Community Immersion : Lucille Crelli, BFA Apparel Design ’17
One more class (and blog post) to go! It’s been an exhausting and incredibly rewarding summer, but what I’ve accomplished in this short time only grazes the surface of what is possible… More on that in the last blog post— here’s what we’ve been up to in the meantime!
Class Eight was our first field trip! When I originally designed the curriculum back in June, there were a lot more field trips in the mix. Providence is known as “the Creative Capital”, and we certainly have many amazing local arts organizations. I think that introducing the women to these kinds of organizations will help them understand that we as a society do value the arts and consider them worthwhile. It also offers them the opportunity to visit some organizations that they might not encounter with DIIRI’s usual services, and be exposed to members of the Providence community that, again, they might not otherwise encounter with DIIRI. On top of all of that, it’s even better for the locals to see groups of women wearing hijabs and chattering in Arabic also enjoying what the community has to offer. Providence is already a fairly diverse place, and thanks to DIIRI it is still becoming more and more commonplace to encounter people from widely different cultures.
Since the start date of my classes kept getting pushed back, I unfortunately had less openings in the curriculum to go on field trips than I hoped. I really only had two days in my remaining classes that we could dedicate to leaving DIIRI, so I chose the Providence Children’s Museum and CityArts as the two places to visit. Since so many of the women in my class have children and because children’s museums are so wonderfully focused on making and playing, I thought that the women would really enjoy these unique places. I’d first encountered the Children’s Museum two years ago when I visited them leading a cohort of sixty RISD freshmen as part of the Pre-Orientation Service Experience program. It’s a really fun place to be, regardless of how old you are — it even has a huge green dragon perched on top of the building! There are rooms filled with both innocuous objects and crazy structures, and they are all used equally to simply play.
The mission of the Children’s Museum is “to inspire and celebrate learning through active play and exploration”. When I was arranging the trip, Jessica (Exhibit Director at the Museum) told me that they are all about “open-ended, self-directed, self-motivated play”. When I asked them to do an activity with the women, in the spirit of show-not-tell (which is turning out to be the mantra of my summer), she told me that they could not do that (see previous quote), but that we would go through the museum together so that they would understand their environment as one that they can touch and play in. Everything in the Museum is very hands-on, and I wanted them to go crazy and just play!
It didn’t quite happen like that…but they did still have a good time. They were all fairly reserved as a group, but they did play with some of the exhibits as long as it wasn’t too physically involved. That’s understandable; they were adults in a children’s museum and in an environment they likely haven’t experienced before. But playing with the exhibits together, including one that involved wiring electricity, engaged them and they took a lot of photos. Even that was cool — they probably broadcasted how crazy America is to their social media network, judging by the laughter that into posing for those photos. All in all, we had fun!
…went on without me! Class Nine was the second class that I had to miss to attend the Institute for Design and Public Policy (IDPP). I introduce it more in my previous blog post, but this was an amazing opportunity that I could not pass up. Unlike the last time, in which I simply canceled class, this time I made sure that it happened regardless. The guest teacher was my close friend Tommy (who is also in Apparel), and the regular teacher (me) was Sagitta (a case worker at DIIRI)! Because the women had already been introduced to apparel techniques with Maha and Coleen, Tommy contributed another one of his skills: embroidery. Class Nine was spent learning how to make a variety of embroidery stitches (for use on their pillows) and talking about the resettlement process. I have not yet talked to Sagitta about how the class went (so more on that soon), but Tommy told me that we had an unusually small attendance that day. So, I’m not quite sure how effective the class in my absence was, but that might have just been extraneous circumstances interfering!
On my end, I was having a great time reimagining civics in Rhode Island at the IDPP. I was working side-by-side with Rhode Islander’s hailing from places that ranged from the RI Department of Health to the Center for Women and Enterprise. We were all learning about the process of design-thinking and how to apply it to better a community — in this case, it was about how to motivate RI citizens to come together for the greater good. Basically, we were trying to repair the relationship between the people and their government. We did this by pinpointing exactly what strengths we had as a state, what was lacking, and what about our civics could use re-designing. We broke into teams of ten, and it culminated with us presenting to the guest critics our grand vision for the future of Rhode Island via choreography, role-playing, and persuasive speeches. Because I am already a designer, I am already familiar with how to design-think, but the lessons that I received from guest speakers offer new insight into my process. In starting to design my senior thesis collection, I am going to test some of the visual thinking that I was exposed to in the IDPP. As the week went on, it also became increasingly clear to me that artists and designers really do think and problem-solve differently, and that only reaffirms my hopes for my future. But never before have I worked with so many people older than me and in wildly different fields — and it was incredible (I have never asked so many questions about insurance or trustee boards before in my life). I am definitely glad that I had this opportunity, and I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in learning the power of design.
This time, the field trip was more successful. We visited CityArts, another organization in South Providence that provides “free professional art-based education and training to Providence youth in a fully developed community-based arts center that reflects, encourages, and promotes the rich ethnic diversity of Providence, our capital city”. Along with CityArts Program Coordinator Susana, I arranged for the women to work with two local artists decorating a wall in South Providence using ceramic relief tiles. We were invited to join the artists in making tiles to contribute to the mural, which will officially be on display in November. The art that we made at CityArts will be on view in Providence for a long time, and I think that is a wonderful way for the women to feel like a part of the community. The people at CityArts were also very eager to receive us, and I hope that DIIRI and CityArts will pursue this relationship in the future.
The women really enjoyed the process of kneading the clay and tracing designs into it. Some of the women made tiles of their hands, and some experimented with carving different shapes using the assorted tools on hand. The entire time we were there, the women and the artists talked about their respective cultures and what it is like resettling in a place like Providence. There was even a long discussion on hijabs! Everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves, and I loved that this trip had a unique twist of “giving back”. They even learned a new artistic skill that I could not have taught them!
This Thursday is our last class. My final blog post will be about that class (which will involve henna and paper marbling) and to sum up everything that I’ve learned from the Maharam. Until then!