“Drawn” event photos!

Last Saturday night,  Shloka and I, along with many friends and community members,  braved the freezing temperatures, and painted by numbers at the Fluxx Gallery “Drawn” event.  Together we completed the last of the four panels from the “Painting by Numbers Project” and it looks amazing!

I cannot say enough for how excellent the event turned out, many local organizations were tabling, artwork was being auctioned, and performances were given to raise funds for the Denim Day Tucson organization. Denim Day Tucson works year round to prevent all forms of sexual violence through prevention, education, and providing resources to the general public. “Denim Day” refers to an international day of action for rape prevention that takes place in April each year. This tradition began after a historic Italian court case in 1999, when a rape suspect was found ‘not guilty’ because his victim was wearing blue jeans at the time of the attack. You can read more about the court case and the international response here.

Needless to say, organizers of the “Drawn” event thought the “Painting by Numbers Project” would be an appropriate fit and kindly invited us to set up at the gallery’s entrance. We were honored to be a part of this effort and were happy to support the hard work of everyone at Denim Day Tucson and Fluxx Gallery with our participation. Once again, people were eager to paint; thank you so much to everyone who came out and lent a frozen hand!

Coming up: Derechos Humanos will be hosting a community potluck event to showcase this project! I will keep everyone posted on the details as they get firmed up. I hope to see you there.




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Painting by Numbers Project @ DRAWN event this Saturday!

The project is hitting the streets once again after a long hiatus. This saturday night, January 12, 2013 from 7pm to midnight, Fluxx Gallery is hosting an event called DRAWN: Artists Helping to End Sexual Violence. We thought this would be an excellent event to host the fourth and final panel of the Painting by Numbers series. Take this opportunity to come down to Fluxx Gallery and check out the exhibit and scheduled performances; Fluxx is located at 414 East Ninth St, Tucson, AZ.

Hope to see you there!

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Photos from the Nogales Border

Yesterday, we took the project to Nogales, AZ. The people of Nogales, Sonora were in the midst of their Independence Day celebrations  as we set up the fourth and final panel on the U.S. side of the border. There was not as much foot traffic as there has been at the other locales and most passers-by seemed to be on a schedule that did not allow for painting. Nonetheless, we did encounter several families with children that stopped to participate. It was a nice change of pace to the usual hectic coordination of hands with brushes and brushes with paint; the slower flow of participation allowed more space for the parents to ask me about the project and more time to for me to respond. Generally, people seemed most excited about their children having an opportunity to paint, one mother commented that artistic expression was “what children need”.

It felt difficult for me to engage people on the political aspects of the piece, I did not elaborate after explaining what the numbers signified and why I wanted to take on this issue. It felt like an especially sensitive issue to broach in that environment; as we crossed over to Mexico earlier that day we walked passed the Wackenhut bus that had just arrived full of recent deportees. We watched as the driver opened the luggage compartment and pulled out several clear plastic bags of passengers’ personal belongings, which seemed to contain only a few items each, all the individuals would have to begin the next legs of their respective journeys. This project is an experiment designed to see how an artistic experience engages someone with a political issue. Therefore, I have so far found that people are quite easily drawn into the project for its artistic elements which, at the same time, seem to act as a desirable escape from harsh realities. After I present people with the underlying meanings of the piece, I don’t push the issues any further, consciously wanting and allowing for the participants and viewers to pick up and carry the conversation. What I found yesterday at the border was a greater enthusiasm for taking part in a creative process rather than delving into the disturbing realities of immigration and detention; with such a devastatingly “real” backdrop as the border, I was honestly not surprised this was the case.

Thank you to all who took time to paint with us. The “Painting by Numbers” project will be on hiatus until January for its final event. At which point, the completed four panels will be put together for a public viewing, place and time to be determined.

Keep checking back as I will keep posting more surrounding the issue of women in detention in Arizona.

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“Painting by Numbers” goes to Nogales border tomorrow.

We are taking the project to the first out-of-town locale tomorrow afternoon, Saturday Sept. 15th,  when we hit the Nogales border to begin the painting of the fourth and final panel of the series. I am really excited about this location as I feel it is the most relevant backdrop yet for the mural. I am really curious about the kinds of conversations that will take place, and we will have audio recording equipment on hand to capture them with people’s consent. If you are looking for a nice way to spend your Saturday, come to Nogales to support the project. We will be located (unless we’re asked to move) near the Greyhound Station on N. Terrace Ave in Nogales, AZ between noon and 3pm.

Hope to see you there! Check back for photos and updates.

Painting by Numbers Press Release

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“Corazon de Tucson” Pachanga Photos

There was an amazing turnout at last Saturday’s pachanga! “Corazon de Tucson”, the organization that hosted the fundraiser, received a lot of community support and the “Painting by Numbers” project, which was kindly invited to be part of the event, was very well received. Before I write about the project I want to elaborate on the incredible work “Corazon de Tucson” does in our community. They have been established and organizing mainly within South Tucson for the past few years and have taken on a variety of different campaigns. Several of these have been prison divestment campaigns; they have worked very hard to shed light on the reality of the prison industrial complex, specifically targeting the financial institutions that back it (such as Wells Fargo and other big banks). In addition to this work, they have also raised considerable funds over the years to help out specific families with the financial burdens caused by the detention or deportation of their loved ones. Last Saturday’s pachanga event was a fundraiser to support the continuing and future efforts of this organization.

“Painting by Numbers” was honored to be a part of such a relevant and inspiring event. When one of the “Corazon de Tucson” members began describing the project to the crowd over the PA system, she burst into tears. She seemed to be deeply affected by the detention of women, it was humbling to see how personally she understood and felt the horror of this practice. I did not get a chance to meet this woman or speak to her as I was already in the midst of the painting process that evening, but I do plan on tracking her down to thank her for the powerful introduction.

Once again, many kids were eager to be involved in the painting process and the panel was finished very quickly. There was a wide range of ages who worked on this piece and it took on a very expressive look; a beautiful, collaborative effort. I want to thank everyone who participated and “Corazon de Tucson” for having it be a part of their event.

This Saturday we head to the Nogales border crossing, please spread the word and check the site for more details soon.

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Tanque Verde Swap Meet Photos

Thank you to everyone who “painted by numbers” with us at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet last night!

It was an overwhelming success, the panel got completed in just under an hour and a half! It was especially exciting to see so many kids get involved, in fact it was primarily kids who participated. Kids would walk by the panels and once they realized they could paint they usually got their siblings and parents to join as well. One very young child, not even 2 years old, even left her mark with the help of an older sister.

One of the first comments I received last night was “I think the painting is creative and it releases stress”.

Others were: “It was cool painting, I enjoyed painting, it feels so calm and peaceful.”

“Really creative painting helps bring everyone together, very inspiring/creative.”

“We enjoyed the time we spent together today painting. Thanks for this time we spent together.”

“The only way to truly experience the wonderful feeling of painting is to have the opportunity–Thank you for that!! Love this project!”

I am so happy that so many people got to be  involved and enjoyed the process. I look forward to seeing more people get involved tonight at the “Corazon de Tucson” Pachanga and next week at the Nogales border crossing and again at the Tanque verde Swap Meet!

The Pachanga goes from 5pm to 8pm and will take place at downtown’s Armory Park.

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Check out the project tonight and tomorrow!

“Painting by Numbers” will be at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet tonight, Friday Sept. 7,  from 7pm to 10pm.

If you can’t come out and get involved tonight, the project will also be set up at the annual Corazon de Tucson ¡Pachanga! event @ Armory Park tomorrow, Saturday Sept. 8, from 5pm to 8pm.

Corazon de Tucson is an amazing community organization that has been focused lately on private prison divestment campaigns. Come out and support their incredible work and enjoy yourselves at this awesome event. There will be Vox Urbana playing live cumbia music, in addition to circus performances, and the chance to win orginal artwork by Cristina Cardenas and Martin Quintanilla.

Hope to see you soon!


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Raices Taller Gallery Re-cap

The “Painting by Numbers” debut at Raices Taller 222 gallery this weekend was a huge success! Throughout the evening, from 6pm to 10pm, participants were literally shoulder-to-shoulder, cramming together all night long to make their marks on the piece.

Truthfully, I didn’t know what exactly to expect, going into this project I wondered whether people would need some prodding to participate, but that wasn’t the case at all. On the contrary, Shloka and I found that our roles as facilitators consisted mostly of replenishing paint water and clean brushes, taking photos, and staying out of the way so the public could get their hands dirty (we supplied hand wipes!). It was immensely interesting and fulfilling to see everyone get involved and through the forced proximity to one another, engage each other in conversation.

Because this was our kick-off, an experiment within a larger experiment, we took note of how people were responding and interacting with the project more than we tried to control the process in any way. I would strike up conversations with people that inquired about the project and handed out additional information upon request. Specifically, I was trying to observe how the process of painting itself might inspire people, either to “go home and paint” as several people said they wanted to do after participating, or learn more about the issue of ICE detention and women. A lot of people responded by saying that they hadn’t done anything artistic in a long time and they really appreciated the experience. Others asked about the additional locations we were taking the project to, it seemed like there was a lot of interest in following up with the project as it progressed. There were even a few participants at the beginning of the evening that returned at the end of the night to see how much got completed, and it was almost finished!

For the most part, the crowd seemed overwhelmingly sympathetic to the political aspects of the piece; this was as I expected knowing that Raices Taller is a haven for liberal and radical artists and activists. However, there was an interesting moment in the evening when I had a conversation with someone who at first assumed that the project was in favor of ICE and their detention practices. They were surprised to learn that, to the contrary, the mural seeks to address concerns about ICE’s practices surrounding their detainment of women. I felt that, from my standpoint, the interaction was positive; the person did not try to defend their original assumptions or argue with my points. I am not sure exactly how the piece and our interaction sat with them in the end.

Perhaps the most profound and interesting observation of the night was made by one of the participants. They found it interesting and symbolic that the practice of “painting by numbers” involves, literally, “the recognition of borders and a necessity to work within them”. I have been thinking about this intriguing parallel ever since; it was wonderful to see how the project also provoked people to consider deeper meanings and implications.

I am even more excited than before to continue the “Painting by Numbers” mural tour throughout Tucson and at the Nogales border crossing. I now have an even better idea of how I want to document this process in order to learn the most I can from it. I feel inspired to evolve this approach to interactive art through the years, there seems to be an awesome potential.

I want to thank everyone who came out to participate, those of you who knew about it ahead of time and those who just stumbled upon it. Everyone who helped me along the way and took on aspects of the fabrication from start to finish, thank you, I could not have done it alone.

I also want to express my gratitude to Raices Taller 222 Gallery for being a gracious host and to Tucson Pima Arts Council for the P.L.A.C.E. Initiative grant funding that made this possible.

Be on the look out for more announcements. This week the project will be popping up at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet (Friday night) and the Corazon de Tucson annual ¡Pachanga! event at Armory Park (this Saturday, 5p-8p).

See you there!

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The Numbers.

Freshly Stenciled Numbers

2001—Women have been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the basis of immigration status since 2001.

10—Women made up 10% of the total ICE detainee population in the US in 2008.

300—Roughly 300 women are currently being held as ICE detainees in the state of Arizona.

3—There are currently 3 detention centers in the state of Arizona that house women immigration detainees: Eloy Detention Center, Central Arizona Detention Center, and Pinal County Jail.

122—It costs an average of $122 per day to detain one person.

84—An estimated 84% of immigration detainees are not represented by an attorney.

1—Jobs in the detention centers pay $1 per day.

40—Less than 40% of sexual assaults are reported in the US; this figure is believed to be considerably lower amongst detainee populations.

1/6—1 in 6 women will be a victim of completed or attempted sexual assault, this likelihood is considered to be even greater for women in the detention system.

4-5—Sexual violence is 4-5 times more likely to occur in state or privately run correctional facilities than federally run facilities. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) privately runs two of the three facilities that currently house women detainees in Arizona, the third is a state run facility.

20—Women who are undocumented or have temporary legal status will report incidences of domestic assault to authorities only 20% of the time, this number is lower than among US citizens (50%) because of the threats of detention and deportation.

90—The overwhelming majority (90%) of people convicted of immigration offenses in federal prison are convicted of either illegal entry or reentry. Women who are given prison sentences for illegal entry or reentry must first serve time in a prison facility. After completing these sentences, individuals are placed in ICE detention where they remain for an indeterminate length of time awaiting deportation.

81—81% of immigration defendants are sentenced to time in prison.

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Project Debuts at Raices Taller Gallery this Saturday @ 6pm

Paint by Numbers Flyer- RaicesAfter months of research and preparation, the “Painting by Numbers” project is making its debut this weekend at the Raices Taller 222 Gallery opening! Join us for the opening of the exhibit entitled “Raices and Friends” this Saturday, September 1st from 6pm to 10pm. The “Painting by Numbers” project will be located on the back patio of the gallery; please stop by to participate in the project as well check out the other incredible artwork that will be on display. Raices Taller 222 is a collectively run gallery and workshop space that does incredible work in the Tucson community, exquisitely blending politics and social justice with the arts. If you haven’t been there before you need to check it out, the gallery is located at 218 E. 6th St near downtown Tucson.

In addition to this event, the project is also scheduled at another location next Saturday, September 8. That will be Corazon de Tucson’s annual community pachanga; this is a very fun, family-friendly event that an amazing local organization puts on. I will be posting more on that event and the organization as well as all the other upcoming venues for the project. Stay tuned.

Hope to see you this Saturday!


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