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Steve Lambert on WFMU’s Techtonic

Center for Artistic Activism co-founder, Steve Lambert, was interviewed on WFMU’s Techtonic radio show on September 14. The interview covered the Center for Artistic Activism’s withdrawl from Facebook, the COVID-19 Dolly Parton “Jolene” Parody for Free the Vaccine, and our Advocacy Innovation Lab: Free the Vaccine for COVID-19.

You can listen on techtonic.fm or the WFMU website.

Living the City Exhibition – Berlin

Documentation of The Center for Artistic Activism’s workshop projects in cities like Macedonia and South Africa are part of an exhibition at the Tempelhof Airport in Berlin. The exhibition is open through December 20th of this year.

Cities are full of stories—simultaneous, contradictory, overlapping, and inextricably connected. Living the City tells over fifty stories from architecture, art, and city planning projects in the main hall of the former Berlin-Tempelhof Airport. The National Urban Development Policy exhibition shows processes and opportunities for action in cities across Europe.

For three months, the former airport will be transformed into a venue for city life. In a walk-through urban collage, visitors will encounter a range of stories from people and projects that are actively involved in the city and civic society. These stories ask questions concerning fundamental activities like loving, living, making, participating, learning, playing, moving, and dreaming in the city. These are stories that shape and transform, that make you feel and think. Furthermore, a wide-ranging event and education program invites everyone to actively participate and contribute.

The exhibition Living the City can not only be experienced live on site. On the one hand, the continuously growing website offers a virtual view of the projects. On the other hand, live streams, curated online and live tours as well as interviews provide access to content and events.

On the occasion of the exhibition, the catalog Living the City. Of Cities, People and Stories has been published by Spector Books.

Serenity, Anyone?

In the 1980s, my grandmother had the Serenity Prayer decoupaged and hung in her guest bedroom. When my cousins and I had sleepovers as kids, I always marveled at its simple, rhythmic request:  

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 

courage to change the things I can, 

and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

I typed those lines from childhood memory. That prayer has been with me ever since. Even as a gradeschooler, I knew my life-long goal was serenity in a chaotic world. 

 

Decades later, I discovered the Enneagram. I know it’s all the rage right now, but for good reason; its pegs humanity’s nine personality types through the core beliefs of the types, the wounds they suffer from, and the healing they seek. 

 

I’m a number One: The Reformer. I want to make this world a better, more beautiful place. Which is a teensy bit exhausting and mostly impossible. Zero surprise that the life pursuit of a One is serenity. Can we say #challenge?

 

This year, we need the Serenity Prayer not just as a decoupage over the guest bed, but as cosmic light show illuminating our dark skies.

 

A few nights after the Oregon fires had ravaged friends’ homes just miles away, and another news cycle featuring Angry Everybody made me want to move to the Yukon Territory without the Internet, I found myself awake in the wee hours, whispering the Serenity Prayer over and over again until—much later—I finally fell back asleep. 

 

Honestly, the more authentic version of that prayer often sounds like the character George Costanza from Seinfeld screaming, “Serenity Now!” 

 

We can yell two words. 

 

We can whisper three lines over and over. 

 

May we pray the prayers. May we also do the work to heal our own wounds so that we don’t wound others from our unresolved pain and so that we can bring our healthy selves to serve a hurting world from a place of forgiven wholeness seeking to restore instead of retaliatory brokenness seeking to destroy. 

 

(And may we have a bit of serenity!)

 

 

Steve Lambert’s frank 2020 talk

This 10 minute talk from frank2020 tells about one of our favorite projects at the Center for Artistic Activism and how we worked with the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce to win campaigns in South Africa.

In February the Center for Artistic Activism headed to the 2020 frank Gathering hosted by the Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida. We hosted a short workshop and Steve Lambert presented in their block on anger.

Brave

It’s been almost two weeks since the Almeda Fire happened. It’s been about two days since the severe risk has passed and about two hours since we’ve seen blue skies and can breathe fresh air.

The numbers are staggering. Over 2800 structures and homes lost. Hundreds of small businesses that thrived in this valley are gone. 3200 acres burned in the Almeda Fire. 32000 acres are burning in the Obenchain Fire, just 20 miles from here. (It’s 35% contained.) All of it is shocking on so many levels. The loss, the speed of it, the complete devastation, the overwhelming goodness and generosity of this community. I’ve struggled with what to say. My house is standing and I’m unspeakably grateful for that. I also had a very close call on the day it started. It is luck or providence or just mother nature that the winds didn’t blow this fire straight up the hill to our house. It was in sight. From my mailbox I can see acres of black scorched land that burned.

I’ve spent about 10 days in complete fear and anxious paralysis. Every time there is a county warning on my phone, I jump. The town is on very high alert with no rain. We’re nervous. No, we’re terrified. This happened in a blink of an eye. I’ve also spent the last two weeks in awe of this community. Collectively, you can feel it, all we want to do is help. In any way possible. Cash, food, volunteering, go fund me pages, supplies, toiletries, labor, you name it, there is a place to drop it off, kind volunteers sorting and distributing and people to help you. Red Cross and Fema are here. Money is flowing to the right people. It is a grieving community in action.

And I’m also trying to work and paint. It’s been a challenge. The level of stress and anxiety is not normal for an extended period of time. Yet here I am in my house contemplating that. All I can think about is the bravery of the fire evacuees, the fire fighters, the service workers, the pilots dropping water and retardant on the flames, the countless helpers who have showed up during this tragedy. The families who are navigating temporary shelter while trying to home school their kids during covid. Or go to work. File insurance paperwork. Go back to their neighborhoods. It’s pure bravery. xo

This lion came through me the other night. It was as if he needed to be painted and didn’t let me stop until he was on the canvas. If you look up the symbolism of a lion the most common words are majesty, strength, courage, justice and even military might. Lions also protect and guard. Yes, bravery and protection. That is what you feel here now. xo

“Brave” 24×30″

Alumni, Ishtar Lakhani, profiled in Maverick Citizen

Center for Artistic Activism alumni and workshop instructor, Ishtar Lakhani, was profiled in the Maverick Citizen. Ishtar is based in South Africa and after participating in our 2015 training, has worked alongside the Center for Artistic Activism on several actions and trainings in the country. We love working together and are happy to see her recognized for her remarkable work.

Ishtar Lakhani: An activist working to create the world of our dreams

by Biénne Huisman in the Maverick Citizen

As a ‘card-carrying feminist’, Ishtar Lakhani knows that women have shown for generations that there is a better way of existing – and it’s her aim to help make a kinder, more compassionate world.

“I’m a human rights defender,” says Ishtar Lakhani. “What’s your superpower?” For the past year, Lakhani, 35, has worked as a “freelance troublemaker” associated with social justice projects around the world. 

“It’s about approaching very serious human rights problems, and brainstorming unusual ways to get at them,” she says. “For example, we’re working with an organisation in Australia to create a real lifetime machine, so that people can go in and experience what it was like in Australia in the 1920s. What does that mean for women’s rights, and where are we now? And where do we need to go? In Venezuela we’re working with a bunch of lawyers who want to create a food truck, in order to go out into communities and give legal advice.” 

Fire update

Yesterday I wrote a very long heartfelt upsetting blog post. It was about the Almeda Fire that happened here on Tuesday. The day it started, how it started, where it was and what I saw.

I have published hundreds, maybe thousands of posts and not once has one not saved or accidentally been deleted. Yesterday it happened. I was so upset (not really, but nerves are high and everyone is on edge) that all my work was wasted but now I know it wasn’t. I wasn’t supposed to post it. It was too much.

I will post again and write about it but for now, this is the update. I am safe. The house is safe. The fire devastated 1500 homes, countless businesses we don’t have a tally on and thousands of people are displaced. It is awful.

And Ashland and surrounding communities are coming together like I’ve never seen up close. This is war time here. There are shelters, food, clothing, gift cards, cash, toiletries and hot meals available from countless organizations. FEMA, Red Cross, neighbors, schools, churches, restaurants and regular folks setting up shop doing every thing they can. People are giving and showing up. It it the only solace during this time.

On top of this, our community is still at risk. The danger is ever present and we are not off evacuation notice. Honestly? It’s terrifying.

One of the businesses we lost is Puck’s Donuts. This is probably one of our most beloved family run businesses. Always a smile, easily best donuts you’ve ever had and a wonderful family running it, always with a smile and thank you and your iconic pink box to go. It’s gone now. I’m posting this painting from several years ago cherishing the good memories of the day I painted it with my fellow art ladies who used to meet once a week.

Waiting, watching, praying for rain. xo

Talent OR and Remembering On September 11th

Greetings! On this the 11th day of September, I am thinking about my family, friends and colleagues who live in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley.  The Rogue Valley is our former home. To explain, eleven months ago my husband and I left the Rogue Valley and moved to the Washington coast. I point that out because […]

The post Talent OR and Remembering On September 11th appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

In pursuit of insignificance

Matt and Will at Tinker Nature Park a few miles from us.

About a year and a half ago, I set a goal to finish eighteen salt water taffy paintings as the core of a solo show in a year or two. I’m working on the eighth—I sold the first one and have stopped posting pictures of the successive paintings partly as a way to prevent the temptation of selling more. My painting plan has been deferred again and again because of my recurring role as a care provider. Last summer I spent three months mostly taking care of my parents and this summer and fall I will put in about the same period of time helping care for my son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Matthew has migrated here back to Pittsford, NY during the pandemic, after having lived and worked for more than a decade in Los Angeles. He lost his job cutting movie trailers—not lost just yet, but he will be furloughed at least into next year. So he’s unemployed with no assurances about the future and saving money by bringing his family to live with us temporarily in the comparative safety of Western New York, where everything costs less at least for now. What they do when the pandemic recedes depends on his wife’s job as a producer for Ellen Degeneres. Until then, she and Matt will stay with us through her long, arduous recovery from a car accident several weeks ago, during which she will resume working remotely for Ellen via Zoom. Their stay here isn’t all-consuming for us, but has become the center of our activities, putting my work nearly on hold again, as it was last summer and then off and on for months after my father’s death a year ago. I began to regain a regular daily painting schedule over the past week, but have had to put it aside again, I hope briefly, until we settle into a more predictable routine. Our lives have become like a Frank Capra movie where family, friends and neighbors are constantly traversing the interior of our house, bringing food and gifts, standing vigil through some small crisis, and using our grill to prepare a meal.

Again, my painting has been put on hold for the past month until a few days ago when I was able to resume work. By the fall, I should be able to settle back into a productive rhythm on the taffy paintings—one of which has already been exhibited in Ohio at The Butler Institute of American Art and at Manifest Creative Research Gallery. It’s a series of paintings that has required me to develop a diligently repetitive work process—Chuck Close would nod with approval at the monotony of my daily life when I’m at full tilt. My methods are getting more reliable than in the past, my technique is becoming more stringently observant of how areas of tone flow into one another and how the paint sits on the canvas, while I’ve reduced my subject to the simplest and least overtly meaningful objects imaginable. In other words I’ve embarked on a group of paintings that will be my attempt to do what I have been saying for years that painting is uniquely suited to do: convey a glimpse of living wholeness, the entirety of a world, through purely formal means, and doing this with an image devoid of signifiers. Or at least an image in which any signifiers one might deconstruct are entirely beside the point when it comes to the essential work the painting is actually doing. I want paintings entirely devoid of intellectual content. I’m tempted to title at least one painting of taffy in this series: This Is Not Salt-Water Taffy.

I had hoped to complete maybe eighteen of these paintings by next spring and offer them as a solo show and present them as a body of work for consideration at galleries in larger metro areas, eventually. But the world seems to be fast-forwarding through an economic transformation as a result of the corona virus—something that otherwise would have happened over many more years that it may take now. What will be left of the gallery scene after the suspended animation of so much activity in Manhattan and Los Angeles? How have gallery owners survived this devastation? Have they? I got an email maybe two months ago announcing that Danese Corey was ending its exhibition program, without being able to discern whether this means the gallery was ceasing to operate or simply was going to close its brick-and-mortar space on East 22nd St. The announcement shocked me and made me heartsick: I loved or at least respected the work of nearly everyone who exhibited there and considered that shop one of the most intelligent and discerning of any gallery I’d ever visited. It feels like the loss of a good friend. So who else will succumb to the loss of revenue in a sector already beset by the inflation in real estate and the decline of galleries in general as a result of the dominance of art fairs. And aside from that, I doubt I will have quite as many finished paintings as I’d hoped by next spring, now that life keeps recruiting me for other tours of duty. I will likely present whatever I have completed and see what response I get, but I could also postpone all of this another year—yet that would feel like a surrender, backing off from the massive disruptions the world has been undergoing, not only my world’s, but everyone’s. As a result of all this, being on near-hiatus from Instagram and this blog feels oppressive and dispiriting. Yet I want to build this new body of work before I post anything from it, and I’ve been producing little else. I’m also continuing to write, when I can, about art—without yet posting it. A post about my visit to the exhibit of J.D. Salinger relics, as it were, at the New York Public Library, will be forthcoming shortly—it has taken me half a year to catch up and draw together all the notes I took away from it in January.

And, along with my projected solo show, I’m trying to assemble a sequence of essays that could serve as commentary for the show of taffy paintings. Let’s call it, for now, The Salt-Water Taffy Manifesto. If I were to complete writing it by the time I have a full complement of paintings for an exhibit, I will see if I can affordably print and present it as a companion catalog, a little illustrated feuilleton on behalf of purposely insignificant painting. That’s the plan anyway. So I may seem to have disappeared on this blog, but only because life has become more intensely interesting (and demanding) than the act of writing about it. And even so, I intend to pick up a paint brush every day from this morning until next April. That’s a promise to myself. Even if only for the current hour.

Send mail! xo

I love the USPS. I think you probably do too if you’re reading this and are a snail mail, art loving, illustrated envelope appreciating, fun packages in the mail kind of person. I wouldn’t have a small business without the US Postal Service, that is for sure. I rely on it daily. I know my mail carrier, all the staff at my local post office and do the drive/smile/wave when I see their white trucks chugging along.

I created this little painting a few weeks ago and it touched my heart (and apparently many of yours). I’ve created a collection of postcards and stickers as giveaways to show support to your local USPS. Send mail! Buy a few extra stamps. Send a package or a postcard. All of it, every little bit helps.

With any purchase on my website through Labor Day Weekend, I am giving away 4 postcards and 6 stickers in every order. Send, share, mention in your order if you need more…I want to spread a positive message of gratitude to these hard working people. I’m sending as many as possible, giving away as many as I can with the hopes that some mail carrier glimpses this happy note and knows that WE CARE. xo

If you’ve been thinking about buying a book, fancy envelopes or a collection of new cards…now is a great time. Free goodies AND free shipping!!!

Hope everyone is doing ok out there. Labor Day, here we go September. xoxo

P.S. No code necessary.