Wendy Brown-Baez - words to light our way
In the Shelter of Words
                                                                     photos of shelter courtesy of Dan Marshall
In the Shelter of Words is a
multi-media art installation that explores identity, poverty and places to call home. 
 In the Shelter of Words developed from a writing workshop for young people who are in crisis. 
Students at Face to Face Academy Charter School and clients of SafeZone drop in center, both located in St Paul, MN., were the participants. The project is based on artistic expression in the context of economic hardship and unstable home situations. The art installation represents a portable shelter that houses a CD recording of their writings and photos that they have taken of places where they find comfort and safety. The students of Face to Face Academy built the shelter and decorated it. A tie-dyed cloth made in art class covers the frame. It was  installed in the high school on September 15th for their peers, families, and
staff to experience.  In April 1020, the art installation began placement in community venues such as a gallery, community center, church, non-profit, or school, in order to create awareness of the challenges of homelessness, poverty, abuse, neglect, loss of family and identity, cultural diversity, and the courage of young people in facing those challenges. The art installation acts as a catalyst for the wider community to generate discussions about these issues.
 The students of Face to Face
Academy are youth in crisis. 
Due to circumstances of lacking a stable home environment and living in poverty, these young people are below academic standards of their peer group, have physical and psychological problems, and experience difficulty with identity
and owning a sense of belonging within the larger community. Their day-to-day existence takes much of their energy. Besides the lack of financial stability, these young
people also face violence, inability
to take care of themselves during times of illness, and uncertainty
about their futures.
In the photo, Wendy Brown-Baez, project manager, explains to youth who raised money during Night On the Street for homeless youth about the way the art installation was created.
The art installation emphasizes cross-cultural, cross-generational, and inter-community communication as the art installation serves as a catalyst for people
in the wider community to listen to the reflections of these young people.
In the Shelter of Words was a way to engage these young people in an interactive activity for literacy development. It empowered the participants by giving them a vehicle for self-expression and offers that expression as a way to educate the community of their plight as impoverished and disenfranchised.
I taught the writing workshop using a simple technique of spontaneous timed writing. After we read a poem and discussed it briefly, we used lines or concepts
of the poem to jump start free association. I was impressed with how quickly the participants opened up about their lives, their willingness to share their
reflections about the past and their hopes for the future.
We are grateful to have
received a McKnight Foundation grant provided through COMPAS
Community Art Program. 
Below are photos taken at Face to Face Academy during our writing group by C. Mannheim, who came to give a photography presentation. 
photos of writing workshop
courtesy of  C. Mannheim
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