Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Art of Community@the Library...Making it Happen

The Erin McKenzie Virtual Welcoming Space at Otterbein Courtright Memorial Library encourages conversations and facilitates discovery of cultures, experiences, struggles and how we are connected. The welcoming space celebrates the gifts and talents in each of us in hopes of creating inclusive communities where all are valued. Annual events are planned with this vision in mind.

In 2009, participants representing the areas of Women Studies; Black Studies; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered & Queer (GLBTQ); International Education; Disability; and Diversity discussed making connections and community building at Otterbein College. This event resulted in two key findings:
1. The need to create spaces where all feel welcome to share and interact and
2. The need to engage more students, listening and hearing their voices and perspectives.

With those findings in mind, on April 18, 2010, a diverse group of students, staff, and community members gathered to further our knowledge about how to create community at Otterbein. We enlisted facilitator and artist, Candee Basford (http://www.candeebasford.com/), to guide our discussion using a process of arts-based appreciative inquiry.

“Appreciative Inquiry is about the co-evolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. To inquire means to be open to seeing new possibilities and potentials. Arts based inquiry is the act of exploration and discovery through the arts.” http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/intro/whatisai.cfm

Each member of the group was asked to remember a time in their lives when they felt most engaged, most included, most welcomed in their college and in their communities. Then, each selected various images and artifacts such as fabric scraps, buttons, tree bark, magazine cutouts, metal, etc. that resonated with his or her “story.” Participants arranged these resonating pieces into a story or pattern onto mat board. This created a visual representation or reflection of their story and the insight within. When completed, each member of the group shared his or her creative image and the story or stories that elicited the completed image.

"Art exists in the absorption in the tasks of putting existing things together in ways that have meaning; and inversely, in the engagements that make personal connections to things others have made." Michael Herman

The visuals have been combined into a collage which is now displayed in the library. In the next few months, individual stories and visual representations from the collage will be shared on this blog.

We would love if you would share your story. Remember a time in your life when you felt most engaged, most included, most welcomed in your community. Create a poem, image, or story that resonates with your experiences.


Anonymous said...

Oh this is a huge challenge for me since I was/is one of those folks that always felt like I was on the other side of a window looking at everyone having fun! I think being pregnant was one of the most connected experiences that I've ever had- kind of like joining a club that I never expected to be in and welcomed with open arms. And then I worked in a state hospital were I felt like I was part of a smaller micro community and fully engaged in a culture that isn't great for everyone. More thoughts necessary I guess....
So lucky to live so close to Candee!

Barb said...

Yes we are very lucky to have Candee in our lives and not that far away! Thanks so much for sharing.