Tag Archives: Arts

chapter six


Stories from Your Life (and meditations on romantic love…)

Dearest Beth,

I have been wondering for months what the hell I’ve gotten myself into and how to engage with something so intimate and something so not my business as your interpersonal relationships.  But talking to you has helped me come to grips with this dilemma.  Our conversations over the last month have been extraordinary.  Because of these conversations, you have been floating around my daily life even more than usual.  I hear something, or see something, or think of something and you immediately come to mind.  But even though you wash over me as a presence, there are times when I wish that I had recorded our talks so that I could pull you to my side in a more physical way.

This month, for the chapter on interpersonal relationships, I’d like to see you blend your friendships with your love for collecting stories. I would like you to interview four people (feel free to interview more if you like the idea) who you love, care about, or are intrigued by.  You may choose old friends or people you want to get to know better.  It would be wonderful to interview and record people who you’ve talked to for ages just to see what it’s like when you move from spontaneous conversation to a slightly more purposeful format.  And I think one of these interviews should be with your Mom.

There needn’t be specific rules as to how you go about your interviews.  You could decide to be dead serious, dead silly, to talk about deeply personal things or to talk about your favorite foods or films.  You could talk about the past, present or future. You could ask someone to read your favorite story to you or to sing a song.  Whatever is important to you at the time is good.  I do think you should decide on some key questions before you begin your interview.  It would be nice to begin by asking that person something you’ve always wanted to ask them or something that you’d like to be able to replay in the future.  If the conversation meanders and you get completely side tracked, that’s fine. There is no need to share these stories or interviews with anyone if you don’t want to.

I would aim for one interview a week.

Now you have much more experience than I do related to collecting stories and thinking about story telling.  But I’ve come across a few beautiful stories or meditations on storytelling over the past few weeks and I’d like you to listen to them.  (Can you feel the teacher in me coming out here?) Hopefully you will just enjoy these.  And we can include these pieces in our future conversations.  Maybe, maybe, maybe you could think about the idea of a “single story” and your family.

What Are The Dangers of a Single Story? By Chimamanda Adichie on the Framing the Story episode of the Ted Radio Hour


 Hitchhiking as A Family from Dick Gordon’s The Story program


Terry Gross interview with Maurice Sendak from September 2011.  This link takes you to the last 5 minutes of the interview, illustrated by Christoph Neimann.  There is a link to the entire interview on the page.


I am going to use this challenge to record some stories from my parents.  I have thought about doing this for years and will now get off my butt and do it. At the very least I can immortalize the story of my Mom getting her mouth washed out with soap by her father.

In terms of romantic love, I would like us both to read Elemental Passions by the philosopher Luce Irigaray.  I will be sending you a copy of this book soon!  Now this book will in no way give you any kind of useful advice about creating, maintaining, or leaving romantic relationships.  As a matter of fact, you may find this book way too oblique and even annoying.  But I’ve found sections of this book strangely beautiful and I thought we could talk about love and try to untangle what Irigaray is saying together.  It’ll be a slightly different interaction between us, but it would certainly make a car ride to western Maryland edifying as well as fun.




Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

October Creations

Before this month of making and creating is over, I would like to take the opportunity to share some amazing creations made by the Living Chapters players.  I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by incredibly talented and creative individuals my whole life.  I am constantly inspired, motivated and supported by them. This post features work from the participants who have helped make Living Chapters what it is.
The featured drawing here is from chapter writer Amy Rothstein.  For me this drawing embodies my own feelings about the act of making and creating. I feel it can be a vulnerable, scary, yet sometimes empowering experience. We give life to an idea, or seed – caring for it and seeing it through to its existence and then let it go.  It is a process we all engage in, in some way.  In this post I want to honor those around me who take on this challenge in their daily lives.

Chapter 5 Wild Card: Doug Sadler

In addition to being a great writer and an award-winning film maker, this month’s Wild Card, Doug Sadler, is the creative director for The Pocket Media Group. PMG represents a uniquely flexible model for creative promotion through the development of original multi-media content. Take a peak here to see how PMG’s creative thinking can help promote and connect people to products and ideas.

Chapter 4 Writer: Amy Rothstein

Amy 3Amy 2
This October, Amy has been busy making new artistic works. Below are a few examples: Of her work she says “I make my art to make peace with what I cannot know or understand.”
Amy 1

Chapter 4 Wild Cards: Agnes and Grace Lichtner

Olive Oil costumeGraces friendship bracelets
This October Agnes has been creating costumes and treats for the season. Check out her “Olive Oil” costume above and her creepy and gross party snacks of chocolate mice and turds! Her daughter Grace has been busy making new friends by making friendship bracelets.
Outside of Agnes’s festive and creepy creations, She has been developing EYE-C (Enhance Your Existence Center) A life nurturing network that offers information about educational and experiential opportunities for developing and enhancing your limitless potential for healthy living. If you are interested in learning about holistic and healing arts visit her emerging collaborative organization here.

Chapter 3 Writer: Andy Cook

You may have learned a bit about Andy’s passions for environmental issues through the “Cap and Trade” challenges he posed in chapter 3 of Living Chapters this past summer.  Please take a peak at his new web series “Greater Yield” to see how Andy is using his creative talents to educate and inform larger audiences about these issues.
Greater Yield is a web series for CoLab Radio aimed at exploring the myriad benefits of urban agriculture in cities throughout the U.S.  Using video, photography, and writing, the series highlights urban agriculture projects that are tackling challenges as diverse as public education, neighborhood revitalization, green job growth, and public health.  The series also includes perspectives from multiple experts in each subject, to give a holistic sense of how urban agriculture is changing life in our cities beyond simply how we eat.

Living Chapters Project Manager: Moira Fratantuono

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When Moira is not organizing or creating spaces for others to be creative and make connections, she is working on independent creative projects of her own. She recently started to work on a series of photos/essays that explores themes of identity for first and second-generation Americans.
The goals of her latest exploration “Dual Identities” are to move past sterilized political debates over immigration. The project focuses on the personal experiences of individuals whose citizenship redefines what it means to be “American”.
Moira is currently working on developing content for a blog that will feature a new story each week. She is now looking for participants to be interviewed as a part of this project. Are you someone who could represent the immigrant experience? If you would like to participate or know someone who would, please contact Moira through the Living Chapters Facebook page or Livingchapters@gmail.com!
You can view more of the here: Dual Identities.
I thank all of the Living Chapters participants for sharing their works of creation this month.  If you have any questions about any of these projects or want to get involved please do not hesitate to contact them through me here on the Living Chapters blog.
Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

make a difference


So as stated in an earlier post, I grew up making things – projects for art class or gifts for my mom.  I spent hours and hours sitting and concentrating, just me, my hands, and some tools and materials.  I only sometimes found the end product to be what I had expected but that didn’t really concern me.  I immensely enjoyed and thrived upon the act of making as if it were my own form of meditation.  It was not until after my college years that I really started to pin-point how this drive and love for making things was going to direct or clarify my purpose in life.  To this day these facts are still being revealed to me in new and surprising ways.

About a week ago I received an email from a woman who worked with me as a volunteer in a youth radio program I was running in Baltimore City.  I had not heard from her since the program ended now almost 4 years ago.  It was a short note just to thank me for the experience she had working with me and also to update me on what she was currently doing. She told me that time working with me was very helpful to her and that she is now teaching theater in non-profits and working toward becoming a youth advocate.  WOW! All that time we spent together in the back room of the neighborhood church trying to keep the 9-12 yr olds from killing each other or burning the place down actually did some good (and still is?)  Just that quick note from her really made my day.  It was really fantastic to hear what she was doing now and that she was still interested in advocating for youth.

It’s not often that we hear or understand what our actions mean to others.  I mean in this case, SHE was helping me, all I did was create a space and role for her to engage with the kids in the program.  I didn’t know she would pull from the experience years later.  Not only did her reaching out make my day, but it she got me thinking again.  Why do I love the act of making so much and what is it that I have been making all these years?

After college I started moving away from making only objects and images, I realized that I enjoyed the space and time of sharing the process of making.  Showing others how to make and creating spaces to encourage others to create, or share something.  Some people may call this “teaching” or “community art” I like to call it spending quality time with people for creative purposes.

This simple email from my former volunteer reminded me that it has been a while since I spent time making with others and creating spaces for people to make.  It reminded me that not only does this process bring me joy and energy but it can also make a difference in other people’s lives in ways I may not ever know.  So in response to her email I decided to start the “Make a Difference Project” as a part of my October making month.

In the “Making a Difference Project”, I filled up a suitcase with a load of the craft supplies (that I pulled out of my never-ending collection in the storage unit) and went back to the streets of Annapolis to find people to make stuff with. I took my things to the busiest place I could find downtown and camped out.  I asked people to “MAKE or TAKE” a free card.  “Make a card or an object for someone you know that has made a difference in your life and send it to them!” was the directive (echoing Emily’s chapter requests).  It was simple and it worked!  Really nice  people came over and sat down on the ground with me and made amazing things!  One boy picked up 2 pencils and started knitting with embroidery thread, one guy painted a landscape for his friend, someone else made “interesting” name tags for her friends to wear, many cards were made and poems were written. For the first day of this – I think it went really well. AND I had a great time and made some new friends! SCORE my task of making something for today was completed.

I challenge you. Who means a lot in your life? Who has made a difference? What would happen if you told them? What would your positive reinforcement help them do?  I dare you to do it and promise…. It will make a difference.


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.


one world; many stories


During this past week, I have been carving out time each evening to sort through folders of digital images from a variety of long-lost external hard drives as well as trying to scan images that were literally lost due to technical traumatic casualties. Although it’s been a long process and has taken many late evenings, I am really glad I’ve been asked to do this. Not only am I archiving this buried data in a visible and accessible way but I am also enjoying bringing back to life the people places and stories that have emerged in my life this past ten years. After writing and reflecting on each of these projects/jobs, I realize that there is not one but a few similar threads that have run through both my life and work choices.

As the Wild Card Anita requested, I examined and sought out the patterns that appeared in my decision-making. Many people find that patterns or cycles of behavior tend to hold them back from progression or keep them stuck in a rut. This may be true, but In my case, I have found that my patterns have mostly propelled me forward. I can happily say that I would not have ever wanted to make any other choices than the ones I have thus far.

I am sure these specific patterns I have formed have prevented me from reaching particular desired outcomes that others seek in life (like owning a home, starting a family or bringing in a six figure income) but, looking over the images from my past decade has only reminded me of all the great fortune I have gained and built.

My flexibility and goal of following a path of personal freedom has given me the privilege and ability to explore new environments, create unique individualized job experiences and build new relationships. The one thing that stands out from all of those experiences is the interaction with people and the witnessing of their stories.

In each and every job that I have held in my life the core of the work always had to deal with interacting and engaging with individuals. Whether it has been listening to someone share their life story, assisting them express ideas through art making or helping someone find what they want or need through customer service; I thrive off of the interaction and communication with people.

I look forward to the opportunity of forming a new connection or relationship and the chance to learn something new through that person. This process has been consistent most everything that I have done. What has kept it fresh for me, is the cycle of engaging with new people, new cultures and places. Working with people is a great reminder that I will never stop learning, if I  stay open to collecting and accepting new perspectives.

Everywhere I go, (whether it be Baltimore City, Cambodia, or rural Japan) I encounter a new amazing person and new incredible story.

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Anita also asked me to pin point one of my past experiences that would be the hardest for me to let go of. As I said before, I have been happy with most of my choices and would not want to give any of them up. There are many experiences that have been good for me in many ways, but there is one project in particular which I feel was invaluable to me and accomplished much more than benefiting only my personal learning.  I also did not have to travel further than my front porch to experience this adventure.

Porch Art


— In the fall of 2006, I moved to Huntingdon Ave in the Remington neighborhood of Baltimore MD. The following summer, I started spending every Tuesday evening on my porch engaging a small group of 5 – 8 neighborhood kids with the art supplies I had stored in my basement. For me, this was a great way to get to know the kids in my neighborhood, do something that I loved, and provide a space for youth to socialize and engage in something positive. We started calling Tuesday nights “Porch Art” night.
In Porch Art’s second summer, the attendance doubled, I recruited neighborhood helpers and had a few parents attending and donating supplies. By my final and fourth year doing Porch Art, we had groups of up to 30 people of all ages attending. Guest artist instructors led activities, local musicians entertained and I organized a rotating roster of community volunteers to help set up, run and clean up each Tuesday. – (end of official online portfolio description)

Creating Porch Art made me realize that there is a simple logic in combining the desire to do something I love with the simple desire of doing something positive for the immediate environment around me.  This, I found, is the key to doing what I strive to do and call  “good work”. By using a small amount of my personal time and the materials I had at my fingertips, I was able to create a life-changing, invaluable experience for myself while also setting a structure and example for positive change in my community.   I didn’t need to travel to do it.  I didn’t spend money to do this.  I didn’t need to advertise for people to come or promote the project.  It filled a need for both myself and the neighborhood and taught me how important working with my present situation, the materials I had and the people around me, could be. If I can keep following that model for developing work in my future endeavors and become creative enough to make a living off of it, I am sure I will be successful and happy doing it.


Voice of America covered Porch Art – This piece aired in a few foreign countries in a few different languages.

See more images from Porch Art here.


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.