Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On Belonging

I think everyone who becomes involved with New Urban Arts for the first time is waiting (consciously or not) for that first clear moment when they know they belong; when they feel they've become an integral part of the community. Though I had several hints during my first year at New Urban Arts, there was one moment in particular that stands out.

At the entry to the studio, is a group of student portraits taken by artist mentor Erik Gould. At our mentor orientation, I remember being captivated by these portraits, wondering who these students were, and who took the photographs. As I believe is their intention, I had the impression that these portraits (right by the front door), were a reminder that this place was about the students; individual students with particular stories of their own. But at that point, they were strangers to me and their stories were a mystery.

[Click here to see the portraits]

As the year went on, I caught myself checking back in with these portraits. Slowly, one by one, their faces became familiar, their voices more audible. But the big moment came at the end-of-the-year Art Party when Erik installed a new set of portraits. As I walked in the front door that day, I didn't even look towards the wall (I hadn't checked it for a while, in fact). So when I turned around later that night and saw the new portraits for the first time, I was stuck in my tracks. I knew ALL these faces!

These were the students I worked with every week, whose creations I had seen blossom, and with who I could remember making things – tissue paper flowers, ink spatter monsters, giant cardboard lightswitches, FLiP – together! I admit it, I got teary (the first moment of many that night) and I knew finally, that I belonged. I smiled to myself and joined the party.

- Jane Androski, artist mentor, 2008-09


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