When I became a Community Creative Fellow, I was quite excited to know that the fellowship would focus not only on my own artistic work, but also in designing and implementing workshops for the community. Initially, my own creative work influenced the design for the workshops. As I explored my grandparents’ “invisible” story of immigration to México, I created an accordion book for my first art piece. Since accordion books are relatively easy to make, I decided that my workshops, which I named “Unfolding Stories and Unfolding Identities” (designed specifically for Latinx Jews), would include teaching participants how to make one.
I also asked participants to bring to the workshop an object that holds memory to them—such as objects that have been part of their family history—and photograph it during the workshop, inviting them to incorporate their photos into their own accordion book. The inclusion of objects into the workshop was informed by my own use of objects to tell my maternal grandparents’ story. In my own artistic practice, I often photograph objects to unearth stories and memories of people, moments and places through objects.
In addition to my own workshops, my colleague Yoni Battat and I designed a joint workshop inspired by the many commonalities and thematic connections we discovered we shared through meetings with Rabbi Charlie Schwartz and artist Tova Speter. Our workshop, which we named “Making Tangible the Intangible: Objects That Hold Memory,” allows us to utilize music and photography to engage our participants in reflecting upon objects that hold memory in their lives, photographing these objects and sharing the stories of these objects.
Now that most of the workshops have taken place, I have come to see how much I have learned through each of them. I have witnessed how the concepts of memory and connectedness resonate among the participants in each workshop. In the workshops I have shared objects and stories of my loved ones, and, in return, I have been entrusted with the objects and stories the participants have shared back. These have been the most powerful moments in the workshops for me. They have allowed me to connect in deeper ways with individuals I have never met, to get a glimpse into their own family stories, to listen carefully and caringly to their stories, and to find connections amongst us all.
In working with a wide array of participants in the workshops—some older, some younger, some who are going through similar stages in life, some who self-identify as Latinx Jews, as Jews of color, as indigenous Jews, as Mizrahi, as Sephardi—I’ve been paying close attention to the objects they bring and the stories they share, grounded in their own life experiences and what is meaningful to them at this point in their lives. Their objects and stories often make me consider and reflect upon the objects and stories I’ll use in my work. Some of these objects and stories will be woven into an artwork I’m creating that reflects our collective community. While I had decided on making this collective artwork early on in the fellowship, I know that the piece has to reflect the richness of the objects and stories that folks have generously shared through workshops.
In order to include voices beyond those who participated in the workshops, I would like to invite members of our community to share your own stories through objects that hold memory for you. Please photograph your objects and upload the images and stories by June 1 to this online form. (If you don’t have a Google email, you can send me photographs of your selected object and the story of the object to email@example.com.)
Also, you can contribute to Yoni Battat’s community pieces by clicking here.
Our work as artists grows stronger through the inclusion of your voices.
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