Arts Workshop During the 2012 Gary Clean Water Celebration
The 2012 Gary Clean Water Celebration happened in Marquette Park (Gary, IN) on Lake Michigan on June 28 and 30. I was invited to facilitate a multi-arts workshop during that event on June 30 -- the last day of Indiana's Lakeshore Awareness Month. The weather was gorgeous, and the event happened under a pavilion just a two-minute walk away from the beach. There might have been several hundred participants, and activities included canoeing, the arts wowrkshop I was facilitating, and presentations by recycling and water treatment organizations.
Several dozen participants wrote poetry and created visual art, contributing to two collectively created text and image artworks -- a Gary Clean Water Celebration mesostic poem collage and an artwork based on "Unquenchable Ontological Thirst," a poem by James Armstrong.
Gary Clean Water Celebration Mesostic Poem Collage
A mesostic poem is kind of a variation of the acrostic poem. One particularly famous example of the mesostic poetic form is John Cage's Roaratorio, for which Cage "wrote through" words and phrases found in James Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake.
For this mesostic poem artwork, I chose the vertal phrase "GARY CLEAN WATER CELEBRATION," to echo the theme of this event. I invited participants to write lines of poetry which would horizontally intersect with letters of the vertical phrase. In a way, this poetic form could be compared to a crossword puzzle. Here are some questions I asked participants to consider before they wrote their lines of poetry:
What are your favorite things to do here (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Marquette Park, on the beach, etc.)?
What are some of your favorite aspects of this area (flora & fauna), etc.?
Gary Clean Water Celebration participants also were invited to contribute visual aspects to the poem -- intended to complement the poetry that was being created individually and collectively. Before the workshop began I gathered some plants and flowers found in the vicinity -- cattails, tall grass, Black-eyed Susans, wild mint and water lilies. Participants were given the choice to create artwork based on these options: 1) Choose an interesting composition approach by which you can use plant material to contribute to the overall composition of the arwork. Then glue part of a plant or flower onto the matboard; or 2) Draw an animal or plant that can be found in this area (raccoon, frog, owl and so on).
Artwork Inspired by "Unquenchable Ontological Thirst" by James Armstrong
Several years ago I readBlue Lash, a poetry collection by the Minnesota poet James Armstrong. Blue Lash is a wonderful collection that focuses on Lake Superior, and I thought it would be exciting to use one of his poems during this Gary Clean Water Celebration workshop. I thought that images and language found in "Unquenchable Ontological Thirst" resonate eloquently with the theme of the Gary Clean Water Celebration.
I asked participants to write lines from the poem onto strips of matboard which were then glued to a large piece of matboard. People also contributed images to the artwork -- such as waves, a Great Blue Heron, and someone in a boat.
In addition to the two aforementioned collectively created artworks, some people who came to the Gary Clean Water Celebration made paintings (tall grass used as paintbrushes) and created prints made with Black-eyed Susans and wild mint.
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