Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Wonderful Night Celebrating the Art of Rick Shaefer with @cwpfairfield @fairfieldu. In the Gallery with a Genius, For Sure

Juma, Akbar, and Artist Rick Shaefer (Refugee Trilogy)
Refugee Trilogy, artwork by Rick Shaefer, premiered last night in the Walsh Gallery of the Quick Center at Fairfield University. It was a full house that allowed for robust conversation - Shaefer's work, tremendous to see, inspired much dialogue. The three largest pieces on display: Land Crossing, Water Crossing, and Border Crossing are an opus composed by a genius with an eye for detail, history,  storytelling, and commentary. Having  opportunity to work with Rick Shaefer over the last few months has been motivating and thought-provoking. Participating teachers in the Invitational Leadership Institute and students in Ubuntu Academy finally had  opportunity to meet the artist in person.

Earlier this summer, CWP-Fairfield was contacted for possible collaboration and the suggestion was made that teachers and young people might write and record stories and thoughts inspired by  Refugee Trilogy, the work of Rick Shaefer. Many who participated in the project have only been in the United States for a few months. With the teaching expertise of William King and Jessica Baldizon, students thought critically about Shaefer's drawings and how the drawings communicated . In summary, over 40 essays, poems, raps, and narratives were recorded. From the recordings, "snapshots" were taken to coincide with pieces in the exhibit, including several sketches of Refugee Trilogy in all of its phases.

Carey Mack Weber of the Fairfield University Art Museum acted as liaison for the project and printed up miniature versions of the trilogy so teachers and students could think about the work over the summer. Through conversations, critical thinking activities, and workshopping, the teachers and youth finished their work before heading back to school.

Soundbites from the collaboration (and images from the exhibit) can be found online at:
I recommend visiting this website to hear the student and teacher voices, but I HIGHLY recommend touring the exhibit LIVE where the original pieces can be seen.

The young people who participated are from Bangladesh, Equador, Haiti, Congo, Sudan, Tanzania, Guatemala, and other locations. Jessica Baldizon is a teacher at Cesar Batalla and William King works with immigrant and refugee youth at Bassick High School. The teachers who participated work at schools all over the region: urban, rural, suburban, private and public.

 I was drawn especially to the charcoal shavings that were on display (Rick said, "they were only a sampling"). To me, they were symbolic of the hard work that went into the masterpiece, but also a reminder that what is left behind, and is often not the center of attention, is a big part of the story, too (sometimes forgotten or never seen). With the shavings, I began thinking about the 99% of refugees worldwide who are not granted asylum or relocation into Western societies. The shavings are a reminder that the trilogy for refugees: water, land, and border crossing, tell an even larger story of the majority that is simply casted to the side.

I will definitely visit the exhibit more this month to celebrate Rick Shaefer's storytelling. It has been a tremendous pleasure to meet him, to work with him, and to have his talent act as catalyst for so many of us at CWP-Fairfield.  The collaboration has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I'm very grateful to Rick Shaefer, Carey Mack Weber, the teachers, and the young people for being wonderful with one another.


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