Jim Godsil: Rainbow Street Party of “100 Names”

October 1, 2015
Noon gathering outside of Riverwest Co-op and Café. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Noon gathering at Riverwest Co-op and Café. Photo © by Lee Matz.

With the assistance of wonderful weather, over 400 nurturing relatives and friends arriving during the course of the day, Milwaukee’s Jim Godsil celebrated his 70th birthday on August 22. Affirming his uniquely inclusive style, the festivities began with a relaxing bus tour and concluded with Godsil’s festive Southside Rainbow Street Party of “100 Names.”

James Godsil at his 70th year birthday party. Photo © by Lee Matz.

James Godsil at his 70th year birthday party. Photo © by Lee Matz.

The date chosen honors the following important organizations in Godsil’s life: the 40th year of Community Roofing and Restoration – the main event sponsor, the 10th anniversary of the Milwaukee Renaissance Wiki Magazine, the 5th anniversary of the Sweetwater Foundation and the one-year anniversary of Heart Haus, the tour’s final destination.

Intermingling from “hither and yonder,” guests appeared representing diverse family members, community advocates, gender diversities, artistic professions, religious persuasions, political interests, age and education ranges and class designations.

“All I wanted to do was expand the value of my 70th birthday to include jump-starting a rainbow artist and adventurer boundary-crossing drum-bus party experiment,” Godsil said. “I hoped to introduce European Americans to the wonderful neighborhoods, galleries and studios of African American artists on the North side and introduce African Americans to a south side European American neighborhood. I hoped to mix up all of God’s children with good food, good drink, good music and a street party celebration and it worked!”

Purple Cow Bus at Riverwest Coop. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Purple Cow Bus at Riverwest Coop. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Starting at noon, Godsil greeted his first round of bus riders as they gathered at Riverwest Coop and Café to board the 71-seat capacity Purple Cow Organics Bus donated for this event by Sandy Syburg. Traveling from all parts of the country, Godsil welcomed the attendance of his children Rachel, Megan, Joseph, and Bridie, as well as grandchildren Kate, Rebecca, Monilola, and Darragh, sons-in-law Jim Freeman and Ok Jeyifous, sisters JoAnn and Jean, and brother-in-law Joe Werth.

Jahme Tony Finlayson's musical acumen shared. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Tony Finlayson shared rhythms on the bus. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Bused to the Northside – Part 2

On the bus, Jahmés Tony Finlayson’s adept drumming established a comfortable ambiance. Marquette University’s Bob Pavlik, Riverwest backstreet Mayor Vince Bushnell and Seton Hall Law Professor Rachel Godsil joined 40 Riverwest activists.

The tour’s initial stop was Mother Clara Atwater’s and Toussaint Harris’ Gingerbread Land, which included several brightly colored houses and Atwater’s Love Tabernacle church. There another ten people boarded the bus..

Gathering in Mother Clara's Gingerbread Land. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Gathering in Mother Clara’s Gingerbread Land. Photo © by Lee Matz.

The “rainbow” busload proceeded further into Milwaukee’s north side central city to explore additional treasures. The next stop was the Terry McCormick Contemporary Fine and Folk Art Gallery, located in Evelyn Patricia Terry’s two-story home.

Fondé Bridges passing out his Healthy Words sayings as the gallery visitors exit the bus. Photo © by Lee Matz..

Fondé Bridges passing out his Healthy Words sayings as the gallery visitors exit the bus. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Godsil said, “We feasted upon Fondé Bridges’ healing “Healthy Words” performance as Terry’s gallery greeter. The tour party went inside the gallery filled with room after room of beauty and listened to Evelyn’s great stories, which she continued after she boarded the bus to join the tour.”

Two young visitors to terry's gallery. Photo © by Lee Matz..

Two young visitors to terry’s gallery. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Passing by Dep’s Hall of Fade and proceeding west to Lisbon Avenue, the bus unloaded its passengers to view Muneer Bahauddeen’s Ogbe Meji Studio exhibiting his finely crafted ceramic art. Some viewers momentarily slipped into the Amaranth Café across the street to buy a quick treat. Bahauddeen spoke outside to visitors about his vision to create an Amaranth Urban Sanctuary. Everyone participated in Finlayson’s Drum Bus Circle and sang Godsil’s birthday song before boarding the bus with new riders.

Muneer Bahauddeen's ceramic studio. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Muneer Bahauddeen’s captivating ceramic studio. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Bused to the Southside Finale – Part 3

Introducing Milwaukee’s Southside, the tour bus entered the site of the Old Main Soldiers Home Reef National Historic Landmark. Cleo Pruitt, who met us there, gave a moving tribute to forgotten soldiers of color as founder of the Rebirth of Freedom Project. She explained her vision of a future monument to them. Godsil observed, “The site astonished people with the terrible beauty of that sacred place.” Ms. Pruitt later joined the street party.

Cleo Pruitt explaining her Rebirth of Freedom Project. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Cleo Pruitt explaining her Rebirth of Freedom Project. Photo © by Lee Matz.

As the finale, Ben Kohler’s Heart Haus team impressively hosted the Southside Rainbow Street Party of “100 Names.” “Foolosopher” Sky Schultz, in white cloth, silently greeted enlightened bus riders – arriving an hour late without complaints

Foolosopher Sky Schultz welcomed the riders as they joined the street party. Godsil's Rainbow Street Party of

Foolosopher Sky Schultz welcomed the riders.  Photo © by Lee Matz.

Poet Christina Zadowski reads poetry. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Poet Christina Zawadiwsky reads poetry. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Joining the party already in progress, the travelers settled in to participate in the merriment. They listened to award-winning Christina Zawadiwsky read poetry within the shadow of a specially constructed street stage. Howard Lewis, Holly Haebig, Dena Aronson and Jay Anderson provided music.

Muneer Bahauddeen on the right offering hands on art lessons. Photo © by Lee .

Muneer Bahauddeen on the right offering hands on art lessons. Photo © by Lee Matz .

Internationally collected artist, Della Wells and her great grandson, Momari Dejohnett, visited  the designated inter-generational play area and Bahauddeen’s Peace Post Clay Table.

Tim Green record scratching. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Tim Green record scratching. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Occupying a corner of the Heart Haus porch, Tim Green skillfully scratched records and played a range of music, welcoming revelers as they gathered “food and drink” from the house. Tables covered with Cheryl Sitzler’s African patterned tablecloths transformed the space.

Scrumptious rainbow entrees came from The Riverwest Coop Café, Juan’s Mom’s Tamale, Curt’s Chicken, Timbuktu and Martha’s Mighty Fine Foods. Janine Arseneau placed her six freshly baked fruit pies on a table in the street.

Janine Arseneau's delicious fruit pies. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Janine Arseneau’s delicious fruit pies. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Brad Pruitt, an awarded documentary filmmaker, directed filming of this historical event.

Brad Pruitt speaking during bus tour. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Brad Pruitt speaking during bus tour. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Enjoying every moment, along with his guests, Godsil noted, “A European American retired doctor told me it was the most significant trip he had ever taken. An African American elder said it was a life-changing experience to see 20 and 30 African Americans celebrating with scores of European Americans in a south side residential neighborhood.”

Godsil's Rainbow Street Party of !00 Names. Photo © by Lee Matz.

Godsil’s Rainbow Street Party of “100 Names.” Photo © by Lee Matz.

Revelers delighted in the impact of Godsil’s mindfulness as a community and world force. Many openly expressed appreciation for Godsil’s refreshing wisdom, activism, buoyant nature, enthusiasm, supportive language and visionary joyfulness. He plans many more celebrations until his 100th birthday!

Evelyn Patricia Terry's Photo © by Lee Matz.

Evelyn Patricia Terry Photo © by Lee Matz.

Evelyn Patricia Terry wrote this blog. Jim Godsil’s interest in associating with creatives of like minds from many facets of the community particularly impressed her. Volunteer editors and proofreaders are welcome and needed as artists continue to strive to increase our state’s art profile. Reach her at the email address terryevelyn@hotmail.com with any corrections. Plus, because hacking into websites happened, Terry is reconstructing her website.


“Art Play Date” at the Terry McCormick Gallery

April 7, 2011

Children ages 4-12 attend Evelyn Patricia Terry's Art Play Date.

As we grow older, we often fixate on other people and thus cannot focus on goals that we originally had. I have done so in the past and many people around me do so now. We lose ourselves in the whirlwind of wanting to be loved, wanting politics to go our way or wanting what someone else has. We grow disappointed in the world, we think, but we’re really disappointed in ourselves for not disappearing the “piles of disappointments.” Our anger creates so much insecurity. We, afflicted ones, believe that it is exclusive only to our lives and the worse is that we believe that there is no way to change or adjust our prognosis. I needed options to change. I received them. That is what I pass on to others.

I take my cues often from children. Children between birth and 7 years old unabashedly want what they want. They might hear “no” a lot, but they are determined—thus, the tantrums. Later on, in varying degrees, they begin to think that what they want may not be forthcoming, acceptable or possible. Some devise schemes, some give up – the fortunate ones are given options.

That’s why I hold “Art Play Date” in my space, the Terry McCormick Gallery. I teach children, and their parents and grandparents who must accompany them, to access their creativity in the visual arts, as they are introduced to and learn more about healthy food choices. My watercolor and mixed media workshops encourage individual thinking, exploration and exposure to a wide range of art supplies. In past workshops, I have also introduced juicing raw vegetable with apples and blending frozen fruit smoothies. In the summer, frozen berry and banana smoothies are not only a healthy treat, but very refreshing.

Children making art at the Terry McCormick Gallery.

At my last “Art Play Date,” in February, we created mixed media brooches and works on paper. The children and their parents enjoyed vegan chili, somosas, hummus and chips, and lots of raw fruits and vegetables. Attendees must learn to eat raw healthy snacks, so that they can enjoy finishing with a dessert–blueberry, strawberry, apple and walnut pizza pie. My goal is to promote what is within our control and dwell less on what is outside of our control. We can start with honoring our bodies and strengthening our connection to our creativity.

I thoroughly enjoy working with children, just as I do with people of all ages, because my goal is to maintain an atmosphere that allows people to go within to access their creative strength. I believe we must teach children possibility thinking—encouraging them to search for and develop options. Teach children they must not demand that others get something for them, be something for them, or know what they want. Rather they must learn to create ways to get what they want–it is their responsibility to keep their eyes on “their prize.”

Frequently, young children ask me, “Why do I have to do anything your way?” I always answer them honestly as I can. Which is, “Because I created an opportunity for you to learn something new–you can go home and do it your way after this session.” When visiting schools, I often add, “I was paid to be here, why would someone pay me to teach you what you already know?” They usually decide to learn whatever it is I am teaching. Many times after they follow directions and attempted a project, if there is time, I let them do it their way.

A young artist participates in an Art Play Date in February.

My “Art Play Date” allows me to share the knowledge I attained much later in my life–knowledge I feel would have been very valuable to have known at a younger age. I have always loved receiving information as a foundation to better navigate life. Believing that there are others like me, younger and older, my gallery’s “Art Play Date” opportunities are my way to share creative freedom from other people’s opinions. This freedom has allowed me to create unabashedly. Because we still have many opportunities to access creative outlets in Wisconsin, we must make sure that we support them by utilizing them.

–Evelyn Patricia Terry
www.evelynpatriciaterry.com

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Teens view their world ‘In a New Light’

January 14, 2011

My Mother's Teardrop. Photo: Dakota, age 14.

By Tammy Kempfert, PortalWisconsin.org

“If you think about it, a lot of successful artists had troubled youths,” said Ben Thwaits of Spooner. He teaches at Northwest Passage, a residential mental health treatment center for teenagers. Last week, we talked by phone about an inspiring youth project he developed with his wife Branda, a National Park Service Ranger.

Funded by an America’s Best Idea grant,  “In a New Light” connects boys enrolled at Northwest Passage to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway through photography. The project relies on the combined powers of art and nature to help restore a sense of dignity and wholeness to troubled teens’ lives.

Thwaits told me that a student who winds up in his all-male class may have faced any number of roadblocks to a healthy childhood—problems like substance abuse, harmful relationships or developmental disorders. Some have had truancy issues and haven’t attended school for years. But along the St. Croix River and behind the camera lens, Thwaits’ students thrive. When I asked why, he surmised:

Photography involves the quest to find the emotional essence of a subject, and it can take photographers a long time to get into that way of thinking. But whatever their challenges, a lot of these boys are truly emotionally brilliant, and they have so much pent-up emotional energy. They operate on gut instincts and often make emotion-based decisions. This project gives them an outlet for their emotional, expressive, creative sides.

A video filmed for the project by Black Ice Productions shows a few of the boys in action:

A nature-based treatment facility, Northwest Passage takes advantage of its close proximity to the St. Croix Riverway to administer its programming. However, the program traditionally has used the adventure model—hiking, canoeing, camping—to incorporate nature into its curricula. “In a New Light” approaches nature therapy from a new angle, so to speak. According to Thwaits:

With this project, we’re really immersing ourselves in this beautiful and wild place in a quiet and introspective manner … I could almost see the boys’ brains slowing down; I could see them focusing. These are some of the most severe cases of ADHD that you’ll see in a teenaged boy, and yet they’ll spend hours and hours on end looking at a bird, a flower or a frog.

The "In a New Light" exhibition is on view at Wisconsin's State Capitol Building through January 22. Photo: Ben Thwaits.

An exhibition of the students’ work has already traveled from St. Croix Falls to Wausau,  and is on view now through January 22 at the  State Capitol Rotunda in Madison. Each photograph includes commentary, or in some cases poetry, from the boys themselves.

Student photographers participated in artist receptions at two of the exhibitions, events that Thwaits called “magic, truly pivotal moments in the boys’ lives.” At one reception a student was overheard saying, “That’s the first time in my life I’ve ever gotten an adrenaline rush from doing something good.”

Thwaits  credits a whole community of partners with the project’s success. The Wisconsin Arts Board, Black Iris Gallery and Custom Framing, the previously mentioned Black Ice Outdoor Productions and others made significant contributions, he said.


Those unable to take in the exhibition in Madison will have two more opportunities: the show travels to Cable in February and returns again to Spooner in March. A project website also showcases the boys’ work. And below, one more example of a photograph you’ll find in the exhibition—this one from 16-year-old Chuck.

Just a Teenager 

I’m just a teenager.
A teenager tryin’ to make it.
A teenager tryin’ to get there.
A teenager tryin’ to move on.
A teenager tryin’ to break free.
I’m just a teenager
that doesn’t want to fall through the cracks.

–Chuck, age 16


Let’s tweet about schools and the arts

November 6, 2009

twitbirdNew York City schools with best access to arts programs have higher graduation rates, study says. http://tinyurl.com/yfhabp9.

My opening sentence reproduces a tweet I composed a couple of weeks ago for Portal Wisconsin’s recently born Twitter stream. At 124 characters, the message gave notice to a  brief article that caught my attention that day and fit neatly within Twitter’s 140-character limit. When I clicked the “update” button, I thought the tweet was benign enough (and, if I’m being honest, even a little banal). But in fact, it ruffled the feathers of an @portalwisconsin follower, which got me thinking about using this blog and micro-blogs like Twitter to facilitate discussions on arts-related topics.

In a series of reply-tweets, the offended follower raises an interesting question regarding arts education research. He argues that we shouldn’t strive to quantify relationships between classes in the arts and standardized test scores. Attempts at establishing this sort of causality, he says, miss the mark: we need to change the focus of the discussion to one that champions the intrinsic value of arts education, or “arts must b suprtd 4 sake of arts edu not 4 sake of anthng els! it gvs wel-rounded knowldg & edu, & anothr way of thnkng,” to quote one of his tweets. In his view, the study I linked to amounted to “junk science.”

Point taken, sort of.

I whole-heartedly agree that many learning experiences, like listening to an opera or visiting an art museum, can’t really be measured. I believe the arts play an integral role in a well-rounded education–or in educating the whole child, as has become the popular expression. And I regret that federal rules require teachers to devote more and more class time to those skills we perceive as easy-to-measure, at the expense of other less quantifiable skills.

On the other hand, the study I cited does not claim arts education improves student test scores in core subject areas; it only says schools with strong arts programs have better graduation rates. This is why my tweet originally seemed banal to me: while I’ll  own up to some bias, my personal logic tells me that the arts help engage kids in school, and when kids are engaged, they more likely show up. To me, that relationship seems a natural one, and hardly earth-shattering news. As for the research into whether art classes improve geometry scores and the like, I simply don’t have the scientific expertise to know for sure.

So why do I bring up my first-ever Twitter tiff here, rather than on Twitter? Not because this blog allows me unlimited characters with which to make my point. In fact, often I prefer the enforced brevity of Twitter, and I initially composed a couple of quick replies. I wound up not posting them, in the end (or posting one, then deleting it), to avoid confusion between Portal Wisconsin, the Web site, and my personal opinions.

As Portal’s resident twitterer, I’ve attempted to write varied messages–posting news from our Cultural Coalition partners, featuring the latest Portal Wisconsin blog posts, spotlighting sometimes overlooked sections of the site, even live-tweeting from the Wisconsin Book Festival, about anything related to arts, history and culture that captures my attention.  However, I would avoid tweets that give the impression that my views reflect those of our entire organization. On this blog, I can more easily own my words.

What do you think? Should educators, researchers and arts advocates even attempt to link art and math and science learning? Are there better gauges of achievement in arts programs? It’s a tough question, given the trend toward narrowing the curriculum and the increased reliance on standardized testing as a measure of school success.

I would love for blog readers and Twitter followers to continue the conversaton. If we can help each other think more deeply about arts, culture and education, as @BorisMakesArt helped me do on Twitter, I will consider our early adventures in social media worthwhile. At Portal Wisconsin, we want to find ways to engage Wisconsin residents in the rich world of art, culture, history and thought that characterizes our state. (My last sentence, incidentally, is one I can confidently say does reflect the opinions and mission of our entire organization.)

–Tammy Kempfert


Full Steam Ahead

June 22, 2009

If you’re  a teacher or you have a school-aged child, or maybe you’re just interested in education issues, you might have heard the acronym STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Emphasis on STEM careers and STEM education has garnered federal attention and support, and some educational reformers use the term as a rallying call for change within the American school system.  They say a knowledge-based economy such as ours needs a workforce skilled in these disciplines to prosper — employees with the curiosity, the analytical skills, the working knowledge of computers and other technologies that STEM coursework fosters. You can’t argue with that.

Yet recently I heard someone suggest a one-letter revision to the STEM acronym. By changing STEM to STEAM, we acknowledge the critical role arts learning plays in educating children to their fullest capacity.  In a creative economy — one grounded in innovation and problem-solving — the arts are integral to developing critical thinking skills and to sparking the human imagination.

Listening to Here on Earth on Wisconsin Public Radio last week, I heard a fantastic example of STEAM learning. Margaret Wertheim of the Institute for Figuring, the program’s guest, explains how hyperbolic geometry was discovered by 19th century mathematicians, but at that time “no one knew how to make models of it and had come to believe that you couldn’t make physical models of it” — not until Cornell University mathematics researcher Daina Taimina used her skills with the crochet needle to create one of the first models of hyperbolic space.

Professor Taimina, who learned needlework in her childhood in Latvia, began crocheting the models in 1997, and she’s been at it ever since. [Read more about Daina Tamina in “Knit Theory” from Discover Magazine.]

Crochet hyperbolic kelp. Photo: Institute for Figuring.

Crochet hyperbolic kelp. Photo: Institute for Figuring.

Building on Professor Taimina’s discovery, Margaret Wertheim and her twin sister Christine noticed that, in coral reefs, nature makes its own models of hyperbolic space. And so the Australia natives began crocheting a coral reef hyperbolic model. Ultimately, they wound up spearheading a worldwide crocheted coral reef movement, involving tens of thousands of hours of accumulated labor and a model that fills a 3,000 square foot gallery space.

Here’s an excerpt of the interview with Dr. Wertheim:

The crochet reef project for us comes out of our combined interest in both theoretical ideas — math, science, logic, etc. — but also our love and deep engagement personally with the techniques of handmaking, and the commitment of physical labor, and physical time that it takes to do those things. It is whole body, whole mind, and I think in some sense, whole being.

It’s a project that resists our inclination to divide and classify. Instead, it invites further thought about relationships, not only about the relationships between geometry and fine craft but about conservation and what we traditionally regard women’s work.   Now, there’s an idea that has some steam.

To hear the full interview, visit Here on Earth‘s audio archives and select the June 17, 2009 program.  And for more stories on the relationships between science and art, browse NPR’s Morning Edition series “Where Science Meets Art.”

–Tammy Kempfert