Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Painting circles

Kyle (my brother) told me I was a crazy person when I complained about LA traffic and told me no one travels where I was going unless they live there. Also, those people know when to leave and what route to take in order to avoid traffic. Wish I had known that...it took me almost 2 hours to drive to Long Beach and meet up with the founder of Circle Painting, Hiep, but it was definitely worth it.

Circle Painting falls under the categories of community building and arts organizations. I find myself drawn to these types of organizations a lot lately (does that mean I care less about green building/women's empowerment orgs? I don't think so, but maybe those two things become a part of whatever community building stuff I end up doing...? Who knows.). It brings people together for large, interactive art installations and "...develop[s] leaders who will employ art to improve their communities..." Their 3 power words are connect, create and celebrate. How do they do these three things and how effective is it?

Connect: While it has the potential to connect people of similar socioeconomic status, faith, age etcetera, it also has enormous potential for bringing people together from all walks of life. For me, connecting cannot happen without communication of some kind, so there is also a basic level of communication going on in this type of activity. A downfall to this would be the one-time, single trial nature of the project...how can one build community when there is not continued connections?

Create: Much of this is referring I think to the creation of the artwork. Groups paint parts of the circle either on canvas or murals or whatever is around, pass it on to the next group and continue until everyone has contributed to each part of the artwork/circle painting. I take the word create to mean creating a sense of community. Yes, there is always some sense of community, but oftentimes it feels as though we need to recreate aspects of our relationships with neighbors and have a reminder on just how great communities can be! Getting people together with interactive activities is a good way to do so...

Celebrate: One of the more important lessons I've learned from organizations is HAVE FUN! Enjoy the work you're engaged in, enjoy the people you're interacting with, and celebrate each day you get to be a part of it! In talking with Hiep I realized what I would really like to see more in Buffalo and the east side is a celebration of what we like about our city. Change the way we look at things from negative to positive, because only then can there be progress made. A negative, defeated attitude only means more trouble...

Hiep told me about his 50:50 project, 50 cities in 50 states...an attempt to increase community participation in the arts and have circle painting installations in each place. Circle painting is not the solution to poverty, poor public school funding, high rates of teen pregnancy, etc. in Buffalo, but I see its potential in sparking an alternative to the negative aura that many Buffalonians have adopted when it comes to speaking about change in their communities...

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