Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Final Thoughts on Kosovo Trip by Jon Fasanelli-Cawelti

When Ric Smith first offered up this trip to me some three years ago-I said, “when are we leaving?” To me as an actual artist Kosovo is no different than any other place on Earth in the sense that there is Art. Yes the people will be new to me, their experiences collectively much more harsh in their suffering than my own. But I was sure that they know as much or more about art than I. If their children can be given an opportunity (a window that we Americans increasingly take for granted); a chance to create from within themselves without being used or exploited, then maybe there is a chance to grow and heal, to grow.

The concept of Liz’s was so simple, of course it works. Give children a few simple instruments and their own voices and the power of music emerges. I saw and heard and knew all my ideas about art were close to this. As a musician I cannot conceive of a world without music more than one without art.

I have now tested these ideas in our elementary schools and individually with people ages 3 to 83. Give children some simple tools; crayons, paper, pencils, markers and the assignment “draw whatever you want.” The results in Kosovo are NO different than Muscatine, Iowa City or Chicago (places I have lived in). An incredible array of visions, dreams, ideas, stories all emerge. The kids took the lead-they show me- keep it simple and out of this-the universe is the only limit. By refusing to be more specific in my guidance-no subject steering-no hot “topics” like war or suffering or loss, I leave it to them to show me their world.

What Results!! Like here at home, I can only say that Picasso spent his entire life trying to be a child in art. No one in our lives came closer, except children everywhere.

Having said this about what the children tell us through drawings, I must add that when one gets the chance to work with others in a united effort to share, there are even greater results. I could have done little without the constant help of everyone in our group and Liz’s program. Think about what happens if Liz takes a vacation (like she was planning) to Austria instead of the path she chose? What happens if Kristin and Keith don’t do what they do looking for a “positive story in a war-torn region” etc? What happens if Ric isn’t looking for more than the “music tours” etc? What happens if all of us adults are not moved by the children who came to visit us? What will be the result if we do not love?

I thought I was going to Kosovo to help others, instead it is I who have received far more than I think I could ever give. As Liz said, “one can never give too much, only too little.” With the exception of my family back at home I have never been with a group of individuals like this in my fortunate life. These people in our group are the most loving, caring people I could ever imagine and their hard-working ethic would have made our ancestors proud.

In Slovene Village refugee camp the classroom was a rat-crap infested, urine-filled space, rarely used windows were nailed shut. Yet these kids from Liz’s and ours filled that air with music that coursed through me and I’m sure everyone else drawing in that space. In every room that we drew, the sounds of music were inside us. So every piece made by these incredible people must be seen as an image with the sounds of them inside. I feel very small and incredibly lucky to have been invited to participate with these fabulous people. I owe everything to all of us. Thanks.

Jon Fasanelli-Cawelti