"MY JOURNEY YOURS" (MJY) is an art program designed by REFUGEE FAMILY SERVICES
(RFS of Clarkston, GA) and artists Gwylene Gallimard & Jean-Marie Mauclet
with Rebekah Stone. It started in the fall of 2002.
The title MY JOURNEY YOURS (MJY), suggests that we all are on a journey, and that the concept of “journey” includes infinite manifestations -- the trip from country of origin, current journeys of language acquisition, the journey of awareness and acceptance for long-term Clarkston residents who watch their neighborhoods and schools change in astounding ways, the journeys of artists trying to make the arts relevant to today’s world, the journey of this project. It strongly conveys that we each have something the world needs. Art as conveyor.
My Journey Yours
by JEMAGWGA and Aaron Volkner, from Gwylene Gallimard
The presentation at YOUTH ART CONNECTION (YAC)
in Atlanta, GA, a creative art installation & documentary show (June 24-July 24, 2004) explored the spirit in which the program as well as each object, sound or performance was developed, as a step in that journey. Art as explorer.
REFUGEE FAMILY SERVICES
serves more than 2700 refugees each year from countries such as Somalia, Bosnia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Iraq and Vietnam. Programs help refugee/immigrant women and children regain self-sufficiency through education, economic opportunity and direct support.
Other participating artists in the project include Arianne King Comer, Yves Gaudin, Marcia Kure, Opal Muhammad, Hasan Nazer, Meliha Bisic, Fikret Sejfulovic, Elise Witt, Ann Nguyen, Sakhidad Hatif
The inspirers and activators of the project were and still are the director of RFS, his staff, many volunteers and, of course, every refugee who came and worked with us all. Some came once, some came many times. Particularly the members of what is now established as the RFS SEWING GROUP
. We also collaborated with people at JEWISH FAMILY AND CAREER SERVICES
and YOUTH ART CONNECTION
; their dynamism was inspiring. Art as community builder.
This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the tour Program of Alternate ROOTS through funding from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts; the DeKalb Council for the Arts Grassroots programs; the Georgia Council for the Arts; the French Cultural Services; Fast & French, Inc.; Avondale Mills, and Youth Art Connection, a program of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta.
From the inception of the project, the purpose of the YAC presentation was:
- To mark the mid-term of the full “Journey” and prepare for future developments, e.g. with a video of the show, to be presented to small groups of clients and staff at the occasion of “strategy planning dinners”.
- To show what RFS clients had created during the workshops: sometimes the real objects, sometimes picture montages of workshop activities, mounted on shaped corrugated metal panels.
- To present the core ideas which drive MJY: an experience in multi-lingual communication, an exercise in trading cultures. Diversity as a strength of community. Identity as a base for social constructs.
- To articulate ideas and creations as an anthropologist would: here, we made several formal decisions.
- Introductory texts to the show, hand written and batiked on indigo banners, would invite passersby to come in. Inside, though, everything would be in “other” languages; Arabic, Somali, Vietnamese, Serb ...
- Objects from or documents about the workshops would be displayed on the main wall of the gallery (80 feet long), in successive vertical rows.
- A bridge would run the full 80 foot wall, horizontally against the sloped floor of the gallery. It would carry “walking figures” who would have to overcome obstacles like a shelled-out bridge sections or neck-breaking stairs, at the end of the “Journey”.
- Two large canvasses labeled “Our skies” and “Our island”. “Our skies” would jolt out from the center of the wall, fly over the ramp and land on a low table where “Our island” would actually lie, embroidered and ready to be embroidered more by visitors.
- Three tables, coated with wax of three different colors and engraved with texts in different languages would depict, in simple words, the three major elements spoken of above: - bridge, red table (I walked , I starved, I went on... I was there), - objects, yellow table (See me carve, make bags, embroider... I am here), - sky, the canvas, blue table ( I will fly, imagine ... the sky will be free, and my children too...). All vertical supports for the tables show different cut-outs which are taken from drawings by participants.
- Three sound stations would offer three private stories, tragic or not, of journeys to America.
- The Souk: a section of the gallery left open for RFS clients to bring and sell whatever object they like.
- Some songs performed during the “Singing My Journey Yours” and the “Poetry, Songs and such” workshops were taped. They would be assembled to compose the My Journey Yours song,. A CD would be issued and played during the show.
- To open a forum about the refugee situation and community-based art: scheduled round-tables and activities were planned; and the show, the result of a art-and-community project, presented in a space dedicated to youth, was becoming an educational tool.
- To raise funds for RFS: a silent auction was organized with the help of YAC. The whole show was up for sale. Object by object, or in sections. Including the bridge, the wax-tables, the canvas and the banners.
WORKSHOPS AND RESIDENCIES
The challenge for us, the artists, was that, although there had to be scheduled workshops and residencies in order for the program to develop and grow, RFS clients were under a very different set of constraints. They may come in or have to leave the room because of formerly scheduled appointments, emergencies, rides, staff assignments... And they may have arrived in Clarkston the day before, or two years earlier. Also, they may have to leave Atlanta tomorrow. Transience is the name of their condition. We had to work with this reality. However, we still advocate a “My Journey Yours” studio space, open at all times. Printing postcards and posters composed from pictures taken at previous workshops, and sent as invitations to the next event developed a common memory. Art as a continuum builder.
Here are the WORKSHOPS AND RESIDENCIES, in chronological order:
The carving of stones - Mapping the terrain - The making of our bags - Singing “My Journey Yours” - The making of our skies - Embroidering an island - The making of our seas - Story circles - People walking - A planning meeting for the “My Journey Yours” exhibition/presentation - Poetry, songs and such.