Finding (my) Place

By     Aug 1, 2015
   

This month has been about all things place. Where is my place in this fellowship? Where is my project’s place in the field? Where is my place in the community? How does my project address place?

My place in CCF:

Right now, I am observing and responding and soaking this experience all in. I had a chance to look at the many pictures from the residency. I felt that I could glimpse what the experience was like through the pictures. As an online fellow, I was a bit sad that I couldn’t travel for the residency portion because from the pictures, it looked like an incredible time. I am eager to talk to a residential fellow who can share their experience with me.

Earlier this month, I was able to hangout on google with a few other fellows, which was very exciting. We shared with each other our projects and our thoughts on our corresponding fields.

My place in the field:

Public art and placemaking are definitely my related fields for the many projects I am involved with at the moment, which include coordinating mural installations, programming art exhibitions at the local community center, designing writing courses in social change and creative community development, starting a town and college speaker series, and creating a film and photography/living tableau project on place in Plattsburgh. As the fellowship progresses, I will use the experience to specifically focus on the film/photography/tableau project, but as of now, I’m finding the resources offered educational and inspiring for my additional work. I’m really enjoying reading Lucy R. Lippard’s The Lure of the Local.

 My place in my community:

I have been struggling with this one. I now live in a small town. I came here as an outsider from a city that had its own localness. I am now getting embedded in Plattsburgh’s localness. I have become deeply involved in the community and have developed many relationships. I have a large network of people to collaborate with, but lately I have felt the town-gown divide. As someone who is involved on both sides, I see how each side doesn’t want to involve the other. For such a small town, there is fight over ownership of ideas and projects and somehow staying in the middle seems to be the best solution rather than aiming for the top. Good things get choked before they’re given a chance to grow. I wonder if other fellows working in small towns have seen this fight over ownership. Please share with me your thoughts and solutions that have worked for you. That is one reason why I’m starting with a film first for my project. I can get something started without those squabbles standing in the way.

On a positive note, I recently reached out to the newly hired Community Development Director for the City of Plattsburgh. We will meet and discuss how I think it’s necessary that public art and placemaking are an integrated component in the development plan. Successful creative community towns have not kept creative and economic development separate. I look forward to seeing where this goes.

My project and place

Lucy R. Lippard writes, “The word place has psychological echoes as well as social ramifications. ‘Someplace’ is what we are looking for. ‘No place’ is where these elements are unknown or invisible, but in fact every place has them, although some are being buried beneath the asphalt of monoculture, the ‘geography of nowhere.’ ‘Placelessness’ then, may simply be place ignored, unseen, or unknown.’

This past month I’ve been shooting footage for the short film I’m working on with my husband Michael Devine (https://plattsburgh.academia.edu/MichaelDevine). The film entitled “Burgh” addresses placelessness in Plattsburgh and is inspired by the early cinema city film “Manhatta” by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID9lYh_uUVs). Our film’s imagery evolves from nowhere to somewhere and recovers the narrative of the City with a transcendental vision of our town. As I become very familiar with our cultural landscape, “Mae Thielgaard Watts’ idea that the landscape reveals clues to a culture and can be read like a book” comes to mind. I’m learning that Plattsburgh wants to recover its place and identity. Our film will be screened at the Lake Champlain International Film Festival in November.

Finally, I discovered a cool resource and connection I’d like to make through Art of the Rural (http://artoftherural.org/) with SmallScreen: Cinema Outside the City (http://artoftherural.org/smallscreen-cinema-outside-the-city/), which maps all forms of rural independent cinema and highlights place-based documentaries.

Look forward to more sharing and learning!