Community Art Making Course

Our group final performance was a community dance to and with our dance community. Because we all, the group, are connected to the Dance department at The Ohio State University, it was best fit to perform for these students with an emphasis on our department. I was responsible for scribing and finding a location to perform in as well as documenting the performance day of. As one of the scribes, I wrote down our thoughts and process to getting there. Because we allowed space for everyone to speak, we needed a way to keep track of all of this. As one of the space locators, I had to ask whether we were able to utilize the Wexner Center for the Arts as a performance space. We had to pay to do so and it didn’t fit without community profile, so that was out of the question. Our community profile included OSU students and anyone who walling between Wexner and Sullivant Hall. For documentary purposes, I set a camera up in the graduate office to record the full landscape of the performance.

We worked together pretty well. We listened to each other’s thoughts and gave space for people to say what they would like to do. Overall, we were trying to do what was easiest for the group. Since we had days where we didn’t have the full class, it was difficult to create things and each other. This is when the idea of rotation came about. I missed one of the days that had a major choreographic process. I wasn’t included because that would have taken more time to teach and learn. Instead, I served the hot cocoa and cue them to dance and change the scene. I preferred doing this since we didn’t have music, which I what I was pushing for, I took it upon myself to yell things to keep the dancers on track.

I believe our work read for the most part. There were two parts people were confused about. The beginning or the end. The beginning, people were standing around asking us when we were starting. When I walked up to people and inform them, we have already started they were shocked. Also, they were eager to be a part of the pieces which were new for us. I took it upon myself to engage in people who were not of the dance department. I didn’t want to forget the bystanders walking past. I would greet them with a smile if they had headphones, say stay warm or have a good day if they didn’t, and offer them hot cocoa if they stopped and paused. To those who walked past, I believe they noticed instantly we were performing, even though they didn’t know the who. For our OSU Dance family, as stated they were confused on the how we are starting until the flocking part. That’s when they were ready to join. After this, I gave the cue for the dancers to go into their phrase. Many OSU Dance(r) stopped dancing because the intentions and the gaze of the performers dropped into self rather than each other. My cue for them to switch from flocking to “warmth” confused the audience as well. Because I said there wasn’t anymore, hot cocoa and stay warm, cued them to go inside the building rather than staying for more dancing.

This work informed my art making process tremendously. I still notice I shed myself and my wants all the way down to nothing rather than trying to share a bit of myself in the work. I enjoy music, even if its background or cue engaging. Because we were dancing in silence, I was kind of annoyed by this. It just seemed so bland. Visually entertaining, but bland in the flow of the work. Also, being one of a two graduate student and person of color, having conversations around race, equity, and relations within our department became rather difficult. I have an understanding of myself in relation to the places I’m in and beyond. Some of my peers never have to think of these things or just never thought of it in the manner we were talking in,  and I found it very difficult to have discussion surround it. I noticed I monitored my wording to encourage this behavior and instantly got frustrated inner(ly) when my message was cut off or misunderstood. Many of the readings we had in class addressed the knowledge-based and personal/professional experiences I’ve had surrounding the subject of community art makings and collaboration within or out of the institution. I had to remember not everyone is where I am and it takes time. Meet them where they at, know that they mean well, and if it’s problematic correct it right away but with love. But also recognize that many have been programmed to shut down or cut off people of color and their thoughts around this subject which pushed me to continue the conversation elsewhere.  During this course, I kept going back to the beginning of the semester at what’s the cost for us to get where we need to be. For me, when I give up too much of my self I’m drained, and nothing is replenishing me. I noticed, I can’t give up a lot of stuff, for they define and comfort me in those tough times. So, when I see myself in those situations where I’m asked to shed, I sit in silence and lean on my support to get me through. I found myself in that space often during the course.

This process of composition reminded me of the Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute process. We read or engage in classes or conversation, we break into groups and create based on what the group thought of the work. From there we pieced together a performance. Every class and engagement had the end goal in mind but not in a mindset of product. We were encouraged to push ourselves to think deeper and wider with our work and collaboration. The significance of our work was to create a share with the community. We have what it takes to engage with the community. From active listening, creating patterns, layering the many things we have created, supporting one another in the process, and finally staying warm in the cold. We achieved this in our performance with extra support from the community.

Overall, I enjoyed the course. Something we didn’t do in the class that I was looking forward too was looking up and applying for community art-making grants. I feel because I’ve taken several communities engaging courses, I am pretty prepared to create in the community much better than before. I would recommend this source for someone who is considering making art with(in) the community.

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