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September 8, 2011
pottery and paintbrushes bring healing to hospitalized kids
POTTERY AND PAINTBRUSHES BRING HEALING TO HOPSITALIZED KIDS
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 8th, 2011
POTTERY AND PAINTBRUSHES BRING HEALING TO HOPSITALIZED KIDS
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 8th, 2011
"At the deepest level, the creative process and the healing process arise from a single source." Rachel Naomi Remen, MD
The truth of Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen's words can be found in a unique partnership between Detroit Medical Center's Children's Hospital of Michigan and Pewabic Pottery in Detroit. Started in 2004, the Children's Healing Arts Program pairs Pewabic Pottery artists with young patients at Children's Hospital.
Their canvas is everything from bed sheets, pillowcases, torn paper and pinch pots to tiles, clay beads and colored sand. "One of their favorite projects is to paint pillowcases for their beds," said Grace Serra, Art Advisor for the hospital and the Program's Coordinator. "It really helps them make the hospital room their room."
Serra, who was hired to bring art into the hospital, soon found it meant more than putting artwork on the walls. It required creating a healing environment. She turned to Pewabic Pottery, Michigan's only historic pottery. "We've had a longstanding relationship with Pewabic," said Serra. "This was just another way to grow that relationship."
"It's great for people to know about our historic pottery," said Meredith Duckworth, Supervisor of Community and Youth Programs at Pewabic Pottery, "but we do much more than fabrication. Pewabic has always done a lot of community outreach. A big part of our mission is to bring art into communities that normally wouldn't have it."
According to Serra, about 75% of patients at Children's Hospital are Medicaid eligible. "These kids come out of very difficult situations. Most don't have art programs in their schools anymore. For many of them this is their first exposure to art. The artists plant seeds in the children and provide them a skill. I often hear a child talk about how they went home and taught their brother or sister what they learned."
With a special grant from Detroit Medical Center (DMC) and the Ronald McDonald House, what started out as a once a week program is now being offered on Mondays and Thursdays. The art happens bedside or in the hospital's activity room. While bedside art is used for children who can't leave their rooms, in the activity room anything goes. In addition to the patients, you will often find parents and siblings working on pieces.
Research has long demonstrated the positive effects of art on the healing process. "Not only can it help the patients heal, it can also heal families," said Serra. "It's especially important for the parents," said Duckworth. "The stress is so great when you have a sick child. Doing art helps take the parent's mind off things." Duckworth described a mother who arrived in the activity room crying and very upset. Her child was soon to have major surgery. The artist on hand got the woman to begin painting a clay pot and in no time she was lost in her work. The art is also helpful for siblings who are also struggling with the emotional effects of a brother or sister's hospitalization.
"Art centers you," said Serra. "When you're sick or stressed it's important to be centered. The program focuses less on the therapeutic movements of doing art and more on the creative process. It's more art-making than art therapy."
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for. Georgia O'Keeffe
For Serra and the Healing Arts Team (volunteers, child life specialists, nursing staff, and artists) things are beginning to pay off. "We're starting to hear from physicians who are impressed with the program," said Serra. Recently, a physician stopped by to watch an artist work with a child. "The doctor was really moved to see the child doing what any other child would be doing," said Serra.
Today, the majority of hospital's artwork is done by patients and children in community - some from a single artist and others done collaboratively. Serra described a large piece where patients made self-portraits and mandalas that were fashioned into tiles. Another painting was created at the bedside by patients and their families using a bed sheet. It depicted a famous painting by Andre Derain and was created on a grid. Each little square was painted then the sheet unfolded to reveal the entire work.
One of the most compelling art projects for the kids is called 'Making Milagros' or in english 'Making Miracles.' The patients and kids in the community create visual depictions of their wishes that are then adhered to a large star. "Sort of like wishing on a star," said Serra. "It's amazing what happens when the children are given the opportunity to be creative."
As one of the only hospitals in Michigan with a bedside art program, DMC was recently asked to partner on a research project with Karmanos Cancer Institute. We're working with kids who are in on-going cancer treatment," said Serra. "For them, coming into the hospital is not fun. So, we're administering art before the procedure, in an effort to shift the child's focus." Serra recently talked with a parent who said this was the first time her son, who worked on a torn-paper collage, had not cried before the procedure. "The mother said she wished every time they came there could be an artist," said Serra.
With a background in retail and marketing management, Kay Willingham started working with Pewabic Pottery eight years ago. For the past two years she's been working as an artist with the patients at Children's Hospital.
"Every week is something different," said Willingham. "I work mainly in the activity room, so whoever walks or rolls in is your client."
Willingham's mother, a longtime teacher and Supervisor in the Detroit Public Schools, always encouraged her daughter to get her teaching certificate. "I said I would never be a teacher," said Willingham. "But this work is different. It's not like teaching math or science, or social studies. I get to hold a hand, look a child in the eye, and encourage them to do more so they can come back next week. This program allows me to teach these children a host of life lessons - patience, trust, to not be afraid to express themselves."
Willingham recalled one of her most memorable encounters with a patient. "I had been working with the child before her surgery and she just loved to paint. But after the surgery, for some reason, she was no longer able to see. I was worried about how I would work with her. But in no time, I saw her incredible spirit was still there. I let her feel the different pots and select the one she liked best. She got a larger brush and just began to paint."
"Learning how to interact with children with disabilities is an important part of the learning process for us," said Duckworth. "We have so many different types of students who take our classes at the Pewabic site." In addition to the on-site classes they also offer Saturday workshops, a summer camp, and off-site sessions where they go into the classroom. "We learn a lot from them and they learn a lot from us," said Duckworth.
"Art is a wound turned into light" painter and sculptor George Braque once said That light is reflected in joy of the young patients at Children's Hospital, in the memories of Pewabic artists like Kay Willingham who guide their young spirits, and on the canvases and collages that decorate the walls of a hospital that understands how art can and does help heal.
MUSIC PRODIGY TURNS ROGUE
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 8th, 2011
While prodigy violinist Ritsu Katsumata is no longer performing full-time, she continues to make sure that the importance of art is cherished in her city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Not just music, either: film, visual art, dancing, and even cooking are all part of the mix.
"Art is a very important part of life and community, and it's important for children and adults to be encouraged to express their creativity through the arts," stated Katsumata. "Whether its music or writing, or drama, or sports, art is a way of expressing emotions and thought, and a way of communicating. A musical phrase, a poem, or a picture can express something that translates universally from person-to-person."
Katsumata learned about the value of art very early in her life. She found interest in the violin after an instructor visited her class. She began playing at age 10 and was an instant standout among her peers. She began winning various competitions and being enlisted to perform at recitals around the country.
Ritsu Katsumata pursued her musical career through college, where she performed full-time. She enjoyed playing her music, but ten years after her career had begun, she saw the restrictions of performing as a classical craft when she entered a Bach competition. Ritsu played a selection from the legendary classical musician and got surprising reactions from the judges. "Two of the three judges gave me nines on a scale of one to 10, and the third judge gave me a zero. A competitor who made seven, seven, seven-which is kind of mediocre-beat me and got into the finals. They gave us a little write-up, and that third judge said I played it at the wrong tempo," Katsumata said. "This man had such a rigid definition of what was right and wrong in music. That was my eye-opener. I wasn't trying to play it 'right;' I was self-expressing. I was playing what was inside me, and the notes were a vehicle."
Once those limitations were recognized and the feeling of being burned out from playing for so long caught up with her, Katsumata quit playing. After graduating college she accepted a surprise job offer at an advertising agency in New York. She didn't revisit music until years later, when she met her husband. He saw programs of her old performances and urged her to rekindle her musical flames, and she agreed on one condition: her playing now would be on her own terms.
Katsumata began to write her own music, and she purchased a Marshall stack - an amplifier-to plug her violin into and manipulate her sounds. She entered a Jimi Hendrix Guitar Competition in Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival and made it all the way to the finals, where she was then disqualified for playing the wrong instrument. Still, the stage was set - she formed a rock-based power trio, and went on to play at Carnegie Hall and CGBG, a legendary NYC club known as the Home of Underground Rock.
After beginnings of solely playing others' classical music, she now creates her own amalgams of classical, rock, heavy metal, and more. She cites a recent composition that builds off of Bob Marley riffs to re-tell a Japanese Buddha story.
"It's completely freeing. Music is my medium, but I think that whatever it is that feels comfortable for anybody, you know that it's your medium when you feel that you've really taken everything out of you in that medium," Katsumata insists. "Whether it's a splattered painting or musical phrase, I can definitely express more through my instrument than any other medium."
These days, Katsumata maintains a full-time job as a multimedia designer because she prefers to keep her art and her job separate. But she's still very active in the West Michigan arts community. Artistically, she still composes her own material, sits in with artist friends, and scores films. What's more impressive is her work for other artists..She helps them find paid gigs, and she serves on the board of directors for the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art (UICA), where she helps organize events and volunteers.
Katsumata also organizes 'disturbances,' which she describes as interdisciplinary, multimedia jam sessions. Filmmakers, musicians, dancers, poets, sculptors, painters, and other artists all come together to share experiences and vibe with each other. "During our first disturbance, there were about 12 of us, and some of us had never even met before, but by the end of the night, we were all playing together," Katsumata remembers. "That unspoken vibe of self-expression turns into something tangible; we all feel it, and we're all in sync to it."
"Where people find differences, I'm trying to find similarities," concluded Katsumata.
FORDSON: FAITH, FASTING, AND FOOTBALL
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 8th, 2011
Fordson: Faith, Fasting, and Football is a feature-length documentary that follows four Fordson High School football players from Dearborn, Michigan as they gear up for their big senior-year rivalry game against Dearborn High. What is unique about Dearborn is that it is home to the world's largest Arab community outside of the Middle East. When this film was shot in 2009, the beginning of football season happened to coincide with the last ten days of Ramadan. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims traditionally fast, no food or water, from sunrise to sunset. While not all of Dearborn's Arab community members are practicing Muslims, this overlap of Ramadan and the football season certainly required adjustments for the entire high school's football team.
The story is set against the backdrop of the beautiful Fordson High School, a public school built by Henry Ford in 1922. Fordson High once consisted of an entirely white non-Arab student body, but today boasts a student population that is 98% Arab-American. As Fordson's football team readies itself to play its cross-town rival, we see the adversity faced by a community that is devoted to preserving its culture while also trying to gain acceptance from fellow U.S. citizens in post 9-11 America.
"This is a story of Arab-Americans from all over the country. It's never been done, and it's time," said Basma Quraishi, one of the producers for the movie. She explained that this is a truly American story about a group of people determined to support each other, and honor their faith, while holding onto the American Dream.
Basma Quraishi is a co-founder of Quraishi Productions, LLC, a production company she started with her partner and husband, Ash-har Quraishi. Basma is an award-winning long form documentary and breaking-news producer. Immediately following the events of September 11th, 2001, she became CNN's first Islamabad Bureau Producer. Basma and her husband co-produced Fordson after learning about this story from Rashid Ghazi, the movie's director and executive producer.
Basma said Ghazi began developing this movie in 2003. According to Ghazi, he felt the story of the Fordson High School football team would make the kind of heart-warming, entertaining film to which all Americans could relate. He believed the film would give people a chance to learn more about the values, aspirations, and opinions of Arab-American. He approached the school board and coaches over the years, but they were always hesitant to give permission, stating they were concerned about protecting the students from unnecessary media exposure. In 2009, the coach finally agreed to allow access; however, the school board rejected the idea. 2009 would be the last year, for many years, in which Ramadan would coincide with any part of the football season - Ramadan follows the Islamic calendar, and occurs 10 days earlier each year. According to a CNN interview with Ghazi, he went to the school board and pled his case to produce the movie. Once they met the filmmaker and understood his vision for Fordson they gave the okay. Basma said that gave the producers only 10 days to get everything in order before shooting needed to begin.
"Finding a great production crew in Michigan was the first of many blessings," explained Basma. She went on to say that in pre-production, the plan was to use people they had worked with before, a New York, or possibly Chicago-based production crew. "At the time that I was doing my research, I stumbled upon the Michigan Film Tax Credit," she said. The Michigan Film Tax Credit was a business incentive plan, overseen by the Michigan Film Office, to entice movie producers to shoot their projects in Michigan, and to hire Michigan workers, by rebating up to 42% of their qualifying expenses. "We decided it would be worth it to assemble our crew in Michigan, instead of using someone we already knew."
She explained that she called her colleagues at CNN, and was eventually led to Michael Shamus, who ended up being their Director of Photography (DP). "We clicked immediately," said Basma. According to Basma, Michael and his team, including Mark Berg, 2nd unit DP, were their 'Dream Team.' She said, "They had sports experience, but also long-form experience. They understood that it was much more than a sports film."
According to Basma it was an added benefit to have a crew who knew the Southeast Michigan region and understood the dynamics of the area. She said that the crew brought a lot to the table to efficiently utilize time, find locations, and capture beauty shots to enhance the visual quality of the movie. She was very impressed with the way the crew worked. "They had a very strong work ethic and easy-going attitudes which you don't always see elsewhere," said Basma. Between the crew and the people she met here, Basma says she fell in love with Michigan.
Basma said the Michigan Film Tax Credit helped make Fordson a much better movie. Not only did she end up finding an excellent Michigan film crew, which wouldn't have happened if not for the incentives, but she also saw the "42% rebate, not as money we could save, but as MORE money we could spend on production, and make the film of higher value." This allowed them to come back to Michigan repeatedly, for follow-up interviews and shooting transition shots for the movie; each time utilizing Michigan workers. She was also grateful to the Michigan Film Office for quickly getting their tax credit application approved, given the very short time frame they had to put the film project together.
This movie has already won multiple awards, including Best Documentary Feature at the 2011 Slamdance Film Festival, and at the 2011 Manhattan Film Festival. It also recently won Best U.S. Documentary at the Traverse City Film Festival. After the Traverse City screening Basma said filmmaker Michael Moore approached them and called it "one of the best documentaries I've seen this year." Basma said, "I could have died happy, right then."
In this movie, viewers will find a number of inspirational themes of support, faith, and determination. Of course, there is the determination of the student athletes working as hard as they can to prepare for the big game, all while honoring their religious beliefs by going without food or water all day in the midday sun. There are also stories about the teammates, and one of the coaches, who weren't Muslim, offering a show of support for their teammates by fasting as well. The film makes the viewer a witness to the public displays of persecution against individuals, simply because of their appearance or religion, and the determination of those individuals to peacefully persevere. Simply put, Fordson is a beautiful film crafted by a hard-working and knowledgeable Michigan film crew. And yes, this sports movie DOES include some great Michigan high school football!
"Fordson: Faith, Fasting, and Football" opens at the AMC Star Fairlane Theater in Dearborn on September 9th, and at the AMC Southfield 20 Theater on September 20, and will play for one week. Click here to watch the extended trailer. For a full listing of locations for screenings, visit www.fordsonthemovie.com.
ART AS A BRIDGE
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 8th, 2011
Susan Li O'Connor,is an artist from Ohio. She trained as an illustrator and painter in college, and in graduate school got interested in working three-dimensionally. The Krasl Art Center (KAC) artlab housed her first full-blown three dimension installation piece in January of 2011. The new artlab project is drawing interest from artists from all over Michigan and throughout the Midwest to KAC, which serves the sister communities of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor in Southwest Michigan.
Last year Tami Miller, the Director of Exhibitions and Collections at KAC had an idea about dedicating a space within the Krasl Art Center where artists would be free to experiment using multiple mediums and installation art processes; the special project would be called artlab where artists would be encouraged to push the boundaries of medium and form.
Miller believed that a space for installation art would be a natural fit with the KAC permanent collection of sculptures and frequent touring exhibits. By pairing an artlab opening with a national touring exhibit opening, both work together to draw positive attention to the area. The exhibits and art installations rotate on the same schedule and provide a huge benefit to the new artists presenting in the artlab.
"The pairing of the rotating exhibits and installations has done an excellent job of bringing people into the Krasl Art Center,' said Miller. "… especially attracting the arts community that may have thought the Krasl Art Center was too stodgy. The artlab is definitely appealing to the arts community of both St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. We seem to be bridging the two communities in one small but significant way."
For ages the communities of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor have been divided, not just geographically by a bridge, but also racially and culturally. The region was the site of an explosive riot in the summer of 2003 that brought national media attention to the area. Since that time, Benton Harbor has been prioritized for many economic development and community renewal projects in the hopes of healing the two communities and closing the divide. In recent years these resources have fueled a bit of a cultural revolution in the city of Benton Harbor and it has continued to attract new artists and art studio spaces, and fosters a burgeoning arts community.
"I saw that my job in the artlab installation was to start the sentence and the viewer would finish it for me," said Susan Li O'Connor. "In this piece I was thinking about themes of sustainability - much of the material I used came from recycled material; the creamy colored pieces are made from office manila folders. In the piece, I see forms that are reminiscent of ice or underwater sea currents. It is exciting as the artist to be present when people are experiencing the installation. The first night that it opened was the first time I experienced the installation at night. I was delighted to see that the low lights gave it an underwater feeling for the visitors."
Through the Artist Talk, which is part of the opening of each new installation at KAC's artlab, O'Connor made a whole group of artist friends in the region and described the area as a well-developed artistic community between St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. "From an outsiders perspective, there is a fair share of artists that live in Benton Harbor that are not taking the divide between the communities as permanent," said O'Connor. "They are willing to break down that barrier. An artist is an artist regardless of any artificial divide."
Since its inception the artlab has presented five art installations, with a sixth set to open in September. The goal of artlab was to attract fresh new talent by offering the 367 square-foot experimental art space. Mission accomplished, plus the added benefit of creating another positive step in bridging the two communities -through art.
Artist Jodie Hardy begins her art installation on September 16, 2011.She is exploring the everyday impact of the advertising culture on our landscape. The show is being paired with a national touring exhibit called Posters, Fans & Songbooks: 19th Century Prints by Toulouse-Lautrec and his Contemporaries.
If you are planning a visit to the Krasl Art Center, know that entrance is free to the public. Exhibitions and Collections Director Tami Miller reports that artlab at the Krasl Art Center will continue through 2012. Artists interested in submitting an RFP can find the form, with deadlines online. The next round of proposals will be reviewed in mid-November.