Monday, December 19, 2011

December 10, Human Rights Day at NOMAD LAB!

Last week, our closing session for this trimester brimming with art at NOMAD LAB, we were blessed with workshops and presentations by a remarkable group of artists and change makers.  I want to thank longtime NOMAD LAB supporter and collaborator Lydia Brean and her son Sam Breen for helping us organize such a great session for our participants. You can read Lydia Breen's writing about their visit to NOMAD in their website.

We celebrated Human Rights Day that Saturday and were lucky to receive Tom McCarthy and Anna-Lena Svensson McCarthy, two international human rights lawyers based in Geneva, Switzerland. Their visit provided an opportunity to have a conversation with the youth about the topic of shelter as a human right recognized in many nations.

International human rights lawyers Anna-Lena Svensson McCarthy and Tom McCarthy speaking with NOMAD LAB participants

The youth also got an update from Sam Breen about his Trailer Trash art project.  Over the last year NOMAD participants have had several opportunities to collaborate with Sam and his mom in dreaming, designing and proposing ideas for his trailer/gallery/nomadic performance space. It is great to see how far this projects has gone: now with new walls, sun-powered circuits, and many many art events under its belt, the trailer is well on its way to becoming a model for exploring the intersection between home and art making.

We also had the pleasure to see a presentation by tenor saxophonist Kevin Robinson. Here is a brief description of that presentation, in Lydia Breen's words:
"Kevin is a firm believer in the power of music to heal, demonstrated how the sound that comes out of his instrument is influenced by his stance, breath, emotions – even the rate of his beating heart.  He showed how musical instruments can be fashioned from found objects such as hat stands, lamp stands and shades. Even the voice, hands and feet can be effective instruments, he said. A lesson in learning about how the music becomes one with your body came with Kevin encouraging the kids to clap their hands to a set beat, while he riffed and a NOMAD kid repeated sounds to a tune."

NOMAD LAB's young artists also had an opportunity to be part of a visual arts workshop with artist Kenyatta Hinkle. As Lydia describes "Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle recounted tales from her Kentifrica homeland, providing maps and drawing of the people who live there and the instruments they play.  She encouraged the NOMADS to draw maps of their own home country (real or imagined) and then asked them to describe what life was like there.

Kenyatta holds up a drawing of Kentifrican instrument

Artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle's shows her portrait of a fellow citizen of Kentifrica to kids with the NOMAD Lab Art Project

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Visiting artists and performers at NOMAD LAB!

This has been a great trimester for NOMAD LAB, in big part because of a series of exceptional artists and performers who have shared their skills, work, and yes, some insider's secrets with us. 

For starters we had Artzine Eyeball Burp's founders Ann Matsushima and Alex Chiu present a workshop on the history and evolution of the Art Zine. Did I mention that Ann and Alex are avid zine-collectors in addition to being super talented writers and artists? They brought in several zines from their collection which challenged any traditional notions of what an art book could be in the hands of a generous artist. In their workshop, we also learned about several different ways to create multiples of a single publication, while using the process of copying (as in xeroxing) as an art form in and of itself. 

They returned the following Saturday to demonstrate their process of creating a collaborative off-the-wall graffiti mural inspired by the Surrealist's exquisite corpse art game. A group of about 20 NOMAD LAB participants, markers in hand, worked together to create a collaborative graffiti mural on a precut piece of plywood. The group was given about 1-minute long sessions to draw on the wood. After a minute, we all had to take a step to the right and continue a drawing started by another artist. We then proceeded to add color to our drawings using the same process of rotation around our "canvas". This all took about 2 hours. When we all felt that the piece was finished, the participants selected a spot on one of our walls and installed the artwork for all to enjoy.  We are all very proud of how the final piece turned out. And we all really enjoy working off of each other. Thank you Ann and Alex!!

Our own Dance Lab, AT LAST!!!! Fall 2011

After more than a year looking of having our NOMAD LAB participants ask us to host a Dance Lab, at long last their (and our) dreams have come true! Karla, a remarkable dancer and choreographer, and Valle del Oro resident, has started volunteering to lead us into rhythm and movement! 1-2-3-4!
 She has been working with both boys and girls in a hip-hop-inspired choreography for a J Lo song. The Dance Lab has required that we not only stretch our limbs but also our ability to use our small spaces in creative ways. At the current moment, our dance floor consists of the living and dining room areas in one of the 2 bedroom apartments where we host our programs.  Karla pushes us to stay with the beat while using the space wisely to accomplish our goal. Our choreography will be featured in our 2012 Community Festival! Thank you Karla for sharing your gift of dance with us! 

Mail Art Lab and Creative Writing Lab! Fall 2011

This Fall was just out of this world! For starters, NOMAD LAB veteran teaching artist Megan Broughton proposed and then led an amazing Mail Art Lab, a first for NOMAD LAB.  Youth participating in this lab created a variety of art pieces that were them mailed or hand delivered by Megan to a selective group of CalArts School of Art students and alumni. These artists, in turn, created original pieces for the NOMAD LAB artists, which Megan brought with her and hand delivered every Saturday, to a room full of excited kids. As if this wasn't enough, Megan invited some for the CalArts artists to visit NOMAD LAB and see our participants in action. Our young artists got to meet their mail art CalArts counterparts, exchange original pieces of arts, and have an insane amount of fun in the process. This lab was all about collaboration, and about the process of getting to know others using art as a vehicle.

The CalArts artists with whom the youth had weekly art exchanges were:

Mykel Pryharski, fine art; Jessica Castillo, photo; Karina Yanez, fine art; Armando Martinez-Celis, graphic design; Ana Garcia, photo; Javier Rosales, photo; Jenny Lin, photo; Christina Tang, fine art; Ben Fish, fine art; Sarah Heysel, fine art; Bijan Berahimi, graphic design; Sasha Swedlund, fine art; Alex Woods, photo.

And the following artists collaborated with our students from cities outside of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles on a one-time basis:
Kayla Dolby, West Virginia; Vladimir Almmonnord, Los Angeles; Nate Miller, Idaho; Emily Martina, Maine; Laura Vena, Long Beach; Jazz Torres, Texas/Los Angeles. 

NOMAD was also lucky to have the multitalented writer and experienced educator Ebony Williams join our Fall program. Ebony led our Creative Writing Lab participants in a rediscovery of their neighborhood, through the unearthing of old stories, the exploration of map and book making, and the discovery of fascinating bits of history from our own Santa Clarita Valley. This process became the foundation for some great poetry and fiction writing, as well as the most unique oral storytelling improv sessions Valle del Oro has ever seen!

Third Valle del Oro Community Festival

In collaboration with our amazing partners Hope Horner and Cynthia Llerenas from the City of Santa Clarita's Community Services Division, and the supportive staff of The Village Apartment complex, the NOMAD LAB participants and teaching artists put on great show for this year's Community Festival. 
What happened at the festival, you might ask?
Here is the low down!
- Two Latin American music ensembles made up of current and former students from CalArts performed their music in celebration of the culture of Brazil, Mexico and Chile. 
- Participants in NOMAD LAB's Electronic Music Lab premiered their 7-song CD for an audience of cheering fans
- We celebrated the opening of our Visual Arts exhibition featuring the work of the Architecture Lab, Photo Lab,  Visual Arts Lab, Storytelling Lab, and Public Arts Lab. 
- Youth presented their "Dialogue Project" signs project
- We screened excerpts of a documentary  film created by local filmmaker Ramon Hamilton with students from our neighborhood's own McGrath Elementary School
- Participants in the Cooking Lab prepared and served healthy treats to festival attendees
- Our young artists stormed the staged and shared with the audience words about their NOMAD LAB experience. Que emocionante!!

What a blast! We all had a great time and the spirit of celebration of our young artists' work was palpable. There was so much support from the audience! There were lots of tears and a great deal of pride for the work we accomplished together this year. Way to go NOMADS!!!

Storytelling and Theater Lab / Spring 2011

NOMAD LAB's Storytelling and Theater Lab, led by writer and performer Sonal Malkani, worked with the youth to imagine character and stories inspired by people and experiences in their own lives. Several sessions were also facilitated by a remarkable group of CalArts Theater School student actors. With them we played many theater games that allowed us to feel confident and comfortable in our own skins and as a group of creative individuals. We got to play a lot!!!  We also learned how to visualize a story or recall a particular experience with vivid detail. These were all ways in which we entered our writing process. Towards the end of the semester, students published their finished stories, and they were shared at our neighborhood's community festival.