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.
Dawn Louis-Jean, an art teacher at Ascend Leadership Academy in Sanford, N.C., teaches students in grades six through 12. At the start of the school year, she used The Community Circle Project as one of the first assignments.
“We are doing all virtual learning, so their whole lives have changed from last year. I wanted to let them talk about how Covid-19 has impacted and, perhaps, permanently changed their lives,” she said.
Students were given a supply list for the project and parents purchased supplies on their own. Fifty students created these amazing circles.
A big thank-you to Dawn and her students for sharing their thoughts through creativity.
This summer Kelly Betz, an art educator in the Glenwood Elementary School District of Greenfield, used the Community Circle Project during the district’s Virtual Summer School Program in Wisconsin. In the “Art Studio” she taught Betz engaged 25 students in grades three through six, ages 7 to 11, in creating circles.
She shared two circles here made by sixth grader Piper Schick and fourth grader Maddix Malkovich.
“Due to the nature of virtual learning, connecting can be a struggle—especially in the case of my program, which had students from around the district whom I never met,” said Betz. “As a way to get to know the students, I gave them the prompt to create a circle about themselves our first day.”
Students we asked to create a self-portrait or favorite place in the center of the circle and then symbols about themselves along the outside rings. They could use as many symbols, patterns and designs as desired and whatever materials they wanted.
“What drew me to using the Community Circle Project is that it has so many possibilities for what can be created and how learners can interpreted the idea,” Betz said. “Just the idea of a portrait and symbols gave such an amazing range of results and led to discussions about their symbols and why they picked them. It was beneficial in creating a connection between myself and these students whom I never met face to face.
“I became more than just a face on a screen telling them what to do; I became someone they could ask questions of and talk to about their day as we drew together. It created community and trust during our short time ‘together,’ which is extremely important with creating.”
I am so inspired by the circles that people are sharing with me in response to the prompt: What are you learning during this challenging time?
When I created The Community Circle Project I shared my particular approach for making circles that incorporate words and designs. As more and more people participate in the ongoing collaboration, so much creativity and talent is coming forth. And it warms my heart.
The circle above, a mandala, is a recent one from Abby Rovaldi, who is the programs coordinator at the Attleboro Arts Museum in Massachusetts, an amazing artist, art educator and awesome human. I love, love, love her mandala and I’m honored that she has participated.
If you want to participate, please reach out to me using the contact form on this website.
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?