I had a great time presenting The Community Circle Project at the Seekonk Public Library on April 28, thanks to funding from the Seekonk Cultural Council. Also, thank you to The Seekonk Reporter for featuring me and the project on the April cover.
Families and adults were invited to participate in two virtual evening sessions. We took time to reflect on kindness, talked about its meaning to each of us on a personal level and considered ways we could show kindness to ourselves as well as to others.
A few of the circles we made during the art engagement are included here above and below.
In the summer of 2019, I was asked to design an art engagement for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. event that is presented by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Committee of Greater Attleboro (Mass.). In response, I created The Community Circle Project to remind us all of our common humanity in the spirit of Dr. King and his dream for the world.
The project debuted at the 2020 event. The paintings that I created incorporating the work of the event participants were supposed to be exhibited in person, but the pandemic has put that on hold for now. So, I created this virtual reveal, part of which was shown at the organization’s 2021 virtual event on Jan. 18, 2021.
Fingers crossed that people will get to see the paintings in person sooner than later. In the meantime, this video presents an overview of the start of my contribution to the world. I believe that we can work together to make this the best place for all of us to thrive.
The Community Circle Project has grown and transformed since its debut, with the addition of facilitated conversation around important issues that illuminate the art making.
I facilitate virtual workshops as well as the creation of a large-scale collaborative paintings with corporate teams, community groups or nonprofits. Please contact me, if you are interested in booking an engagement—for fun art making, relationship building and support of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
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Friday night, I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to be the featured visual artist during Rhythm Visions Production Company, Inc.’s virtual open mic night on Facebook. I was invited to paint live for an hour during the performances. I was so honored to be considered. Of course, I said yes. (A special thank you to Renita Martin.)
It was one of the most unusual and amazing evenings I have ever been a part of—so full of overlapping energy, talent and diverse creativity. It was great to be able to share my vision for The Community Circle Project and to create the circle that you see here during a live event.
I say that now—after. You should have seen me leading up to the event.
In case you have ever wanted a look behind the scenes of an artist’s creative process, here is mine when a kind person requests my artistic skills. And, I’m only showing you because all of us on social media tend to make things look so pretty and easy. But that is not reality. Here is my reality. Raise your hand if you can identify.
My creative process goes something like this:
Requester: “Sandy, can you/will you/do you know how to [x, y or z] and have time in your schedule to do so?
Me: “Absolutely, yes.”
The result? My schedule is wide open. I do [x, y or z].The project turns out beautifully. Everyone is happy.
Now, here’s what happens behind the scenes, the part that you don’t see—after I have told the requester yes and before the end result.
Me: “Oh, God! What did I do?! Why did I say yes?! I have no idea if I can do [x, y or z]! What is wrong with me! This is going to be a disaster! I have a million things on my schedule right now. I don’t even think I am an artist! Who said I’m an artists?! I’ve seen the beautiful work of other artists and I’m not as good as they are. I should tell the requester to get one of those artists. Damn it, why did I go on a diet?! I need to eat my way through this unreasonable fear of disaster, but that’s way too many carbs! Get. It. Together. Girl!”
Then, I Google and YouTube my eyeballs off to figure out anything I don’t know. I practice, practice, practice whatever that thing is, or come to realize that, wait a minute, yes, yes, I do, indeed, know how to do it, that I have been doing it all along, and I need to trust the process and myself.
The result? The project turns out beautifully. Everyone is happy.
Now, will I remember this and skip all the behind-the-scenes drama next time I’m offered something? Probably not. That’s part of the excitement. But I want to always remember that I am enough. Always. (So are you.)
What does your creative process look like? Where does your fear show up and how do you tackle it?
Everyone eats. What we eat and why sheds light on who we are and our experiences. Food is a language that we have in common.
When we have conversations about food we have an opportunity to allow others to get to know us and our families and to see that we are all similar in many ways, even as we see how our culinary backgrounds differ.
Something as simple as a vegetable can elicit fond memories and provide a narrative to share information about our culture, heritage and upbringing.
Take for example okra. Okra takes me home to my childhood growing up in the south.
My mother steamed okra and cooks it in collard greens and field peas. My daddy uses it liberally in his famous seafood gumbo. And one of my favorite restaurants that still visit when I visit my family serves the best fried okra you will ever taste.
I’m always surprised to when I see it in the grocery store here in the north—fresh, not frozen. The same applies when I’m in the cereal aisle and see grits on the shelf.
When I cook fresh okra, I slice it really thin and pan fry it in just about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, adding just a little bit of salt and pepper. I patiently wait for it to develop a nice brown crust before flipping it over.
When I told my mother about this recently during one of our Saturday phone calls, she called it “fancy cooking,” said she only knows how to “boil it” and wishes that she could cook it as well as her mom, Big Mama, did. It made me laugh because I’ve always wished I could cook it as well as my mom.
That’s just one vegetable. What foods conjure up special memories for you? What stories do they tell about you, your family and your roots?
Recently, while at the grocery store, where I feel like I’m in some sort of weird video game in which I have to carefully avoid destruction from hidden dangers, I went the wrong direction of the instructional aisle arrows.
I quickly turned around for the safety of myself and other shoppers trying to accomplish the same necessary task during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From that point on, I focused on being particularly mindful of going in the right direction. Not all shoppers did the same. Some paid the arrows no mind at all.
It became frustrating and got me to thinking, if everyone would just go in the right direction, we could all accomplish things much faster. But then I wondered, absent of the giant arrows pointing out the direction, how does each person determine what is right and what is wrong? What are those decisions based on?
What I think is right, clearly is not what everyone else thinks is right. (And, I’m not talking about the laws that we are obliged to follow.)
Are there absolutes that we can all agree are the right things to do—no matter our religion, political affiliation, upbringing?
Are the things that you could list as absolutely “right?” Do those things match what your friends, family, coworkers would say? Does it matter if they don’t? Does your relationship depend upon it? Should it?
Can we disagree on what is right and still have a civil, productive conversation and treat each other with respect?
Just some things I’m thinking about, reflecting on and filtering through art.
I have always loved the saying, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? That is until you think about the fact that change is, well, really hard.
Change requires opening up, letting your guard down, learning and accepting new information, new habits and new ways of thinking. It demands letting go of what is comfortable to allow growth.
For example, I ‘wish’ to see people be nicer to each other all the time, but am I that ‘change’ I want to see? Am I nice to everyone all the time? Um, no. I try to be, but, let’s face it, some folks make that challenging sometimes—a lot. 🙂 But I can’t expect something new, something different, something better from others or the world, if I’m not willing to offer the best of who I am.
Most days I will do that. Some days I will fall short. My job is not to be perfect. My job is try my best. When I don’t accomplish that, I know there is another day on the way to try again.
I can be the change (even if it is more comfortable and easier not to be), so can you—if we are willing to repeatedly put in the effort.
What change do you want to see in yourself, in the world? Are you willing to try to be that change?