By Laura Anne Walker
Making Art After the Fall of HAI
2016 was a difficult year for many people, especially because of the presidential race. In addition to the political atmosphere, those of us who attended the Healing Arts Initiative (HAI) Art Studio (created by Francis Palazzolo and directed by him from 1994 to 2016) lost the Art Studio and HAI, which went out of business. Many people, including staff and participants, were displaced. Palazzolo took that devastating loss as a magnificent opportunity to charge forward, fill the void, and create Being Neighborly, an independent art collective, comprised of former HAI Art Studio members and new artists as well. Ever hopeful, Palazzolo has kept it together for us and has given it to us to be active participants in Being Neighborly: We each contribute our gifts, talents, resources, connections, and time.
The Being Neighborly art collective has already had two exhibitions in its short existence: “Bring da Beach ta’da Hood” at the Open Source Gallery; and the recent exhibition, “Evolutions of Us,” at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in collaboration with the SVA MPS Art Therapy Department, interns, students and staff at 132 West 21st Street, 5th floor Studio, by appointment.
The opening reception for Evolutions of Us was on Saturday, February 18, from 2:30-4:00PM, and was well attended. The artists in the exhibit were: Jenny Chan, Michael Johnson, El Kuumba, Ray Lopez, Linda Moses, Girl Negron, Georgia Redd, Aracelis Rivera, Vincent Salas, Cynthia Timms, Laura Anne Walker (myself), and Lawrence Willoughby. A number of us spoke about our art.
I read my original poetry from my art, and spoke about the content, which explores my journey from psychiatric hospitalization to stabilization and how I came to terms with the diagnoses I’ve been labeled. Others spoke spontaneously. For example, Cynthia Timms described her love-letter artwork to Rosa Parks and, in doing so, tried to put herself in Rosa's shoes, hoping that she would have had the same courage as Parks on that bus. El Kuumba spoke of his paintings, one of which had both Mr. and Mrs. Obama, and Mr. and Mrs. Dr. Martin Luther King in the same painting. Ray Lopez spoke of his work, which is often provocative and controversial. Vincent Salas talked of the Shamans in his work and other themes. He also played a hand-beaten drum, which he invited others to play with him. Lawrence Willoughby spoke of his paintings, which depict everyday scenes in the city, such as the New York City skyline, and an MTA bus. Speaking about art is an exciting new feature of the exhibitions. Having a supportive, art-loving audience continues to be an amazing experience.
The MPS Art Therapy Students, led by Supervising Art Therapist, Sheila Fontanive, LCAT, are: Yi-Chien Chang, Saeideh Goiji, Laura Hetzel, RJ Huguenard, Andrea Juliano, Rebecca Rodas, and Gabby Simpson. They creatively helped us to get to the point of exhibition. The entire staff was overseen by Special Projects Coordinator Val Sereno, LCAT ATR-BC, who, overall, was instrumental in assisting us to put on this exhibition. We thank them.
We have coverage on the SVA blog: http://arttherapyblog.sva.edu/?p=2211 and in a press release. On Facebook, search “Being Neighborly.” If you want more, you can view profiles, spread the word, and help us reach our goals at http://beingneighborly.yolasite.com.