the mark on the page that we don’t understand. So I just, with full heart, stand in gratitude that you joined yourself there and that we stood in community together in that place. And I urge you, I beseech you, I beg of you, to keep making that art with each other, for yourself, in journal, and come back to those images. This has changed for me the way I understand the role of art in my work. And I’m indebted to all of you, so I wanted to share that. Thank you.

Avril: I have had the experience, much like Mariah, of generally being with my back to the room. And I spoke last night in the smaller group, that I know I can do that. You know, I know I can stand in the back of the room with the pen in my hand. And what this experience gave me was the permission to step out and face the room. And speak with my voice as well as my hands. And be with you all in that process. I felt like we were speaking in some ways, everybody spoke in their own voice, and we all spoke together. And the three of us, it’s also a rare treat to be able to work with other people who are doing this work. Usually it’s a very isolating thing. You get the kudos or the coffee cups depending on how people see you, here take my coffee cup thanks. Its’ happened. And it feels so a part. And to be a part of instead of a part from, was a real gift. And even so, there’s a sense of responsibility to the room to get that stuff up. There are so many faces, there are so many people I didn’t really get to spend as much time with as I’d like to. And I’m just kinda gonna look around at you all for a second here. Thank you.

Mary: Thank you. I also have a lot of gratitude today. Every morning when the music starts my heart just bursts open. I wanna say a little bit about collaboration and the gift that ward gave when he invited all these other folks. And, truthfully, when he first announced that it didn’t feel like a gift to me it was like, “You what?” You know, cause I’ve been here for a while and I’ve been doing this gig for a while and even though have been wanting to get off the wall, there was a certain kinda like, “wait a minute, how’s this gonna work.” But the gift for me has really been that, it’s not about holding the markers like this; it’s about holding the markers like this. And the new star in my constellation from this time this week is one of mentoring, and teaching, and holding space for other people to show up, not to the diminishment or inflation of my own gifts, but to make room for other people to play. And that has been such an incredible gift. And the fact that we, consciously, did not start on the wall until you all had put markers to paper was intentional and I think shifted everything. And I learned a lot this week about the way I work and how I engage people and how I show up. And one of my very favorite exhibits and art forms that I’ve ever seen is that quilting exhibit that came around a few years ago. It’s Gees Bend. It’s that little Island off in Alabama where all these African American and Cajun women have been doing quilting for years out of whatever happens to be lying around. And what I so remember from that is you were not invited into the guild until you developed your own style. And there were teachers and mentors there to teach the skill and the practical things of how you put things together, but you didn’t get to come into the community until you owned your own style. And then it flowed and everybody worked together and it was really magical. So that’s been my, kind of, guiding star, if you will, for how to be in a relationship together. So I’ve really appreciated all the artists who’ve shown up. Both those of us who were identified ahead of time in every form: in word, in music, in poetry and drawing and color. And all of you in the room who’ve really jumped in to participate so I’m really grateful.

Avril: No I actually, we have a couple more minutes. So I have a request because it would be a real gift to me to know how it affected you to be part of the art making process, to be artists, to participate as artist in this process and maybe I’ll take a page form Peter’s book and ask four people. For four people to speak for how that experience was for them, for you.

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Gary M.: So, my name’s Gary, music’s been my main entry into the stream of creativity. And, it’s interesting, when I approach visual art or drawing I just feel like pretty out of it. Like, just a bit stupid actually. So there’ a lot of, kind of, shame and awkwardness. And so, at first when we were doing this, there was a part of my that just went, “Oh no! Not again.” Cause I generally have not experienced myself as being very successful, whatever that means, however I tell the story that diminishes what I actually do. But there’s something about seeing everybody partake in it that, somehow, thawed the ice enough, that I could begin to experience the validity of my own expression in this medium. And try and keep the demons and dogs of oppressive criticism at bay long enough to at least actually enjoy not knowing what I was doing. So to me, that’s a great opening.  So, thank the three of you and to the entire community for allowing that to happen.

Christina: My name is Christina and I just wanted to say that I was just in awe whenever I would walk back there that they were able to somehow, not only assimilate everything that was going on in the room with everyone, but then to give it a visual picture so that I could understand it better. And I think I’m one of those people I was always either gonna do painting or was gonna do theater, or something creative. So to see it captured in such an extraordinary, divine way, with such nice writing, I thought that’s amazing, to me, and it’s made everything that we were doing make sense. Thank you.

Charles: It’s Charles. The word collaborative I found really powerful and interesting and the experience, the sequence, that I experienced yesterday, was Ward presenting the question, Peter you refining it to take it from a broader question to a narrower question which was, “What was it that surprised you, or you weren’t prepared for today.” And the combination of the two of you refining that question and then the conversation amongst the four or five of us together combined with the visual led to, it was that that led to Ralph, who’s not here he had to leave, expressing his experience of getting Ubuntu. And a piece of the experience for me in that was Gary, you as Hannah was drawing the mind overflowing; it was like, “Yes! You got it!.” And it was that experience of her getting it and the rest of us getting it in a way that words couldn’t, it was the visual. So for me this combination of powerful questions, conversation, and co-creating visual, is something that I’m taking with me from this to think about and explore and meet. ‘Cause it’s great.

Mara: OK, my name is Mara. And, so, I kind of tend to steer away from things I’m not good at. You know, if I try something, and I’m kind of failing at I, I’ll you know, turn it into a joke and then later, you know, secretly beat myself up over it. So art, you know, really good artists are like, “Yeah, you can do it, it will be fine don’t worry about it.” And there’s you going like, “No it’s not gonna work.” But, so, I love art, I love looking at it, I like doing it but whenever I actually try and attempt it I’ve always felt like it looks like a blob. And it was interesting because when we were doing the collaborative ones, on all of them, things that might look like nothing by themselves, when they got put together on a piece of paper, really ended up expressing exactly what they were meant to. And I think that’s kind of interesting because that’s kind of how life is. And, you know, with the pastels and smudging, life is kind of smudgy. So nothings a straight line, nothing’s perfect. And so, all of our drawings together, they’re smudgy by themselves may not be anything spectacular, but when you put them together they’re kinda magnificent.

Viki: Very quickly, I won’t make it very long, but as I was looking, I have a beautiful view of the whole mural from our journey together. And as I was following the progress, I got to the end and it says, “Welcome,” in really bright pink letters. And, for some reason, that is really striking me because it’s not, “Goodbye,” it’s not, “Close the book and now go home,” it’s “You’ve arrived at a new place as a new being right now and you can start answering the next call.” And that to me is a very  open ended way to exit, and so thank you for putting that up there.

Mariah: So I just want to invite you today at some point in your return home, we don’t have the spaciousness time wise, but to take a moment yourself and to make an artistic gesture for yourself. An imbol…an imbol? That’s a new kind of thing. It’s a symbol and an image together. I just made it up right here. You’re welcome. To create a symbol, an icon, an image that represents for you the return. This experience as something that you can share as you move back into your community. It’s something that can be witnessed.