XCO EVENTS: 090210/REPORT/Content/W.Ewald & B.Cook-Disney

Brett Cook and Wendy Ewald discussed their individual interests and histories in working with communities to create art, as well as several of their collaborative art projects. Brett has worked in the past with graffiti, often as a representation of community. This developed into an interest in public display of community art, and his work morphed from portraiture that expresses concern about local conditions to work with a more positive tone, typically involving the ideals and identity of a community. In both cases local citizens were directly involved in the production of the art, although more so in the latter case. He has also worked on pieces that suggest collective community memory, particularly the June Jordan mural in New York. Wendy Ewald has had a longer career in working with community art. One of her earliest projects, to which she recently returned, is the photography of the Innu with an emphasis on how they perceive their own culture. She did a similar reflective project at an all-girl’s school, where the women did portraiture corresponding to a single word. Wendy has also done work in Richmond and in England, where she photographed an individual and designed a portrait with words from the image. These are placed in strategic outdoor locations, either to remind communities of their integrity or outsiders of commonly unseen people.

Brett and Wendy discussed at length a project they collaborated on at Amherst college, which has a severe divide between faculty, students and staff. They held a workshop where they took pictures of individuals of each category, had a large group of mixed faculty, students and staff paint outlines of them onto canvases, and had a huge party where everyone from all three categories was invited to celebrate and paint in the images. After their completion by Brett, the works were placed in sets of three-one portrait from each category- across campus for a year. This work was designed to forge lasting relationships between participants, help break down some of the barriers between perceived categories of people, and to emphasize individuality.

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