20 Neighborhoods at Arts of Life

Teaching Artist Sabba Elahi and Teaching Assistant Caitlin Law tell us about the workshops at Arts of Life

July 9, 2012

I met seven inspiring women artists at the first Arts of Life workshop—Frances, Debbie, Jeane, Linda, Christianne, Christina, and MaryAnne!  Actually, eight women, Caitlin, who is a staff member at Arts of Life and assistant on this project is also a fantastic addition to the group and I know she will be a fundamental support. Many of the women enjoy collage and writing, for instance Frances is working on a Zine and Christina creates comics.  In our introductions I also learned that these women come from all over the city, many take CTA or Pace buses to arrive to Arts of Life.  It’s interesting that most are not from our site’s neighborhood, Ukranian village, and I think we can dive deeper into conversations about their relationship to Ukrainian village vs. their own neighborhhood, and where the women find a sense of community and belonging.

We focused out time on learning more about the project & each other.  Each participant shared a word that described an aspect of their personality, which included the words patience and respectful, and collectively these words symbolized our group. I also introduced the technique of creating a rubbing. The women chose five objects from the items Women Made Gallery provided us and created rubbings of those objects, which they then cut out to collage with. They were quite enthusiastic about the variety of objects to choose from and seemed to really enjoy working with texture! We also creatively incorporated the idea of interconnectedness into our collages. I cut the list of words the women came up with into fragments, and each artist received a fragment that they had to incorporate into their collage.

It’s a really energetic and playful group—I am looking forward to discussing their collages next week and seeing what items they bring in to share!July  23, 2012

I’ve looked forward to my workshops at Arts of Life the past couple of Mondays.  The seven women in the group are eager to learn, play with material, inquire, and share their stories.  I feel that I have learned something unique about each of their personalities throughout this time—Jean’s love for her pets (toy animals she has brought in weekly), Christina’s love for movies, Debbie’s love of nature/the sea, Linda’s love of jewelry and shiny objects…the list goes on! The women’s assemblage sculptures are truly like self portraits (Caitlin has also confirmed this!).


What has impressed me the most about this group of women is their ability to share the stories behind their objects and how respectful they have been when listening to one another.  It’s been interesting to hear how their sense of home and community connects and differs.  When we talked about community, many ideas and questions came to mind.  All of the women see Arts of Life as their community, and were eager to add an Arts of life Logo to  their artwork!  Some of them have relationships with their neighbors and see them as a big part of it, while others shared that they do not even talk to their neighbors, or may casually say hi.  Christianne shared about her Church community, while Jean seemed to connect most strongly with animals as being a big part of her community, and Frances & MaryAnne spoke of particular relationships–familial and friends. We all found a common theme of shared community values—respect, a sense of safety, and belonging, and also discussed how we identify with multiple communities.


The bigger challenge has been to then move from those big and personal ideas we share each week and connect them to the artwork the women have been making thus far; I think as they see more of their objects integrated in various ways this will be easier.  It’s been great to work with Caitlin is this regard because she knows the women personally and can ask more intimate guiding questions.  I also will share a small personal sculptural sample next week too, and have planned a larger reflection activity where the women will be writing about their work.

All in all the women have been very focused on their sculptures, and each of them looks just as different from the next.  I’m excited to see their style and personality come through visually in these works!

August 6, 2012

I’ve looked forward to my workshops at Arts of Life the past couple of Mondays.  The seven women in the group are eager to learn, play with material, inquire, and share their stories.  I feel that I have learned something unique about each of their personalities throughout this time—Jean’s love for her pets (toy animals she has brought in weekly), Christina’s love for movies, Debbie’s love of nature/the sea, Linda’s love of jewelry and shiny objects…the list goes on! The women’s assemblage sculptures are truly like self portraits (Caitlin has also confirmed this!).

What has impressed me the most about this group of women is their ability to share the stories behind their objects and how respectful they have been when listening to one another.  It’s been interesting to hear how their sense of home and community connects and differs.  When we talked about community, many ideas and questions came to mind.  All of the women see Arts of Life as their community, and were eager to add an Arts of life Logo to  their artwork!  Some of them have relationships with their neighbors and see them as a big part of it, while others shared that they do not even talk to their neighbors, or may casually say hi.  Christianne shared about her Church community, while Jean seemed to connect most strongly with animals as being a big part of her community, and Frances & MaryAnne spoke of particular relationships–familial and friends. We all found a common theme of shared community values—respect, a sense of safety, and belonging, and also discussed how we identify with multiple communities.

The bigger challenge has been to then move from those big and personal ideas we share each week and connect them to the artwork the women have been making thus far; I think as they see more of their objects integrated in various ways this will be easier.  It’s been great to work with Caitlin is this regard because she knows the women personally and can ask more intimate guiding questions.  I also will share a small personal sculptural sample next week too, and have planned a larger reflection activity where the women will be writing about their work.

All in all the women have been very focused on their sculptures, and each of them looks just as different from the next.  I’m excited to see their style and personality come through visually in these works!

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