e premte, 8 qershor 2007

June 8

9:07 am Good God, it’s hot here. Cold shower and you’re sweating by the time you dry off. Let’s see...we got into the building we’ll use for our studio. It has air! We worked yesterday afternoon on our project. We started by listing all the possible purposes for what we’ll do. We narrowed down from there, and kind of came up with “Doing graphic design for the greater good to inspire change.” Then we defined who our audience was, who we’re seeking to inspire. We threw out a bunch of ideas and narrowed it down to “influencers” (like Oprah). I think of influencers in the Blink fashion. So some are kids, some are housewives...anybody who is a connector. We’re still working on what our project will be.
We’ve come up with a bunch of different ideas for the project, but a lot of them are really patronizing in my opinion. There’s a feeling among some of us that something is wrong here in Hale County. That they need something, they just don’t know what, and we’re the very ones to give it to them. But nothing is wrong. People are here because they want to be. Or because this is where their people are and have been for generations. I think we need to leave all of that alone.
We met John last night. He’s a young psychiatrist who was living in Southern California one day and decided he could work wherever he wanted. He travelled around the Southeast, wanted to land somewhere rural. He met people and asked people and eventually he landed here in Hale County. He bought a farm a year ago, with a wonderful old farmhouse. The Rural Studio students are designing buildings for his property where some of the most needy patients will live. Housing will also be designed and built for medical students who will commit to work and live on the property for a year during med school. He said med school does a great job teaching the technical components of medicine, but a really poor job of teaching the human side. So this is his solution. Pretty incredible.
He had a hard time getting the land. People are skeptical of outsiders who come in and want to plant themselves. It’s insular here and that’s sweet. It takes years for the locals to really trust a person like him, or Pam.

2 komente:

cchs tha...

Interesting post, Wendy. I've never been to Alabama (let alone Hale County) so I'm speaking with a degree of specific ignorance.

I think your point regarding a kind of missionary mentality is a good one to keep in mind. Coming from a position of relative privilege our first impulse is often to try to elevate those less fortunate than ourselves. Typically we think in terms of what can we bring, what can we give, what mark can we leave behind. But anyone who's travelled, worked in a soup kitchen or taught knows that the real transaction is the other way around. It's what we take away from those experiences that often has the most profound impact. Maybe that's one context in which to view your project?

What does Hale County have to offer? What can you bring forward from your experience? What stories will you now tell, and to whom, and to what end? What are the boundaries of community, and what is important/relevant/productive/wrong/necessary about permeating them?

Wendy Marguerite tha...

Thanks for your insight, Christopher. We've had great discussion here surrounding those issues. The idea of dropping down to lift "them" up is a misguided starting off point altogether. We've called out the use of "them", too. Residents are here because they choose to be. It isn't sad or less than. It's theirs. We are here to witness that. Hopefully, we'll go forward from there.