20 Neighborhoods at Hamdard Center

Teaching artist Karen Light tells us about the workshops at Hamdard Center

June 20

“A group of 9 senior women attended the first workshop at Hamdard Center which was facilitated with the help of a translator.  After introductions and an explanation of the 20 Neighborhoods project, we discussed the symbolism of found objects.  I laid out a bunch of objects in the middle of the table and asked the participants each to select one that inspired them.  I then read them a series of prompts that asked them to describe their object, tell what it could be used for and to describe what it meant to them or what stories in their lives that it reminded them of.  For each prompt, they chose a different piece of scrap paper and a different color marker.  Then I gave them a piece of cardboard upon which they could collage their writings and other scraps of paper and their found objects in any way they wanted to. Some even drew on top of the collage and when they were done, they wrapped it with string. We put them all in front of the room to share.  There was a lively discussion, but I didn’t understand most of it! They did make sure that I understood how surprised they were with how beautiful they turned out and how much they enjoyed it.  We also talked about how the string can symbolize interconnectedness.  The interconnectedness of the found object with our writings and stories, the interconnectedness of the different pieces of paper that were put together to make the collage and the interconnectedness theme of the whole 20 Neighborhoods project.  Lastly, I showed them a slide show of various pieces of art that has been made out of found objects including my own.”

June 21

“We read the “I’m From” poem.  It took a while for the translator to explain it all to the participants and then we did a writing exercise in which they remembered smells, tastes and stories from their childhood and relayed some from their present. Then they picked the three things that they wrote that they liked the best and spun those into an “I’m From” poem.  They took turns reading their poems.  The translator did not relay everything to me, but what she did sounded really beautiful.  The women enjoyed reminiscing and sharing those stories with each other.  Next I showed them two art techniques and we practiced them together.  They each had a photocopy of a butterfly and used the gel medium to transfer it onto a piece of cardboard.  We also did the packing tape technique in which they transfer the image from a magazine onto a piece of tape and it turns out translucent.  I showed them all of the materials that they could make their assemblages from and they each picked their base before it was time to go for the day.”

June 26

“The participants jumped straight into working on their assemblages.  The concept of bringing in a found object was still not sinking in and only a few did.  They are often on their own schedule and wandered in at different times.  I was very busy helping them think of ways to create things with the objects and materials we did have and showing them how to use the glue gun.  They are not very mobile as senior citizens and the plugs were not right by the table so I had to help them a lot with this.  Even though most did not have objects of their own, it struck me that the way that they were assembling their pieces was very representative of their cultures’ visual qualities.  They come from cultures rich with patterns and gold and shiny jewelry and their pieces were reflecting that.  I decided that maybe it would be helpful to be a bit more concrete with what I was asking them to bring.  So, next time I asked them to bring in a photograph of their family or friends so we could photocopy them and they could use it in their pieces.  We will see how that works!”

June 28

“Today we ran into a little problem.  The art supplies were locked up in an office and no one could find the key!  Luckily, I had colored pencils and cardstock on me, so I told them we were still going to do some art.  Since our theme for the day was neighborhood/community, the women drew a “map” of their community in which they emphasized the really important places to them.  Some of them had multiple places on their maps, but for some, their home took up the whole page as it is truly the center of their world.  One woman still thought of her home in India when she thinks of her community since she moved to the US only 5 short years ago.  Another drew the house that she always hoped for surrounded by mountains and with a big window she wanted to sit in during the evenings.  While working on the drawings, I learned more about their personal lives.  It was fun to learn that two of the woman had 6 daughters and one son!  The maps have images on them that they may cut out and collage into their assemblages next time.”

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