Thursday, June 19, 2014

Discovering the Power of Unity

1.  Collage of children's work

Coming into the space of the closing for the Burmese children’s art group, I am surrounded by color and evidence of the creative activity from the term. While the work adorning the walls represents marks, choices and the creative meanderings of each child in attendance, a theme guided with intention and skill by our teaching artists defines the overarching take-away; the power of unity. Folded and bejeweled butterflies flutter around the room metaphorically proclaiming the potential for transformation. Uniquely drafted configurations of interchangeable body segments echo the practice of developing language skills and body-awareness.  A large collage hangs in evidence of a multi-stage exploration of color and design to create a meadow-scape.  But as the class discusses each project on this culminating day, what emerges as the common link between the projects is the progression from focusing on individual pieces to a weaving together of each person’s work to create  a rich and beautiful collaborative whole. As students reflect on this process, a recognition of the whole as greater than its parts emerges. Children talk about how much more efficient and how much more fun it was when they came together.

2. One piece from the collage
After the celebration, when I ask the instructors to share their thoughts about the class, Bethany Stiltner pulls out a photograph that captures it’s progress perfectly; the instructors had presented the group with a framed collage (Image 1) in which they had pulled together statements made and small works created by each of them during the first few weeks of the term. The children eagerly huddled around it-joyful, excited and surprised by how great it was!  Any part of it on it’s own may have been passed off as insignificant or even forgotten, but together, the piece represented an experience of community. The power of that revelation was palpable. Natalie Hoffman, who has been working with them over the span of three years noted how much their progress as a group echoed the sentiment of this moment. “They have grown so much… in their level of comfort with each other, in the way they now help and support each other and in their ability to work together and function beautifully as a unified group.”

3. Child eager to enter the classroom
As a newcomer to this class, this reality was in clear evidence at the get go when I arrived early.  I found a group of children on the corner, eagerly waiting to get in. Several of them stood peeping through the door to check in on their space. Upon entry, with the teachers yet to arrive, they scurried around readying the classroom with mats and nametags, searching for the BuildaBridge Classroom Motto and Rules, knowing they needed to go up.  They were proudly displaying their initiative and graciously inviting me to help them set up what was very clearly their space. They owned it and the rituals and expectations of the class and they owned them all together. I was in good hands, welcomed and guided by a community of young children who knew where they belonged and relished in that belonging as an important, evolving part of their lives in a place far from home.

--  Julie Rosen, BuildaBridge Community Relations Assistant & Teaching Artist

Monday, June 2, 2014

Rebuilding a Future

From L to R: Julie Teixeira, two PPR clients, Christine Byma, Rebecca Asch, NSC case manager Laura; seated row L to R: Jessica LaBarca, PPR client, Julia Crawford, PPR client

The Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience (PPR) Spring term concluded May 18th with a time of sharing, food and celebration of clients' accomplishments.  Clients in one group shared the Shoji lanterns they recently created while clients in the second group shared the art journals they created.  The Shoji lantern project is described below.

Shoji comes from Japanese architecture and is a wall, room divider, or door covered with translucent paper, allowing light to shine through. Shoji lanterns were used to light the front of temples and shines and were later used to provide light during tea ceremonies.  The Shoji Lantern project focused on two main themes, building and light. Building and emergent sub-themes such as patience, resiliency, and rebuilding were reflected in the art making process as group members were confronted with the challenge of creating a sound structure. The theme of light was made a profound appearance in the tea ceremony where group members were able to view the lanterns warm illumination. The Shoji Lantern project became a poignant metaphor describing the experience of migrating to a new land; how to leave an often complicated life behind and how to patiently rebuild your future. 

The PPR Summer term will re-start at the end of June.