Friday, April 8, 2011

Gathering at the Well 2011: UML Center for Women and Work

April 7, 2011
One of the most inspiring days I've spent on campus.  A group of about 40 gathered at the UML Alumni Hall for a morning of intense thought about "Women as Makers:  Creativity at Home, and in the Community".

 The speakers were fantastic.  We started with a panel "Crafting Our Lives Together"

Diana Coluntino, Artistic Director of the Revolving Museum, started us out.  She showed her work as a hat maker--forms, methods, materials, styles--and talked about the work of the Revolving Museum.  In their new space, they can serve many audiences.  The Revolving Museum has done much to build community in Lowell for adults and young people.  (Here is Karen working at her crocheting--a later task in the day.)

Karen Akunowicz, Culinary Program Manager/Chef of Fresh Roots at UTEC was the second speaker.  I haven't had the chance to try out their wares--but I've heard many people talk about this program.  I didn't realize that UTEC students farm an acre at Richardson's Farm and are also involved in the Farmer's Market here in town.  Karen spoke to the ways cooking is a creative force in her life, her experiences learning the craft in Italy, and the transition from high end restaurant chef to working with youth who have encountered multiple challenges.

The third panelist was Betty Burkes, Curriculum Coordinator, of "Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools".  Betty, a founder of a Montessori School on Cape Code,  former leader and board member of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and a UN consultant on peace education--shared with us her history of learning about making peace in different local and international contexts, the most recent of which is New Orleans.  At the conclusion she led us in few verses of "This Little Light of Mine". 

To practice making, Sarah Kuhn, program organizer, led us in learning how to crochet hyperbolic planes.  I learned that I could teach crochet...and I came up with a way of describing how you hold the yarn to sustain tension.  [Sarah is on the left, trying to teach crochet via the large screen.] 

The piece de la resistence of the day was the presentation by Mary Catherine Bateson...she spoke to her earlier work "Composing a Life" and the newest work (which I purchased and had signed)..."Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom".  I was intrigued by the way she connected her metaphor of "composing" to the earlier notions of the women's movement...and now to her later work and concerns with longevity.  

The program was brought together by Sarah Kuhn, now of the Psychology Department at UML.  Throughout the program a powerpoint loop of the crocheted coral reef that has been on display at the Smithsonian played on a large screen.  Sarah took the pictures,  and they were a great backdrop to the ideas of the day.  It was a brilliant choice!  Sarah is a leader in "Thinking With Things".  She founded our campus IDEA group on this topic...she is also the founder of our Interdisciplinary Lab (another place to think with things).  In this event she was definitely leading with her strengths. 

We finished the day with a special small tour of the Interdisciplinary Lab.  Several of the invited guests got to explore the lego collections.  (Mary Catherine Bateson, Betty Burke, and Julie Bernson--Education Director of the Addison Gallery). 

What was particularly exciting for me was that I was invited to share some of my felt pieces as part of an exhibit of the creative work of women on campus.  I will post the "paper" in the next blog entry. 

Meg Bond, Director of the Center for Women and Work and her great staff--were around, behind, involved in all the pieces and getting things to go smoothly. 

I have been an Associate at the Center for Women and Work for the last two years and this event was yet another reminder of how valuable the center is to me and others on campus.  It was so great to have a day of intellectual play like this.  I am renewed.  Thanks everyone. 

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