Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building the World We Dream About for Young Adults: An Anti-racist Multicultural Program

Activity 2: Aesthetic Journaling on Whiteness and White Privilege

Activity time: 50 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Participant journals
  • A variety of writing materials
  • Index cards, four per participant
  • A large 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
  • Timepiece (minutes)

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 their selections.
  • Arrange the meeting room so participants have enough table space and seating to make their artworks.
  • Write the heading "Another Responds to the Creation" on newsprint, and list these questions below the heading:
    • What do you see? (Example: a blue button, the letter "A")
    • What story does the creation tell? (Example: It tells a story about someone with a broken heart.)
    • What questions does this creation raise for you?
  • Write the heading "The Artist Speaks" on newsprint, and list these questions below the heading:
    • What story are you telling?
    • What questions or wonderings do you now have about the work you've created?
    • What did you want to create but could not accomplish?
    • What ideas came up during your creation process that you would like to explore in the future?

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 each participant two index cards and a pen or pencil. Explain the process as follows, referring to the collection of found objects as you speak:

You are invited to use these 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 those displayed. This is only a practice, so make your selections quickly.

Allow two minutes for participants to make their selections. Continue with these 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 understanding than about making art. It's about the process, not the product.

Allow five minutes for participants to make their practice creations.

Ask three or four volunteers to share what they believe their choices say about texture. Invite them to return their objects to the table.

Distribute two additional index cards to each participant. Invite participants to consider the conversations, reflections, and presentations about Whiteness they have experienced over the course of this program and to choose one word, phrase, or image 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 their chosen word, image, or phrase that says something about Whiteness.

Allow 20 minutes for participants to do their aesthetic journaling. At intervals, alert participants of the time they have remaining to complete their work.

Invite participants to turn to a person sitting near them. If there is an uneven number of people, pair one person with a facilitator. Explain the activity in these words or your own:

Pairs will focus on each creation in turn. The artist is invited to remain quiet while the other person talks about the creation, using the questions posted on newsprint. The artist may make notes about these questions or observations, but the artist is not to respond at this point-nor is the artist obligated to respond to the questions and observations at all. After three minutes, the artist is invited to break their silence and share with their partner, responding to the "artist speaks" questions posted on newsprint. The artist will have five minutes to respond, before the pair turns its attention to the other creation.

Monitor time carefully, alerting people at appropriate intervals to move to the next part of the process.

Including All Participants

Because found objects are three-dimensional, a person with visual impairment should still be able to create a work of art.

Be sure that aisles and pathways are free of clutter so all participants can move freely while selecting objects. If anyone in the workshop cannot move to the table(s), place 8 to 10 objects on a tray and bring it to them.