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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Multicultural Artists and Writers Collaborative: Making Noise In The Library

On Friday, November 15, the usually studious and tranquil Center for Library Instruction in the Healey Library bustled with conversation, food, laughter and song. The reason? A kick-off event for the newly established Multicultural Writers and Artists collaborative, featuring the presentation of four Massachusetts area artists and poets.

The purpose of the event? To spread the word and get people involved in the promotion of cross-cultural collaboration in the arts and in the bridging of diverse communities.

Saul Torres, an educator in the Boston public schools and president of the collaborative, explained, “The Multicultural Writers and Artists Collaborative is a non-profit organization that promotes the bridging of artists and writers. As they are typically doing their work separately, this would be an opportunity for them to come together to network and to develop mentoring relationships with students…It’s important to me to bring together aspiring artists and writers with people that are in the field and that are doing the work as well as focusing our attention…on community issues and projects that would bring people together to enrich the community experience and explore a variety of issues.”

The collaborative is not yet involved in any major community projects, but is planning to work with groups like the Inguilinos Boricuas En Accion (IBA), a Latino community organization at Villa Victoria in Boston’s South End.

“But,” said Torres, “that will evolve as the collaborative grows. At this point, we basically find that people are excited about doing courses and networking and coming together for a variety of things. At every one of the events we will highlight community writers and artists that either participate in both dimensions, or have interesting ideas that can help others to expand their creativity.”

Daniel Ortiz, Interim Director of the library and founder of the Friends of Healey Library (the group that sponsored the event) added, “The collaborative itself is very new. It’s only been in the works for about two months. This is sort of a kick-off event to let ourselves be known and try to bring people to the table to realize that, first of all…there are very few associations or groups that bring people together from different backgrounds, especially artists and writers, who don’t have a place to express themselves…For me Multiculturalism means that you are working with people who are different. It is a very open term that can encompass almost anything, but at the same time it also reflects the need for having a solid place for people to have some sense of community which is very hard to attain, no matter what artwork you are doing, and no matter the color of your skin or your background.”

Beyond the fact that the Friends are centered here at UMB, the collaborative felt that the campus was an appropriate place to host their event.

“In the discussions that brought us to design [the collaborative],” said Ortiz, “we realized that UMass Boston would be the perfect mirror of what we were trying to do…It’s about bringing people together to bridge opportunities, create a learning environment, create a number of different things…I thought that it would be ideal for the collaborative be part of UMB as well.”

Torres, speaking to an attentive audience, introduced the night’s presentations by saying, “Artists tend to stay in their world and writers tend to stay in their world, and its been the result of many folks wanting to develop opportunities to bridge that distance that we are here as part of this collaborative event…We hope that in the contrast, in the variety [of the presentations], you are stimulated. Those of you that like writing can be stimulated by the art; those of you that like the visual arts can be stimulated by the readings that you hear tonight.”

Stimulating was certainly the right word to describe the first performance, by Worcester poet Maria Flores. An energetic woman with an ample sense of humor, Flores sang and danced as she performed her poems, acting them out with her whole body and adding spice and spark to the passionate nature of her lively and lovely lines of verse.

Flores drew on love poems from her recently published volume “Aciete de Oliva/Olive Oil” (subtitled “A World of Bilingual Love”). As she explained, “Olive oil to me represents love, and love, as I see it, is bigger than everything.”

Flores presented her poems in English and Spanish. The way the lines flowed elegantly between languages made a clear case for the possibility of cross-cultural communication. As the poet said, “This book is for everybody.”

Next to perform was Edith Bazile. Bazile is a teacher and her work emphasized the importance of education and a commitment to social issues. Her first poem, “A Prison Dance”, chronicled the difficulties of maintaining a relationship between a man in prison and his wife. Another dealt with the shooting of a young man. Both poems were drawn from real life. Her last poem spoke of the education of children, reminding the audience that, “a school nourishes the depths of our souls.”

The third artist to present was Michael Duncan Merle. A sculptor, painter and poet, Merle offered a staggering display of his work, from sculptures called “Light Blooms” that used metal parts and light sources to cast intricate and ghostly images upon the wall to cut-out compositions made from wallpaper and fashion magazines, Merle’s work exhibited imagination and humor. His cutouts were reminiscent of the later works of Matisse, with an enhanced use of varied color and texture due to the materials used. The cutouts transformed these scraps of the everyday into gorgeous works of art.

Merle also discussed his paintings and read his poetry, as well as providing an exhaustive life story. It was an interesting experience, but a bit overwhelming.

Iris Lanyon, whose watercolors and photographs will be on display on the 5th floor gallery of the Healey Library until December 10, spoke about her experience as a painter. She described how she completely enters the world of her painting as she works: “I put myself somewhere else, that’s how I paint,” she said.

At the end of the program, William Tin spoke on the Collaborative’s Artist Exchange Program, which provides artists with opportunities for international exposure of their work. Summing up the message of the event, Tin said, “Art is a universal language. I believe art can break down any language barrier.”

The Friends of the Healey Library will host a similar event in the Center for Library Instruction in February 27.