Teaching Artist Silvia Gonzalez and teaching assistant Claire Jakubiszyn tell us about the workshops at Centro Autónomo
Many of the women at Centro Autonomo indicated an interest in the ideas of community, shelter, and expression. We had a fantastic first session, really getting to a clear understanding of assemblage. We had a great time looking at and discussing various art works, where the women had the opportunity to see a variety of styles they had not seen before.
Great conversations about feminism, empowerment, longing, family, and representation really jet started what became our first creative making session. Upon viewing the materials laid out and explaining a couple of techniques, the women began to look at how materials could be organized to create meaning. Many of them chose to use the boxes or rounded plates as a symbol of the self in the process of exploration and discovery.
More than anything, this first session served as an opportunity for the women to create dialogue; it was a time for them to really envision creative ways to voice ideas and thoughts. The women expressed gratitude in having a space to talk with others, and find peace for themselves. A daughter of one of the participants jumped right in and made her own assemblage through which a story about her flying like a bird emerged.
The first workshop represented a time that women could find rest, a sense of belonging, and a space of personal release. The enthusiasm and energy in taking positive risks and building meaning through materials was evident as they left the session, in gratitude, and looking forward to next week.
This week the women exchanged experiences relating to the self identity. Many of them were enthusiastic about jumping in the art making process after sharing past memories that began to trigger imagery.
We went through the yo soy, Where I am from, poem as a starter to get them thinking about themselves. Some women expressed themselves more poetically in verbal format, and had a difficult time engaging in visual dialogue of the self. It also sparked conversation on the importance of self-care and self-awareness.
Women worked through these ideas with energy and conviction, after reliving important memories and discussing hopes for themselves. It was clearly important to all of them that self-reflection was actually happening in a very safe space. That space allowed for connection making: many of the women, bonded as a result of the conversations, seeing that they had a lot in common, or discussing the impact of memories in constructing who they are now and what they want for themselves, their families, and their futures. It will be a great transition into family/home for next week. Most of them do a great job at discussing these themes already.
This week the conversation began with ideas of self and womanhood as we reflected past weeks and art work created. The transition occurred when the women were prompted to think how they take part in larger communities. They were asked to consider what communities they belonged to and how that affected them. We began by brainstorming the big idea community. Women listed both abstract and concrete ideas of what community can be. Community is unity, togetherness, family, women, albany park, Centro Autonomo, and neighborhoods in Chicago among many other things.
As they considered how they were part of these different communities, something discussed that really remained with me is the idea that as women we are part of a collective group of people, though we are not ignorant we are often ignored, this is an oppressive system to resist. As such, our greatest potential lies in creating and sustaining community. The women agreed that they are the ones raising family, they are the ones working to make a future for their children and therefore they are the ones that must continue to form communities among themselves to support one another.
Because the conversation began with health and beauty issues, many of the women started to consider how they have to come together as community that defies and resists pervasive media that tells them women can only have a domestic role. We also agreed that as women, we cannot be so harsh and critical against one another, but rather really be a network of support and honesty to one another. In other words, we must honestly accept ourselves, and we must honestly support each other. As the conversation shifted, the women began to consider how they have become a much more connected group of women as a result of doing this art workshop every Saturday. They began to talk about how the Centro Autonomo is a big identifier of community. It is a place where they can discuss and learn with one another. This discussion and learning only furthered as they went right into a productive session of art making.