Writing

Hope for 2022

By Sarah L. Blum, Nurse and Vietnam Veteran

Content Warning: mentions of violence, mental health, suicide

The poem by Amanda Gorman, New Day’s Lyric, ends with a focus on coming together. I believe that is the key. There is so much hatred and violence which drives us apart from one another. In times of great pain whether from the pandemic, the insurrection, personal health issues, wartime memories, family stress, divorce, etc. we need connection and support. I know there are some young people right now suffering with depression and anxiety and their vision for themselves is bleak, so they focus on ending their lives. What if they had connections they could count on with people who care about them and can help them see beyond their pain? What if they had support available to themselves regularly, people who could hear them and hear their pain without judgement? What if we as a nation of people, all different kinds of people could come together and support each other rather than judge each other, unite rather than divide us from each other.

How do we save the best of our democracy together? I remember after the attacks in 2001, that we did come together in our collective response to being attacked from outside. Why is it we cannot join together in the same way after being attacked by our own? Think back to how our nation split apart over slavery. There was a member of Congress who literally attacked and beat up another member with a cane because the attacker wanted to keep his slaves and the victim wanted to free the slaves. That level of violence and viciousness is what we are dealing with today. It is all around us and growing in intensity.

Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mandela, and many other spiritual leaders have shown us the way to peace and how to stand in love in the face of all that. It takes commitment and courage to stand up and be brutally beaten to show our love for peace no matter what! The people I know who can do that are veterans. They are and have been showing the way for decades. We who have been through the worst on behalf of our country and have and are healing and growing from it may be the ones who lead the way to bringing all of us together. The only way we can restore peace and our democracy is through love and nonviolence. I say let us be the leaders for that and walk together forward to a new way of living and being in our society. Let us show that we are a multiracial community and society respecting each other, hearing each other and supporting each other and our shared values.

In The News · Music

The world’s first public orchestra

“Backed by a $700,000 Pew grant, the Philadelphia Public Orchestra ambitiously seeks to redefine just what an orchestra is — and what it plays.”

Pricey tickets. WASPy galas. The Philadelphia Public Orchestra is set to overturn all of those notions.

The Philadelphia Public Orchestra’s manifesto makes it quite clear that the musicians themselves will eventually and collectively steer the ship: “After the orchestra has been established for at least one season, the orchestra members ideally take control of all decision-making.”

“The orchestra should take over and let the musicians, the performers, think of who they might like to ask for a commission, what themes are interesting to them. We’re coming together to create a kind of work of art, and there is a radical power in that. Interesting things can happen.”

Writing

Thoughts on returning to the studio classroom…

Painting using oils and pastels on paper titled
Acceptance with Titian Diana and Acteon ○ oil and pastel on paper ○ 23.5”x22.5” ○ Pamm Hanson ○ 2021

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 pammh@pathwithart.org.