"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Transformative Art and Time

My mind is alive with ideas after reading Dr. Muth's “Murals as Text”. The Hope House program sounded so incredible through Dr. Muth’s descriptions that I also went to their website and watched a video. I found this video from last fall on their home page: http://www.hopehousedc.org/

The stories of connection and possibility continued to inspire me. It makes me want to try to develop a similar art program for the clients of Safe Harbor and their children.  I know that art therapy with children has become one of the tools in the social work field. Women often come into the house with so much emotional work to do to rebuild their sense of self after being in an abusive relationship; the children’s healing can sometimes become secondary.  I think researchers are still studying the implications for the children to have witnessed their parents (or adults) in their household being physically or emotionally abused. Can the healing and transformation through art happen alone, as a solitary experience? Can you heal in tandem with another person after a traumatic event? Or does the healing slow down if one person isn’t ready to move forward? There is a paper just waiting to be written from observing/interviewing the Safe Harbor clients and how they experience life in the shelter.

Another idea that was compelling in the “Murals as Text” chapter was the concept of timescapes. I wonder if I might have created a timescape without knowing it. Can “ordinary” terms create an echo through the universe? Or do the words/art need to re-create a past moment to capture the past, present and future implications? Do you need to change the meaning of the words or the experience – the way the landscape changes slightly with each passing year? Let’s take Thanksgiving dinner, a family tradition for most Americans, as an example.  Can food become the medium to create a timescape?  Can you remember the countless times that you baked an apple pie for your family? Then you think forward into the future dinners and know that you will try again (and again) to find the perfect blend of ingredients. Is the recipe the literary event? And is the family gathering at Thanksgiving the social experience? But this example does not hold the possibility of a transformation, as described through the HH mural project. Family traditions tend to remain similar over the years, although sometimes you may lose or gain family members through the passage of time. They are not usually transformative in nature. Maybe it needs to be a more significant family tradition, such as the handing down of a wedding dress from generation to generation. That day in itself can be a transformation, so perhaps that would be a better example. The dress could be the representation of art and the wedding is the social experience. Am I getting closer? Or is it such a rare occasion that a true timescape occurs that it may be very difficult to find other examples?


  1. Hi Jen,

    I too was captivated by timescapes and think your example of Thanksgiving is relatable. As you mentioned, the social activity of gathering and interacting at Thanksgiving pushes on time by many different people who experience various realities of the event. The anticipation of and how time is used is interesting to think about-the host or hostess who is likely planning well before the big day, or a child who doesn’t see cousins except on this holiday, to what [tradition] occurs in the time of the Thanksgiving gathering, to a reflection of how the day went and the anticipation of next year. Maybe it’s not Thanksgiving itself but the process of Thanksgiving that could possibly be transformational for some? I hope we talk more about this in class!

  2. Hi Jen,

    I think mural program or other "literacy event" would be a great addition to the work Safe Harbor does. I think the experience of creating a shared text would help the healing process. If we believe Rushdie (I do) that stories make us part of a family, then creating more shared stories should help strengthen and rebuild families. Also, do you know Stacie V at Safe harbor? She is my bff!

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  4. Ah Jen, this is good writing indeed. YES I am certain that these art-literacy events could work at Safe Harbor, and I am happy to brainstorm ways to go about setting up the structures to make it work...You ask: "Can the healing and transformation through art happen alone, as a solitary experience?" I do believe it can--it is simply a different process than co-authoring a text. Yet I doubt it is ever solitary--our words, our experiences, are never only our own...Which brings me to your second meditation on time. You ask, "Do the words/art need to re-create a past moment to capture the past, present and future implications?" Wow, I wish I knew the answer to that--Is there ever a purely original act, or are we always transcending the present with words and understandings from the past? But even if this is so, I totally agree that a new experience can instigate an echo through the universe (lovely metaphor!) like when we write something in our journal to be revisited later on--we are planting a timescape for sure. I promise we will cover timescapes when I get back. Sorry I did not get to read today's blogs before class!!


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.