I am a community artist engaging in relational art making. Community arts are rooted in geographic revitalization and the forward movement of a group. Relational art making describes a creative process in which human relationship and connection is as essential as the art itself. It can take place at many levels--with a group of people representing a geographic location, or a classroom of teens, or my nephew as we create our next Lego design.
Quality relational art making utilizes a design and creative process that is open to all within the relational network. I have three core principles in relational art-making:
I bring to every project my own specificity: my spirituality and deep faith, upbringing in rural West Virginia, love for my urban, North Philadelphia neighborhood, and particular talents and skills. I have found that the more true and authentic each person is to her specific background; the greater the potential is for connection. To be transformed by the art we create together, authenticity is essential.
Each project must define its core purpose, and the first task is naming it. In the course of the project, many different agendas will present themselves and battle for priority. There is a spiritual dimension to holding the core purpose of the project at the forefront while meeting the needs of those who are involved. The artist must often sacrifice her own aesthetic preference or perception of essential qualities to allow a specific community to express what they have found beautiful and meaningful. Clarification of the purpose avoids the illusion of failure when art comes up short in areas that we deem significant.
PROVIDING A SPINE
The fundamental challenge a relational artist faces is this: to create a structure in which a community of people with a range of talent and abilities can enter into the creative process and leave feeling affirmed as artists. Just as the leader of a drum circle provides the rhythmic spine for all in the circle to build on, my role is to create an art “spine” for a group of people to sync with. If adequate structure is provided, each participant experiences support for their own creative contribution regardless of form or skill. The unison or structure enables each to offer their own creative “solos” -- as many unique expressions as there are people in the circle.
My best offering as an artist is to bring my unique and authentic essence to the artistic process and to embrace that quality in another. The work I commit to is asking the Spirit to increase my capacity to recognize and embrace the uniqueness of others I encounter.