We have been busy this fall! On top of our regular Community Studio programming, we began intensive research into the next phase of our project: intersecting art with agriculture in order to imagine creative solutions to food insecurity in Bethel. We have identified access to healthy food as one of the greatest urgencies facing Bethel. According to recent studies by the USDA Economic Research Service, 1 in 6 households in Ohio are currently experiencing food insecurity, making Ohio the sixth most food insecure state in the nation. SOIL SERIES is working to confront this crisis by developing and expanding relational networks and and engaging the community in imagining new possibilities for a healthier future – one that includes accessible nutrition for all. (See Artists and Food Activism for examples of other projects that tackle this issue.)
With these new goals in mind, we decided we needed an amazing team, and we asked two of our summer interns join us as research assistants. Alec Guenther came on board to help us research sustainable agriculture methods, and Kayla Ragland became our funding research assistant. We asked Alec and Kayla to write about their experiences researching with us for the SOIL SERIES exhibition:
I have been working closely with Hillary and Francesca since the beginning of Summer 2017, doing things like renovating and fixing up the barn, going on field trips to art museums, and researching indoor agriculture technology. We even went to the 3-day Farm Science Review in London, Ohio to attend workshops about farming.
I have been sacrificing my time and effort because I believe what they are doing is very important, worthwhile, and innovative. They are bringing new ideas and fresh perspectives on art and agriculture to our town, and exposing the youth of our community to things they might have never learned about otherwise. I hope that their work continues to provide inspiration and that it might stoke the flame of creativity in all of us. I know it has for me and many of the students they have taught and influenced. I am happy to be a part of this work and excited about our future plans.
When I first met the artists of SOIL SERIES: A Social Drawing, Francesca and Hillary, I was Director of Teen Development for Empower Youth. They came to me with a plan to help the youth in our community and asked if I would help. Of course I wanted to help, and now I research for them. I have especially enjoyed recently reading about aquaponics. As a research assistant, I mostly help out by looking for grants and funding opportunities to support our future plans of programming in art and agriculture. I advocate for our work in the community and I even helped put together the silent auction for their recent exhibition. I was also one of the many that helped turn the barn into a functional, cool, art studio. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone that helped make it what it is.
Directing, guiding, and mentoring children and teens are my favorite things to do. It’s a beautiful thing to watch children and teens become completely different people because of just one person that showed them they were loved and cared about. That’s why I help Empower Youth and Francesca and Hillary. After kids realize we are on their side, they become empowered. And guess what? Empowered people empower people! If I empower one child, they can go on to empower others and show others they are loved. It becomes a chain reaction and it matters.
I hope and pray the end result of this work is a restored community. I truly believe this ranch is a place where people come and feel like they are doing something meaningful, and that’s because they are and it’s a safe place for them.
If you read this little bio about me and take away only one thing, I hope it’s this: Empower someone! Because empowered people empower people.
As part of our research efforts we attended a grant writing seminar at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and although Kayla was unable to attend, Alec agreed to join us in order to learn more about pursuing grant funding.
After the seminar, we paid a visit to the Cincinnati Art Museum and spent the afternoon looking at their impressive collection spanning from ancient Egyptian to contemporary art. This was Alec’s first visit to the museum and we had a lot of fun discussing the work together.
Ana England is fascinated by the foundational and fundamental connections inherent in nature, and believes that if you look closely, you will find that the connections between us are greater than those separating us. England’s work emphasizes and incorporates shared patterns and structures that are present in vastly different scales and across various natural elements as a way to underscore the connections, or kinship, between the larger cosmos, the human realm, and the microscopic universe.
In observing the curl of a galaxy imprinted in a fingerprint or in contemplating that minute solar systems are embedded in the atoms creating our cells, England reveals a community that transcends race, nationality and species identification. This exhibition will feature several of England’s large-scale sculptures and installations, masterfully crafted to highlight the profound tapestry of kinship in our existence.
Just recently we had the immense pleasure of visiting England’s home and studio. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about that experience!
Fortunately, we were able to see the Anila Quayyum Agha exhibition, All the Flowers Are for Me, before it came down mid-October. Her elegiac, room-sized light installation and works on paper were affecting and evocative. The museum’s website offers this description:
Pakistani-American artist Anila Quayyum Agha creates immersive installations by manipulating light. In All the Flowers Are for Me (Red), light emanates from the center of a laser-cut steel cube, enveloping the gallery in intricate shadows that ripple and change as you walk through the space. Inspired by Islamic architectural forms and referencing her experience as a diaspora artist, the geometric and floral patterns cast upon the walls, floor, and ceiling create a sense of belonging through shared experience.
Finally, we were thrilled by the opportunity to experience contemporary South African artist William Kentridge’s More Sweetly Play the Dance, on view until January 28th, 2018. Kentridge’s animated films, prints, drawings, and installations explore themes of apartheid, colonialism, and totalitarianism. We highly encourage everyone see this moving, immersive work, described below on the museum’s website:
This powerful film installation encircles the viewer with seven screens, on which a procession of travelers passes across a charcoal-drawn animated landscape. The immersive panorama hints at multiple histories, evoking a danse macabre, a jazz funeral, an exodus and a journey. Accompanied by a brass band, the film references medieval manuscripts and the storylines of refuge throughout history.
Fragmentary Head of a King