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I was quoted in the recently published book A People’s Art History of the United States: 250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements by Nicolas Lampert, The New Press, New York, London, 2013. In fact, the chapter “The Living, Breathing Embodiment of a Culture Transformed” derives its title from my words. On pages 231-232, Lampert talks about the Woman’s Building in the 1970s:
This separatist space and separatist feminist movement was needed. Women artists and designers were not deemed equal in the art world and the workforce. In the early 1970s, the Los Angeles Council of Women Artists reported that out of 713 artists who exhibited in group shows at the Los Angeles County Museum only 29 of them were women. Out of 53 solo exhibitions, only one was a woman’s. The Woman’s Building and the Feminist Studio Workshop supported women artists forging their own paths. It supported collectivity and collective action. All decisions at the Woman’s Building were made by a council that included one member from each group and tenant in the building. Cheri Gaulke writes, “Collaboration was a means of production, but at its best, it was also a living, breathing embodiment of a culture transformed. In many ways it represented our utopian vision of the world, where people were truly equal and everyone’s contribution valued.”
He concludes the chapter:
In 1991, the Woman’s Building project came to an end. Its influence, however, was felt by the tens of thousands of people who had passed through its doors as students, instructors, performers, artists, and visitors. It influenced an untold number of artists’ groups and spaces that formed during and after its incredible run. Cheri Gaulke reflects, “We were concerned with changing the lives of real women through our art, our activism, and our very organizational structures.” The Woman’s Building, along with Womanhouse and the Feminist Art programs, achieved this goal; they each served as a safe space where a separatist movement could be nurtured, as well as critiqued and expanded upon.
I am also quoted in the “Public Rituals, Media Performances, and Citywide Interventions” chapter reflecting upon Ablutions, perhaps the first performance art piece about rape. You can also see me in four of the photos from the 1970s and 80s. Check out those old hairdos!
Lampert’s book is a wonderful overview that was put together over a number of years starting in 2003 when Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States suggested he do so. Congratulations to Nicolas Lampert and to all the activist-artists and artist-activists to whom he dedicates the book.
Photo: Cheri Gaulke facilitates a discussion during a Righteous Conversations Project workshop at Harvard-Westlake School, summer 2012.
This article by Danielle Berrin in the Jewish Journal has been a year in the making. Berrin first visited our Righteous Conversations Project workshop at Harvard-Westlake last summer. This year’s workshop starts next week with 32 teen participants, 8 Holocaust survivors, 6 master teachers, 6 teaching assistants and additional RCP support staff. My how we have grown! I anticipate another profound experience for all resulting in a new crop of social-change-making public service announcements.
Below I have excerpted part of the article that talks about my role as Artistic Director. But do check out the whole article. It is very well written and captures the context and motivation for what we do in The Righteous Conversations Project.
From the article:
Cheri Gaulke, the head of Harvard-Westlake’s Upper School Visual Arts Department, is the project’s artistic director, and she helped secure the space for use. “The whole idea just clicked for me,” Gaulke said. “I’m really passionate about teens learning how to use media to affect the world, because that’s the world we live in. And teens need to be not just consumers of media, but makers of media. I liked the idea of giving them the tools of advertising to sell an idea, rather than a product.”
At every Righteous Conversations workshop, Gaulke teaches an intensive media literacy lesson that, in Hutman’s words, shows teens “how to flex their moral conscience and moral outrage through media.” In practical terms, it equips them with a media vocabulary to enable them not just to conceive ideas, but also to visualize them.
Where Righteous Conversations departs from most other forms of Holocaust chronicling is in its call to action. It is a model for tikkun that comes directly from the Torah: just as with the recounting of the Exodus story, the act of digging deep into a formative ancestral pain is meant to awaken in future generations the pain of others.
Gaulke, who is not Jewish, said her own daughter, Xochi, had participated in one of the workshops and discovered a profound connection with a survivor, John Gordon, now deceased. “Gordon, who passed away, was sharing how he was liberated and then came to America. He said that for a long time he was ‘living in the closet’ as a Jew — he was afraid to tell his co-workers that he was Jewish. And as a daughter of lesbians, my daughter really connected with that,” Gaulke said. “Individuals come to the universal from the personal, and it’s the personal that transforms society.”