Already the third 20 Neighborhoods session this season, the theme of the show was International Open. Therefore it felt important to focus on our place at Woman Made Gallery, in Chicago, a city of so many separate neighborhoods. We also hoped discuss the places that our participants find important throughout the world.
The day began with two paper maps set up side by side–one of the city of Chicago and one of the world. Participants started to make artwork right as they entered the gallery. Beautiful beads donated to the gallery in the past, were strung together so that each participant made two matching strings. One of these became a necklace, and one became a way to connect two places on the maps together. Each person pinned one end of the string to where they live in Chicago, and the other pinned to a place that is important to them internationally.
The next part of the day, was the tour. It has gotten to a point, in our third session, that participants are comfortable saying what they see in the artworks in the gallery. There are rarely silences. Ideas or observations don’t seem as definite anymore either. It seems as though we can have harmonious and productive discussions that are diverse and confident. The tour time was much shorter than the previous two sessions–but short and sweet. Renee lead Chinese American Service League, so that Ana and Betsy were a team leading Arts of Life and one participant from Mercy Housing.
There was a short break for refreshments, during which art was discussed playfully and comfortably with participants and teachers. There was a light and organic energy to the day.
Our final activity was a string game. The hope for this part of the day was to get to know each other even better, and to further integrate and communicate between organizations. Chinese names have been hard for English-speakers to learn. Teachers as well as participants in the different organizations have had a hard time communicating, especially because of language barriers.
The game consisted of everyone was sitting in a circle. One person was to begin by saying their name and then passing or throwing the string ball to another participant, asking their name–but holding onto an end of the string. This participant must catch the ball, answer the question and then pass it to someone new, also asking the question–but holding onto their end of the string. As a result, this creates a web or net shape, supposted by the circle of people. We continued the game, saying also “My name is______. What is your name?” in Cantonese, taught by CASL participants.
Through this gesture and activity, we were all teaching and learning, sitting across from one another. We all had to be vulnerable and take risks in front of one another. We also laughed and learned everyone’s name. The dialogue we had afterwards was a beautiful ending to the day. Going around the circle, everyone had something interesting to say about the way the web looked, or about any thoughts that the activity conjured.
As all participants hugged and said goodbye, we took our beading string off from the map, and loaded onto buses to disperse throughout the city.