Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thomas Bosket - my avenging angel

I arrived at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts for a week-long Drawing Class full of anticipation and excitement to meet the teacher so wonderfully described in the brochure, a woman from some college with an outstanding reputation and very cool artwork.  Imagine my distress then when class started and in walked a tall dark-haired man who looked to be at the most 19 years old – his goatee didn’t fool me!
He told us something had come up for the other teacher and he would be replacing her.  His name was Thomas Bosket.

I felt resistant to change – a typical response for me - but had no choice so I listened politely as he began the lesson.  I was signed up to get Master’s level credit for the class, so I had to be a good student.
Thomas began by teaching us about contour drawing then having us do it.  Contour drawing is an exercise when you follow the contour of an object with your eyes as you draw it on paper.  Thomas modified it a bit.  He had us squeeze a blob of clay with our hands then follow the contours of that not only around it but also through it, creating a 3-D looking contour map.  I didn’t really understand what he wanted us to do, but I tried the exercise, grinding my teeth and gripping my pencil tighter.  It was not something my new-to-drawing-from-life brain could comprehend.  I wanted to throw that stupid lump of clay across the room.

I’d come to Arrowmont feeling pretty self-satisfied because I’d gotten an exhibit of my pregnant nude drawings, all done from photos, after only having been doing art for about nine months.  I thought I was pretty good.

So to not be able to draw a stupid lump of clay really pissed me off.

Thomas made the rounds of the class and eventually got to me.  He noted my frustration and told me other ways to approach the problem.  He even drew lines on the clay itself so I could see precisely what I needed to draw.  My frustration mounted.  Rather than ignore my petulance, he spoke to it, gently, respectfully – he let me know he could tell I was frustrated.  That validation burst open my floodgates, and, before I knew what was happening, I told him exactly what I thought of his stupid exercise and that I couldn’t do it and I hated it – my two-year-old was unleashed.  Shockingly, he listened.  He stayed put.  He let my toddler have her say then he addressed the adult in me – he told me he understood my frustration and he could see how important it was to me to do it right – maybe if I could relax into it a bit, and try to enjoy it, it might be more pleasurable.

Relaxing into something was not a familiar concept to me.  But having him listen to me and be able to hear my frustration without ignoring me or getting mad or taking it personally or holding it against me shifted something inside of me.  Part of me recognized I was safe and that there might actually be space for all of me in that art room.

Later that week, I told him there were two parts of me battling for expression – the super-detailed, uptight perfectionistic part that can copy exceedingly well.  She produced the successful pretty pregnant nudes.  Then there was (and still is) the expressive, wild side full of emotions and passion who wanted time on the page and canvas too.  I was afraid of her – she was too unpredictable and the results of her work were ugly and hard to be with, and no one would want to look at them. I wanted desperately to integrate those two parts.

Thomas came up with an exercise for me.

He tore off two six-foot pieces of brown craft paper and taped them next to each other on the floor so I had a 6’x6’ piece of paper to work on.  This was evening, so there were only about 6-8 people in the room rather than the usual 25-30 who were there during the day.  Each was working on his/her own project.

Thomas told me to sit on the floor, in the middle of the paper.  He put 10-15 drawing tools in front of me – pencil, pen, charcoal, conte’ crayon, marker, stick, ink, stone – weird and mundane.  Then he blindfolded me and told me to just let myself go – express myself however came through me.  He set a timer for an hour.

Knowing there were others around me, I had some difficulty letting go, but I turned interior and moved the writing instruments over the paper however they wanted to move, switching from one to another intuitively.  I was lost inside my own experience when I heard some giggling and finger pointing near me.  Yes, I heard the finger point.  Thomas was there in a flash.  He told them in no uncertain terms that I was doing some significant work and they had no business whatsoever speaking about it much less making fun of me.  He dismissed them then whispered to me to keep going, not to worry about them.

My marks became furious, incensed, rageful.  Scenes of being made fun of as a child sped through my head.  I felt the hot heat of embarrassment and shame.  I felt Thomas’s indignation and fury and loved my avenging angel for his words.  I thought about my younger self and felt great compassion for her.  I played the avenger for her in those previous scenes.  My marks began to change as I felt the gentleness of understanding and comfort and compassion for myself. I let the pencil move loosely and gently across the page as the anger dissipated and was replaced by the joy of the mark.  I let the pencil hang loosely between my fingers and noticed how it felt as it moved across the paper.  I hummed to myself.  I imagined being on a swing.  The pure joy of creation filled me.

The timer went off.  I pulled the scarf from my eyes and looked at what I’d created, feeling It would be wonderful and beautiful and meaningful.

Frankly, what was there on the paper wasn’t particularly notable.  It was a lot of scribbles that didn’t make any sense rationally.  I could see where my anger had asserted itself.  I could see the gentle joy of creativity.  I could see the passages where I’d been feeling embarrassed.  It was all there on the paper.  I didn’t know if someone else would be able to see or discern all that.  I felt some embarrassment surface again – what would others say?  It was just scribbles.  Thomas came up and listened to me pour out my thoughts about it.  He listened powerfully and helped me own the experience AND the results.  He hung the piece, huge though it was, on the wall of the classroom so I could look at it time and again over the course of the rest of the week.

I went to bed that night full of feelings – confusion, joy, satisfaction, fear about what I’d unleashed, excitement that I had a tool to use to let my intensity out, curiosity about what others would say, strength that no matter what others said, Thomas understood it and would help me remember what I’d done.
At the end of the week, we all hung up all our work around the room for a final critique.  It was a melee of activity as we worked to clean up our workspace, find our work, and find a place to hang it randomly amongst all the other pieces.  At some point I noticed that my big piece was gone.  My stomach lurched.  I asked Thomas if he knew where it was.  He stopped the class and asked if anyone had seen it.  One of the women said, “Oh, I threw it away – I thought it was trash.”  Not meanly, just matter-of-factly.  Thomas tracked it down and hung it up with a determined flourish.

We spent the next several hours talking about the week, about what we’d produced, how it had been for us.  Thomas critiqued our work and gave us feedback of things we could work on once we got back home.  When we got to my huge piece, he pointed to it and said, “This is the most important work that was created here this week.  It took tremendous courage to make it and was the moment of a powerful breakthrough for this artist.  If no other piece stands out from this week, this one does.”
I felt such joy in my chest as he spoke that way about my scribbles.  I knew at some level that he was right.  It took courage I hadn’t possessed before to overcome my perfectionism enough to dibble and dabble and scribble and scrabble on paper, blindfolded on the floor, in front of others and to let my own judgments and worry go enough to express my true nature.  I’d explored my feelings and gotten to see them, literally see them, come up and pass through. 
My painting of Thomas done several years later after we'd worked together a few more times.
 I will forever be grateful to Thomas Bosket, my avenging angel and the teacher who helped me love my own intensity.

Friday, February 22, 2013

What it took to put on OBR - YOU!

One Billion Rising RVA has come - and gone - like a tornado rushing through my life.  For five weeks, from Jan 7 until Feb 14, my brain was in its highest gear, working to create a powerful, life-changing event for Richmonders, one that would put an end to violence against women, once and for all.

That may have been a too-lofty goal, but it didn't keep me from envisioning it and working towards it.
Kelsey Bedolli, Janett Forte, Julie Willard, Susan Singer

Five of us women: Janett Forte, Kelsey Bedolli, Julie Willard, Alba Jaramillo, and I, worked countless hours each day to pull together a huge event in a very short span of time.  It was exhilarating, fascinating, frustrating, dramatic, satisfying, maddening, and ultimately one of the biggest highs of my life.  It was amazing to see how the five of us worked together.  Without even talking about what needed to be done, each of us would work on parts of the project that needed to be with hardly any overlap ever.  It was almost magical!

Here's a very brief overview of what had to be done in five weeks:
  •  Find a location for the rally - the Richmond Coliseum was truly perfect, and the people we worked with there could not have been more helpful.  A completely positive experience.
  • Find a fiscal sponsor so we could run donations through a non-profit, making the donations tax-deductible and therefore easier to ask folks for - the Action Alliance was a gracious sponsor, allowing us to also use their copier to run off 1000's of flyers to promote the event, and to use their offices to meet in
  • set up a way to get donations - Indiegogo worked beautifully, and we raised $3315 in little over a month through the generosity of friends and co-workers and family members and strangers.  It was thrilling each day to check in and see what had happened since the last time I'd looked.  Thank you!
  • Find speakers - we were exceedingly blessed to find many good speakers to share their stories with the attendees.
Claire Sheppard and Kristi VanAudenhove
  1. Mayor Dwight Jones inspired us to contact our legislators to let them know we insist that VAWA be passed.  Thanks, Mayor Jones, for joining us!
  2. Claire Hylton Sheppard shared the painful story of her daughter's murder and inspired us with her courage and determination to make sure it doesn't happen to others.
  3. Carol Adams of the Richmond Police Department told us about her mother's murder at the hands of her father and how it affected her as a child.  She has gone on to be a powerful advocate for children ever since.  It's great seeing pain turned into activism.
  4. Rebiya Kadeer, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, shared with us the predicament the Uyghurs, a minority ethnic group in East Turkestan in China, are in.  Her life story is powerful and full of pain and suffering, but she is a powerful reminder of what just one person can do to bring attention to the plight of others through outspoken advocacy and efforts.
  5. Rebiya Kadeer and her translator Omer Kadat
    Carol Adams
  6. Kristi VanAudenhove of the Action Alliance shared with the attendees what the Action Alliance does and gave people ways to get involved themselves so they can make a difference just like our speakers have done.  She also encouraged all of us to take the One Billion Rising pledge to do at least one thing this year to help end violence against women.  Here's the pledge:
I am one of the One Billion Rising and I PLEDGE that on 14 February 2013, I will make violence against women and girls the central issue of our time and help to end it in my family, school, job, community/city/state/country by doing the following. 
  •  Find musicians - Gaye Adegbalola and the Wild Roots were the perfect accompaniment to the speakers.  Their music is powerful and evocative and empowering and gave us a chance to dance and feel the power in our bodies.
  • Find an emcee who could keep things flowing.  Christina Feerick of WRIC TV8 was super!  She, like all of the speakers, donated her time to help the cause of ending violence against women.  She promoted the rally on the news, on FB, on Twitter.  She was terrific!
  • Find Halal meals for Ms. Kadeer and her translator - first I had to learn what that was - thanks, Julie! - then I had to find someplace to get them for them.  This was not so easy, but we managed!
  • Khalima
  • Find entertainers for the time slot from 11-12 and coordinate them all.
  1. Khalima did her wonderful belly dancing
  2. Sara Heifitz stepped in at the last minute to substitute for another actress who couldn't come and performed a couple of Vagina Monologues beautifully and powerfully.  There was another actress who did a monologue, but I don't know her name.  If you were she, please let me know!
  3. Aja Hull and John Blake brought slam poetry to the OBR arena and added immense power to the happenings.
  4. Glow spinners and hoopers took part to add to the multigenerational aspect.
  5. Susan DePhillip came and sang and played her guitar and added much beauty to the day.
  6. Denise Bennett told a funny and meaningful story in Spanish and English then sang a beautiful a capella song to entertain us all.
  7. Aja Hull
    Denise Bennett
    Drummer in the hallway
  9. Drummers came to drum at the end of the rally so we could all dance - Diana Harris brought 15 drums to the Coliseum so that that could happen.
  • Create a way for participants to acknowledge their own experience.  Shirley Silberman learned how to do Papier and Cloth mache' in order to create the Dragon so people could Conquer their Dragons. So beautiful and creative!

Studio X

Dogtown Dance and Khalima

Planned Parenthood volunteer

  • Organize a resource fair so folks could find help or volunteer opportunities if they felt so led - the YWCA, Action Alliance, Safe Harbor, First Things First, Planned Parenthood, Studio X, dogtown Dance, Beyond Barbie, Hollaback, Circle Safety & Health Consultants, and a bus from the Latin American Art Association were present to support and enrich our attendees' lives.  We even managed to find a T shirt vendor who traveled from Waynesboro to sell T shirts for the event.
  • Spread the word about One Billion Rising RVA - we had a Facebook page, a Facebook event page, a website, a Twitter account, Instagram, Pinterest - you name it, if it was social media-related, I think we had it!  And we had volunteers who helped us fill each with interesting things for folks to read!  We also sent out 5 different press releases to the local media.  We had articles in several blogs - La Diff furniture store even wrote a piece about us!  We were on TV, on the radio, in the newspaper, in Style Weekly, etc.  I'll post all the links in another blog post.  Our Facebook reach maxxed out at 13,497, with 735 people "liking" us - so far.  
  • Organize marches the day of the rally to let people in the area know it was happening.  Carly Evans, Alba Jaramillo, Lori Gardener, Diana Harris along with Kelly and Eugene from American Family Fitness Center held a rally at 8, and the YWCA held another at 10.  They certainly enlivened the city with their enthusiastic support of OBR!
  • Print up countless flyers as well as programs for the events.  The Action Alliance provided us with access to their printers for the flyers and Conquest graphics generously donated the programs for the rally.
  • The YWCA supporters walk to the Coliseum from the Y
    Bobby Lohr, T shirt vendor with customers
  • Create complementary events to support OBR and to spread the word and the energy even further.

Renee King and They Dance When They're Happy
  1. Women Rise! a juried art show held at Crossroads Art Center.
  2. Cranksrising - a bike race/scavenger hunt organized by Lorene Davidson and created to raise awareness and to provide supplies for the women at Safe Harbor shelter
  3. Beyond Barbie: Four Fridays in February - a performance series produced by Dawn Flores consisting of four nights of entertainment around issues of importance to women.  Denise Bennett, Lisette Johnson, Kathleen MacDonald, Sylvia Clute, Peggy O'Neill, Jess Lucia, Jackie Jones, Jenny Warne, Paige Russell Rosemond Rosemond and Susan DePhilip, (and perhaps others I've regrettably not remembered to include) graced the stage and moved us with their candor and courage.
  4. Hollaback had a benefit at Babes of Carytown on Valentine's Day which benefitted OBR.
  5. Hollaback's Afton and Jenn
  6. The Vagina Monologues, directed by Julie Willard, will take place at the Gottwald Theater, April 26-27 and will be the last of the series of complementary events for One Billion Rising!  Watch our FB page for info on how to get tickets.  It sold out last year - we're expecting the same this year.
  • Find volunteers to help us create all these wonders and to help out the day of the event.  Our email list of volunteers ultimately had 60 people on it.  What a testament to each of you for your solidarity in ending violence against women.
  • Make the event run smoothly Valentine's Day!  Julie Willard was the stage manager who kept things running.  Kelsey Bedolli helped the volunteers get where they needed to go so they could do what they needed to do.  Janett Forte picked up the slack wherever necessary.  I spoke from the podium before the other speakers to set the tone for the day.
  • Get insurance in case someone got hurt.  That involved estimating how many people would attend and making sure we had enough insurance but not too much. Our insurance agent, Mike Cushnie, was kind and helpful beyond reasonable expectations.  When I told him we needed to insure for 10,000, he gracefully helped me lower my expectations so the insurance wouldn't cost us $750, but only $495.  He was a true gift and a kind man.
  • Raise $7500 in 5 weeks!  We had a private individual who was willing to take the risk and put up the money for the Coliseum, agreeing to take the loss if necessary.  That made all of us feel determined to raise enough to keep her from losing money.  Thankfully many of you - 116 to be exact - answered our call for donations and helped us out.  That doesn't include the kind souls who donated cash at the event and can't be enumerated or thanked individually.  It does include AlterNatives and Extreme Pizza who held profit sharing events to help us out as well.  We were blessed by a generous community which is also committed to ending violence against women.  
  • Organize a Flash Mob so we'd have a very cool dance to start and end the program.
That's probably a long enough list!  I know you get the idea!  And I'm certain I've left out people - I apologize for that!  Please let me know who I've left out and I'll happily include them - each of us Lead Organizers took on different parts of the rally, so I may not even know everything that got done!  Despite that, I am deeply grateful.

Thank you, each and every one of you who helped in any way to put One Billion Rising RVA together.  I wish I could give each of you my personal thanks for working so hard to make this event happen.  There was such an incredible outpouring of love and support and caring!  The energy the day of the event was palpable and powerful.  It makes me believe that violence against women truly can end if we all put our minds to it and say NO.

I can see it on the horizon.  Can you?

Friday, February 1, 2013

One Billion Rising Program

One Billion Rising Program

8:00Downtown Awareness March - Meet at Nina F Abady Festival Park- in front of the Richmond Coliseum - 6th St. Marketplace, Richmond, VA 23223

11:00 – doors to the Coliseum open

11:00 – 12:00  Arrival - explore the offerings on the floor and enjoy: Hoopers, Glow dancers, Resource tables, Sponsors’ booths, Slam poets, Mini-Vagina Monologues piece performances, music/bands/ Capoiera dancers, drumming, Slaying the Dragon interactive display

11:55 – Ssssshhh!  Big Surprise!  Bring your dancing shoes!

12:00 to 1:15 One Billion Rising Rally
Christina Feerick News Anchor, WRIC-TV8

Opening: Susan Singer
Speakers and Musicians

·         * Claire Hylton Sheppard tells her personal story about her daughter’s murder
·        *  Women's Multisports of Richmond's Crankrising  gives a donation to Safe Harbor Shelter
·         * Sergeant Carol Adams,Richmond Police Department, speaks of her personal experience and what she has done to turn tragedy into a passion for helping others
·         * Gaye Adegbalola and the Wild Roots perform three pieces during the rally
·        *    Mayor Dwight Jones speaks about what he’s seen in RVA, what the city is doing to end violence against women, and what he sees as the role of men in ending violence.
·         * Rebiya Kadeer – Nobel Peace Prize Nominee (2007) prominent human rights activist from the Uyghur region of China speaks about violence against women around the world, including her own personal experiences
·         * Susan Singer reads Eve Ensler’s poem “Rising”

Drumming and Dancing Begin

2:00 pm – doors close

The One Billion Rising Pledge: One Billion Rising is the beginning of the new world ignited by a new energy. It is not the end of our struggle but the escalation of it. We are suggesting that everyone who rises make a pledge to do one thing in the next year to end violence against women. Spread the word all over Richmond, and have all of your friends make the pledge! We believe a billion people will rise. Imagine a billion activated pledges. Share your pledge online at The One Billion Rising Pledge >