Women of the South Side Community Art Center, Benton House, and teaching-artists Elise Cody, Kristina Tendilla, and Ife Williams have been meeting in Bridgeport to participate in vital discussions about their city and make art in response.
When I came to visit their space, the artists were busy creating hand-made papers and putting finishing touches on their collaborative, table-setting sculpture. The women used items from their gardens, dried flowers, fabric, photographs, poetry and paint to ultimately tell the personal stories of their roots, life in their neighborhoods, and the journey of coming together as one, big family of creators.
We circled up to talk not only about art, but also preconceptions of the Bridgeport neighborhood and the joys and challenges of working in a group setting. Artists traveling from other areas admitted that they were not sure if they would be accepted into the community. After finishing the second phase of 20 Neighborhoods, the women agreed that they felt safe and were happy to have met one another. Through the art-making process, the women shared their skills, support, empowerment, and common ground. Many women even wanted to spread the sense of togetherness and creativity to other parts of the city. The conversation ended with the question, “Can we do this again next year?”