Pima County Public Library Youth Media & Innovation Center
I continue to work with the Pima County Public Library in planning a youth center. In November 2012 we received notice that we were awarded a $100,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation & Institute of Museum and Library Services to plan a youth media center in Pima County. We’re one of 24 communities nationwide – and the only one in Arizona – selected to receive the grant. We are particularly excited about this opportunity because youth are playing a central role in facilitating the planning process for the center. In January and February 2013, we received nearly 250 youth applications and after much anguish hired 15 youth to help us plan the youth center. Since February, the youth have formed three teams – research, outreach & documentation. The research team has been researching and collecting information about leading youth centers across the country, such as Artists for Humanity in Boston and The Point in the South Bronx. The outreach team developed a survey to assess what youth in Pima County would like to see in a youth center. Through surveys and focus groups they have gathered input from nearly 2,000 youth. The documentation team has developed video and photography skills and is documenting our entire planning process, so others can learn from our trials and tribulations. By June 2014 we will have a vision and implementation plan for the youth center based on input gathered from the community.
Museum as Sanctuary: Giving Voice to Tucson’s Refugees
In January 2013, thanks to a grant from the Tucson Pima Arts Council, I was able to work on the Museum as Sanctuary (MAS) project, collaboration between Tucson Museum of Art and The Hopi Foundation’s Owl & Panther Project (OP). Owl & Panther works with refugee families in the Tucson area who have been impacted by torture, trauma, or traumatic dislocation. Refugee youth and adults produced truly inspiring self-portraits, photographs, sculpture, drawings, landscapes, collaborative story-telling paintings and illustrations, and nature-inspired tiles. I worked with the youth to create photographic portraits of their peers and families. The work resulting from this three-year project was exhibited in the Tucson Museum of Art in the summer and fall of 2013. The response from the community was heartening, as over 6,000 folks viewed the exhibition. We continue to look for other venues around the country to share the work. You can learn a bit more about the project in this BBC piece here.
Lens on the Land – Rosemont: What’s at Stake
Over the past two years I have been coordinating a collaborative photography project called Lens on the Land with the Sonoran Institute, Save the Scenic Santa Ritas and photographer Brian Powell. Brian and I have created and gathered powerful photographs that visually celebrate the natural and cultural heritage that would be destroyed by the proposed Rosemont copper mine, just 30 miles southeast of Tucson. Photographers, biologists and community members have generously donated many of these photographs. The proposed mine site, which includes the northeastern slopes of the Santa Rita Mountains and surrounding watersheds, is home to nine threatened and endangered species, including the only jaguar in the U.S. The mine would also destroy 118 cultural sites sacred to the Tohono O’odham people and other Native communities. An exhibition of approximately 50 images will tell this story and will open at Fluxx Gallery in Tucson on February 1, 2014. We are also collaborating with a team of other local artists on this project – New Articulations Dance Theater has produced a video that celebrates different species in the Rosemont area through dance, faculty at The Drawing Studio have created landscape paintings and drawings, and a team of Tucson poets have created poetry about the region. We will be sharing this work through exhibitions, film screenings, public projections, and other venues. We shared selections from the artwork created by this collaborative at the exhibition, “Seeing the Santa Ritas,” at The Drawing Studio in October 2013.
Largely as a result of my collaborations with public school teachers for the past 10+ years, I have been searching for a way to make it easier for teachers and professionals in the community to support each other. For teachers, time is limited and resources scarce. I kept thinking how powerful it could be if community professionals, businesses and organizations could more easily share their skills and experiences with our youth and teachers. This would expose youth to all kinds of career possibilities and make classroom learning feel more “real” and connected to their aspirations and the community at large. It would also offer pathways for professionals to contribute meaningfully to their community by sharing their unique skills and experiences with youth. So over the past two years I have been working with a group of educators, organizations and community members to develop a regional, online network called CommunityShare. CommunityShare will make it quick and efficient for teachers to match the goals and needs of their classrooms and schools with the skills and experiences of community partners in the greater Tucson region. Sort of a “match.com” for learning. A community partner might be a local historian, ecologist, web developer, solar engineer, neighborhood elder, physicist, photographer, athlete, or community organization. These are people who could support classroom learning by presenting to students, collaborating on class projects, mentoring students, or hosting fieldtrips. We surveyed 9,000 teachers and they expressed loud and clear that they want more community engagement in their classroom. We are currently working with a web developer to launch an online beta test of CommunityShare by February 2014. So keep your eyes peeled!
Finding Voice Project
For my eighth year, I am working as artist-in-residence and co-founder of the Finding Voice Project with ELL teacher Julie Kasper at Catalina Magnet High School in Tucson. This year Julie and I have started the year asking our refugee and immigrant students to explore careers they would like to pursue through writing and photography. As part of this research, they are shadowing a professional in their chosen career areas (travel agent, nurse, engineer, accountant, etc.) and producing mini “day in the life” photoessays.
Arizona TESOL Conference Presentation
My Finding Voice Project colleague Julie Kasper and I facilitated an interactive workshop entitled, “Finding Voice: Developing Literacies & Community Connections for ELLs,” at the statewide AZ TESOL conference in Tucson in October 2013.
University of Arizona Public Political Ecology Lab Presentation
In October 2013, I was asked by Assistant Professor Tracey Osborne to give a presentation to the Public Political Ecology Lab entitled, “Creating Social Change Through Community-Based Storytelling.” As a result of this connection, we are currently exploring opportunities to create dialogue and collaboration between different departments within the University of Arizona and practitioners of community art in the region.
Tohono Chul Park Small Works Exhibition
I was invited to contribute two works of art for Tohono Chul Park’s 2013 Small Works Exhibition. Two photographs are being exhibited in their main gallery in November and December of 2013.