Saturday, August 20, 2005

Note from Liz - Muscatine's Lasting Impressions

Excerpts of an e-mail I received from Liz today and a few new photos from Kosovo:

I think you've all heard that you totally inspired our volunteers and they are going to try --for the first time ever in Kosovo, I think--fundraising to help with the funds for next summer. They are going to sell lemonade and bracelets at the outdoor market every Monday, if it's successful. We'll see. But I am extremely proud of them for taking this initiative--it was totally their idea.

They are making 2 styles. I'm also going to buy some Oreos at Bondsteel and they are going to try to sell them in small bags. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm sending a couple of pictures--one is the poster they made for the fundraising effort, and the other two are from the camp--playing baseball and wearing necklaces made from kits left here--all since you left, because you left us such wonderful things to do with them!

Take care--lots of love--Liz

Public Report and MRE Night

On Friday, August 19, 2005, participants in the Muscatine Kosovo Project gathered at Wesley United Methodist Church for public report and performance for the community and for our "MRE Supper." Scores of people attende the public event which included choir performances, a DVD slide show from Anne Olson, a PowerPoint I prepared with the help of Keith Porter, and personal accounts from several participants.

Many thanks to everyone who attended!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Compilation Drawing by Muscatine Youth

In a previous post, Jon Fasanelli-Cawelti mentions a "compilation" drawing made by Muscatine youth participants while in Kosovo. The compilation is actually six separate drawings that take the shape of a person when placed together. Joe Porter, Ben Rivera, Nick Korpi and Katie Korpi helped create this neat drawing.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Drawings from Kosovo

Below are just a few of the more than 300 drawings Jon Fasanelli-Cawelti brought back from the art classes he organized in Kosovo. Jon's comments about all of the artwork are in separate messages below.

What do These Drawings Tell Me? By Jon Fasanelli-Cawelti

“Draw whatever you want" is all I said but no one needed me to get them going in this direction.

The participants included children from the USA group, and Kosovar children in Liz Shropshire’s music program, and children of earliest elementary age through high school from one school “ZR” in Gjakove, Dujake Village School, a Roma school within Gjakove and Slovene Village.

The drawings became mixed up deliberately when and accident upon unloading finished this project “by chance” (Marcel Duchamp would understand). There were enough examples of strength from each place as to merit unity over separation. If I were to draw attention to any salient feature of difference it would involve Slovene Village, where the overall vision was narrower. These children had as much in them but many had been born there or lived much of their lives there. Their architectural images were plainer, less ornate, there were less objects in their images in general. At this camp the only destroyed images occurred when one little boy drew for most of 3-hours and finished by ripping his pictures (violent layers of dense crayon systems of mostly straight marks-non objective) into pieces and throwing them under the desks nearby. Looking at this kids’ world is consistent with living in a box where the public toilets are a hole in the ground flooded by a collapsing floor; where piles of garbage and excrement are the norm.

Outside of this singular example everyone else is telling a different story-thesis, hour after hour. Images of peaceful scenes, hope, suns, balloons, favorite animals, colorful rainbows, and picture frames were common themes. Bridges, swimming, boats, sailing, mountains (Gjakove is a valley surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains). Block-letter designs abound, usually with names or places, always showing pride and often ability. 3-dimensional rendering, recessional spaces, perspective images can be found in each classroom.

The children and adults from home who helped in the art class are mixed in with the Kosovar children. Some of these children, mostly musicians, could pursue visual arts as well. All were very willing and generous with their efforts to help and share and all set a great example by always working hard and using their imagination and creative abilities. The collaborative figure made by Ben, Nick, Katy and Joe is interesting and beautiful piece that seems to me to sum up and symbolize our trip in general. NO one told them what to do; they shaped this themselves with a powerful and imaginative result. Emma, Fitore, Ben, Shqiprim are all people who draw instinctively but others too numerous to list showed wonderful efforts. Nick and Sam both stepped into simple pencil and eraser images of great depth and imagination; Sam, using his unbroken arm, not the one he thought did all the drawing, produced and effort any art major in college could learn from. (What happens if one doesn’t try?) What one sees out of the corner eye may be more relevant than what is in front of one.

Other often-seen images contain hopeful homes, flowers, hearts, LOVE spelled out, basketball courts, symbols of things to stop, i.e.; smoking, pollution, trash, the dot-patterned hand symbolizing “stop hurting children” (done by a teen-age Kosovar girl) reminds me of one of the cultures who have used the hand as a symbol of signature, Melanesia, Aboriginal, Australian etc. among others.

A number of portraits stand out, Blendona, Ben, Blendiana, some unknown, Shqiprim to name a few. The pencil portrait of their hero Skenderbeg on horseback seen in profile stands out for the deftness of touch for a kid willing to draw what many would consider to be one of the most difficult and sophisticated of compositions, horse and rider.

In closing I can only say thanks again and again to Liz Shropshire and the kids in her program in Gjakove, Kosovo, and to the 31 other Americans in our group and all of the people who helped us realize this stage of this project.

I hope to use these drawings to spread the word visually as an accompaniment to the music these people are making to bring me peace to this world in any amount possible.

Jon Fasanelli-Cawelti

Art Acknowledgements and Supply List

Although each class was told to “keep your drawings” I returned from Kosovo with over 300 drawings on nine-and-a-quarter by 12-inch cotton stock purchased or donated from here in the US. A number of people helped with contributions of materials but two stand out; Craig, manager of an art-supply store in Iowa City, Iowa. His corporation declined to contribute as did all other corporations asked, but he personally donated over 1000 pencils, black and colored, and a thousand pieces of quality paper. My dear friends Hasan and Kyle offered “anything I needed” contribution due to weight limitations and space was of smaller size then they wanted. These kinds of people make this project always possible as all of us found out raising funds in general for this trip.

My daughter and I carried approximately 120 pounds of art supplies in two HUGE suitcases and two backpacks. These materials included:

Liquid and tempera paint (several gallons)
Approximately 150 brushes
Sidewalk chalk (approximately 50 pieces)
Permanent markers (2 dozen)
100 rubber erasers
400 colored pencils
Over 1000 black pencils
30 pencil sharpeners
300 crayons
Approximately 3500 sheets of paper including over 100ft by 24-inch rolled index papers.

It took the combined efforts of 32 people to carry this paper, with people like this, great things are always possible. Thank-you with all my heart.

Additional Thoughts from Anne Olson

It seems appropriate to share a few thoughts about the Muscatine youth who traveled to Kosovo.

Muscatine kids have things pretty good. They probably live in air-conditioned homes and are carted to air-conditioned schools in air-conditioned cars and may even have a room of their own at home.

The Muscatine Children's Choir youth who traveled to a foreign country in which the language was unfamiliar, spent two weeks in the homes of Albanian families they didn't know.

By and large, these kids did not complain about the conditions they found themselves in. They did not complain when two adults and two youth were crammed into a hotel room in London with sleeping accommodations for only three. They did not complain about the terrific heat in Kosovo, even when riding on the floor in the back of a 15-passenger van in which the only ventilation came through the driver's and front passenger's windows. They did not complain about being unable to sleep in a house where windows were closed off from any little breeze or overnight cooling that might take place. They did not complain about having to share a room and perhaps sleep on the floor of a home in Kosovo. There was no complaint about having to walk many blocks in Gjakove to and from their Kosovar homes. They made it a point to be on time each day for activities and outings.

The concert at Camp Bondsteel touched the hearts of all us Muscatinites. We knew the men and women serving our country were present for a little respite from the heat and their duties. Our youth sang as they've never sung before for these folks.

These young people should be commended for the way they conducted themselves on this trip. No "Ugly Americans" here, only our Muscatine youth acting in a very appropriate manner. I am proud of them, as all Muscatine should be.

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Favorite Photos from Ric Smith

Bondsteel Performance Mentioned in Armed Forces Information Services News Article

Don't doubt for a second that our trip had an impact. The Department of Defense sent out this press release today. It is a very good story....but I was shocked when I saw our choir mentioned near then end. (Keith Porter)

Kosovo Mission Successful, Important, U.S. Forces Say
By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service