Met with Nancy Callahan at the Ravenswood location. She’s really wonderful. We did a little walk through of the facility which was very interesting. A couple of the things that stood out as very interesting was seeing all of the household items stockpiled there for new refugees. As I understand it the UNHCR has a specific list of what items a new refugee is supposed to receive upon resettlement. A list like one bed, one table, two chairs etc. and it all gets loaded up into a truck and taken to their new apartment which as I understand it Nancy’s people also help find for them. They also work with teaching english to new refugees there and guiding them through differing levels of english classes. There’s a childcare/preschool component if I understood correctly for when refugees come to take their english classes. There were some photos of the “graduating” classes of people who had been placed in hospitality jobs across the city. It overall feels like a very hopeful place. The photos of groups of resettled refugees in front of Trump tower who had been placed in jobs there was really surreal to see. Apparently they aren’t working with Trump much since he got elected but previously he was one the highest paying hotel in the city. I found that little fact really interesting and complicating. I would like to go back to learn more about this program and meet with people in the program to see what might arise from more interactions with this program. It’s the program that seems to most immediately spark ideas for where this project might go. I’ve got a follow up email out currently about a return visit. Also Nancy sent me a link to a partnership between Heartland the and the Chicago Public Library where refugees share a photo and their stories about adjusting to life here in Chicago. I found this project to be more interesting reading the text. Refugees sharing their personal narratives and musings about life in Chicago is something I could see easily being a part of a project. I like that they also took their own pictures to accompany the text but it seems like if this project were a collaboration there might be more enticing imagery. I’m not really sure. I like that this even exists. https://www.chipublib.org/photovoice-picturing-a-new-life-in-chicago/
Met Christen Jasmin at the reception and she sent me an email right away about coming to meet with her team at the Belmont Heartland site. She’s working also with refugees helping them to transition to life in Chicago. Seems very interesting and connected to my interests. I’ve been in contact with her and Mary Roepke about setting up a site visit for the week of Oct 14th. I should know more this week. Mary said they have 200 new people coming into the program this week so we couldn’t setup a meeting for this week but are looking for a couple weeks out. I could see a tie in between both Christen’s work and Nancy’s work as well. Maybe the project ties in multiple locations and programs?
Met with Barbara Martinez at the upstairs Ravenswood Office. Well I kinda met the whole office it seemed. Andres Serrano (Yes, like the famous photographer) and Carolina Guzman work with her and were really cool people who just seem to get what I might be doing. The whole staff was just super welcoming and I could see there being all of them being very open to me working with them. I got the overview from them about their work with asset building to help people save money and build resources/assets that help balance the scales so to speak and keep people from backsliding into further poverty. It’s much more abstract to me in that I haven’t seen first hand how their work helps people and because there are so many moving parts that seem to be going on out in the field I’m having some issues imagining how I might develop a project from within this program. Not that I can’t, just that it’s not immediately apparent to me. I need to spend some more time there to see how that might take form. There does seem to be some overlap between Barbara’s work and Nancy’s work which is just coming together as I understand it. I have follow up emails out to Barbara and her staff to see where I might be able to learn more with more visits.
The reception was surreal… probably why I started drifting a bit at the end of my talk. Very weird for me to be the center of attention at the MoCP where I was working as a graduate intern back in May. People said nice things but I’m sure Judy will give me the no BS assessment later. 😉 Always looking to improve on my public speaking and writing, I know it’s one of my weaker skills.
Met lots of new people that night, too many to keep track of but people who emailed me like Christen will be easier to follow up with. Nineveh from the Auxiliary board was very nice to talk with as was Celeste? (I don’t have her card so I’m blanking on the name). I think there was talk that I would come to a presentation for them as Sasha had if I remember correctly. Mostly younger and very art minded people who should be good to connect with as I understand. I’ve got an email out to Nineveh but if there’s someone better to reach out to please let me know.
Sent a follow up email with David Sinski. It’s been 11 days since the initial email and I haven’t heard anything. I’m sure he’s busy and the email just slipped through. Hopefully he’ll find time to meet with me as what his program is doing sounds very interesting to me.
Went to the Envision Justice exhibition (SAIC) briefly that Amber Casen recommended. I need to return before they take it down to better see some things. There were a few really good projects there that got me thinking about different ways this fellowship could go. There was a video project with the Marshal Project (https://www.themarshallproject.org/witnesses) that was quite interesting there.
Regarding the Art for justice campaign, my thoughts are that while I understand how this got started with the divestment of art from a wealthy donor and that there there is a lot of policy that heartland works on through this, it’s all a bit abstract for me when hearing about it in a meeting and taking notes. I still need to meet Quinten but most importantly I think meeting people with “lived experience” as was mentioned in the meeting will help me better understand how I might engage with Heartland on issues being addressed with the Art for Justice campaign. I have notes about a farm in west garfield park that works with a food repository and the Margery Kovler Center that works with victims of state sponsored violence. I could use some more help here connecting with people who can get me out into the field so I could learn more about these programs.
Side note about other things going on with me. My wife is back from China and I’d love for Betsy to meet her at some point. I have an interview on Tuesday with a writer for the New Yorker. They gave a green light to publish and article about my car culture work as I shot some new images over the summer in preparation for this possibility. One photo from this project is in a group show with Jordan Putt opening in LA at The House of Lucie on Sat. I was just invited to apply for the Hyde Park Art Center’s ground floor Biennial. A small part of my student debt project will be on display in the Weisman exhibit opening on Oct 18th in the Arcade gallery on campus (Jordan has a solo show opening at C33 the same night) When they update the website with the information for the show I’ll send that along in case anyone wants to see the work.
Regarding my teaching at Hyde Park and the Academy Group (next door to Hyde Park) I had already committed to the Friday evening class at Hyde Park (4:30-6:30pm teaching Highschoolers) and I had a meeting about the potential Saturday class (6th graders) last week. As it turns out the class is way less of a time commitment than initially communicated. The class is only every other week and some months there’s only one class meeting. There’s a total of 12 classes for 1.5 hours long on Saturday mornings from 11-12:30pm and three of those days are longer field trip days that go 9am-1pm. Even on Saturdays where I do these classes it will all be done by about noon so I’ll be able to head out and do other things and there’s only 5 meetings between now and the end of the year. I think both of these classes will give me opportunities to engage with issues related to the fellowship in a role as a mentor/teacher that I think will be very rewarding so I’ve committed to these two classes. I’ve already made a syllabus for the one class and have outlined one for the sat class which will be a much more paired down curriculum. I think the Saturday class will have some very specific connections to what Heartland does and I would like to consider how I might connect what these kids will be doing to the Fellowship and/or Heartland if possible. They are specifically interested in issues around housing, neighborhoods, neighborhood resources, identity shaped by these things and opportunity for this class.
Lastly, I’ve got some emails going back and forth to meet with President Kim at Columbia College to discuss how I might involve the school more with social issues in my work and thinking about opportunities for how the Fellowship can be a means of spurring more conversation. The people in his office where very open to him meeting with me as they have apparently already heard about some of my past work at Columbia. I’ll let you both know how this goes but I was envisioning putting together some kind of public programming like a panel discussion or something.
Wow! and Wow! I’m breathless just reading this. Great work on keeping the blog…Yeah! It really helps knowing what is happening, and well…just taking the pulse of how the Fellowship is going for you.
You did a great job at your presentation, especially at the beginning. You took Betsy’s advice to heart to keep it personal and engaging…and its hard to top the first couple slides of young Jonathan…
you did trail off there are the end but public speaking gets easier every time you do it. Your secret might be knowing you have to prepare your remarks and have enough time to get really familiar with your presentation. That means time managing…my one suggestion would be small note cards with bullet points to keep you on track:)
Lets schedule a mtg when you want to go over all this. Nice going Jonathan!
Really appreciate this comprehensive overview. I echo Judy that it’s a great way to stay informed and facilitate communication. I’ll try to answer all the points, but let me know if I miss one!
RE: Nancy Callahan and the refugee work. I agree that there is a lot of possibility here. Very candidly, there was an expressed openness to work with the fellowship before but then the door sort of closed on Anahid. There are a lot of factors I’m sure at play, but it’s a consideration I’m keeping in mind. So in other words, I think there’s good possibility here (for all the reasons you enumerate) but I don’t want to put all our eggs in that basket. I am trying to get a sense of whether there is openness on the part of their management because that support will go a long way to making sure we can get access. I will keep you informed.
I appreciate that you saw and called out the surreal, interesting, and complicated while you were at the refugee program. I think no matter where you intersect with Heartland, you’ll find that the issues are surreal, interesting, and significantly more complicated than portrayed in the media. How might that influence or motivate what you do with the fellowship? How might socially engaged artistic practice bring those complications and nuances to light?
As for the Photo Voice project (Judy, you’ll recall that staff brought this to the Lunch and Learn we had at Columbia during Anahid’s fellowship), it is indeed an interesting concept. I like that you are considering ways of building upon (vs. duplicating) that type of effort. I hope you continue to think and explore here.
RE: Visiting the Belmont site the week of the 14th — great news! Please keep me posted. Perhaps there is a little more availability/willingness/openness to engaging with the fellowship with that part of the team (they are part of the same Refugee & Immigrant Services — RICS — team as Nancy Callahan and her colleagues you visited). Perhaps as you suggest there is a way to build upon your past work, engage these two sites, and continue to expand upon the ways the story of immigrants committing to a new life and contributing to our community/economy might be told.
RE: the work with Barbara Martinez and the Asset Building Team, I get why it feels abstract and not so clear yet. It’s encouraging that they’re all so warm and inviting, so perhaps you stick with it a little bit and see what you’re able to learn and observe. It’s a little intriguing to me to see how the experience of building economic security (assets over income) and the experience of immigrants might or might not relate.
RE: the Associate Board and Ninevah, Celeste Johnson on my team is the staff who coordinates the work of the Associate Board and she can be your point of contact for that work. She is working on planning that engagement, so I’ll make sure she gets in touch with you soon.
RE: David Sinski, I’ll see what I can do to unstick that path given that there was a desire to move that forward. Stay tuned.
RE: Art for Justice and connections to the other programs, I’ll say more when I get a chance to respond in more detail. Have to run to a meeting and don’t want to lose this so will post and write more later!
Fabulous Betsy! Thank you for such an informed and informative response to Jonathan’s blog post.
I simply want to reiterate Betsy’s “stick with it” encouragement.
I understand that right now it feels like the wind is blowing you in all directions, and the air is ripe and full of possibilities. But the dust will settle, and a path forward will emerge opening up intersectuibs with your interests. Just stick with it, pursue all possible paths forward and for now: persist and follow up!
Let me know how I can best assist. If you would like to meet up and brainstorm together just say the word:)