Note of Hope: Woody Guthrie Centennial Album

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born July 14, 1912.  Woody would be 100 next year, and the Guthrie Foundation web site is coordinating a series of events celebrating Woody’s life and music.  The first of many events leading up to 2012 is the release of Note of Hope, a CD featuring Jackson Browne, Ani Di Franco, Tom Morello and a host of others.  The first single from the album has just been released:  Jackson Browne doing “Note of Hope.”  Click here to find out more about the single and the album, also titled “Note of Hope.” And you can listen to the song here as well!

Click here to go to the Guthrie Foundation web site and see more about Woody and the upcoming celebrations!  The link to the Guthrie Centennial is at the bottom of the page, or click here.

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Life in an Age of Looting: Robbing with Sixgun or Fountain Pen — Phil Rockstroh on Commondreams.com

As the poor of Britain rise in a fury of inchoate rage and stock exchanges worldwide experience manic upswings and panicked swoons, the financial elite (and their political operatives) are arrayed in a defensive posture, even as they continue their global-wide, full-spectrum offensive vis-à-vie The Shock Doctrine. Concurrently, corporate mass media types fret over the reversal of fortune and trumpet the triumphs of the self-serving agendas of Wall Street and corporate swindlers…even as they term a feller, in ill-gotten possession of a flat screen television, fleeing through the streets of North London, a mindless thug.

According to the through-the-looking-glass cosmology of mass media elitists, when a poor person commits a crime of opportunity, his actions are a threat to all we hold dear and sacred, but, when the hyper-wealthy of the entrenched looter class abscond with billions, those criminals are referred to as our financial leaders.

Work Harder You Worthless Debt Slave

Regardless of the propaganda of “free market” fantasists, the great unspeakable in regard to capitalism is its wealth, by and large, is generated for a ruthless, privileged few by the creation of bubbles, and, when those bubbles burst, the resultant economic catastrophe inflicts a vastly disproportionate amount of harm upon those — the laboring and middle classes — who generate grossly inequitable amounts of capital for the elitist of the fraudster class…by having the life force drained from them by the vampiric set-up of the gamed system.

Woody Guthrie summed up the situation in these two (unfortunately) ageless stanzas:

“Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
I’ve seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a sixgun,
And some with a fountain pen.

“And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won’t never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.”
–excerpt from Pretty Boy Floyd.

Although, at present, U.S. bank vaults contain little tangible loot for a Pretty Boy Floyd-type outlaw to boost. How would it be possible for an old school bank robber such as Floyd to make-off with a haul of funneling electrons?

Here’s the lowdown: The Wall Street fraudsters of the swindler class want to refill their coffers and line their pockets (that is, offshore accounts) with Social Security and Medicare funds. That’s the nature of the unfolding scam, folks. Oligarchic rule has always been a system defined by legalized looting that leaves a wasteland of want, deprivation, and unfocused rage in its wake.

Consequently, in the U.K. (and beyond): When poor people’s hopes dry up, cities become a tinderbox of dead dreams, and we should not be stricken with shock and consternation when these degraded places are set aflame, nor should we be surprised when the bribed, debt-beholden and commercial media propaganda-bamboozled middle class (who helped create the wasteland with their arid complicity) cry out (predictably) for police state tactics to quell the fiery insurrection.

There have been incidents in which a fire has smoldered for years in an abandoned, sealed-off mineshaft, and then the fire, traveling through the tunnels of the mine, and up the roots of dead, dried trees have caused a dying forest to bloom into flames. The rage that sparks a riot can proceed in a similar manner — and the insular, sealed-off nature of a nation’s elite and the willful ignorance of its middle class will only make the explosion of pent-up rage more powerful when it reaches the surface.

We exist in a culture that, day after day, inundates its have-nots with consumerist propaganda, and then, when the social order breaks down, its wealthy and bourgeoisie alike express outrage when the poor steal consumer goods — as opposed to going out and looting an education and a good job.

Under Disaster Capitalism, the underclass have had economic violence inflicted upon them since birth, yet the corporate state mass media doesn’t seem to notice the situation, until young men burn down the night. Then media elitists wax indignant, carrying on as if these desperate acts are devoid of cultural context.

A mindset has been instilled in these young men and boys that they are nothing sans the accoutrements of consumerism. Yet when they loot an i-Phone, as opposed to creating economy-shredding derivative scams, we’re prompted by the corporate media to become indignant.

When the slow motion, elitist-manipulated mob action known as our faux democratic/consumerist culture deprives people of their basic human rights and personal dignity — then, in turn, we should not be shocked when a mob of the underclass fails to bestow those virtues upon others.

The commercial mass media’s narrative of narrowed context (emotional, anecdotal and unreflective in nature) serves as a form of corporate state propaganda, promulgated to ensure the general population continues to rage against the symptoms rather than the disease of neoliberalism. The false framing of opposing opinions — of those who state the deprivations of neoliberalism factor into the causes of uprisings, insurrections and riots as being apologists for violence and destruction is as preposterous as claiming one is an apologist for dry rot when he points out structural damage to a house due to a leaking roof.

Because of the elements of inverted totalitarianism, inherent within the structure of corporate state capitalism, and internalized within the general population by constant, commercial media re-enforcement, one should not be surprised when a sizable portion of the general populace is inclined to support police state tactics to quell social unrest among the disadvantaged of the population.

Keep in mind: When watching the BBC or the corporate media, one is receiving a limited narrative (tacitly) approved by the global power elite, created by informal arrangements among a careerist cartel comprised of business, governmental and media personality types who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, even if, in doing so, they serve as operatives of a burgeoning police state.

Accordingly, you can’t debate fascist thinking with reason nor empathetic imagination e.g., the self-righteous (and self-serving) pronouncements of mass media representatives nor the attendant outrage of the denizens of the corporate state in their audience — their umbrage engineered by the emotionally laden images with which they have been relentlessly pummeled and plied — because their responses will be borne of (conveniently) lazy generalizations, given impetus by fear-based animus.

Through it all, veiled by disorienting media distractions and political legerdemain, we find ourselves buffeted and bound by the predicament of paradigm lost…that constitutes the onset of the unraveling of the present order.

“The kings of the world are growing old,
and they shall have no inheritors.
Their sons died while they were boys,
and their neurasthenic daughters abandoned
the sick crown to the mob.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke, excerpt from The Kings of the World”

Yet, while there is proliferate evidence that, even as people worldwide are rising up against inequity and exploitation, the economic elite have little inclination to do so much as glimpse the plight of those from whose life blood their immense riches have been wrung, nor hear the admonition of the downtrodden…that they are weary of life on their knees and are awakening to the reality that the con of freedom of choice under corporate state oligarchy is, in fact, a life shackled to the consumerism-addicted/debt-indenturement that comprises the structure of the neoliberal, global company store.

“The rotten masks that divide one man
From another, one man from himself
They crumble
For one enormous moment and we glimpse
The unity that we lost, the desolation
…Of being man, and all its glories
Sharing bread and sun and death
The forgotten astonishment of being alive”
–Octavio Paz, excerpt from “Sunstone”

Accordingly, the most profound act of selfless devotion (commonly called love) in relationship to a society gripped by a sociopathic mode of being is creative resistance. Submission is madness. Sanity entails subversion. The heart insists on it; otherwise, life is only a slog to the graveyard; mouth, full of ashes; heart, a receptacle for dust.

Phil Rockstroh

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: phil@philrockstroh.com. Visit Phil’s website or at FaceBook.

Click here to go to the common dreams site for this article

Philip Levine: Voice of the Workingman to Be Poet Laureate – New York Times

Voice of the Workingman to Be Poet Laureate

By CHARLES McGRATH
Published: August 9, 2011 in the New York Times

The Library of Congress will announce on Wednesday that Philip Levine, best known for his big-hearted, Whitmanesque poems about working-class Detroit, is to be the next poet laureate, succeeding W. S. Merwin.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

“It’s like winning the Pulitzer. If you take it too seriously, you’re an idiot. But if you look at the names of the other poets who have won it, most of them are damn good.” — Philip Levine

He was selected from a long list of nominees by James Billington, the librarian of Congress, who said on Monday, “I find him an extraordinary discovery because he introduced me to a whole new world I hadn’t connected to in poetry before.”

“He’s the laureate, if you like, of the industrial heartland,” Mr. Billington added. “It’s a very, very American voice. I don’t know that in other countries you get poetry of that quality about the ordinary workingman.” Referring to Mr. Levine’s ironic and self-effacing nature, he said: “This wasn’t really a factor in the choice, but he doesn’t seem to have that element of posing that I suppose we all suffer from to one degree or another. He has that well under control.”

The author of some 20 collections of poems and the winner of the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for his book “The Simple Truth,” Mr. Levine is 83, making him one of the oldest laureates. But speaking on the phone the other day from his home in Fresno, Calif., he sounded much younger. “I feel pretty good,” he said, adding that he was still writing and that he found great inspiration these days in the poetry of Thomas Hardy. “There’s this unbelievable humility in his work,” he said. “He kept writing right up until he died, when he was almost 90.”

“But I’m not as good as ever,” Mr. Levine went on, referring to the writing that he had done in the last year or so. In an e-mail he said he thought he had begun doing his best work in the early 1990s, but on the phone he added: “I find more energy in my earlier work. More dash, more anger. Anger was a major engine in my poetry then. It’s been replaced by irony, I guess, and by love.”

Mr. Levine grew up in Detroit, back when it was still a “vital city,” he said. His parents were emigrants from Russia, but for some reason they told him he was of Spanish ancestry ,and as a young man he became fascinated with Spanish anarchism and the Spanish Civil War, which still turn up in his poems. Mr. Levine’s father died when he was 5, leaving the family hard up, and before embracing poetry he held a succession of what he has called “stupid jobs.” He built transmissions for Cadillac, worked in the Chevrolet gear and axle factory, drove a truck for Railway Express. His early poems, often written in narrow, seven-syllable lines, were gritty, hard-nosed evocations of the lives of working people and their neighborhoods.

Over the years Mr. Levine’s subject matter hasn’t changed much — he remains a distinctly urban poet — but his line has lengthened, and his edge has softened. Many of his poems these days are narrative, anecdotal elegies for that vanished working-class world, and as in the title poem of his Pulitzer-winning volume, he finds depths of beauty in the simplest of pleasures — food, for example:

Can you taste
what I’m saying? It is onions or potatoes, a pinch
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always wrong …

Mr. Levine’s early poems were more formal than the ones he writes now, doubtless because as a young man he studied with eminent formalists like Robert Lowell, John Berryman and Yvor Winters, but also, he suggested, to compensate for the formlessness of his own life back then.

“I don’t know why it took so long,” he said. “That looseness and freedom took place when I brought order to my life. I got married, got a job — not a good job but a job.” (He taught English and writing at California State University, Fresno.) Sometime in his 40s, he added, he was struck by the tenderness in the poetry of others and thought, “Why isn’t there more tenderness in my own work?”

His late poems are full of that tenderness and also of a Hardyesque humbleness in which, while still enthralled by poetry, he hesitates to make too great claims for it. A 1999 poem by Mr. Levine is called “He Would Never Use One Word Where None Would Do” and ends:

Fact is, silence is the perfect water:
unlike rain it falls from no clouds
to wash our minds, to ease our tired eyes,
to give heart to the thin blades of grass
fighting through the concrete for even air
dirtied by our endless stream of words.

Strictly speaking, the poet laureate has few official duties during the one-year term, but lately the laureates have tended to take on projects intended to broaden the audience for poetry. Robert Pinsky started his Favorite Poem Project, encouraging Americans to share their selections at readings and in audio and video projects. Ted Kooser created a free weekly newspaper column in which he introduced a poem by a contemporary American poet.

Mr. Levine said he had thought of proposing a project in which people would be asked to name the ugliest poem they could think of. “I knew they wouldn’t go for it,” he added, referring to the Library of Congress. “But I was trying to think of something a little light and humorous, to encourage people to think of poetry not quite so seriously.”

He said he might try to get 5- or 10-minute spots for poets to read their work on the radio and hoped to help resurrect what he called “the enormous number of forgotten poets out there.”

“I know a great many poems that I love and that most people have never heard of,” he said. “Some of them are quite magnificent.”

He hadn’t particularly aspired to be poet laureate, Mr. Levine said, but he was pleased that after a long career, the honor had come his way. “How can I put it? It’s like winning the Pulitzer,” he explained. “If you take it too seriously, you’re an idiot. But if you look at the names of the other poets who have won it, most of them are damn good. Not all of them — I’m not going to name names — but most. My editor was thrilled, and my wife jumped for joy. She hasn’t done that in a while.”

What Work Is

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work
You know what work is — if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.

— From “What Work Is,” by Philip Levine (Alfred A. Knopf, 1991).

Listen to Philip Levine read “What Work Is” here.

China Automates, Robots Replace Workers

Global Exchange, in the Toronto Globe and Mail

Foxconn looks to a robotic future

Kathrin Hille

The Financial Times
Posted on Tuesday, August 2, 2011 8:36AM EDT

Kathrin Hille is an FT correspondent in Beijing

Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer by revenue, plans to have as many robots as workers in its China factories within three years, according to Terry Gou, chairman and chief executive.

Foxconn, China’s biggest employer, produced Apple’s iPad and other electronic gadgets. The group currently employs one million workers but has just 10,000 robots on its production lines.

Mr. Gou outlined the company’s ambitious automation plans at a Foxconn gathering late last week in Shenzhen, a coastal manufacturing centre in southern China. According to people who attended the function, the chief executive said the group would have up to 300,000 robots next year and one million by 2013, highlighting the drastic changes China-based manufacturers are making as competition for labour increases.

“This is part of a broad automation push among China-based manufacturers,” said Alvin Kwock, head of hardware technology research at JPMorgan. “It signals that the cost of labour is no longer lower than the cost of capital.”

Salaries for migrant workers, the mainstay of Foxconn’s China work force rose 30-40 per cent last year and are expected to increase by another 20-30 per cent annually until at least 2013, according to Dong Tao, chief regional economist at Credit Suisse.

Last year, a series of worker suicides at Foxconn’s Shenzhen factories preceded an outbreak of larger scale industrial unrest at Japanese automotive components factories across southern China. The Foxconn deaths were a tragic expression of young workers’ frustration with chronically low wages, and also the often robotic nature of their work.

Foxconn declined to confirm the figures Mr. Gou cited in his speech, but stressed it wants employees to move “higher up the value chain beyond basic manufacturing work”.

Many local governments are hoping that Foxconn will create large-scale employment in their backyards, and the group is building several large new factories in inland cities where labour costs are lower.

Analysts, however, believe the group’s automation plans were likely to be an important part of its inland expansion strategy. “Foxconn has been comparatively slow when it comes to automation,” said Mr. Kwock. “Automating an old factory is difficult because you then have to redesign the floor plan, so you want to introduce automation as part of a new plant.”

In Chengdu, where one of the group’s large new factories is located, government officials say Foxconn is expected to employ 100,000 workers by the end of the year and eventually reach a headcount of 300,000.

Susan Ohanian Is Not Entirely Pleased By The Save Our Schools Rally: Sex, Lies & SOS

” Teachers aren’t going to be stirred to save themselves unless and until they understand why these terrible things are happening to them and the children they teach. Teachers need to understand the corporate plan progressing since the Business Roundtable first outlined it in 1988.”

Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

Sex, Lies, and SOS

Publication Date: 2011-08-05

By Susan Ohanian

For all the music and praise of teachers, the SOS march had a more troubling side.
We all know that Superman isn’t going to rescue public schoolchildren. But let’s face it: Neither is Action Hero Matt Damon. At his educator mom’s request, Damon traveled from a movie set in Vancouver, British Columbia to speak out for public schools at the SOS march in Washington, D. C. on July 30. Inexplicably, most of the D. C. area teachers stayed home.

Longtime educator Gary Stager, who red-eyed from California, asked an important question : “Washington D.C. is less than a day’s drive from hundreds of thousands of teachers. Why was Matt Damon fighting for their profession while they stayed home?” A subway ride away and they couldn’t make it?

Please don’t say these hundreds of thousands of teachers were scared. What should scare them is the reality of their profession being systematically destroyed.

I’m naive enough to have been stunned by the low turnout at the SOS march, but I think I’ve figured it out. Both the NEA and the AFT made a show of donating $25,000 for necessary basics like lots of water, a medical station, and so on. But union leaders didn’t come and they didn’t bother to mobilize teachers to show up. A dozen or so people worked the crowd handing out souvenir fans (compliments of WTU/AFT Local No. 6 AFL-CIO) but there was no mobilization of DC teachers.

I didn’t see thousands of New York City teachers either. I hung out with GEM (Grassroots Education Movement) a dissident activist group within UFT. They made the film “Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman” which got a great reception Friday night before the march. I met Norm Scott, one of the GEM leaders eight years ago when we were in a group traveling to Birmingham, AL to pay tribute to the World of Opportunity (The WOO). I mention this because I also met my SOS roommate Juanita Doyon, the WA state mother who is national Button Queen, at the WOO in Birmingham. And John Lawhead, who rode his bike from New York City to the DC march. And Nancy Creech from Michigan who has had two salary cuts of $9,000 each in the last two years was also at the WOO. She told me, “Now they are after our pensions.” With the price of gold up, Nancy sold jewelry to finance her trip to D. C.

I mention this WOO connection just to show the commitment of teachers and parents who showed up at SOS. It was very good to mingle with them and with new friends–a teacher who came alone from Norman, Oklahoma, a Colorado mom whose children were kicked out of charter school when she insisted on opting out of the state test (people on a very small discussion each donated $50 to get her there), two teachers from North Carolina, a Florida activist who is neither a teacher nor the parent of a school age child–but someone who knows that public schools are vital to democracy. And many many more. I now kick myself for not writing down names.

And here’s a shout out to those young GEM teachers who recognized how hot this old lady got during the march itself. Where they got it I don’t know, but they kept bringing me bags of chipped ice.

The march itself was short. Before that, I walked around for 4 hours at SOS, talking with earnest, hopeful, angry teachers and parents from across the country–people thinking they were going to an event that would be start of a resistance movement. They didn’t realize the unions had sold them out from the get-go. They didn’t realize the featured speakers had a limited agenda, speaking passionately but not moving beyond equitable funding, an end to high stakes testing, a richer curriculum.

Seems like we’ve heard this a few hundred times before.

Those speeches from the podium didn’t clarify things, didn’t even mention the deliberate and systematic plan in progress to destroy social and educational contracts made over the past decades. Teachers aren’t going to be stirred to save themselves unless and until they understand why these terrible things are happening to them and the children they teach. Teachers need to understand the corporate plan progressing since the Business Roundtable first outlined it in 1988.

Why didn’t anybody at the podium call out Barack Obama, whom Black Agenda Report editor Glen Ford describes as the corporate Democratic Trojan Horse? Not only is Obama setting in motion “a rolling implosion of Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s Great Society,” he’s data bombing the principles of John Dewey, Paulo Freire, John Holt. . . and every thoughtful practitioner in the country today.

If you think that’s harsh, take a look at this:

U.S. President Barack Obama is singularly the most dangerous, anti-democratic president in the history of this nation. He has used his pigmentation as as a shield for corporate fascism and the emaciation of everyday, ordinary Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow people in this nation and around the world.
–Larry Pinkney, BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board, Obama’s Bait and Switch Game: Otherwise Known As B. S. Aug. 4, 2011

Maybe this is way over-the-top, but why did Obama get a pass at SOS? Ask the NEA. Ask the AFT. Ask the SOS speakers.

Maybe it’s to be expected at an event underwritten by a union that has already endorsed Barack Obama for a second term that the only visible criticism of Obama at SOS was provided by someone in the crowd from LaRouche who showed up with a poster depicting the President with a Hitler mustache.

D. C. union (WTU) president Nathan Saunders welcomed the crowd to the SOS march. Last December, soon after his election, he told the Washington Post: “I’ve got more skills to solve problems than practically any president that’s ever run WTU. I also have formalized training in problem resolution. My masters is in negotiation and management….Part of the Harvard Trade Union Program is conflict management. And so I think I have some unique skills to solve problems.” He added that he absolutely does not believe in confrontation.” He added that ” confrontation is not the first order business.”

How many teachers’ careers have to be destroyed before confrontation does become the first order of business– in DC– and across the country?

Confrontation will be difficult. Teachers are by their nature people pleasers. We don’t like to say “No.” We like to cooperate. But to save the profession, teachers will have to be willing to ramp up the rhetoric a thousandfold from what they heard at the SOS. Ramp up the rhetoric and the collective action, too. Teachers must be willing to strike; they must refuse to give the tests. I’m not talking individual heroic acts here. I’m talking mass action, hundreds of thousands of teachers standing up and shouting that they’re mad as hell and not going to take it any more.


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For Matt Damon’s comments at SOS click here.

“Redefined”: Laid Off Art Teachers Turn To Their Craft To Express Themselves

[Displaced teachers is simply a kinder, gentler way of saying fired.  Some are even scarred by an acronymic category: they are on the “DNH” list.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that Do  Not Hire is the latest form of blacklist.  This is what many teachers were protesting at the last Chicago Board of Ed. meeting.  Of course the standard explanation for the education cutbacks is the city’s financial crisis.  Certainly some of the losses are due to the privatization which proceeds apace in the Chicago Public Schools, turning over public real estate to private corporations to run, while “laying off” most if not all the personnel and prohibiting unionization.  At the same time technological changes in society at large demands many fewer workers educated to the level of employment that the robotic industries and offices are now doing  (some must be trained to do a higher level of work). And technological changes in the schools themselves automate the job of teaching those consigned to the lower tier of education.  If this makes the job of the teacher under capitalism redundant, it poses a challenge for those who want to “redefine”  what teaching and learning is for in a new society.  Thanks to Lourdes Guerrero for sending this NYT article to us.  —- Lew Rosenbaum]

CHICAGO NEWS COOPERATIVE
Laid-Off Art Teachers Turn to Their Craft to Express Themselves

Paul Beaty/Chicago News Cooperative
Lourdes S. Guerrero and her work “My God Protects My Child.”

By JESSICA REAVES

Published: July 10, 2011

Katrina Barge, an artist who was among the 1,000 public schoolteachers laid off last summer, sat up a bit straighter as she described a recent painting. “It’s called ‘Though I’m Broken and Bruised, There’s Hope in This Pain,’ ” she said.Ms. Barge, 28, and other former Chicago art teachers have returned to creating art as a way of coping with the derailment of their teaching careers. On July 3, Ms. Barge joined six other former art teachers at the Flat Iron Building in Wicker Park for the opening of their show, “Art Teachers: Redefined.”Equal parts celebration and protest, the Flat Iron exhibit runs through July 30 and is a sampling of a larger show, which runs through July 31 at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, 77 West Washington Street. “Redefined” is the brainchild of Cezar Simeon, 47, a former first-grade teacher at Lloyd Elementary School who was laid off last summer. Mr. Simeon does not teach art, “but I was really ticked off when I heard about all these art teachers losing their jobs,” he said. “Art isn’t something you can test for, but it teaches kids problem-solving skills.”When the show opened downtown, Mr. Simeon was contacted by Charlie Rees, the founder of the Flat Iron Artists’ Association, which hosts the building’s First Friday open house each month. “I thought this was a great venue for them to show their art and tell their stories,” Mr. Rees said.Those stories are told through vivid paintings, tapestries and installations, including a work by Gina Baruch titled “Screwed,” in which a large metal screw has been strategically positioned on the seat of a wooden chair. The artists’ biographies that hang alongside their works read like a cross between job applications and statements of defiance. “She is highly motivated and passionate,” one begins, “and she refuses to go away without a fight.”

Lourdes S. Guerrero, 55, taught art for eight years at Von Steuben High School before losing her job. She became a teacher relatively late in life, after more than 30 years as a professional artist. “I was surprised by how much I loved it,” said Ms. Guerrero, who returned to school for her master’s degree in education. “Weavings,” a Guerrero work on display at the Flat Iron Building, is a multimedia self-portrait depicting a half-skeleton, half-human figure. She said the exploration of her Mexican heritage, and her disconnection from that part of her history, is a radical departure from her typical work with fiber. “I was really inspired by my students,” Ms. Guerrero said. “I couldn’t ask the kids to push themselves without doing the same for myself.”Ms. Guerrero and Ms. Barge have sent dozens of applications to schools outside the Chicago system. Ms. Barge spent the past year working as an aide at Agassiz Elementary in the city.”I’m a board-certified art teacher with a master’s degree,” she said, “and I’ve been working at a job that only requires an associate’s degree.”Ms. Barge smiled, but her voice betrayed frustration. “It’s not about the money,” she said. “It’s about the teaching.”

jreaves@chicagonewscoop.org

Mile of Murals 2011: COMIGO Collaborative (Juan-Carlos Perez, Chiara Padgett and Diana Berek)

[The 2011 Mile of Murals Project was awarded to the COMIGO Collaborative.  The 252 foot long 7 foot high wall extends from Morse Ave. on the South to Lunt Ave. on the North, at the “el” embankment on the East side of Glenwood Ave.  Power washing and cleaning  begins next week, priming is scheduled to begin August 16. Painting is scheduled to begin after the Glenwood Ave. Arts festival, which will be held August 20 & 21 this year.  COMIGO is an acronym drawn from the birthplaces of the artists.  The first photos that follow this duplicate the plans submitted by the artists;  the next group are photos of the completed mural, taken October 24, 2012– Lew Rosenbaum]

Mile of Murals Project 2011: Patriotism In Everyday Life

The Artists’ Statement

by COMIGO Collaborative: Juan-Carlos Perez, Chiara Padgett and Diana Berek

We began by asking ourselves, “What is unique about the American people?  Who are we anyway?” America is a country of wave upon wave of migrants: ancient people crossing a temporary land bridge across the Bering Straits, migratory mound builders, Europeans explorers, conquerors, entrepreneurs, cultural, political and religious dissidents, exiles, asylum seekers and displaced persons. America is a land of immense diversity declaring its political independence by waging a Revolutionary War, establishing its nationhood with documents expressing revolutionary, democratic idealism, but settling and populating under the imperialist doctrine of manifest destiny, and economically developing through institutionalized slavery and exploitative industrialism.  Yet, we Americans love our country with all its contradictions and failings.

What is it that we love?  We love the land, its beauty and rich resources.  We love the ideals of equality, justice, basic human rights.  We love the concept of our freedom and inalienable rights even when we can’t agree on the particulars over who and how to exercise those rights.

The core of our understanding of “Patriotism in Everyday Life” resides in this culturally negotiated understanding of “freedom”, i.e. in the perceptions, contradictions, questions, problems and issues that for more than 200 years continue to be challenged and re-defined. It is embedded in a persistent struggle to define and achieve freedom. It is distinctly opposed to casting American values in bellicose chauvinism, or a belief in national superiority.  The American narrative is one of a deep striving toward personal success and individual freedom within a social, economic and political fabric of shared liberty and rights. The movement towards these ideals has been rocky, sometimes heroic and enlightened, sometimes ugly and violent, but the vision continues to inspire.

Another basic element of the theme is  “everyday life”. People labor to create homes and food for their families. People labor to organize communities and social values of fairness and welfare.  People labor to express ideas and to create science, art, music and tools.  “We the people” develop and define our understanding of our inalienable rights through the exercise of our labor and our creativity.  We use images that allude to our relationship to the land, to our labor, and to the social relations that create and define community.

Only in this context of “everyday life” can abstract ideals and the exercise of rights be questioned, realized and re-defined.  Without the warp and weft of daily life experiences, there is no fabric of realized liberty, there is only myth.  Furthermore, it is in the universality of everyday life that we as Americans are connected to the everyday life and struggles of all the people of the world.   In this shared experience of everyday, we begin to connect our experience, our striving for liberty,  to the global experience and the global striving for liberty.  In this inclusive understanding of linking our yearning for human rights and liberty to the global yearning for human rights and liberty, there is hope of our avoiding the historically destructive outcomes of previous national missions towards manifest destiny, conquest and domination.

About the Artists Who Will Paint the Wall

This year, the Rogers Park Business Alliance published an RFP calling for artist collaborative groups to submit mural designs in response to the theme: “Patriotism in Everyday Life”. COMIGO Collaborative was chosen.

COMIGO is Diana Berek, Chiara Padgett, and Juan-Carlos Perez, three Rogers Park artists who have had extensive experience in the visual arts as well as in mural and public arts.  They first met when they worked on last year’s Mile of Murals project.  Based on their experience of working together on that project, they decided to formally register themselves as a collaborative and respond to this year’s Mile of Murals RFP.  COMIGO spent several weeks talking about the theme and developing their conceptual approach before they began to develop their ideas into images that became the design they submitted.

“We believe that murals are a literal extension of the community, as opposed to an art object that is mounted on the wall and can be removed, sold and otherwise treated as a commodity. Painting the wall and encountering the wall while engaged within the daily activity of the street life in the community becomes a vital experience that exists between the creative practice of our artistic intent and the neighborhood viewer’s perception.”

The wall that will be painted this year is located on the east side of Glenwood Avenue between Morse Street & Lunt Avenue.  Preparation and power washing the wall will begin August 9.  Primer will be applied and COMIGO will begin painting during the week of August 15.

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Section 1 of mural — South end of the mural

 

Section 2 of mural

Section 3 of the mural, moving north toward Lunt

Section 4 of the mural

Section 5 of the mural

Section 6 of the mural

Section 7 of the mural

Section 8 of the mural

Section 9 of the mural

Section 10 nears the north end of the mural at Lunt

This, Section 11 of the mural, is the North end of the mural at Lunt. The mural begins with “We The People” and ends with “US”

The next group of photos were taken of the completed mural.DSCF0188 DSCF0189 DSCF0190 DSCF0192 DSCF0193 DSCF0194 DSCF0195 DSCF0196 DSCF0197 DSCF0198 DSCF0199 DSCF0200 DSCF0202 DSCF0203 DSCF0204 DSCF0205 DSCF0206 DSCF0207 DSCF0208 DSCF0209 DSCF0210 DSCF0211 DSCF0212 DSCF0213