Public art day one: We are all statistics-Children of Harrisonburg

Just finished 8 hours of chalking hopscotch courts on the main square of downtown Harrisonburg.  I had no idea how exhausting that would be but it seems like my time estimation was spot on-I got half done today and will finish the second half tomorrow.

I'm chalking hopscotch courts for a specific reason.  Each court represents one child that the Collins Center has assisted in the past year, with the demographic information regarding the children contained inside the squares of the court.  There will be 152 total courts, pretty much exactly the amount needed to get around the entire square (by the way-the square is home to the Court house as well).

As I said, I got about half done today.  Pretty good considering I was stopping to speak to people throughout the process, explain what I was doing and why.  For me and for this kind of work, that interaction with bystanders and passersbys is as vital as the drawings themselves (which are pretty primitive/simple).  It was fun watching people engage with me and the work to varying degrees.  Some folks were really into it, for others I could see their eyes glaze over the minute I explained what the Collins Center is.  For the most part I had really positive experiences and a few of the women I interviewed over the past couple of weeks stopped by as well.  One of my favorite interactions was with a gentleman who observed that together all of the courts resemble a graveyard-depressing yes, but a poetic thought considering what they are actually representing.  Another favorite moment was watching children play on the courts when I was on the other side of the street.

The rain might wash away or diminish the courts I drew today.  I don't mind, it's part of the point, and I'll go tomorrow and finish the other half regardless.

Here's the original statement I wrote up for this portion of the project:
A huge part of my practice as an artist has revolved around sharing, retelling, and recreating people’s stories and relating those stories to the larger social issues that impact them, ranging from domestic violence to homelessness to sexual assault and more. I have found that viewing larger social and political issues through a personal lens allows audiences to be drawn in, to accept that the issues impact everyone, and to abandon the notion of the other.

Recently I have begun to toy with the kind of information and data that these issues generate. In a reversal from examining the larger social impact on an individual and their personal story, I am now interested in how demographic information expresses not only the individual but the group. We are constantly privy to data, numbers, and other demographic information surrounding those who are affected by any number of issues and I am interested in the way we process this information, or the way we fail to process it.

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