Guest Post: Integrating Pioneer Square’s Communities with Michelle de la Vega

Image courtesy of the artist.
Image courtesy of the artist.

This month we open an exciting new season at Gallery4Culture, and today we look ahead to January, when artist Michelle de la Vega will put on a show that responds to the building, architecture and community surrounding the gallery. She shared insights into her process as she works now to prepare:

On September 3, during the Pioneer Square First Thursday Art Walk, there will be a showing of work created during a workshop I’m teaching at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission entitled “Sculptural Storytelling”. The workshop is the community engagement portion of an installation project I’m creating for Gallery4Culture entitled “SUCCESSION: The Exchange Project,” and opening January 7. A central theme of the project is to explore “exchange” between the un-sheltered community and the community of artists that share the Pioneer Square neighborhood, and which are largely segregated. A friend of mine recently said that one characteristic of a healthy community is self-awareness—this initiative explores that through experience and exchange. The exchange process starts with myself, by personally delving into the world of the homeless community, inviting them into mine, and inviting others to come along on the ride.

I work through a model that I’ve developed—and continue to develop—that creatively integrates community groups that are centrally related to the theme of a project directly into the generative process. I use a non-linear curriculum that includes dialogue, writing, drawing, patterning, collage, sculpture, and sometimes spoken word or simple movement. The curriculum is designed to enable people to create artwork out of information from their own lives; their personal values, thoughts, feelings and stories. I have found this to be both creatively and personally productive to a wide demographic range including high school students, non artists, professional adults, young artists and special needs communities. It is a relatively simple process with the capacity to furnish as much complexity and depth as each participant desires. The adaptability of the curriculum continues to surprise me, and I’m excited to see how it will develop though future applications.

For each community engagement workshop, a pre-show of the artwork is held at each local organization. At a previous workshop at the Recovery Café we shared work at the monthly Recovery Café Open Mic event—if you’ve never attended one of these, it’s a blast! For the UGM workshop, we’ll be showing at UGM’s Art from the Streets event, located at the corner of S Washington and 3rd Ave Streets in Pioneer Square, during the First Thursday Art Walk on September 3. Please stop by!

This project is generously supported by a 4Culture Arts Projects Grant.