By: Nicole Mills-Novoa
Truth, beauty, voice, art, movement, connection, and kindness. Participants of The Living Classroom’s Collective Collage activity, facilitated by renowned local hip-hop spoken-word artist and educator Desdemona, deeply resonated with these words. As I sat down under the sun shaded tent, shoes off and toes spread into the Open Field, I saw around me people from all walks, visually considering Marc Balmuthi Joseph’s question, “What sustains life in your community?”. I wondered how differently folks might respond to this integral but elusive question, coming from such diverse backgrounds and standing in such different stages of life. Themes surfaced naturally and the constellation of what connects our communities and allows them to thrive soon stood like pillars nestled in cut paper and string.
We spent the afternoon laughing and chatting, cutting out images and words from discarded books, calendars and magazines. Trying our darndest to glue these bits and bobs into a semblance of what sustains life in our communities. We each did our best to articulate what sometimes is not so easy to put a finger on. Some of our collaged responses were abstractions, some seemingly in no way related to the theme, while others were concrete mind maps defining the terms of a living community. No matter the angle or scope of approach, each collage seemed a piece of a larger puzzle. I found myself asking…what’s the take away?
Now, looking back at this experience, I realize that what we were doing right then and there was in itself a brilliant answer to MBJ’s poignant question. Through the very act of generating the collective collage, each one of us was coming together to consider and help the life of our respective communities– in a moment of living, breathing creativity and connection. And this was just one facet of the Living Classroom.
Perhaps the answer to Marc’s question lies in the asking. So…what sustains life in your community?