Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Getting organized in Maine

I get to organize with the most amazing people!  At the mural rally yesterday about 400 people raised the roof of the state house and shared hopes, fears, and a bit of good news: the feds want their share of the cost of the mural refunded. Great speeches by many; here's one, Rob Shetterly in Common Dreams today: Return Our Mural, Restore the Names.

Check out this most beautiful re-display of the mural since it was sneakily, illegally and expensively removed from the Maine Department of Labor (here you see one side of the State House, our capitol building):

And in this video many of my favorite people help get the BOW$H message out. Especially great song at the end: Bring our war dollars home ballad written by webmaster Dan Ellis and sung beautifully by everyone -- it always helps to have the Raging Grannies on hand!

Artist Natasha Mayers was a strong presence at both rallies, and shared some Maine art and activism history in an email she sent around today.

The role that artists are playing: a little bit about our Drawathons, Draw-ins, and Printathons
April 4, 2011

The amazing Kenny Cole and I met with Lisa Savage, Bruce Gagnon, and others back in 2009 to see what the Union of Maine Visual Artists could do to promote the Bring Our War $ $ Home campaign. Kenny suggested a Drawathon.

We put out a call for artists to come and draw all day, working side by side, exchanging ideas. A way for us to stretch our imaginations and, in doing that, help other people envision how they would want their tax dollars spent.

You can be deadly serious or seriously silly, we told them, at the UCC Church in Bath. I sketched a "free range chicken in every pot" and more school field trips . Others drew solar panels, school vegetable gardens, and a missile launcher that launched paint brushes.

I think, as artists, we have ways to capture/captivate people's attention that are creative and non-threatening. To catch it in a way that won't put them off. As artists, I also don't think we're just talking about money or politics. We're talking about what military spending does to our souls and spirits.

More than 40 artists made images that day. Some of the participating artists were: Robert Shetterly, Abby Shahn, Diane Dahlke, Barb Sullivan, Brian Reeves, and five students from Unity College. Lisa, Bruce, and others organized the kitchen, and made sure the artists were fed. Lisa, Peter, and Kenny scanned/photographed images and put them on a website, for later production of booklets (zines) to distribute to our state and national representatives.

The art was hung on the wall for all to see. The community arrived for a potluck and evening of poetry with Betsy Sholl, Maine’s Poet Laureate, Martin Steingesser, Henry Braun, Chris Crittenden, and others. The event was attended by about 140 people. It was grand!

We had a Draw-In at the State House in Augusta, and CODEPINK messengers delivered the 4 'zines (booklets) to all state legislators. We were not just calling attention to harmful priorities in spending, but also using our art to thaw the hearts and minds of legislators frozen by fear, budget freezes, and draconian cuts.

"We offer these drawings as suggestions for wiser and healthier uses of our tax dollars," said Shetterly, speaking on behalf of Union of Maine Visual Artists. "We believe that the primary functions of government are to enhance community, protect the environment, care for the unfortunate, provide education..."

We parked ourselves in the rotunda of the State House and waited for the public to pass by. We solicited from them any ideas they had on how to better spend our war dollars. People are disarmed when it comes to live artists! They get very excited to see their ideas visualized before them and then to be able to take their drawing away with them. For the artists it’s great camaraderie and that feeling of using their skills for a noble cause.Singer/songwriter Hana Maris performed and Martin Steingesser recited his poetry.

Next we held a second Draw-A-Thon at Space Gallery in Portland on Veterans Day. Some artists drew portraits of veterans and others, and others drew how they wanted their war dollars spent.

Then we held a Print-A-thon: at the Portland Public Library. An all day gathering of artists to work collaboratively to create silk-screen or other print editions of some of the imagery.

We held a second Printathon at Circle the Square Print Studio in Gardiner with Karen Adrienne’s generous instruction and hosting and Nora Tryon’s experience with silkscreening.

What’s next? We plan to have Steve Burke help us in the spring, spread our posters around the country, maybe wheat paste a few on available city walls, maybe turn our artistic eye to some other pressing problems in the state, too.

We hope you’ll join us.
Thank you.
Draw-in, Hall of Flags, Augusta  April 4, 2011-- Nora Tryon's newest poster design in foreground

No comments: