Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 4: Drawing Consensus

This week will be a visual essay with images provided by Danielle Hannah.

Working in our journals... combining ideas...

Through dialogue we began to combine ideas.

We started to transfer our images to the panels.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

It's simple. Move.

By Gina Renzi

November 14, 2007

Gina Renzi is the Director of The Rotunda, a vibrant arts and culture community venue in West Philadelphia. The Rotunda is fueled by the belief that art is a catalyst for social change and the arts can lead to the formation of meaningful partnerships between the University of Pennsylvania and the surrounding communities. Over 300 events are presented annually, including live music, spoken word, theater, film, art, dance, and education.

When you were a child, you probably skipped, jumped, and imagined. Now that you are grown, do you pause to pretend that you are a sunflower or a fire engine peeling away to a barn fire? Or do you shuffle sleepily from home to work to home, and, on occasion, a restaurant or theater? If the latter, creative movement will save your life as it will shake loose the ideas that are somewhere in your brain but never reach your tongue or pen. I am not talking about dance. We with no coordination and short legs can still explore our bodies, and not in the way that my 6th grade Health book suggested.

In my work, I witness and/or participate in hundreds of critical events, from ten year olds on African drums, to Central Asian throat singers on stage with Sun Ra members to HIV patients sharing a Thanksgiving meal. These events nourish me, despite the hours spent producing them. I cringe when I imagine living without this constant inspiration.

Recently, my mind was blown during a session of Collective Imprints, a new participatory community arts project at The Rotunda. This project, a first for Philadelphia, is the brainchild of artist Michael B. Schwartz, who has facilitated community-building projects elsewhere in the country. Last year, he approached me with the idea to create at The Rotunda a large art installation that will manifest The Rotunda's mission statement and concepts of community and place. We quickly shared this idea with dozens of diverse groups from the communities that have developed at the venue over the years.

In Collective Imprints, input is crucial and everyone gets to paint, draw, write, and speak. Inspired by this, West Philadelphia activist and artist Jodi Netzer became a facilitator of Collective Imprints and suggested that we use one session of this weekly project to MOVE in order to inspire ideas that we will eventually paint into the piece. While I pride myself on enjoying challenges, I hid from this idea. After all, I'd flunked Ballroom Dance in college. However, when she took us through an hour of movement exercises that were powerful examples of play at work, my mind was so enlivened that I developed a pleasant headache. Instead of dance as so many of us know it, this was the building blocks of dancing, foundation of problem solving, and thought unhindered.

Jodi's exercises were inspired by Viewpoints, a system first articulated by Mary Overlie and expanded upon by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau. Its principles are tempo, duration, repetition, kinesthetic response, shape, gesture, architecture, spatial relationship, and topography. Sounds scary, right? Each principle is so intuitive that we quickly adapted. Moreover, the shyest of us relaxed in that many of the exercises were done with eyes closed, as the goal is to invigorate one's own space.

Using each principle, we created gestures, mimicked those of the people around us, traced imaginary paths along the floor, bent our bodies into untested shapes, and used movement to act out the themes that we've been developing throughout Collective Imprints. All along, our movements were sharing stories that our words couldn't. Eventually, we formed smaller groups and chose themes such as West Philadelphia's origins, perceptions of the neighborhood, and local Hip Hop. Incorporating the Viewpoints principles, we created movement skits, each of which differed significantly from the last. In doing so, we taught and were taught.

After participating in this freely creative process, we hurriedly tapped our concepts for the artwork that we will eventually create in Collective Imprints. We were abuzz with newly found, or rediscovered, creativity that produced thoughts that we could not have had otherwise. Clearly, Viewpoints was a new concept to most of us, yet we found that it is an important one in that it unlocks forgotten parts of our imagination. The next time your idea well is dry, save your head from the wall, clear your living room or office floor, and, simply, move.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day 3: The Elements of Art

Today we learned about the basic elements of art. For those of you at home try to do a drawing of your idea for the project using these elements:


We used this information in our drawings - mapping and combining ideas while looking for connections between each persons concepts.


1) How does your idea overlap or connect to others?

2) What interconnections do we see?

3) What sort of visual research do we need for this project?

Please bring visual research materials to next session.

The participants in this project are designing and painting Collective Imprints. This project is a unique and refreshing approach to creating art WITH people. As artist facilitator for this project my role is to lead the process and transfer technical knowledge. The participants are the lead artists.

Bring your friends to the workshops. You can use this site to add your ideas and visual contributions. See you Tuesday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 2: Using Movement to Brainstorm Ideas

Tonight performance/new genre artist Jodi Netzer led us in a workshop where we used movement to brainstorm ideas for Collective Imprints. As far as I know this was a first ever for Philadelphia, and it was really fun. One participants commented it made them feel like we were kids playing together. Exactly! We were playing out our brainstorm ideas, developing a collective vision for the project. There were presentations by three groups of participants. Each group combined ideas from Day 1 into a visual movement based narrative. The process really helped synthesize ideas for the group.

The four themes that are emerging are:

1) Rotunda as a Hub (overlapping, meeting points)

2) Music

3) Perception of West Philadelphia (inside/outside)

4) Underground (history, creek, activism, unearthing our story, growing up from the Rotunda)

Will you share your ideas with us?

By Jodi Netzer

We made history this evening in Philadelphia at the Rotunda by creating a movement-based workshop which inspired visual ideas for the mural that will be there. This cross-disciplinary approach was an unique and effective way to generate materials and discussion for the project, which may not have been otherwise realized. It also got people on their feet to play and emerge with engaging and synchronistic actions. The youth was wonderfully well-represented at this session. We are also thankful to have had a banjo player there to provide the space with music.

First, I introduced Viewpoints, a system derived from the natural principles of movement, time, and space first articulated by Mary Overlie and further expanded upon by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau. Originally developed for theatre artists, Viewpoints are also used by dancers, but I believe they could be used by musicians, visual artists, ways of being/seeing, and other educational and creative forms. The principles are tempo, duration, repetition, kinesthetic response, shape, gesture, architecture, spacial relationship, and topography.

After introducing Viewpoints through a series of exercises, we built stories through movement. Here is how it worked: One volunteer picked a theme that was developed from the previous session and created a movement based on that theme. A second person picked another theme and created a movement that was of opposite nature in relation to the first person. Then a third person picked a third theme and created a movement that built story off of the previous two people. The result was a story that none of the people could have created by themselves.

Then we split into three groups to create movement or theatrical shorts. Each group agreed to work on a specific theme or to combine multiple themes. They wrote about the themes, discussed out loud their ideas, combined elements, and created scenarios using Viewpoints as a tool for movement generation. The variety of the group shorts were astounding. One was theatrical, one was abstract, and one was a mixture. The first was a theatrical story about how the youth saw hip hop on TV, went to a party, got drunk, littered irresponsibly, got into a car crash due to intoxification, and then became the smog that polluted the air. Their themes were Hip Hop, the environment, and origins. It was a commentary on the highlights and the pitfalls that hip hop culture manifests. The second group performed an abstract movement piece with a chair representing Rotunda as a central hub. The participants moved in circular floor patterns, occasional crossing paths and occasionally meeting together at the hub. Based off of a Viewpoints strategy, they drew a floor pattern (topography) and responded to each other with focus on tempo, duration, repetition, spacial relationship, and kinesthetic response in relationship to architecture (the chair representing Rotunda). It was a great example of utilizing the Viewpoints principles. Their themes were Rotunda as an activity hub, music and words. Their movement was the music and words. The third group had one person digging, another person who represented the underground (Mill Creek, cemetery, Underground Railroad) growing and transforming into an activist, while the third person was discovering/observing the transformation taking place. Their themes were the underground culture, origins and activism. It was a very visual performance work which inspired many drawings.

There was a moment of disagreement in the process when one participant broke from a group to do her own thing. She did not like the portrayal of Hip Hop with drinking and reckless behavior. To keep her engaged, I encouraged her to write a wise statement about cultural pollution and distinguishing between the positive and negative effects of Hip Hop culture. This is where dialogue about the process can reveal more depth and insight into the topic.

From these scenarios and in combination of the previous exercises, everyone documented their experiential responses in their journals. When discussed as a group, further visual ideas and themes were developed from this process. For example, one person drew musical notes as if they are the sun growing a flower rising from the underground with words such as "growth" in the stem and "coming together" in the petals-- based off of the environmental and hip hop theme of the first group, the floor pattern and musical theme of the second group, and the underground theme of the third group. It is very reassuring that people who have little to no movement experience can make the connection from a time/spatial-dimension to create a drawing on a piece of paper, using Garner's theory of Multiple Intelligence.

This was a very exciting process in which participants had surprised themselves that creating visual forms from movement would be possible. It's not only possible, it can inspire a piece of art that may not be possible any other way.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Collective Imprints: On Community and the Rotunda

by Bonnie MacAllister

"Self-Portraits" 36" X 48" oil, spray, ink on canvas

"Chromatic" 9 X 12 oil and spray on canvas

Both of these have hung at the Rotunda at several events.

When first moved to Center City, I was very detached from the people in my neighborhood. I would see them at the grocery store but never at events or shows. My coworkers from the art museum became my only friends, and they were not my neighbors. I was a girl who had never taken the trolley, who hadn’t made it further west past the U Penn animal hospital, and who’d never taken the El past City Hall.

When I met Denice Witkowski (Vitamin D Productions), she invited me to be a part of her festival, Womynsfest at the Rotunda in West Philadelphia. I knew Clarity Haynes, a woman artist who made a powerful impact with her Breast Book, and Vitamin D had collaborated with her on a film. I met Gina Renzi, and I was struck when she said, “It’s amazing that people don’t know that we’re doing these things in West Philadelphia, and that they’re free.” Instantly, I felt at home.

A few of my friends from the Women’s Caucus for Art, Philadelphia Chapter decided to have a table at the two day event at the Rotunda. We would continue to come back at various events including the F-Word issue launch and Zine Fest, and at both events (and many others) I performed my poetry on the Rotunda’s old and new stages. Over the last few years, we hung our artwork on the wooden walls, on the pillars, and once, I even attempted to hang mine from the balconies (though it wasn’t as successful.) The Rotunda always remains a place of which our art group praises, for its ingenuity and openness in art exhibits.

Not even two years later, I would move to West Philadelphia, just a few blocks away from the Rotunda, and my husband and I would come down often to see the free programming and the West Philly artists who had become our friends. We’ve attended everything from experimental music produced by children’s toys, rare films projected high above the stage, minimalist dance, spare drama, performance poetry featuring robotics and puppetry, and art bazaars with crafts both delicate and diverse. How amazing to have a venue so open to personal growth and with a bravery to showcase such rich programming of the fringes and the underground.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day One: Brainstorming Ideas

We came up with tons of ideas and broke them down into the following themes;

Cultural Fusion's
A fusion of reality and vision
Positive Unity
Neighborhood Bonds
Cancer (cluster)
Penn Power Hmmm?
“Safety” Net
Melting Pot/ Salad Bowl
West Philly Locations
Utilitarian Places
Arti$tic In$piration$
West Philly Music
Origins - of Rotunda/undercurrent
West Philly Activities
Environment (local-global)
Activism/ Rock the Boat
Origins- of neighborhood

Next week we will be making community arts history in Philadelphia. For the first time movement arts will be used in the community input/ design phase of mural making. Movement artist Jodi Netzer will be co-facilitating the workshop as we develop more ideas and images for our group work of art.


You can post your ideas for the project on this site.

Also check back for project updates.

Here are the dates for the project:

What to bring: A smock, clothing you can get dirty, Photographs, images, poems, posters any creative material that best describes your experiences at the rotunda.

Journals: Each session includes time to work individually or as a group. Information in your journals is personal your own. We do ask that everyone leaves their journals from session to session to insure continuity, and fold the corner of the journal to “lock” it.

11/6 Workshop 1 Brainstorming as a group and individually:

Who you are, what you do and favorite food
How would you describe the Rotunda?
What would you like to see in this work of art?

11/13 Workshop 2 Using Drawing and Movement to Combine Ideas

Basic drawing tips
Movement based brainstorming

11/ 20 Workshop 3 Combining Ideas, Developing Design

Expressive Line
Integrating Ideas

11/27 Workshop 4 Transfer Ideas onto Artwork Surface

Working with Consensus to Integrate Ideas
Using Shapes and Forms in Drawing

12/4 Workshop 5 Transferring Ideas, Checking for Consensus .

12/11 Workshop 6 Color Theory Made Easy/ Design Adjustments

12/18 Workshop 7 Painting, Music, Food and Poetry

12/25, 1/1 No Sessions/ Holiday Break

1/ 8 Workshop 8 Painting, Music, Food and Poetry

1/ 15 Workshop 9 Painting, Music, Food and Poetry

1/22 Workshop 10 Final Touches/ Celebration

Unveiling Date Tentatively Scheduled for MLK Day January 21, Times TBA