Ghostwriting Interview

Christine Armstrong is a force to be reckoned with. As a community organizer, cultural strategist, educator, community advocate, and graduate student, Armstrong has a gift for connecting experts across various disciplines and experiences to create equitable communities. Incorporating the arts, culture, and education might be passions of Christine Armstrong, but the intersectionality of her work amplifies her impact.

As a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion for over ten years, Christine Armstrong’s work focuses on empowerment and social equity. As the present Managing Director at Transformative Culture project, Armstrong’s efforts allow youth and adult artists to strengthen their social and economic power through art expression. Additionally, Armstrong is an active board member at Miranda’s Hearth, a 501(c)3 non-profit which seeks to remove barriers to the arts and to build community for people of all backgrounds. At Lesley University, where she is a current M.Ed. candidate of Art, Community, and Education, Armstrong amplifies her Community Planning and Youth Work degree from University of Massachusetts at Boston while integrating her relevant personal and professional experience.

This experience comes with constant reminders of institutional barriers for people of color, specifically women of color. Armstrong employs her resilient experience to illuminate and erode these unjust hurdles in higher education through the foundations of arts and culture.

In one of her latest works, “Tears, Tiers and Ivory Towers,” Christine Armstrong creates an installation reflective of personal and collective experiences of women of color in higher education. Comprised of books in white and traditional African textiles and adorned with military figurines, the viewer must navigate the systematic barriers and climb to institutional enlightenment.

Christine Armstrong’s poignant work as a student, artist, and community organizer make her an asset to the advancement of peoples, collectively. Her aspirations to become a tenured professor, when achieved, will allow Christine Armstrong to incorporate much needed perspectives, theories, and cumulative knowledge about DEI in the community arts sector while she simultaneously mentors marginalized populations and their allies through higher education.

You can see her personal website here: https://culturalequity.wordpress.com/

“seeing the doubleness of work”

According to French cultural anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, things that matter happen along binary lines.

Do you agree with Levi-Strauss? Record the binary pairings in your work. Does duality clarify direction?

As I grow older, I do not believe in binaries. I see concepts in a circular fashion. Like a circuit, concepts exist in moments around a topic or theme. Sometimes, that circuit is more like a sphere, other times it’s like vapor.

I believe words can exist in a binary, but “things that matter” are in a space with far more dimensions.

Binary pairings in my work: birth/death, break/mend, build/destroy, random/rhythm, chaos/harmony, invisible/visible, honest/closed, public/private.

Plain and simple, I do not believe duality clarifies direction. For me, understanding concepts the way I previously described allows me to best understand direction. Progression exists the same way, though some concepts are more viscous than others.

“pairing words and images”

Make three word/image pairs that draw out and bring to light core ideas in your work. One is harmonious, one is a collision, the third is a combination of a word and image.

Collaborate:

Section of a student designed, facilitated, and created mural at one of Cat Beaudoin’s former schools where she taught K-6 visual arts in Phoenix, Arizona, United States.

Breathe:

“Practicing Mindfulness in a Dying World,” Collage. 2019. 14 x 8 inches.
(This is not) “The Treachery of Images (This is not a Pipe),” Oil on Canvas. 1929. 23 3/4 x 31 15/16 x 1 inch.

“alphabetical list as inventory”

Review “key words,” “matrix map,” and your collection of writings. Create an alphabetical inventory.

action

art

artist

assumptions

capital

children

collective

communication

community

contemporary

context

culture

design

develop

discussion

ecological

education

engage

environmental

expectations

experience

explore

generations

greate

history

identity

inclusive

justice

learn

lesson

local

materials

narrative

nature

opportunity

order

personal

practice

process

program

project

public

research

self

social

space

specific

students

understanding

visual

voices

youth

Reading Responses (Week 7)

Selected Assignments

Bedwell: Measuring Joy

Deborah Bedwell articulates my exact fears concerning explaining how your work deserves funding. It’s a bit overwhelming to take concepts like personal and artistic expression and measure them. Nonetheless, Bedwell continues by sharing a “Joy Levels” assessment where program facilitators can observe behaviors of youth in the program and evaluate the frequency of such behaviors.

This article divulges the pathway to which their organization established this framework and who they needed to collaborate with in order to do so. A program planning and evaluation workshop supplemented the voices of those working with youth in the program by establishing a methodological evaluation in which to collect data.

In addition to incorporating these practices into my own community work, I will need to do further research about the “Theory-Based Logic Model Evaluation,” that The Kellogg Foundation uses to assess its programs, which Bedwell confirms is “if-then” based.

“visual hopes”

What are the greatest sources of pain and suffering in the world? Your community? In your country?

World: the climate crisis is exasperating other conflicts and problems around the world. Climate shifts and intensifying storms are projected to lead to minimization of food production, accelerating desertification, flooding, and exacerbating the spread of disease. With declines in water, food, and substantial shelter access, an increase in “environmental refugees” and climate-caused violence are plausible outcomes. In fact, we are seeing these issues arising across the world and in our own country.

Your community: when I consider “my community,” my heart truly lies in Arizona. I think of a failing education system, underfunded and undervalued by the state government. I think of the crisis at the border and a lack of empathy for refugees and asylum seekers. I think of a lack of environmental regulations leading to overuse of water, rapidly decreasing air quality, and a lack of renewable energy alternatives.

Your country: for the most part, I feel like the issues listed above are absolutely part of the U.S.’s greatest threats. The education system doesn’t work for all and is not helping our youth have the difficult conversations we need to have surrounding our nation’s history in relation to racism, enslavement, and genocide. By sweeping these conversations under the rug for over 200 years, these tensions continue to grow and divide Americans into tribes. Tribal politics are creating gridlock and continuing to foster systems of oppression and a lack of action (and recognition) of climate change being the greatest threat to humanity.

“becoming threshold without a map”

As we explore the idea of mapping, we must also turn our attention to moments that take us away from the map, when our creative process is unclear. According to Gunta Kaza, becoming threshold “is the process of finding and losing, seeing and not seeing, pulling, stretching, and reflecting.

How do you understand the state of becoming threshold?

How has your working process opened you, surprised you, refreshed you, or frightened you?

One night in Phoenix, I was hired to live paint at an open mic night for freestyle rappers in the city. I was so excited for the event, but I was anxious about set up and clean up. Upon unpacking my space, I realized I only had one paintbrush- a large angle brush I never used before.

How could an artist who strives for realism possibly create with one brush, let alone an angled bush?

This is one of my clearest recollections of “becoming threshold.” What became apparent was my need to rely on my instincts and trust my motion. I found myself riding rhythms across my canvas.

That night, I was painting for myself while in a public space. I have increasingly grown comfortable with this concept. My body, my mind, and the creation of my art all exist- nothing more, nothing less, but sheer existence.

Reading Responses (Week 6)

Sections Assigned

  • Elkin, Art Critiques: A guide, Chapter 16: What if you’re asked to talk about your work? 63-68

One of my favorite books for sports psychology is Mind Gym by Gary Mack. I read select passages of it every time before I compete, as being an athlete constitutes much of my identity as well as being an artist and educator. In one of the sections, Mack elaborates on how he teaches mindfulness and envisioning success to athletes. “Imagine the perfect game.” He instructs professional athletes to be in their body, smell the grass, feel the viscosity of the air: develop the full picture.

When I approach discussing my art, I find the an intake breath pulls me away from my immediate environment. Then, the exhale allows me to center myself. My mindset is my power.

In order to find the right words and be honest about my work, I need to mentally inhabit that space. Just like in Mind Gym, I need to reintegrate myself into the environment in which I created my work.

“Journey to Enlightenment,” Acrylic on canvas. 2019. 14 x 11 inches.

Elkin’s guide to discussing your work is loaded with helpful tips, but doesn’t capture the essence of what I require. Without the breath and vision, I easily stumble.

I do enjoy her offering, “I’d like to say a few things about this, and then I’d like to hear what people have to say.” My work is often about social constructs, collaborative expression, and the self in context. Dialogue with others is a natural transition.

Presenting the audience with an opportunity to inquire about more heady, academic conversations outside of a formal speech is also a wonderful idea. Rather than forcing academic language and art theory at any audience, acknowledging this side of your work and providing an opportunity for the viewer to control the conversation seems approachable and productive.

Reading Responses (Week 5)

Sections Assigned

  • Crossing Disciplines and Modalities: A conversation with Margaret Wertheim
    Sculpture, Jan/Feb 2014, Vol 33 No. 1. p38-44

The concept of the crocheted community reef was particularly interesting. It reminds me of those knitting groups where communities of knitters come together over the internet and create multiple or one large work while at living in geographically diverse locations. It is particularly interesting to see how this a practice such as crocheting, which is often declassified from “art” to “craft,” can then be elevated again in both craftsmanship and context. Margaret Wertheim elaborates, “anyone can be taught to crochet in about 10 minutes, but the possibilities of how you can use it as a sculptural medium are amazing and endless.”

Wertheim evaluates the success of her project due to the variety of individuals brought together by the creation of the crocheted coral reef. When society silos people by their professions, what results are isolated microcosms where individuals exist in artificial boundaries. This project allows for people with like passions and curiosities to learn, create, and advocate together.

  • Liu, Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility, Part 2: The Practices, 41-186

*Skim through these 28 Practices and identify one or two that may be helpful to you as you develop your project. Share your thoughts in your Reading Response for the week.

Make Way for Awe: David McConville’s quote about the intentions of his GeoDome seem pretty spot on for my project. “We want you to feel like the universe is being re-enchanted.” I would like for my community arts-based project to allow families to develop play, whimsy, and appreciation for the natural world through their creative process. Exploring the natural world with creativity as a goal is an entirely new lens for many. This work is additionally important because it will hopefully increase conversations about stewardship, family history in natural spaces, and sustainable practices.