Poetry · Writing

The Color of Freedom

“The Color of Freedom” by Michael J. O’Connell
A Soldier’s Perspective on the American Revolution

Over us did break the April sun, warmth penetrating the depths of our cold, miserable existence.

Months have seemed to drift, no rush by like the great Father Time tossing sand into the gale.

The ache in me is still, having rationed our morning meal of biscuits, and, for a fortunate few, dried legumes.

My coat, in disrepair for lack of thread,
my boots, endless miles have they tread
until neither mind nor body could comprehend.

Wasn’t it just last year, or before
when I felt this same shining orb upon my back while nesting the precious harvest
into the warm Spring earth?

Time has erased these as well, as the keeper of all things has seen that it is only forward, where the sands still cling to the
fragile glass that my mortality lay.

No matter, I keep my mind at ease.
For it is more than I, or the thousands with me, for whom I lay down my existence.

And if I grow weak for the cause, or slip it from my mind
as the lead surrounds me.

I turn towards that rising sun, and over its brightest hue, least I ever forget, shines the Red, the White, and the Blue.

Copyright 2022 Michael J. O’Connell

From the artist: “I wrote this original poem upon learning that my wife has ancestors who fought in the American Revolutionary war. Having been a soldier, I wanted to express my thoughts and feelings on the sacrifices that they made to give us our own nation and homeland.”

Michael O’Connell is a Path with Art Ambassador and Veteran Participant Artist

Partners · Poetry · Writing

We Are All Here

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.

Drawing

For the Love of Trees

Trees by Kathleen Ruthford

“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

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.

Community

Stories of Transformation: Tu’u Talaga

In the last newsletter of the month, Path with Art is sharing a story from student Tu’u Talaga. Tu’u has been taking the podcast class taught by Gavin Reub. She shares how it took time for her to realize that language can be an art form in and of itself. Watch Tu’u’s story below.

This project was created with support from Historic South Downtown, highlighting the individuals Path with Art serves.