20 Neighborhoods at Benton House

Teaching Artist Kristina Tendilla tells us about the workshops at Benton House

July 11, 2012

I’m from century old churches, bars, and Evergreens
I’m from a shadow of the machine, I’m from a new emerging community
I’m from German home cooking, potato salad, and teapots
and rocking chair that sits in my room
I’m from belly laughs, hair weaves
I’m from piles of toys, books, and an unfinished house
I’m from polish sausages, Chinese noodles, beans and rice
I’m from dog walking in the quarry, 31st Street, Halsted
DIY music and art spaces, young people, seniors, families
I’m from Bridgeport

We kicked off our series of workshops at Benton House representing Bridgeport last week, and our first two workshop sessions were really lovely- fun and productive, full and lively! We have 10 women and girls and several great volunteers all excited to represent Bridgeport for this project.

Our workshop is unique in that we have a multi-generational group of ladies. Our ages range from girls of 12 years to women of 60 years, and we also have a couple mother-daughter participants. Age difference is just one of the things that adds the the diversity of all of our experiences, and the girls and women readily shared about themselves with each other over the course of the last two sessions.

We started the first session with introductions and a short impulse
counting ice breaker, in order to get a feel for the space and for one another. All of the women churned some really beautiful and personal poetry during the “Where I’m From” exercise. This exercise was a great way to get in touch with the sights, smells, memories and emotions that make up ourselves and our communities.

We began to translate some of these ideas generated by the poems into art as the women began to rifle through supplies and adorn their miniature boxes. The women were really eager to start creating, and some even took their boxes home to continue working on them.

“It’s great because we get to make…us” said 12 year old, Amaya.

Her mother echoed Quite a few of the ladies in the workshop expressed that they’re grateful to be able to designate time for creativity in their busy lives through this workshop. Even the women who admitted that they don’t consider themselves to be ‘artistic’ or ‘creative’ felt at ease creating works that represented them- one participant referred to the project as “creating a piece of myself“.

I had a ton of fun and lately I don’t have much time for creativity so this is really nice to do it. I’m excited about it and its nice to meet all these people,” mentioned Julia.

I like it and I HAVE a lot of time!” said Pat, followed by playful laughter in the studio. “…I never did until the last two year but now I do. Usually the farthest I ever got was stick people, so yeah this is kind of a challenge and I was never very artistic. Now I’m involved with my church and maybe I can take some of this idea to help those kids in a youth group. You’re never to old to try something new.

July 18, 2012

In session two we explored the theme of self with a venn diagram activity, discovering new aspects of ourselves, while continuing to build relationships and community within our group!

We continued work on our miniature boxes, and also delved in to a new technique, paper making. The women really seemed to enjoy learning the skill, and the handmade paper turned out beautifully, each piece was delicate and unique.

In the words of one participant, “Paper making is kind of flawless, even if you make a mistake it’s not something that you think about, you just create. I love just getting to work with my hands, it’s really relaxing“.

We look forward to finally starting our pieces next week and incorporating this paper into our sculpture!

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