Arizona Daily Wildcat advertising info
UA news
world news
cat calls
police beat
photo features

Write a letter to the Editor

Contact the Daily Wildcat staff

Send feedback to the web designers

Arizona Student Media info...

Daily Wildcat staff alumni...

TV3 - student tv...

KAMP - student radio...

Wildcat Online Banner

Arts creating alternatives

By Kate VonderPorten

Wednesday September 19, 2001

Community arts group offers creative outlet in wake of tragedy

Headline Photo

Director Michael Schwartz of the "Arts Brigade," a group of artistic activists partly made up of UA students, works on a collaborative memorial mural dedicated to those affected by the World Trade Center attack. Participants in "Arts Brigade" activities range from children to adults.

The Tucson Arts Brigade (TAB) is one organization among many in Tucson dedicated to furthering the arts as a means of creating a better future.

TAB provides a place were people in the Tucson community can come together and gain cultural awareness and community strength through creating participatory artwork.

The group believes this is an especially important opportunity in the wake of last week's tragic attack.

"We are absolutely and completely diverse - essentially a mirror of our own community," Schwartz said. "We have all the political parties in America involved in this group - our politics revolve around participation, listening, dialogue reflection."

TAB is interested in empowering the individual as well as the community.

"We see ourselves as a transformational organization - engaged in a much larger move for social change that involves the individuals in the process - affirming the individual, and empowering the individual," Schwartz explained. "The group listens and supports the person - it is personal and also community based."

Tucson has a history steeped in the community arts movement. Many older organizations helped to pave the way for the TAB.

"Tucson is splendid. We have so many community arts organizations such as ArtsGenesis, Third Street Kids, WomanCraft," Schwartz said. "Tucson Arts Brigade emerged from a community that supports community arts.

"We are not the pioneers - we emerged from the support already in the community. Tucson Arts Brigade is a new generation of people on the shoulders of all the community arts programs from prior generations."

Schwartz also cites Ken Foster, executive director of the University of Arizona's Centennial Hall, as a fellow organization dedicated to cultural diversity.

"It is so wonderful to have people like Ken Foster at Centennial Hall assisting in this movement towards cultural democracy as well," Schwartz said.

Schwartz sees community-based participatory art projects as having a potential for conflict resolution. However, he sees the potential conflict as growth-producing when it opens lines of communication between participants.

"Community arts can bring up contention - a group may deal with an issue that is contentious in which the participants do not see eye to eye. Part of doing participatory arts means learning how to facilitate or deal with possible contentious situations," Schwartz said. "Martin Luther King Jr. believed that direct action in a form of creative tension is a possible way to bring about social change - sometimes creative tension becomes as intense as a direct action, but when people have a dialogue there is always growth."

The TAB was directly impacted by last week's tragedy, and offered a forum for dialogue to the community by creating a moveable mural.

"We (Arts Brigade) have advisory board members and I have family who is in New York, so obviously for us Tuesday's tragic events directly impacted our organization," Schwartz said. "There is a big question - what can we do? Our response was to begin a mobile mural that different folks in arts brigade and the community can work on. It is a participatory mural all ages are working on together," Schwartz said.

Elisa Duran, who is the Outreach Coordinator for the Brigade, also recognizes and affirms the importance and potential of the mural project.

Headline Photo

Tucson resident Elisa Duran works on a painted mural at the Tucson Arts Brigade. The mural was created in response to last week's tragic events and is available for community members to express their emotions surrounding the attack.

"We just started it on Friday - we are doing this mural because we believe in the power of creativity to turn negative into positive," Duran explained. "One girl said that this (mural) is for all the people who have died as she was working and another young boy said that this mural is in hopes for peace."

Still a work in progress, the mural will be available to the community to work on until a permanent location is secured.

"We are definitely open to where it ultimately goes and who would like to display it," Duran explained.

Schwartz emphasizes the importance of arts organizations across the country as centers for people to unite and express emotions involved with the tragedy.

"The role of all arts organizations is going to become amplified over the next several weeks, months, years, because people will need a way to come together and process their thoughts regarding the tragedy in a safe place. That is our job as cultural workers," Schwartz said.

Tucson Arts Brigade, by the very choice of their name, epitomizes the idea of teamwork and problem solving so valiantly exemplified by rescue workers in New York.

"The trajectory of this group is like the bucket brigade of the firefighters in New York at work. There is a problem and everyone works together to solve it," Schwartz said. "In an arts brigade a group of people comes together to address an issue and work together to find solutions."

Schwartz further explores the potential and posits the importance of other community art programs and creative problem solving in the wake of this attack as potential means to avoid similar attacks.

"Perhaps if there was a participatory arts center or some sort of participatory cultural center in every city around the world, we could avoid this kind of tragedy in the future. If there is a constructive way of expressing yourself instead of just shutting down the argument right away," Schwartz explained.

"The arts has a way of expressing very volatile emotions in a positive way," Schwartz added. "When it comes to art there is that common humanity and when we come together through the arts we are breaking boundaries and borders and are communicating with a universal language."

"The arts gives people a way to express themselves and this leads to a world that is more expressive and tolerant," Schwartz said.

TAB is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization with more than 200 local members from across social, cultural and age groups. The brigade was founded in 1996 by Michael Schwartz, who graduated from the UA in 1991 with a Master's degree in painting.


advertising info

Webmaster -
© Copyright 2001 - The Arizona Daily Wildcat - Arizona Student Media