We should have a class! Bex, get on it. (Please.) (Yes, I know that it is not your role. Umm, Emily?)
We should have a class! Bex, get on it. (Please.) (Yes, I know that it is not your role. Umm, Emily?)
Pallet is a social purpose company on a mission to build equal opportunity access to housing and employment. Elevating the voices of people with lived experience with homelessness, recovery, and incarceration is integral to Pallet’s mission. In addition to telling the personal stories of their team and people living in Pallet shelter villages, they aim to raise the voices of system-impacted and marginalized persons everywhere.
Pallet has teamed up with Path with Art to support and amplify the voices of some of our participant artists with lived experience of homelessness. Check out this beautiful poem from PWA Ambassador Pam Winter, below. You can read the full interview with Pam on Pallet’s blog, and also check out the poetry and interview of PWA Ambassador & Blog Editor Aaron Hill!
We are All Here
by Pam Winter
We live in tent cities behind nylon walls, huddled in wool blankets in doorways of neglect.
We live in secured high-rises casting shadows below, houses flooded with desire, homes gated in fear.
We live with slumlords and in public housing too.
We live alone in our minds, wandering along pathways edged by open chains.
We work for corporate greed,
We dumpster dive for food,
We work for non-profits to build a better world,
We ask for spare change, sometimes shoot-up to heal a gaping wound.
We are honest laborers, the shrunken middle class,
We do not ask for handouts, but will reach for a helping hand.
We race upstairs chasing freedom and we lounge on city streets,
We stand in long lines at food banks, waiting for leftovers we can’t afford,
We walk in parks and shop behind gilded walls.
Sometimes we steal in the night, while white collars take in the light to line their coffers gold.
Sometimes life feels darker than the backside of the moon;
we watch her catch her breath
as she rushes to soften the edges of what we call urban blight.
Sometimes we feel the ecstasy of unity, especially on nights like tonight.
We are a city on shifting tectonic plates, frayed at the edges,
clothed in attitudes of love and dismay.
We are a city of others, separate and near.
We are teachers and students alike, but webs twist around our minds, our lives,
isolating us from those who look and think more different than we’d like.
We are all here, polarized by red and blue fear.
We must break down the walls,
Step out of the shadow of Them, Other, They.
We must hold our sister’s gaze, grasp our brother’s hand.
Link our minds to overcome judgments about what we think is right.
We are all here; the me in them.
The drum beat of our city, the heartbeat of Seattle,
the energy that makes our diversity vibrate with rhythm that unites.
We are All here and we’re not going anywhere.
The Odyssey Experience
by Lynette Douglas
It was mid-November 2016 when I first read about the theatrical class offered at the Ballard Senior Center. This is all part of The Seattle Repertory’s Public Works Program. Someone from the Seattle Repertory Theater was teaching a class on the theater. WOW!!
This was a difficult time for me. I was facing a serious eye surgery and didn’t know what would happen to my sight. I was born with a form of cerebral palsy, which settled on the right side of my face.
Although I have successfully traveled to Australia, on the other side of the universe…
I was there for some volunteer work, for a Landmark Worldwide Team Management and Leadership Program, did this as my final assignment. I made all the traveling and housing arrangements and with the help of some travel wise friends and actually stayed there, for three and 1/2 weeks, on my own. I still was very self conscious of my facial palsy and the disabilities accompanying it.
I was faced with a cataract surgery that could leave me blind. My palsy affected the nerves and muscles of my face and eyes. I could not move my eyes and certainly could not focus. The surgery would be a serious and my sight was at risk! It was indeed a scary time for me.
This class was something I have always dreamed of doing and it was the expectation of an actual class in the theatrical arts that got me through the surgery. I came through the surgery and came to my first class the following February . I instantly fell in love with the theater and it was this class that carried me through a difficult recovery.
A year and a half before I had presented a booklet of six memoirs to my Fiftieth Year High School Class Reunion, and promised them a revised book of Memoirs within a year of our reunion. For obvious reasons, my promise went as broken. This theatrical class would lead to the opportunity to be on stage in a Seattle Repertory Production. This was appropriate for keeping a promise. Through out the next few months, my courage and unstoppabiliy to actual act on a live stage, took everything I had. My high school classmates and friends were very excited for me AND I delivered my promise in an accomplishment , far exceeding my expectations.
My eyes were weak, affecting my balance and my singing voice cracked some of the time. There was a few times when I almost gave it up….and there was my promise of producing something!
Maybe this was too much for me. Matt, Paul, Simone , Katrina Ann Marya’s support and enthusiasm kept me coming to the classes and were a vital part of my competing my role as a siren and Ithacan woman in The Odyssey!
I had so much resistance to fulfilling my roles in the play. There were obstacles to hurdle and it was often a real struggle to keep going.
A few days after I accepted the parts in the cast, I had news that someone, whom I had served a restraint order on, found my whereabouts. I was scared of him showing up and causing trouble. If I said something about I might be discouraged from going through with the play, so I went to the police and saught the support of my priest, therapist and close friends.
According to reliable sources, he was too physically ill and brain damaged from the chemical abuse, he could not even take care of himself, much less, travel outside of his Arizona home town! My determination and unstoppability, led me on. I had no problems and this obstacle disappeared .
The most significant obstacle I had to hurdle was my disability and fear of what people would think. Maya’s assignment for us was to make up our own individual character or for those with speaking parts, to study the script and put ones self in their own perception of this person, they portrayed. This was my saving grace.
My personal life was outwardly happy and successful, while I struggled, inside. I worked very diligently on my characters and my personal journey was adaptive to the Ithacan woman, Adelina who was coming to terms with her old age and the diabolical that came with it. I had non speaking roles and I was coping with my physical disabilities and that lively spirit that wanted to share in the struggles of her fellow Ithicans.
The three songs we sang and danced to, were mine, not only in the play, but this reality for me!
How far would you sail was a question I asked myself, every day. My physical limitations and the irony of our commander in chief coincided. Singing this song over and over instilled in my mind, the importance of sailing HOME. I bonded with the other cast and got the importance of being a part of a township and actually being a part of a play. We needed each other to make our story complete. As well, we needed each other to fulfill our dream of being on stage. I was unstoppable!
I dealt with stiff joints from dancing, for the first time in years and my inability to see my place on stage. We get by with a little help from our friends!
The turning point for me came with the first time, we did the whole play. It was the beginning of the most crucial part of our rehearsals. We were NOT to miss any rehearsals, from here on out. My body and head resisted this promise, but my heart and soul won out.
Somehow, I came to rehearsal an hour before I actually was expected. Seeing the play for the first time instilled the passion I had for being a part of this wonderful play. It was one of the final sets that brought home to me who I really am!
Odysseus has returned home. He conceals himself as a beggar and has won the arrow shooting competition. Penelope held for the selection of a new king. He shoots the arrow and makes the mark. The towns people knows then, who he is.
I was standing behind him as he declared his loyalty for his people. I was playing the part of Althea. The words “I will fight for you, my people!” were strong and I heard another voice, within me saying, “Lynette, you will keep living on, because you are… are… ARE the woman you already are!” In spite of the onset of cellulitis on the final performance day, the stage was my long-wanted opportunity to be the unstoppable and spirited woman I always have been and this time I totally GOT who I am!!
Today, two years later, I am preparing my audition for “As You Like It.” This is will be my second play for The Seattle Repertory Theater and now I feel an excitement I’ve never dreamt I would feel. Life has been good to me! My surgery was successful and my life is not the same. I’m living my dream and am indeed, unstopped by any obstacle that gets in my way. I am, after all, UNSTOPPABLE!!!
TOTALLY FREE AND ON DEMAND
“I study trees as I’m on the bus, and they’re just beautiful, so nice and full. How can I draw them so I can show what they really look like? These trees I drew from my imagination. I like trees because I know they grow forever.” — Kathleen Ruthford, PWA Participant Artist
by Teaching Artist Pamm Hanson
COVID-19 forced me to step up to a steep learning curve to learn to teach on Zoom! I tried to keep my attitude strong and I leaned into the generous support from PwA staff and the patience and support from the class participants. Whew!
Then we began to feel some of the benefits of being together virtually – ease of access; a sense of community without risks and demands navigating in-person group dynamics. I was surprised how close I felt to the group. But oh my how I missed walking about a working studio classroom! Oh how I love the hum of artists working together, alone with each work but all together holding the space safe and possible. How we need this as artists. There is so much risk involved in making marks, putting paint on canvas. No one can do it for me, so I really need the support of artistic community, from other artists who understand.
There is nothing safe about making art, so our spaces where we make art must feel safe. I was awed by how much of this connection we could muster through Zoom! But I also know just how deeply we can hold it by simply sitting and working quietly together.
Yet the pandemic has changed us and the threat lingers and changes. I am signed up to teach a painting class in Q4 – in-person. I feel the pull of participating artists I might miss because the class is in-person. Oh I hate to miss them! And, of course, the nagging question if I will have to wear a mask! (I am so sick of masks!!). I have my fingers crossed and I am glad I am a painter so studio classroom is BIG, AIRY and puts less pressure on a decision about a more challenging physical space.
As artists we have a responsibility toward ourselves and toward each other. So how do we act responsibly making our decisions about when to gather and when to stay separate?
I have decided my primary responsibility is to my art practice. What furthers me? What are my parameters for a feeling of creative freedom and positive health care? I do not want to be in a position that puts pressure on my feeling of health risk. I need to trust the people sitting with me. I need to be clear about the physical space around that I need, whatever that is. I need to make informed choices, and I need to own my own choices without apology.
I wish I had some magic wand to make my studio classroom magically safe from physical and psychological harm! I fiercely do my best, but I cannot give guarantees. And, I need help from the participants working with me, to let me know what they need, to engage in creative problem-solving to get as close as possible to what each individual artist needs. And, I can hope to foster a feeling in the studio that allows for repair and healing if and when something happens to raise anxiety.
So I am leaning into returning to the studio classroom! Awkwardly but surely! And, I need everyone joining me in that studio to join with a generous spirit of working together to find our way through these new and unfamiliar times. It is not a time to take things personally, to go to distrust before trust. How radical to assume we all want the best for each other in the studio so each artist can take radical risks in their work! As Flaubert said: “Be regular and orderly in your life, like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Let us be careful and kind in our gathering so we can take the risks necessary to finish that painting!!
You may contact Pamm Hanson via firstname.lastname@example.org.