Last week I was so super excited for World Diabetes Day, but now I’m not so sure if my plans are happening. After some initial difficulties making contact with the person organizing the event here in Philadelphia, I finally spoke with her last Wednesday evening. They’re having a community fair kind of event with a bunch of workshops on topics like foot care, how to manage diet when eating at restaurants, services that are available to diabetics in the city, that sort of thing. I thought it would be cool to have some kind of workshop on mental health and diabetes, the risk of depression and how that exacerbates diabetes, the role that creativity can play in managing diabetes, that stuff that I like to talk about here on occasion.
So I pitched doing a workshop to the lady, and she seemed really interested in my ideas. She said that the planning committee had wanted to do some kind of art project, like a mural or something along those lines, but since that isn’t really their area of expertise, they hadn’t been able to come up with anything. She’s a podiatrist, the event is being held at the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine, and I figure the other people doing the planning are also podiatrists or affiliated with the medical community or otherwise not creatively inclined. She made me feel like I had the answer to their problem of how to do a community art project, and as an art therapist, I’m just the person to develop and facilitate such a project.
I was only talking to her for a few minutes, but as she was explaining how they had wanted to do a mural, I got this idea that I was so excited about. I tried to explain over the phone, but she asked that I write it out and email her that night. She said she’d present it to the planning committee, and I’m fairly certain she said she was going to be meeting with them on Thursday, so she wanted something by the next day. I put something together last Wednesday night and sent it off into the internet tubes for her review.
I don’t recall exactly how we left it, but I think she was supposed to contact me since I was emailing her the plan. I didn’t hear anything by Friday afternoon, and I was starting to get kind of antsy about it. If I was going to facilitate this project, I wanted to get some printed materials ready to hand out on depression and diabetes, explaining art therapy, basic informational take-home sheets. It’s not a hard thing to put together, but I was looking for some kind of confirmation before I put the time into it and then spent the cash to get it printed. Plus, it’s an art project so there’s the matter of arranging to have the right materials and whatnot.
I emailed her Friday evening, just a note along the lines of ‘Hey, I’m just following up. Can you let me know what’s up?’ Now it’s 7AM on Tuesday, and I still haven’t heard anything. She had invited me to their final meeting this Thursday which I think also includes setting things up, but she didn’t say exactly where that is, and I didn’t get all the details because I had expected to talk with her before then. I’m starting to get a little anxious that they aren’t going to do the project. I’m going to call this afternoon, and hopefully I’ll be able to talk to her about what’s going on with this. I’m going to be extraordinarily bummed out if this doesn’t materialize because I think it will be incredibly cool, and also because I really wanted to do something meaningful on WDD, and if this falls through, I haven’t got much in the way of a contingency plan.
Here’s the proposal I wrote her, including the quick 5-minute mock-up I did on Photoshop just to give her an idea of what I envisioned. Please pardon the jargon. You can click the links to get a better idea of what a mandala is, but basically it’s an ancient cross-cultural circular symbol, and in the context of the project, everyone would make their own personal symbol, whatever that is for them, except each person’s symbol would be framed by the WWD blue circle. The email I sent:
It was great talking with you earlier. I’ve added some links on mandalas below. They’re an ancient symbol used in various contexts across cultures. They’re popular for use in an art therapy context because of their archetypal nature. As I alluded to on the phone, the appeal is the Jungian idea of a universal symbol that’s embedded in the unconscious so it’s something anyone can engage in, regardless of who they are, what their background is, etc. I know that sounds really new-age/psycho-babbley, but if you can get past that part, it’s a very powerful vehicle for having people generate imagery. Combining that concept with the WDD symbol, and allowing participants to create their own personal symbol using art materials could be a really powerful experience, both on an individual level and a community/group level if all the products are assembled in a quilt fashion. The WDD circle is the unifying element that pulls it together both visually and conceptually, while everyone has an opportunity to share what diabetes means to them on a personal level.
I’m not really sure what kind of resources are available for this or what kind of space there is to work with, both work space or exhibit space, but I envision tables with art supplies – colored pencils, markers, chalk pastels, oil pastels, maybe some small plastic rulers and protractors so participants have something to help structure their image if they choose. In terms of drawing surface, I’m imagining heavier cardstock as that would help maintain both the integrity of each piece as well as the integrity of the finished mural. It would be simplest to have the blue circles, maybe 10-12″ in diameter (ideally large enough that someone could trace their hand in the circle), pre-printed on the cardstock, but I don’t know if that’s even logistically realistic. That part might take some problem-solving or require amending the overall idea.
For a visual, I made a quick image in Photoshop to reflect what I imagine as the final product. I’ve attached that in jpg format.
Let me know what you think. If this seems too ambitious, let’s try to find a way to make it manageable, or maybe the idea will inspire some other more manageable project idea. I can definitely come next Thursday, and if there are other opportunities to meet between now and then, there’s a good chance I can make it as I’m only working part-time right now.
[I included my various phone numbers here], and I check my email several times throughout the day.
I’m really excited about this, and hope we can put something together despite the time constraints.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
My role would be to facilitate the collaborative nature of the project, interact with participants, give them positive feedback and help them let go of their inner art critic, process their creations and what the experience was like with them, and reinforce the community nature of the event in a finished product. Imagine dozens of those blue circles, each about a foot square and filled with each participant’s symbol about themselves and diabetes, all of them assembled like a quilt on a wall. Doesn’t that sound just beyond wicked cool? Worst case scenario is I can’t do it this year, but I get started early next year to get someone on board with it. I think I’m still going to cry if this falls through now though. I’ll try calling her later today, and I’ll share what comes of that.