Openings, closure...and more openings

The last month of my life has been marked by some pretty significant events--moments of closure paired with new openings and beginnings. First of all, The Multi-Families Project exhibit opened at The Flight Deck. I am so proud of this project and the installation piece that resulted. And I loved seeing the multi-generational, multiracial mix of people in the gallery. Almost all of the participating families attended, and it was thrilling to witness them and their friends and family engage with the installation. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who took part in this project.

The exhibit was also bittersweet for me, because it was my creative swan song to the Bay Area. More than two decades ago, I moved to San Francisco fresh out of art school and dove into the video and performance art scene; later, I began teaching and facilitating community-based theater projects. I’m proud that I was part of a group that brought the late Augusto Boal to San Francisco to headline a conference on theater and social change, and that I co-founded OutLook Theater Project and produced a full-length play with an intergenerational LBGTQIA cast. I’m grateful for the fellow visual artists who encouraged me to reconnect with that side of myself.

I’ve seen the Bay Area arts community go through many phases and transitions, watched the communities and cliques form, reform, and transform. And although many people say that the Bay Area is known for being a transitory place, marked by constant change, the latest economic shifts driven by the tech-fueled bubble felt different to me. The region is losing, and will continue to lose, so many of the people and organizations that have made it such a wonderful, crazy, and unique place to be, a place where every possible subculture existed.

For me, as it has been for many of my fellow artists and nonprofit workers, the squeeze just got too tight. A month ago, our family left Berkeley to move to Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, a community just outside of Philadelphia. Today I kicked off my creative career here with an orientation for Mural Arts’ incredible Arts & Artists Outdoors program. Over the next year, I will work with youth at a recreation center in West Philadelphia to develop and create an installation reflecting on the environment. I feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity and am looking forward to getting to know the arts community here. But California is in me; I spent my entire adult life there and I will carry it wherever I go.

Stay tuned for the next phase of Rebecca Schultz Projects--Philly edition!

Belonging in Transition

I'm thrilled to launch my website with a post about my latest project, Belonging in Transition. This was written for the #WhereDoYouBelong project blog (see the original post here).

The exhibition Belonging in Transition opens this Friday. I am excited about it because it will showcase a diversity of creative work--an installation I created, painted portraits by Tasha Rodriguez, and a composed poetry piece on printed posters by Jason Wyman--all of which have a common root: they are inspired by and drawn from the words and experiences of young people all over San Francisco.

I have been creating artwork that directly engages the community for over fifteen years, most recently honing performance-making processes through OutLook Theater Project. OutLook’s ensemble experimented with many different ways of generating material, including story circles, interviews, and online surveys. The interview strategies we are using for #WhereDoYouBelong are inspired by, and iterate on, that work. A central goal of the project is to create a “data bank” of interview documentation that artists can use as material for works of art that reflect on the complexities of belonging.

Belonging in Transition was conceived as a installation piece that would incorporate the perspectives and creativity of transition-aged youth, in particular exploring how belonging is shifting as they move from youth to adulthood. I created a two-phase workshop process to develop the piece: in June 2015, I facilitated a workshop with participants in CHALK's Youth Funding Youth Ideas program, utilizing theater, visual arts, and writing. My goal was to have them generate visual metaphors for belonging that I could draw upon to create the overall form of the installation. Participants visualized places of belonging in their past, present, and future, and created short performance pieces that charted their journey between the three points.

I am used to working with youth over a longer period of time to make performance, which allows me to build trust and comfort; so I was worried that they would feel self-conscious doing this work. However, the pieces, which were created so quickly, turned out to be profound. They reflected stops and starts, places of despair and hope, hesitations and overcoming of barriers, and the sheer will often required to keep moving through life. As I thought about the fact that transition is never a straightforward, linear process, one of the participants put forward the metaphor of belonging as a tree. Branches don't grow in straight lines: they split and curve and stop and sometimes have to be cut in order to keep the tree healthy. I chose to make the tree out of a material that evoked both a continuous journey and referenced childhood: wooden toy train tracks.

I wanted the final piece to both incorporate artwork made by youth themselves as well as by people who came to see the exhibit, and was inspired by memory trees, which are decorated with tags that capture bits and pieces of lived experience. So I went back to CHALK and did a second workshop with YFYI youth, in which they each created a personal collage piece about belonging on wooden tags--a visual “memory.” These pieces are now attached to the tree; if you come to the exhibit you will have the chance to make your own collage and attach it as well.

In the coming year (and beyond), expect more "creative interventions" like this one, where an artist works with a specific community and gathers community reflections on belonging, then creates a participatory work of art. It's an exciting way of working; I can't wait to see how it unfolds.