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Saturday, October 28, 2006


It has been an unusually busy week in an uncommonly busy life -- but I still seem to thrive on the intensity of it all ... .

On Thursday evening my (mentally retarded) daughter, Dorian, and I got together to attend the bi-monthly artist's reception at NIAD (National Institute for Artists with Disabilities). She had several pieces on exhibit and was anxious for me to see her new works.

Since she's moved into her own apartment across town, I've tried to keep some distance between us while she adjusts. I must admit, though, that she's been far more successful than I at the adjusting. It has always been important for us that I allow most contacts between us to originate with her. That way she doesn't have the feeling that I'm constantly worrying or checking up on her; that I don't trust her to handle her freedom or make the right choices in this world of risk and hazards. And, of course, she often takes risks and makes wrong choice -- as do the rest of us. I only call her at those times when I'm unable to keep my concerns in check. I suspect that much of my busyness comes from my need to remain distracted for her sake. Were it not for my work and all-consuming activism, her welfare might be at constant risk of my ill-placed motherly interference. We've struck a good balance, I think. Were I to die tomorrow, she would not be destroyed by the loss. Meanwhile, our cellphones serve as a new high tech umbilical cord -- and I'm grateful for their place in our lives.

The women's blouse above has been an important piece that she's devoted several months to. It is brilliantly beaded with her signature whimsical images of cats and kittens, and has been sold for $250, a real affirmation of her status as an artist. She has sold a number of pieces this year with half the sale price going to NIAD and half into her bank account. She is confident, productive, enthusiastic about her way of life, with a solid anchor in the "Outsider Arts" community. For that I am eternally grateful to the enlightened and unbelievably-patient NIAD staff of artists and teachers.

The same evening, a bit later, I attended another of the historian Donna Graves-created "Memories of Macdonald" activities. This time it was a "Talking About Macdonald" evening at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts.

This was, oddly enough, a companion-piece to our experience at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock last week. Teens from the EBCPA presented an evening of their video work that grew out of oral histories they'd collected from the small merchants and other elders along long-deserted Macdonald Avenue -- when it was the main street of Richmond. They were wonderful, and were followed by 6 of the Center's drama students who had taken audiotapes of those interviews and created monologues which they performed to a delighted audience. They were marvelous!

Now -- over a single week's period -- I've experienced those five Little Rock Central High kids from their Memories project, and now the local version. I'm more determined than ever that we bring those powerful young forces together sometime this spring. I'm finding resonance to that idea among our staff. The idea originated with my travel companion and colleague, Lucy Lawliss, and has now bloomed into a real possibility.

Then, yesterday, another of our great bus tours of multiple park sites in the process of restoration or at least recognition -- happened -- this time for foundation representatives who might be interested in helping in the co-creation of Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park, along with the city of Richmond, the Rosie Trust, the Redevelopment Agency, and the National Park Service. It was another smashing success with the vision now radiating out into the larger community through work that I'm feeling more and more an essential part of. The shared excitement grows with each day, and the city is becoming deeply engaged in the learning and sharing of its history. That was made apparent at the EBCPA where a full house of nostalgic elders and fascinated youngsters traded stories on Thursday evening. It again surfaced yesterday when I watched potential funders drop their cynicism and really begin to see the potential for a new image for a city so long scarred by destructive times that were never faced up to or reconciled.

Photos: The top photo Dorian describes as "My Angry Painting," (about 4'x5') was done in oils over the past months since she's been on her own. I've no idea what inspired it, but the fact that she can express those feelings and recognize their genesis is great, I think. The second is described in the paragraphs above. (Double-click on it for a clearer look at the detail.)

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