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Tangled Roots Community Art Fellows Project invites people ‘Home’

“Home is a place that I leave, and the place to which I return. The invitation to leave is as strong as the call to return, and in that movement, I consider home to be the journey itself.”

Nick Carswell, musician, film maker, webmaster.

 

Nick Carswell is one of seven artists selected in the summer to participate in the Jewish Community Center’s second annual Community Art Fellowship Project, presented in partnership with the InterUrban ArtHouse. Their visual art and performances will be presented to the community at the Jewish Community Center (The J) on Sunday, Dec. 7.

There is no charge for the event, which begins at 12:30 p.m. with the opening of the exhibition and a reception. At 1:30, the program will move into the White Theatre for performances and an artist dialogue with the audience. 

The Project’s topic last year was rebellion, and Coordinator Jill Maidhof sought to offer something completely different in 2014. “In the spring, I heard a TED talk by writer Pico Iyer whose books and essays deal with crossing cultures. He spoke beautifully on the subject of home, and I knew it would be perfect for the Fellowship — a theme that resonates in some way with everyone and is of particular interest to the Jewish people.”  

Thus in the summer and fall of this year, Carswell and six of his colleagues in the art community gathered in an intellectually serious but non-religious setting to explore Jewish sources on the topic of home in preparation for creating individual and collaborative expressions on the topic. Directing the educational component of the program was Annie Glickman, longtime educator in the Florence Melton Adult Mini-school. Meeting with the group, she introduced texts and visual representations on topics ranging from the idea of a Jewish homeland to that of leaving home to find a home and the respective roles of men and women. A highlight was visiting the home of Ellen Chilton, purveyor of fine Judaica, where she and Leslie Mark discussed hiddur mitzvah, beautifying or enhancing a mitzvah as it relates to Jewish ritual items in the home.

It was made clear to the Jewish and non-Jewish group that the discussions led by Glickman were to inform but not dictate their work. The J wasn’t seeking a “Jewish” exhibit; “rather,” says Maidhof, “we told the artists that we were striving for a deeper understanding of how our roots tangle non-violently, even appreciatively, around issues which touch each us.”

Glickman agrees.

“We encouraged challenges and spirited discussion. Our conversations were immeasurably enhanced by the diversity of race, religion and personal histories.” 

Participating in addition to Carswell are painter and fabric artist Nedra Bonds, multimedia artist Lorrie Crystal Eigles, performance artist Sheri “Purpose” Hall, muralist Kwanza Humphrey, media artist and film maker Mikal Shapiro and paper cutter Bridey Stangler. In addition to including an emerging artist this year (Stangler), the decision was made to engage Stephanie Finkelstein as a fellow with the responsibility of curating the exhibition. Most of the artists were, for the second year, selected by co-presenter InterUrban ArtHouse. 

“Our partnership with The J, now in its second year, is an important one for InterUrban ArtHouse,” says Director and Founder Nicole Emanuel, who as an award-winning artist participated in the Project last year as a fellow. “We’re still a relatively new non-profit in Johnson County, seeking to be a place where artists and creative industries can work and prosper. We bring the expertise and connections within the art community that The J needs to offer high quality cultural programs, and The J enables us to extend our reach to new audiences.” 

Those connections include the Johnson County Library system, which offers an Art in the Stacks program featuring works of art in neighborhood branches. InterUrban ArtHouse is coordinating three months of exhibitions, and by sheer coincidence, home is an upcoming theme. Both Emanuel and Maidhof seized the idea — a “no-brainer,” they said — to include the Tangled Roots exhibition, and Maidhof requested a library far from The J. 

The Tangled Roots exhibition will be on display in the Galleria of The J through Dec. 31. In January, parts of it may be seen in the Lackman Library in Lenexa.