On April 16th, 2023, Memorialize the Movement (MTM) hosted the April Paint to Express (PTE) workshop in collaboration with Dr. Myrl Beam's Abolitionist Feminism class and Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center (CAFAC).
The MTM team visited Dr. Beam’s Abolition Feminism class at Macalester College back in March to engage in a classroom discussion. Since then, we have been able to strengthen our relationship with Dr. Beam’s class by inviting the class to volunteer with us at our organizing day on Sunday, April 9th, and by inviting students to help us set up and then participate in the April PTE workshop.
We began the day with a tour of our community partner’s space, Atlas Defense. Atlas Defense is a person of color-led small business in North Minneapolis which focuses on community defense training courses that strive to empower Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color to feel safe on their own terms. The students asked questions regarding how PTE workshops are held and how they help the community heal. After a great discussion, the students and MTM team loaded up the painting supplies and started to make their way to Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center.
Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center (CAFAC) is a non-profit arts organization that fills a unique niche in the Twin Cities. They focus on art forms produced using heat, spark, or flame: blacksmithing, enameling, glass, jewelry making, metal casting, neon, sculptural welding, and more. The pillars of their programming are arts education, artist support, and public art, which together provide a platform for social impact and community-driven resources (source: CAFAC website about). CAFAC offers a wide variety of courses and workshops, so be sure to check out their website to learn more!
This PTE workshop was certainly different from our past workshops for two reasons. The first reason closely relates to the mismatch between our expectations and the reality of the workshop community. The second reason is due to the atmosphere created at the workshop. Prior to this PTE workshop, most of the attendees have been Black, Brown, and people of other communities of color, however, that was not the case this time. Most of the class consisted of a white majority with only two People of Color (POC). As a Black and Brown femme-led team, we did not feel that the workshop reflected the safe space we treasure that is created by us and for us. It felt like the community feeling was missing and that this was not our space, but a space we are just using for a few hours. Usually the feeling at PTE workshops is so vibrant. The sound of brushes hitting the canvas, the air crisp with the smell of paint, the music putting everyone in a good mood, and attendees having great conversations about art, empowerment, safety, and so many other things. The ways to describe our extraordinary PTE workshops are endless and it brings us great joy to be able to host these workshops month after month. This was not a standard PTE workshop, rather it felt very different and led us to have a conversation and reflect deeply about the things we felt went right, what we felt went wrong, and refocus who our target audience is and why we began hosting these workshops in the first place. This experience brought on a moment of self-doubt, where we had to ask ourselves as a team whether or not the work that we are doing is helping the community. We had to take a step back and reflect on our mental and physical expectations for the upcoming workshops. It was heartbreaking to not see our community, our people, the people with whom our thought, morale, and understanding is mirrored in the room this time around but we look forward to getting back to the PTE workshops we know and love next month!
Despite the circumstances explained in the reflection, MTM’s team takes this workshop away as a learning experience. The day was successful but the PTE workshop missed a few crucial elements we could’ve been clearer about.
Thank you to the Macalester College students who participated in this workshop and to Chicago Fire Arts Center for always making us feel at home.
Here is a video recapping how the event unfolded: