Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building the World We Dream About: An Anti-racism Multicultural Program

Activity 1: Aesthetic Journaling on Whiteness

Activity time: 60 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Participant journals
  • Variety of writing materials
  • Index cards
  • A variety of found objects such as fabric, mechanical parts, string, rope, buttons, cotton balls, foam letters and shapes, magazines, plastic bags, construction paper, discarded CDs or records, packets of salt, comic books, feathers, or discarded maps
  • Workshop 9, Handout 2, Whiteness Defined

Preparation for Activity

  • Assemble enough found objects for each participant to choose several. Be as wild, varied, and random as possible in your choice of materials. The more varied the collection, the more imaginative participants can be.
  • Arrange the found objects on several tables to avoid congestion when participants make selections.
  • Arrange the meeting room so participants have enough table space and seating to make artwork.
  • Copy Workshop 9, Handout 2 for all participants.

Description of Activity

Introduce the activity using these or similar words:

Aesthetic journaling is a strategy that will help deepen your perspective and understanding about Whiteness, which is a complicated and layered experience. It combines the benefits of journaling-looking inward and taking notes on one's personal experience-and aesthetics, which for this purpose is the idea of using one's imagination to create an alternative insight into a problem. You may welcome the opportunity to engage in artistic expression or you may not. Even if you are one who generally resists creating artwork, I invite you to experience this opportunity to explore "Whiteness" from a new perspective and with a different lens. The purpose of the activity is not to create art for art's sake, but to engage people with different learning and communication styles. Using alternative means of expression can help us all learn about and appreciate difference and may lead to insights beyond what dialogue can provide.

Give participants two index cards and a pen/pencil. Explain the process as follows, pointing out the posted quote and the collection of found objects as you explain:

You are invited to use the found objects to create a response to the notion of Whiteness. We're going to discover how aesthetic journaling works by doing a practice creation. Choose three or four objects that appeal to you from the table(s). This is only a practice, so make your selections quickly.

Allow two minutes for selecting, and then continue with the instructions:

Using the objects you chose, make a statement about texture. In other words, arrange the items in multiple ways to show variations of texture (smooth, rough, grainy, rigid, patterns of texture, and so on). Include the index cards in whatever way you wish. Remember, this exercise is more about deeper thinking than art-making. It's about the process, not the product.

Allow ten minutes for participants to make their practice creations, and then ask three or four volunteers to share what they believe their choices say about texture. Invite them to return their objects to the table(s).

Distribute Workshop 9, Handout 2 and two additional index cards to each participant. Invite participants to reread the handout and choose ONE phrase that captures their imagination or resonates with their own growing understanding of Whiteness. Invite them to organize their thoughts by writing or drawing in their journals and then to proceed as they did with the texture exercise: use objects to create a representation of the chosen word or phrase that says something about Whiteness.

Allow 30 minutes for participants to do their aesthetic journaling. At intervals, alert participants of the time they have remaining to complete the work.

Including All Participants

Because found objects are three-dimensional, a person with a visual impairment should still be able to create a work of art. Be sure that aisles and pathways are free of clutter and enable all participants to move freely while selecting objects. If there is someone in the workshop who cannot move to the table(s), place eight to ten objects on a tray and bring it to them.