SETTING ROOTS: A GARDEN ABOUT FAMILY AND MIGRATION
“Setting Roots”: is a call-out about nostalgia, gratitude, grief and humor in the form of a sculpture garden about family stories and immigration. After a lifetime of community work, in an effort not to lose my boundaries, but still to interact with my community, I am making a sculpture garden in my front yard, facing the public park, in the direction of the ArtHouse.
After 32 years, my marriage ended during Covid. The pandemic separated me from my family, while my 90 year-old father moved to a facility and became extremely frail. Also during Covid, my only Uncle and my long-time therapist died.
In the chaos and grief, I have been planting roots by buying my first home, alone. My house is over 100 years old. Here, I am homesteading by creating a ceramic, sculpture, fused glass and mosaic studio that begins in my basement, crosses my driveway and occupies my garage.
My parents are immigrants: mom was a 6-year-old a Holocaust refugee and dad was born disabled. Being Jewish, very little of my family is left. In my 60 years, I have lived in more than 20 homes in 8 different states. “Rooted” has not been an adjective available to me. Until now, rootlessness served me well.
I have traveled to 20 countries and speak 3 languages, painted over 30 murals, created 2 public sculptures, and have been doing Community Arts and Creative Placemaking work for over 38 years. My specialty has been affordable, equitable space for community arts, in collaboration with multi-cultural peer groups.
I share my ArtHouse painting studio with other artists, among 18 other studios, with over 30 other artists, where I created 6 community art programs. This year I am retiring from my ArtHouse staff position to stay on the Board of Directors and decisively committing myself, full-time, to my studio art.
This is a small, historic downtown area, where as Founder of the ArtHouse, I led the formation of our Downtown Overland Park IDEA District (Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship and Art) and helped write the Downtown Public Art Master Plan. I wrote the federal and state grants which brought in downtown Overland Park’s murals and mosaic benches and sculptures and cultural events. I have embedded my wandering self here, where my children, my community work, my artwork, my friends and my home are now, finally, ensconced.
In the block between the ArtHouse and my house is The Santa Fe Towers, a low-income apartment building for seniors, many of whom are immigrants from all over the world. My childhood ears are comforted, because every family member older than I had accents. I, too, am now growing old. My hands, that have worked so hard, ache and I feel they are not as able.
So, as I turn my energies toward my art studios, I am not retreating from community work; I am grieving and laughing and making roots. As I walk between the ArtHouse and my house, I hear elders speaking Russian, Chinese, German…I hear, I remember, I feel my immigrant family churning in me. I am entering a reflective time in my artwork, shimmering with grief, bittersweet with nostalgia, fortified by gratitude and peppered with the humor my family never lost and with which my friends surround me. I belong here. I am not separate. I am, as most of us are, the end of a long line of family lives, attached across the globe.
The project for which I respectfully request Innovation Grant funds is “Setting Roots”: a call-out about nostalgia, gratitude, grief and humor in the form of a sculpture garden about family stories and immigration. After a lifetime of community work, in an effort not to lose my boundaries, but still to interact with my community, I am making a sculpture garden in my front yard, facing the public park, in the direction of the ArtHouse.
There is no country for me to “go back” to, no family home, no heritage land to which I can return to recognize the faces. The family that made me is fast shrinking and the family my husband and I made, disintegrated, sending the children between two households. Now and Here are my only home; my work, my friends, my children, and for now, my parents. I intend this sculpture garden to be imbued with my family’s stories but further than that, I hope my call receives a response, an echo back, through eyes that see the sculptures and hearts that recognize a narrative.
In these sculptures I am bringing together the images that have suffused all my work and all the media I have learned over my life.
My images revolve around anthropomorphic animals in the circus of the creative process, with ideas derived from family stories- our connection, isolation, love, loss and humor.
My intent is to symbolize these common threads of our “family stories” in concrete, clay, metal, wood, glaze, glass and mosaic.
Just as Chicano Muralist Patricia Rodriguez mentored me as a young artist, I will mentor and pay 17-year old artist Chicano artist Axel Rios, who has apprenticed with me for over 7 years. I am also mentoring my son, Owen McGlynn, who will assist me in this project.
Engineer and artist Leanne Doljac is consulting me on concrete sculpture and mosaic techniques, will provide some skilled labor and give an public demonstration of technique with me, at InterUrban ArtHouse, at the end of the project.
Videographer, Jason Piggie, is an award-winning visual artist in photography and videography. He has captured most of most significant accomplishments in my years at the ArtHouse, will document the entire project. The video will be available to learn the process and understand the back-story.