Monday, September 21, 2009

Clarification by Susan

Dear Peer Group,
I would like to clarify my statement last evening during our conference call concerning Newburgh and my desire to create a community cultural development atmosphere in the city. First of all no one can do this by themselves. It takes a takes a community but one must start somewhere.

I've been working in Newburgh for almost ten years. Since the 1950's the history and politics of this community has been absolutely destructive. Newburgh's own county ostracizes them. The city is treated as the black sheep of Orange County. The reaction of the residents has been to isolate and expect nothing from anyone. The Insider/Outsider mentality is alive and well in this city and in the county. There are actually residents in Newburgh who have named their community "Jungle for Life".

For years I have stay cleared of Newburgh politics and provided art services that were requested and funded by local government departments. I have also located funding for projects and the projects have been approved by the local government. A year ago Newburgh created a new department and hired a Director of Human Services, Yaniyah Pearson. Yaniyah, has been meeting with me for the past 12 months discussing sustainability. She understands the mission of the organization I began in 2001, The Arts Alliance, and that both the organization and I only go where we are invited. Her response was to increased the budget for The Arts Alliance by 100% and has recently created a new art position for me.

Since the Goddard residency this summer, I have spoken to her about community cultural development (now I know the correct terminology). Yaniyah understands that I refuse to tell the residents what they should do or be or think. I just want to offer art opportunities for ..... expressing thoughts/feelings, learning, discussions, recreation,and resolutions to issues. Of course, this can only be offered if residents ask and projects can only happen if there is community involvement. In the pass The Arts Alliance team who that has worked on Newburgh projects has been small and dependable because I was fearful of failure. The grandparents project is the first time I was prepared for whatever happened. I purposely did not accept funding for this project to lighten the pressure of accountability. Amateurs were my team partners. I put an idea out to see if it would take root or fail.

Please note the statements I am going to now make are broad. The reasons for creating gentle kind projects are:
very little civility in Newburgh.
very little gentleness.
very little kindness.
Ver little thought to the hatred that is spread by the adults and its affect on the young.
Constant bickering.
So much sadness.
Disappointment over and over and over again.
An Abundance of poverty.
Wastage of money by the government.
Powerful community women are at the forefront of this negative energy. They are not a team and are fighting for their own issues. Fortunately, I know these women and have worked with each one of them at their invitation.

The goal of these gentle worded projects I am now working on, ie. "Grandma! Grandpa! Please Read to Me" and "Imagine," is to literally make them stop in their tracks and question the simplicity of the message. What can the powerful residents find wrong in Imagining? What can the residents on the streets find wrong in Imagining? What can those in poverty find wrong in Imagining. I am not telling them what to Imagine, just imagine. One can choose to imagine beauty or imagine more negativity. Just Imagine.

I realize this all sounds so Polly Anna. A privileged white middle-aged gray hair woman rushing in to but that is really what I'm attempting to doing? How can anyone really help a person to look at a glass as half full instead of half empty? My background includes poverty, abuse, lack of support, homelessness, and bigotry. I know the harsh facts yet I am empowered me by the path I have forged from experience, to education, to implementation of projects. Having said all of this, it's time for me to implement projects based on Kindness, Sweetness, Gentleness. So yes, I ask you who are educated and know the words of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Song Imagine to boil the words to their homeopathic essence, simply Imagine.



  1. Hi Susan,

    I first want to say...I hope you didn't feel uncomfortable last night. Your projects sound filled with life. I know of Newburgh because I lived in Cold Spring 16 years ago, where my daughter was born. Sixteen years ago Newburgh had the same energy and tone connected to the city. I find what your doing is wonderful. We all have to start somewhere and learn as we travel on our journey. Imagine is a beautiful word and what it sounds like is that you could very well evoke thought, awareness, and hope by using this gentle, strong, and for some confronting word. I think its just what the doctor ordered. Maybe putting the word in places where the choice is to just be notice. I hope you don't mind...but I just had this image of a blank wall. Like a wall where people can write words, phrases, pictures whatever. It has been done before. Then pausing and seeing if people write on the wall just simply expressing them selves. Would that be imagining? Maybe there is a question on the wall. We live in duality so somewhere in Newburg there is the key to an opening. It is just so hard to find these openings when the mundane keeps us from imagining and the feeling of belonging does not exist for some folks.
    Thank you for this post. You have evoked me to imagine in my next packet that if I push some buttons, it's ok. When the intention is for awareness and raising consciousness we put ourselves on the one line. I think that is a good thing. When our buttons get pushed what a gift to reflect. I am going to be working with the metaphor of The Last Supper only for me it will be The Last Tea Party. Your doing great work. Talk soon, Nancy

  2. Hi, just to jump in and make a comment about my use of wikipedia, since it came up. I often use the phraes "wikipedia tells us," something I started before it was used as commonly as it is today to sort of reference a sort of information commons, a jointly-held repository of ideas. And, in fact, it's about as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica, which may not be such a great thing. But in any case, I usually use it for broad definitions and not anything that needs more specific citations. in this case, it was for a definition of civil society. i could just as easily have referenced the oxford dictionary or whatever. but i like the held-in-common nature of wikipedia. though, to what extent that's entirely true, i don't know.

  3. oops i put that comment in the wrong spot. will repost.