Dr. Julie Thompson-Dobkin is proud to share a guest post from Juliette Myers, an intern with Hidden Truths Project. Ms. Myers is a Junior at Macalester College, MN. This past summer she received funding from the Live It! Fund from Macalester to develop the Mosaic Voices Project. The Project collaborating with the women’s Self-Initiative for Self-Empowerment working with the underserved immigrant and refugee high-school aged girls in Saint Paul, MN. Art has become their voice to share their personal journeys.
After arriving back to my second home in Saint Paul, Minnesota, all my feelings of anxiety and homesickness from leaving my family and friends in California soon fizzled away and were quickly replaced by fresh feelings of warmth, welcome, and exciting possibilities for the summer that lay ahead. I have returned to Minnesota for the summer, where I attend school at Macalester College, to begin a community project which I designed and planned called the Mosaic Voices Project. Through this project, I will be working with the nonprofit called the Women’s Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE), an organization which runs a program called Girls Getting Ahead in Leadership (GGAL). GGAL helps the underserved immigrant and refugee high school aged-girls in Saint Paul develop self-confidence and leadership skills through college access, English tutoring, and civic engagement. The organization works primarily with girls from Thailand, Burma, Somalia, but also includes Laotian, Indian, and Nepalese girls. During the summer, GGAL’s programs places an emphasis on artistic and creative mediums as means of self-expression and empowerment. The artistic media have included writing, acting, filmmaking, dancing, and the visual arts.
In the spring, I received Live It! funding from Macalester to create the current project I am involved with. The project allows the girls of GGAL to create a large-scale mosaic mural which will embody their individual narratives of courage and compassion for community. The elegance of a mosaic is that it is composed of many broken, dismembered pieces, yet when combined, create something new and beautiful. Through this project, I hope to achieve a dialogue with the girls exploring their questions of identity, courage, and community and I hope to allow a space for the girls to creatively express their voices through the use of a multidimensional artistic media.
The inspiration for this project came to me while working at GGAL helping the girls with their English homework. The assignment was for the girls to write themselves a letter when they were a child. I had not really connected with the girls at this point because of the language barrier — as many of them were just learning English and I did not speak their native languages — consisted primarily of Karen, Karenni, Hmong, or Somali. When I asked them about past memories from childhood, they enthusiastically began telling me about the activities they currently missed, the food they ate, or the challenges of living in a refugee camp. That is when I realized I wanted to create a project that would allow the girls to express themselves and share their unique stories in a creative and safe space.
The Mosaic Voices Project will allow the girls to work with a local community business, Mosaic on a Stick, to construct a large-scale mosaic mural to be displayed in the resource center of Breaking Free, a local nonprofit, in Saint Paul. Breaking Free serves women who have experienced sex trafficking and abuse. The project will provide the opportunity for these girls to explore the concepts of race, gender, and identity through art, while focusing on their own cultural experiences and personal journeys. With the help of Lori Greene, the owner of Mosaic on a Stick, each girl will each make their own mosaic and together install their work of art into the center of Breaking Free. The mosaic will create a quilt-like image of the girls’ individual stories, woven together to form a beautiful and cohesive mosaic mural. Along with the individual mosaics for Breaking Free, the girls will also have the chance to participate in a mural project with Lori called the Midway Murals Project. This mural will help to beautify the exteriors of immigrant-owned business in Saint Paul.
Through Mosaic Voices Project, I hope the girls will have an opportunity to build confidence, explore identity, and give back to their community through self-reflection, collaboration, and powerful artistic expression.
The project is seven weeks in length. The goal is for the project to be a self-reflective and insightful journey for the girls, as well as a rich experience in using mosaic for multidimensional expression. I am excited to see where this adventure of self-discovery, creativity, and healing will lead!
Photo Credit: Lori Greene