In the summer of 2018 we held our second Community Studio session at the Empower Youth Ranch. Community Studio was a free public art program for all ages offered in partnership with Empower Youth. The program, which had its first session in the summer of 2017, offered local residents a dedicated time and site for creativity. Guided by SOIL SERIES artists, Francesca Fiore and Hillary Wagner, Community Studio artists were invited to investigate place through making.
Last summer’s session focused on finding ways to connect participants to local history and tradition. Each week we provided a profile of a Bethel (or area) resident who is creative in some way – a portrait of a local person and how they make something. We offered a survey of possibilities for how to be a creative person in Bethel – especially a creative person whose making is in dialogue with the place and its rich traditions. Out of the encounter with each new person, we facilitated projects that were carried out using a variety of materials to help participants connect more deeply to their home, their identity, and to one another.
A Farm is a Poem Too (Papermaking, Gardening, Farming, and Poetry)
Inspiration: Tim Hubbell and Joe Glassmeyer
The first week of our unit, “A Farm is a Poem Too,” was inspired by Clermont County residents, Tim and Crystal Hubbell who bought a 5-acre property about three years ago to transform into a permaculture food forest. They believe sustainable agricultural methods like permaculture can be used to fight food insecurity, and they hope to use their knowledge and expertise to help others in the community build their own food systems.
According to Bill Mollison, who first coined the term in 1978, permaculture is defined as:
“The conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.”
We visited Tim and Crystal and at their home in June of 2018 to tour their garden and learn more about their permaculture practice.
Watch this video of our conversation with Tim to learn more:
After watching this video, our Community Studio artists discussed how Tim approaches his garden creatively and what materials he uses to make his garden. To honor Tim and his work we made sustainable projects that included in their materials soil, seeds, water, and sun. Our primary activity for the week was using recycled paper scraps to make beautiful homemade paper in which we embedded seeds. We used the excess paper pulp to mold into vessels for planting our seeded paper. The paper and vessels were set out in the sun to dry until the following week when we would complete our projects.
The second week of “A Farm is a Poem Too” was inspired by Joe (Beau) Glassmeyer, a long-time Clermont County farmer and soil and water advocate. On his 545 acres in Felicity, Joe raises corn, soybeans, cattle, and Shetland ponies. We spent the day with Joe and toured his fields and pastures in June of 2018. He explained the science of no-till farming and described his meticulous practice of journaling, which helps him keep track of the day-to-day operation of the farm as well as weather patterns and important family events over the years. Joe just likes to watch things grow, and to him a tilled field is like a blank canvas.
Watch this video of our conversation with Joe to learn more:
Our making inspired by this video revolved around poetry and the poetics of a farming/gardening practice. Our resident poet, Matt, provided his expertise for this lesson (you can learn more about Matt’s approach to poetry and download a lesson packet from our first session of Community Studio here), and our Community Studio artists were encouraged to think about poems spatially and consider how the interconnected systems of a farm or garden are similar to the interconnected systems of language in a poem. To illustrate this point, Community Studio artists experimented with “joint words” in the style of Bruce Andrews and John M. Bennett, as well as “envelope poems” in the style of Emily Dickinson, and “prose architectures” in the style of Renee Gladman. The artists then imagined their ideal farm or garden and drew the blueprints to it, filling each section with words they associated with that section. These words were then used as material for short poems that the artists inscribed on their seeded paper and planted in their paper vessels. Weeks later, and with a lot of care, the poems had sprouted and were ready to be taken home and planted – hopefully starting new gardens. See our Community Studio artist showcase below for images of the completed projects.
Community Studio Artists Showcase:
Fibers and Textiles
Inspiration: Erica O’Neil
Erica O’Neil was the inspiration for our Fibers and Textiles unit in June of 2018. Erica and her family have a hobby farm in Bethel on which they raise a variety of animals including alpacas, which produce fiber that Erica processes and spins into yarn for crocheting. Crocheting is a meaningful tradition that has been passed down by the women in Erica’s family, and she believes preserving that tradition is a way of “giving [her]self to the future.”
Watch this video of our conversation with Erica to learn more:
Community Studio artists not only watched the video of our conversation with Erica, but they also got the chance to touch some of the fibers from Erica’s animals! We discussed the historical significance of weaving in the region, and looked at examples from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s exhibition featuring the work of local weaver Jane Busse, Jane Busse: Innovations in Weaving. Community Studio artists then tried some weaving of their own using homemade cardboard looms and a variety of materials. See our Community Studio artist showcase below for images of the finished weavings.
Community Studio Artists Showcase:
Bluegrass and Gospel Music (Making Instruments and Music)
Inspiration: Daniel Patrick
For the last unit of our 2018 Community Studio program we interviewed Clermont County resident and Bethel native, Daniel Patrick. Daniel is a very talented musician who has played the banjo for The Roys and Larry Sparks & The Lonesome Ramblers, and now makes bluegrass-gospel music with his family as The Patricks. We visited Daniel at his home where he also farms cattle and he talked about how he grew up around music and made his first (non-functional) “banjo” out of plywood and string when he was five years old.
Watch this video of our conversation with Daniel to learn more:
Community Studio artists learned about the origins of Appalachian music, which includes bluegrass, old-time, folk, and more; and how many early settlers of the region made improvised instruments from existing tools and objects of rural life. We looked at examples of some of these instruments including the spoons, the banjo, the washtub bass, the mountain dulcimer, the mandolin, and the washboard. Community Studio artists then made their own instruments using common objects that had been donated or collected, and some artists even formed their own jam bands with their homemade instruments. See our Community Studio artist showcase below for images of the finished instruments.
Community Studio Artists Showcase:
Thank you to Tim Hubbell, Joe Glassmeyer, Erica O’Neil, and Daniel Patrick for the wonderful conversations and for providing our Community Studio artists with images of what creativity in Bethel can look like. Thank you also to our amazing Community Studio artists for participating and joining us in joyfully making work about local traditions. And thank you especially to Empower Youth for making this possible. It was an immense honor to create Community Studio over these last two summers, and although the 2018 session was the last, we are deeply grateful to have had the chance to make beauty, build relationships, and engage with the place, its history and its future. Stay tuned for more announcements about what’s to come. We are excited to continue our work in Bethel. Thank you for being a part of it!