Talking About Orchard Street

photo by Julian Voloj

Maya and Gonzalo Escobar create Talking about Orchard Street, a multi-sensory interactive installation that explores the generational transmission of Jewish life through dialog.  The father-daughter duo traveled from Chicago to New Haven to conduct interviews with former members and friends of Orchard Street Shul and to record locals’ stories of growing up in New Haven during the 1920s and 30s. These stories of everyday life include tales of flirting on the front steps of the shul, eating herring and kichel, speaking Jewish, finding first jobs, going on first dates, learning bar mitzvah portions, and hearing (or having) loud conversations in the women’s section.  In Talking about Orchard Street, visitors are invited to sit in comfortable armchairs, sample herring and kichel, listen to excerpts from interviews and engage in dialog with each other.

click here for more information about the Orchard Street Shul Artist Cultural Heritage Project

Orchard Street Artist Cultural Heritage Project

During the months of December 2009 and January 2010, The John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art in New Haven, Connecticut will come alive with memories, recollections, and recreations of an important community heritage site,  in an innovative group installation designed to both stimulate reflection on the legacies of past generations and engage the public in dreams for the future.

The Orchard Street Shul Cultural Heritage Artists Project is an art exhibition, a history lesson,  a point of cultural exchange, and meeting place for dreamers, both nostalgic and visionary.  Artists, researchers, and scholars have joined together to celebrate an important historic New Haven landmark which was once central to the life of a large Jewish immigrant population in the Oak Street neighborhood.

Urban changes in the last 50 years have all but erased evidence illustrating the importance of the Oak Street neighborhood in the lives of the newly arrived immigrants and migrants who populated much of the area now known as the “Oak Street Connector”, Route 34.  Where some see open space, or a new hospital, or a school, or a parking lot, others with longer memories see shops bustling with activity, voices shouting in Yiddish and Italian, sprinkled with a variety of accents from elsewhere, including near and distant regions within the USA.

Contributions to the installation offer a range of approaches.  Some artists researched the history of the Orchard Street Shul and its neighborhood, uncovering multiple stories of this community: stories of women working together to aid refugees, stories of hard-working fathers and mothers who dedicated themselves to making a better life for their children, and stories of teenagers who giggled and mingled on the steps of the Shul.   Others built on their own experiences, reaching into their hearts to create depictions of the Shul that are evocative of deeper connections with history and community.  Still others focused on the issues of urban renewal, making real the shifts in our urban landscape that are difficult to imagine as we visit the site today.

Included in the Project are presentations by researchers from Yale University who developed innovative ways to document the building, including  virtual reconstructions exploring new digital methods, ground-breaking research by computer scientists that promises to change the ways that cultural heritage sites will be documented in the future.  Some contributing artists used this digital data in their creative work.

The Orchard Street Shul Cultural Heritage Project is organized by Cynthia Beth Rubin, a New Haven based artist, in collaboration with participating artists and researchers: Nancy Austin, Meg Bloom, DonnaMaria BrutonJeanne Criscola, Roslyn Z. Croog, Linda Drazen, Paul Duda, Gonzalo EscobarMaya Escobar, Alan Falk, Greg Garvey, Shalom Gorewitz, Jaime Kriksciun, Leslie J. Klein, Beth Krensky, Seth Lamberton, Mary Lesser, Lisa Link, David Ottenstein, Bruce Oren, Robert Rattner, Cynthia Beth Rubin, Holly Rushmeier, Janet Shafner, Frank Shifreen, Suzan Shutan, Sharon Siskin, Christina Spiesel, Yona Verwer, Julian Voloj, Laurie Wohl, Chen Xu, and Howard el-Yasin.  The group includes artists from California, Florida, Utah, Missouri, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York, who traveled to New Haven to contribute to the project alongside artists from the region.

A Project Book is being published in conjunction with the exhibition, including essays by Haisia Diner, the eminent scholar of Jewish immigration history,  Walter Cahn, renowned historian of art and and architecture, and Hana Iverson, known for her remarkable multi-media installation “View from the Balcony”  that was instrumental in helping attract attention to the renovation project of the Eldridge Street Shul.  The book will also feature photographs of the works in the exhibition and memories of the Orchard Street Shul, with commentary by Karen Schiff.  The innovative book design is by Criscola Design.

The Public is Invited to the Opening Reception for the Participating Artists,  on Sunday, December 6, from 12:00 Noon to 5:00 pm.    To set the mood for the launch of “The Orchard Street Shul Artists Cultural Heritage Project”, the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale for Jewish Life at Yale will host a Jazz jam session on December 5 at 7:30, celebrating the swing dance music of 1924 and beyond, when the cornerstone of this Synagogue was put in place in a ceremony attended by Mayor Fitzgerald and much of the entire New Haven community.

The John Slade Ely House Center for Contemporary Art is open W-F, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, and weekends 2:00 pm  to 5:00 pm.  Schools and other organizations who would like to arrange a group visit outside of regular hours may do so by sending an email to: [email protected]

Nuevos Compañeros: Rio Yañez

My newest partner in crime is the talented, witty, godzilla and pikapika lovin’ Chicano artist and curator Rio Yañez. I first came across his Ghetto Frida two years ago, while working on the project Obsessed With Frida Kahlo. Immediately I felt some sort of cosmic connection-not to Ghetto Frida- but to her creator. And then to make matters worse better, I found out that he is the son of one my biggest heroes- Yolanda Lopez!

There was really no option other than collaboration.  It was fate.

Last month we finally initiated our long distance partnership through a tweet.  Since then we have been communicating through TwitPic, Facebook, YouTube, phone calls and texts,  and of course mutual shouts in interviews on the blogosphere (mine to RioRio’s  to me.)

Here are a few examples of Rio’s recent work:

Amber Rose by El Rio.

“I’ve been twittering for about a week now at http://twitter.com/rioyanez. I signed up as a way to contact Amber Rose after she started writing and posting about the portrait I created of her. I have to say, the most exciting aspect of twitter is the way people distribute images. The short urls for twitpics that often pop up on tweets evoke a sense of curiosity in me; more so than the many thumbnails that can be found on facebook. I think the lack of a thumbnail is more alluring and it forces you to chose to see the image or not, there’s no middle ground of a provided preview.” (from his blog)

“Artist Curator Rachel-Anne Palacios flanked by Zitlalix and I. I created this portrait to thank Rachel for including me in the recent Frida exhibit she curated and to join the many artists who are on display on the walls of her apartment” (from flickr)

These images represent my first foray into my Raza Zombies series. They were inspired by the single best mainstream comic book of the 21st century: Marvel Zombies. Marvel Zombies re-imagines classic superheroes as flesh eating zombies. After reading it I felt compelled to do some zombie transformations on a few of my own personal heroes. More to come. (from flickr)

Video of Gomez Peña setting the record straight for Rio regarding his Facebook presence.

Rio’s Ghetto Frida Mural in the Mission District

stay tuned for more…

Interview on Blogadera

I was interviewed on the Latino Blog Directory site Blogadera

click here for full interview:

Here we are with Maya Escobar. An artist and educator whose art, personality and opinions come to life by way of her blog and social media extensions.  We are thrilled to have her on to talk about her background, blogging and sharing her blogging experience with the rest of the blogadera.

When did you start blogging? What prompted you to pick it up.

I started blogging in 2005, at the time I was completing my degree in art education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  I was interested in connecting with other artists, activists, students and educators to share ideas and resources.

What do you blog about? Why?

I blog about issues that relate to the artworks I am producing (basically concepts I am thinking about). Topics include: the construction of identity, hybridity, sexuality, education, placelessness, immigration, activism, religion, and mental health.

Can you give us a little bit of background on Maya Escobar?

Well… it just so happens that I just posted a new “about me” to my website:

I am a performance artist, Internet curator, and editor. I use the web as a platform for engaging in critical community dialogues that concern processes by which identities are socially and culturally constructed. I perform multiple identities and sample widely from online representations and existing cultural discourses. My identifications as a Latina-Jewish artist, dyslexic blogger, activist and educator are indexed by the blogs I keep, the visual and textual links I post, the books, articles, and blog posts I cite, the public comments I leave, and the groups I join.

By examining and re-imagining my personal experiences, I attempt to provide others with a framework for questioning societal limitations based on gendered and racialized cultural generalizations.

(if you found that about me too dull there is a post on my blog where I describe myself as an elephant)

Does your blog reflect your culture? Is this intentional or just a natural byproduct?

I hope that my blog reflects a culture of critical inquiry, communal dialogue, and collaboration. (this would be intentional)

What is the state of the Latino Blogosphere? Do you see it growing? Any Examples?

I see more and more Latina and Latino bloggers every day.  But what I find most exciting is when those bloggers are young people and they are blogging with a positive message.  A wonderful example that I have found is MyLatinitas.com the social networking platform hosted by Latinitas Magazine. Here young Latinas are actively sharing their thoughts on politics, culture, education, and family.

You work alot with videos…do you consider yourself a vlogger? If so, can you define that for us!

hmm… I am not really sure if I consider myself to be a vlogger.  When I think of a vlogger, I think of a person who makes videos that contain similar content to content that would be included in a blog post (such as current events, politics, or personal observations.) Maybe, I am a part time vlogger

Any advice for Latinos who want to start blogging?

I think it is important to get a sense of why it is that you want to blog, what will your blog say about you, and how you envision your blog interacting with your personal and professional life.

Write about issues that you are passionate about, in a way that other people can relate to.  Use the Internet for all it can do- link between your own posts and link to posts written by others.  Read other people’s blogs and comment!  If you want people to be interested in the things you are writing about know what they are writing about!

And most importantly when you can, blog in Spanish!

What blogs do you follow or subscribe to? Favorites?

I just started reading VivirLatino which led me to the awesome blog of La Mamita Mala. I have been following Latina Lista for sometime, Rio Yañez and his buddy Maya ChinchillaSergio AntonioJorge Linares…… the list just keeps on growing…

What are you favorite social media sites and how do you use these tools in your day-to-day?

At this point twitter, youtube, flickr and wordpress are the sites that I most commonly use. My activity on all of theses sites crosses over.  For example, I might write a post on my blog, that will include a youtube video and images I posted onto flickr.  Then I send a tweet that includes either a segment of my blog post, an image from the post, or some of the tag words describing the post.

Do you divide social media by purpose, friends, professional v. personal, etc.?

Not really, for the most part my personal life is my professional life.

What’s next for Maya? What do we have to look forward to from you?

I am working with my father on developing my first performance piece entirely in Spanish. We are using a recording of an interview my mother conducted with my abuelita in 1985, as source material for the monologue I will be performing recounting her experiences, but as myself- two generations removed……

I am also planning a piece with fellow artist and blogger Rio Yañez surrounding the Wise Latina phenomenon.  I don’’t want to give too many details away, but I can promise there is going to be a Top 10 list!

wise latina on Twitpic

[more]

check out other Blogadera interviews with Carrie Fergerson and Jo Ann Hernandez

ongoing intertextual exchange

The other day I posted a link on facebook to an article by Kevin Kelly on vizual literacy. Both Eric Repice and Eliyahu Enriquez responded to this post, and Eliyahu wrote a post about this exchange on his blog….

The following is a repost of Eliyahu’s post Vizual Literacy

RT/Hat Tip @mayaescobar Tools for Vizuality

Excerpt from Fb Thread Transcript:

In archiving poems in blog format, I find embedding videos with a distinct narrative to the word-piece heightens the sensory experience: simultaneous stimuli, rather than a replacement paradigm with regards to medium. The experimental nature of combining/utilizing moving images with poetry, such as those of Filipino Author, Nick Carbó, hints at what I’m trying to get at, though the idea I’m reaching for may be more a novelty for Literary marketing strategies/accessibility on the web… With an accompanying video in whatever length, the reader is more likely to stay with the poem, rather than a wham-bam!-thank you, sir means of creative dissection. Whereas, to capture the essence of canonization – the written word to a cinematic language, while maintaining their distinction – that’s something I’m currently playing with…

What Would Judas Do?

“I visited a sage, Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashuv, who lives in one of the most secluded ultra-Orthodox communities in Jerusalem. He was in poor health but still taking visitors… Speaking in Hebrew, I told him what, at the time, I felt was the truth. ‘Master, I am attracted to both men and women. What shall I do?’ He responded, ‘My dear one, my friend, you have twice the power of love. Use it carefully’ – Rabbi Steven Greenberg.”

I am attracted to

He loved me.
He loved me not.

I love bringing pleasure too

She loves mi.
She loves mi knot.

The Art of Couch-Hopping

Lark descending.
Lost Ark.

As Queer as A Clockwork Orange

Sources:


Maya Escobar’s YouTube Channel
Nick Carbó’s YouTube Channel
Eliyahu Enriquez’s YouTube Channel

Negotiating Diaspora Identities Through New Media

Negotiating Diaspora Identities Through New Media

Join PhD Anthropology Candidate Eric Repice and MFA Candidate Maya Escobar in a brown bag lunch discussion concerning transnational, transcultural, and hybrid negotiations of identity through new media.

How do these discussions vary between our fields?

IG-Repice
Eric Repice

for more information on Eric Repice visit http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~esrepice/home
for more information on Maya Escobar visit http://mayaescobar.com

Hope in the STL POST

Article from the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

‘Hope’ springs anew for Washington University grad students

University City Post-Office

November 19, 2008 — Carianne Noga, a graduate student of art at Washington University, ties tags of hope onto a sculpture outside the University City Post-Office. Noga and fellow student Maya Escobar started soliciting people’s hopes to place on the sculpture. (Christian Gooden/P-D)

By

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
11/29/2008

UNIVERSITY CITY — Georgia O’Keeffe found inspiration in the light and shapes of New Mexico. Mary Cassatt found hers in mothers and children. Maya Escobar and Carianne Noga, two graduate students at Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Art and Design, found inspiration for their latest project from the long lines on Election Day at a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop in the Loop.

There, on the sidewalk outside the shop, which was giving away scoops of ice cream to voters, the two women felt excitement and hope among voters. They said they found that same feeling across the street in the long line of voters waiting to vote at the Loop polling place.

“We wanted to continue that moment and not let it peak out,” Noga said.

Before the polls closed, they had begun to create their “I hope…” project.

They first staked out a site: outside the University City Post Office at 561 Kingsland Avenue.

They then provided people with bright red tags and paint markers for them to write down their hopes for a better future.

The tags then are affixed to a permanent lattice wood sculpture already on site outside the Post Office.

“As difficult as it can be sometimes to voice our wishes and dreams, it can be strengthening,” the artists say in explaining their mission. “We can be reminded of the rest of the world outside our own immediate concerns. In this period of great change and near infinite possibilities, it is time for us to voice our hopes.”

While the project is for all people, Escobar said it holds special meaning for young people.

“This is our moment to make a difference for our communities,” Escobar said. “We need to be aware — of our national situation, of the economy.”

Many of the hopes expressed — most recorded anonymously — so far are noble and universal: “I hope for world peace” and “My hope is that hate is no longer.”

Some of the hopes are personal. “I hope to not fear death,” wrote one.

Others have a distinctly political bent: “I hope we get out of Iraq and don’t go to war with Iran.” And some are just fun, like the person hoping for “chocolate cake for dessert …”

A University City police officer named Hope — Reginald Hope — shared with them his own hope: for safety for police officers. A fellow officer was killed while on duty near the Loop last month.

Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton gave his hope and “wishes for better health and greater prosperity for all.”

The artists also are encouraging people to submit their hopes online at togetherwehope.com.

The existing sculpture outside the post office was designed in 2005 by an undergraduate architectural design studio taught by Carl Safe in the Washington University School of Architecture. University City resident Ethel Sherman had asked Safe to help create a sculpture in memory of her husband William Sherman, a Washington University biochemist who died about five years ago.

“It’s strong like Bill and peaceful and quiet,” she said. Sherman said she’s thrilled about adding “I hope…” to it.

“This is an exciting time of change and hope,” said Sherman, a retired psychologist and teacher who worked for 10 years at the Loop’s Craft Alliance.

The artists, both 24, come from family traditions of public service and political idealism.

“I grew up under the table of political meetings,” says Escobar, remembering her childhood in Chicago. “My friends and I formed our first political organization when we were 11 — Students Against Child Oppression — on behalf of children in sweatshops in Mexico.”

Her mother is a school nurse, and her father, an educator, hosts a radio show in Chicago called “Si, Se Puede,” which means “Yes, We Can.” The program has been around since 1996.

Noga grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and in Georgia. Her father is a psychiatrist at a state hospital, and her mother is a library director.

Both artists are second-year graduate students in the two-year master’s of fine arts program.

The project will remain up through January. Later, the tags can be relocated to other sites and the online site will remain.

University City has embraced the “I hope …” project, according to city manager Julie Feier.

“It’s an inspiring project,” she said.

[email protected] | 314-725-6758