ISSUE 37 ISSN 2164-7771 WWW.FOKUS.ORG/INSIGHT
Atiba T. Edwards
Founder & Chief Curator
Atiba is an engineer focused on making and connecting creative people, nodes, networks and moments.
Allison Maritza Lasky Curator
Allison believes that children are the best artistsâ€”they are individual universes of infinite creativity.
JoLillian "Jozi" Zwerdling Curator
Jozi finds inspiration in those who understand timelessness and travel in alternate dimensions.
Suhaly Bautista / Jordan Kifer / Allison Maritza Lasky / ChrisRWK / Daniel Shalev INSIGHT Magazine showcases and archives emerging contemporary artists from all art disciplines. FOKUS produces this magazine to provide insight into people who are creating art, traditional and non-traditional, in their own way.
Questions, comments and submission inquiries can be sent to email@example.com INSIGHT magazine is published by FOKUS, Inc. To view back issues, visit www.fokus.org/insight All rights reserved on entire contents. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. The opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the contributors and not necessarily shared by the INSIGHT staff or FOKUS, Inc.
INSIGHT magazine: GRATITUDE Table of Contents 4 6 14 30
Daniel Shalev Suhaly Bautista Jordan Kifer Allison Maritza Lasky
Primary Care Home Visit Response A Ribbon Around A Bomb FOKUS Origins here on earth
FOKUS: A Decade of Arts by Atiba T. Edwards & Alma Davila-Toro We are thankful for FOKUS, all that it has done for our lives and all the people we've been able to connect with over the past decade. All in the name of art, access and community. It started with a vision and belief that art had the power to change our world in Ann Arbor and beyond. In life, relationships contribute greatly to our creativity. We quickly realized that we had the natural ability to forecast. We not only wanted to meet the world's greatest emerging artists, but we also wanted to introduce them to our worlds. In 2006, we expended to NYC with the creation of our second chapter.Now we are celebrating a decade of FOKUS! We are influencers, taste makers, activists, and vanguards who sought balance in our everyday lives on campus. We needed a space where we could foster this creativity that normally took a backseat to the academically rigorous university climate. The goal was to design our own avenue for change, so we came together to educate, empower and unite communities through the arts! Janelle Monáe once described FOKUS as “thrivals” that “want to be the change they see in their minds.” One may have a dream, but if they do not take any action towards it, nothing will come out of it. We were influenced and inspired by each other and became the Cru who got things done. We redefined stereotypes and helped redefine what art meant to people. The synergy FOKUS created empowered young visionaries to “think outside the box,” to collaborate, and to become agents for change. Our events stimulated the mind and triggered creativity. We developed a multitude of young college students and young adults and sent them out into the world believing in themselves. Everyone within the group volunteers their time because they believe in the power of art, the power of community and the power of themselves. FOKUS awakened our souls and taught us how to be curators of life. It brings great joy to see so many ideas come to fruition throughout the years. We’re going 10 years strong and still fighting obstacles knowing ultimate success. The Cru (the core team of Ann Arbor and NYC chapters) and its supporters have become an extended part of our family. FOKUS has given us hope, showed us love, and allowed us to express our passions in life. Art is…what unites us all! Regards, Atiba T. Edwards and Alma Davila-Toro Co-Founders of FOKUS Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success
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You Know Who You Are and Who You Aren't by ChrisRWK My love of comics and cartoons as a kid led to my interest in graffiti, which led to my interest in art. All these things have helped me find my own style.
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Primary Care Home Visit Response by Daniel Shalev
When my grandfather died somewhat suddenly while I was in high school, it seemed weirdly inconsequential to myself and my siblings. Although he was connected to us by blood, we had grown up in the United States and had only seldom seen him because he lived in Israel with the rest of my extended family. When we were very young, we had spent warm, dreamy summers visiting with him and my grandmother, exploring the dusty histories of his adopted country. He was a kind man; he told us stories, took care of us, complimented us often and never criticized or yelled. But those times were far removed from the realities of daily life in New York. We had never shared enough of the simple substance of routine with him to really know him or feel a connection. And it had been years since we had visited Israel. We gave our sincere condolences to my grandmother over the phone and hugged our grieving father extra tightly as he prepared to embark on his hastily arranged journey to TelAviv to support my grandmother and make arrangements. We didn’t miss school or lose sleep. We didn’t think long about him. We didn’t cry. I think back now and feel regretful that we didn’t engage more with his death. That we felt his death inconsequential must have made my father and grandmother feel like we thought his life was inconsequential. In the year after he died, my father would often gently interject small facts about my grandfather into conversations. These were tender and tentative gifts to us: how he had graduated at the top of his class from the London School of Economics, how he and my grandmother had made a meaningful life in England and then started anew in Israel after World War II, how kind he had been through the many troubles my grandmother’s family had faced in the long years after the war. I imagine my father hoped that we 4 | INSIGHT MAGAZINE
would admire these small distilled gems of him, and so give them meaning and worth. I don’t think we ever rebuffed him, but we were young and callous and certainly we took no special care with those precious memories. To us, my grandfather was an insubstantial idiosyncrasy of our father’s past, now gone and nearly forgotten. Since then, I’ve thought of him occasionally in the context of my medical training. I’ve realized these recent years that when family or patients share knowledge of themselves with you, it’s a sacred act. The value we ascribe to the flashes of insight we are gifted about those we care for—whether patients or family—is the way we demonstrate that they matter. Grandparents know this, parents know this, patients know this. ** I met Mr. P when I came to his home as a medical student joining a visiting geriatrician. In all fariness, ‘met’ may be a generous verb to use; he had very advanced Alzheimer’s and no longer interacted with the environment much. Instead, he spent his days sitting quietly and looking out over his large living room and being shuttled between his recliner and the adjacent hospital bed by his wife and his aide. As soon as we walked in and sat down, I felt a sense of frustration. What did they want from us here? There was nothing medicine could offer this man. His skin was relatively intact, he was fed a high calorie gruel that kept his weight livable if not ideal, and he seemed to be beyond complaint and in no particular pain. His existence was simple and unperturbed. For us, there were no labs to draw, no laying on of the hands that could ease this man’s suffering.
As we sat down in the living room with Mr. P and his wife, either she or my attending mentioned to me by way of explanation that he had used to come to Cornell to see his doctors-- neurologists, internists and the like, I imagined. But now his condition made it too difficult to bring him across town because he could not walk on his own and became upset outside, even in a wheelchair.
small, time-smoothed stones from her and rolled them around in my hand, trying to show her that I knew that they mattered.
As they spoke, I began to look around the room. The wall behind his bed was huge, with massive dark wooden bookshelves and white panels covered with the memorabilia of a life rich with accomplishment and meaning. I could tell by the hung award plaques that he had been a gifted teacher with a brilliant intellect. The memorabilia on display referenced outstanding work, teaching, prestigious universities. The books on his shelf spoke to a man deeply invested in intellectual pursuits, but also in the well-being of his community: books on travel, health, law, philosophy, and history.
Probably the many doctors who Mr. P went to before he got too sick did more than we did. I imagine they drew blood, ran tests, and prescribed medications. I imagine, too, that they spent more time examining his body and hearing his heart beating in his chest. But we knew things, too. He is diminished now, but he was a great man. Here. Let a few small shards of this man’s story be known: he came from Europe after the war, he made it through law school, he cared about health like we do, he earned the uncompromising love of his formidable, brilliant wife. He mattered. Imagine him for a second. His other doctors may not remember him. You may not remember him. But I will.
My grandfather doesn’t come up much anymore. It’s been years since I visited Israel. My younger cousins don’t even remember him. I wish I had held on to a little bit more of him. Mrs. P’s stories reminded me of him and I felt oddly connected to the man sitting in front of me staring past me. There My attending spoke with his wife, is something strikingly similar who gave the detailed updates of a consummate caretaker: diet, sleep, between the way that patients share elimination, and so forth. She was with their doctors and families a vibrant, wizened woman. The care share with their descendants. I think maybe it’s about fostering she took describing his condition the intimacy we need as physicians gave the impression that she was deeply devoted to him, even though and as family. Mostly, though, it’s he could no longer reciprocate that about remembering. Remembering devotion. My frustration gave way to is a balm; it eases the pain of loss poignancy in the face of her tireless and calms the fear that one day love; it made me hope that someone we too will be gone. It’s one of the great generosities we can bestow on would be there to tend me in my people we meet both as doctors and autumnal time and tell the story of as fellow humans. the best me.
His wife caught me looking and spoke to me a little bit about him. I was struck at how she shared with me—like a proud confidante, like a witness. I imagine it was how my grandmother would have spoken to me about my grandfather if I had ever bothered to ask. She told me how smart he had been. How gifted he was at his work as a public health lawyer and professor at Columbia. How he had come to this country and made his way, despite the difficulties. I accepted these
Daniel Shalev is a current medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC) in NYC. Dan is one of the head editors of Ascensus, the medical student art journal which celebrates how people experience humanism in medicine.
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A Ribbon Around A Bomb
by Suhaly Bautista, The Earth Warrior
In 1938 André Breton, surrealist movement founder, described Frida Kahlo's art as reminiscent of "a ribbon around a bomb," a label which would later inspire the title of the 1992 documentary about the Mexican artist, political revolutionary and feminist. Today, Breton’s description serves as the motivation behind this photographic document / portraiture series, which examines the myriad of dualities featured in Frida Kahlo’s life + work and mirrors them against womyn in my own life. The series contains 21 color portraits + the accompanying written reflections of womyn who I consider vivacious, unapologetic, passionate + courageous – all qualities shared with the legendary Kahlo. Having lived through the Mexican Revolution, Frida’s life + art was inspired not only by the context of her violent environment but also by the tragedies, pain + struggles of her personal life. This series is an ode to the femininity and grace Frida embodied, coupled with the strength, pain, aggression + revolution, which were unvarying constants in her lifestyle + art. Ribbons, which Frida often inventively wove into her hair, symbolize sensitivity + elegance, while bombs represent violence through explosion + outburst –of which Frida is known to have had her fair share. The imagery of a bomb laced with a ribbon speaks to the contrasts Kahlo experienced + inhabited. The finesse, femininity + grace of a ribbon matched with the vigor, aggressiveness + threat (not necessarily negative) of the way Frida lived her life, inspired her paintings, but also reminds me of the way my 21 muses live their own lives – in a way that is simultaneously Feminine and Fearless. Frida focused her work mainly on herself + her reality. Her physical as well as her psychological wounds were manifested on canvas. As a result, her art is hugely centered on self-reflection, which inspired the storytelling aspect of this series. In “A Ribbon Around A Bomb,” I asked muses to reflect on one characteristic that makes them powerful, to tell me what makes them a “bomb,” + to complete the phrase; “I am strong because I am….” In this way, I am able to acknowledge the self-meditation that was such a critical + powerful aspect of Kahlo’s masterpieces. What’s more, these statements give us, as an audience, insight into the qualities we personify, value, rely on + embody as womyn and girls – our cores, our foundations, the weapons we wield to overcome life’s obstacles with confidence + finesse. Power + womanhood can + do co-exist. I hope this series inspires womyn + girls to identify, define + embrace whatever it is that gives them strength. Like Kahlo, the muses in “A Ribbon Around A Bomb” are an artistic portrayal of the matrimony between femininity + force, between grace + guts and most importantly, they are my reminders that dreams are realities too.
New Yorker by birth + Dominican by bloodline, “The Earth Warrior,” is a photographer, world traveler + social justice educator. She is currently in her “portraiture phase” while living, loving + working in New York City. 6 | INSIGHT MAGAZINE
ASHLEE â€œEMPATHETICâ€? For a while, my first response to being upset, hurt, confused, or defeated by something or someone was anger. I grew up as a sweet kid and a great student with a mean temper. As I grew older, I realized that it was important to control my own emotions rather than allowing an outside force to dictate my feelings or actions. I began to intentionally try to reason through any frustrating or upsetting situation rather than acting on impulse. My first step would be to put myself in the other person's shoes. The ability to view situations from different lenses changed my approach totally. I realized that life doesn't revolve around me. In the same way that other people's actions affect me, my actions affect them. There is no "one-size-fits-all" in life. I am able to receive people's energies and stories and perspectives with ease because I let them be. They don't have to pass through any filter before they reach me. I try to meet people where they are. INSIGHT MAGAZINE | 7
FRANCES “PASSIONATE” I am powerful because I am compassionate. This quality I possess is both my strength and my weakness. To me, being powerful stems from the vulnerability that I allow myself to experience on a day to day basis. I love hard and, thus, empathize harder. I see the 8 | INSIGHT MAGAZINE
struggles that I deal with in the faces of so many and in this world, the one that I am forced to live in, it is NOT enough to tackle my own demons. I stand for and amplify the voices of those that feel helpless- doesn't matter what shape they come in. Ultimately, my reasoning behind my fight- that is the fight of so many- is simply embedded in the belief that everyone deserves happiness and most of us are doomed to get the opposite out of life. What makes me powerful? The ability to recognize this. INSIGHT MAGAZINE | 9
STEPHANIE â€œRESILIENTâ€? I come from a matriarchy of warrior women. Resilience runs in my blood. I learned to be resilient by example. I saw how all the women in my family and in my community faced hardships and challenges with such grace and strength that it instilled in me a deep sense of powerful self awareness and thick skin. I have always been super aware of the fact that I grew up in a city where the fatalistic narrative for Latinas has been prescribed and formulaic with no room for anyone to even have the chance to rewrite it. I knew I wanted to rewrite the script, transform the expectations, and shatter any obstacles in my way since I was a child. 10 | INSIGHT MAGAZINE
Being a queer Latina feminista is an act of resilience and resistance. My resilience stems from my community as well, it is not an individualistic endeavor for me. My experience as a life long activist has taught me the sweetness in resilience when the struggle is bitter. The Bronx is where I call home and its grit never leaves my demeanor. I'm a daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants. The migration started with my Abuelita (grandmother) and her resilience lives in me. What makes being resilient powerful is the fact that I will always, no matter how high the stakes are stacked against me, rise stronger than ever. My struggles helped me practice daily alchemy, transforming them into moments of rebirth and resilience. Resiliency is a process not a state of being, I am always recreating and remaking different selves on a daily basis that help me flow through life with fiery passion in my heart. Don't sleep on me basically. INSIGHT MAGAZINE | 11
JOLILLIAN “A CARETAKER” I was born of loss. Ordained to be caretaker of the bereft since before I left the womb. My mother wrote a song telling it so. My parents bore me to help heal our family, torn and scattered to a deep winter by the loss of my brother. Decomposition has made me strong, made me a healer. We adopted my little sister after we lost my big sister, and both the death of Celia and the growth of Oriana Xin Yi, whose names mean things like 12 | INSIGHT MAGAZINE
“Dawn” and “New,” drive me. The destruction that must come down in order for new lives to grow up. I never had to be taught empathy, says my mother. I feel the hurt in the world and her infinite lives, the losses drive me to help people find their spring times.
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FOKUS Origins by Jordan Kifer
The ‘Origins’ project began as a way to help new Cru members learn about FOKUS history from the perspective of alumni. Cru (Creative Resources United) is the core team of FOKUS that plans and produces everything FOKUS does as an organization. A series of questions were sent out to past Cru members in hopes of prompting a few replies. It has since evolved into a collective look back on an organization that inspires its members to see the world differently. Curating ‘Origins’ has been a wonderful experience and I am so grateful to everyone for sharing their FOKUS memories with me. Responses range in length but as you read through the collection, you will find a common thread of creative empowerment and an incredible sense of family. As FOKUS celebrates ten years, the ‘Origins’ project reminds us how art truly is what unites us.
Alma & Atiba Co-Founders of FOKUS Jordan is a recent University of Michigan graduate and recent transplant to Milwaukee WI. She believes that following one's passion leads us to the right people and places. Art is serendipity. www.themkechronicles.wordpress.com 14 | INSIGHT MAGAZINE
Jordan Kifer How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? I joined FOKUS after going to ‘Beat Battle’ in 2010. My first Cru meeting was just a regular meeting and I remember walking into the room and seeing Alma and Franny. I remember Alma (in her to the point Alma way) saying, “So what’s your art?” I was like a deer in the headlights and said something like “Well I don’t really have an art but my dad is an artist.” Alma shot back, “Everyone has an art. Sit down.” What/Who made you want to join FOKUS? What made you stay involved? I stayed involved with FOKUS because it immediately felt like a family. It was an incredible, revolutionary feeling to walk in a room and be fully embraced for who you are. It was like a haven for oddballs and ‘others’ where being ‘other’ was encouraged and celebrated. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? There are so many amazing memories. One is definitely my first Vanguards. I was still new to FOKUS and I fell in love with the way that this big group of students could put together this massive all-day event that pulled in all parts of the Ann Arbor community. Seeing parents bring their kids to hear a storyteller and Tia’s mom leading a Zumba workout from the stage was great. The energy that day was electric. What has being in FOKUS meant to you? Personally/Professionally? Personally, some of my closest friends have come from FOKUS. That sense of family continues past being actively involved in FOKUS. The way I look at the world and consider what’s possible continues to be shaped by what I learned. Professionally, it was a space where we developed our skills with planning events, raising money, running meetings. I could bring an idea to Cru and get support on it. There was an unofficial motto that FOKUS was a group that “got shit done.” It was not only great ideas, it was turning those ideas into reality. What does the FOKUS mission mean to you? I think the FOKUS mission means exactly what it says, “art is what unites us.” It means looking at the world and seeing the art in places where it’s not obvious and seeing the artist in each person I meet. The universality of creating is so important to recognize. Any advice or words of wisdom to a new member of the Cru? Fight for this space of inclusion and openness. Value the experiences of people different from yourself and be aware that you have so much to learn. Remember how important it is to have diversity of ideas, opinions, and experiences. Challenge yourself and challenge others. Think differently about art and what it can do.
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Franny Medina How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? I joined FOKUS in Ann Arbor, Michigan Fall of 2007, my freshman year at University of Michigan. “What is YOUR ART?”, first time I was ever asked that question was at the Fall orientation meeting. A question that would challenge my entire being during the duration of my undergrad experience and that continues to guide my life decisions. I remember my first FOKUS meeting being intimidating and exciting at the same time, as it has been for every freshmen kid that is exposed to the FOKUS philosophy. Art is… simple and it exists in us all as it is is solely what WE, as individuals, have to offer the world. What/Who made you want to join FOKUS? What made you stay involved? I was introduced to FOKUS by one of the founders, Alma Davila-Toro and another Cru member Yazzy Troche. I stayed involved because they became my family there and planning and executing events on campus was fun, gave us purpose and taught us essential skills such as fundraising, event management, public speaking and strengthened our creative/critical thinking. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? Janelle Monae at Michigan Theater. It was my first HUGE production. My skills were put to the test but I managed to fundraise thousands of dollars and learned the ins-and-out of planning and executing a major production. It was THE event that sparked my interest in event production. What was your first Vanguards like? My first Vanguards was an experience I will never forget. “FOKUS DOES IT AGAIN” was all I could think about. We were/are such a powerful group and could pull anything off. THE SKY IS THE LIMIT. How did being in FOKUS change/impact your college experience? FOKUS taught me that I have valuable skills and ideas to contribute to the world and that, ultimately, that is MY ART, something that cannot be stripped from me. My power and what will open doors for me is not what the world can provide for me, but rather what I can provide for the world. MY ART is event planning, caring about youth development and securing resources for the under resourced. MY ART is not a finished product, it’s my day-to-day contribution to the world. What has being in FOKUS meant to you? Personally/Professionally? FOKUS gave me hope, gave me freedom. It challenged me to think creatively and to push the limits forced upon me. What does the FOKUS mission mean to you? It means Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success (FOKUS). Simple. Any advice or words of wisdom to a new member of the Cru? LIVE the mission for as long as you can. BELIEVE that our message is bigger than us because it is. FIGHT your personal OBSTACLES knowing that what you contribute to both FOKUS and the WORLD is valuable. How did your interpretation of “Art is...” evolve/change/stay the same throughout your time in FOKUS? My ART changes with every day, every project, every new adventure I take but understanding that I do have an art doesn’t and because of this, my life is valuable. While my ART changes, that spirit doesn’t because of the FOKUS philosophy.
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Milo How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? It was my freshman year and I felt I should be active and join some club/ organization. So during Festifall I went out to the Diag and as I was walking, I heard the (infamous) boom box of Alma’s and was curious what this group was all about. That’s when Brett explained it to me and handed me the flyer for the mass meeting. I think it was either the mass meeting or the first Cru meeting and learning that Atiba, Alma, Yazzy, Allison, and Claire were all from New York as well, that along with learning what the mission was about and the events they did, and the vibe I got from everyone, it just seemed like a good fit. And looking back, it was. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? So many great memories; Janelle Monae, going to see Little Brother in Detroit, marching around Michigan Theater with the Hot 8 brass band, the various Vanguards, but it would have to be one from my freshman year. There was one event we did in the Union and at the end Atiba was DJing and I went over to see what was happening. Anthony and I were around him as he was spinning (using Scratch Live) and I asked him what all that was. He explained it and then started teaching us how to DJ and actually let us spin a few songs. That is my favorite memory because it was that moment which jump started my interest and enjoyment in DJing. That summer, Anthony and I talked about starting our own DJ team, and not too long after I started learning the ins and outs of how to DJ…even started practicing on Atiba’s old Numark T-200 turntables. That was the moment that started my whole thing with DJing, and then getting to learn and spin with Ted as well. (So everyone can blame Atiba for getting me hooking on DJing ha-ha) How did your interpretation of “Art is...” evolve/change/stay the same throughout your time in FOKUS? Evolved. At the start I probably would have said simply, it’s a form of expression, but now it is much more than that. It is love, hate, selfpreservation, unity, worldly, surprising, multifaceted; it is many things and FOKUS helped me see and understand that. And that’s what’s great about this, is it opens your eyes to what art really is and what it can do.
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Emma Raynor How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? I remember the Festifall of my freshman year, my sister, who was a senior at the time, told me I had to visit only one table, it was a group called FOKUS. I never made it to their table, but she took me to my first event, a screening of the movie Crash, where I clearly remember meeting Atiba. After that I started going to core meetings. I remember immediately feeling welcomed, especially by Alma and Atiba, and quickly became close with other core members. I was pretty quiet as a freshman, and FOKUS gave me a sense of importance and responsibility that really helped me find my voice. They showed me that if I had an idea, I could really make anything happen, and there were people to support me and teach me how to do this. This was a very empowering feeling. Really all of my close friends in college I made through FOKUS. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? Some of my favorite memories are my first Vanguards, in 2006, which was Atiba’s last year in Ann Arbor. That day he asked me if I would be VP next year. That was the first really big event that I put a lot of planning into. I love Vanguards because it is outside, and there are so many people who happen to stumble upon it and are happily surprised. Another event I had a great time putting on was “Monday Night in New Orleans”. Both Jack Taylor and I had recently spent time in New Orleans (where I am currently living), and wanted to put on a multi media event showcasing its beauty, but also its slow stages of recovery. What has being in FOKUS meant to you? Personally/Professionally? I am currently teaching Pre-K in a Pre-K-8th grade school in New Orleans, and I am often finding myself using skills I learned in FOKUS. For example, I have written grants for different materials for my class. Also, I have had to write proposals and budgets for school events. Right now we are in the middle of a photography project, where we give each student a digital camera to take home for a week, and photograph their family, home, community, neighborhood, etc. We then interview them about each photograph, and make a book of their pictures and words. We are hoping to organize a photo show, and have an opening in the community sometime near the end of the year. This project is just like something FOKUS would do, and it makes me so happy that I can find a way to bring such opportunities to my little 4 year olds. I graduated from college almost four years ago, and when I think back on that time, I don’t think of any specific class, but of all the incredible connections I made, and amazing times I had in FOKUS.
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Dominic Jones How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? My first Cru meeting started with Alma (FOKUS co-founder) pulling her pants down and telling us to join. During the meeting Ted [Cullinane] (the group’s DJ) was playing. It was an eventful meeting. What/Who made you want to join FOKUS? What made you stay involved? How well everyone in the group got along and how much fun they had during meetings. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? I believe it was HERstory, when one of the original members Emma [Raynor] came back from New Orleans and had taken pictures of the city. We hung her pictures around the room and had a live band play. A film on Hurricane Katrina’s effect on the city was played. That was a good night. What was your first Vanguards like? My first Vanguards was interesting. We booked the Diag the same time as Hasbash and we had to share it with them for an hour. Most people left after the hour but some stayed and we had a good crowd. Any advice or words of wisdom to a new member of the Cru? That FOKUS is a group that allows you to meet people from different cultural backgrounds, that will end up being your friends the entire time you are at Michigan. How did your interpretation of “Art is...” evolve/change/stay the same throughout your time in FOKUS? That there is more than one way to express your art from painting, singing, writing, filming, or just being yourself.
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Brett Thames What/Who made you want to join FOKUS? What made you stay involved? After joining FOKUS, the Cru definitely made me stay involved. The Cru was like family. With everything that we wanted to accomplish in a school year, being a member of FOKUS required a lot of time, so we were together a lot, and I couldn’t imagine a better group of people to have spent so much time with. Although I’m not in regular communication with a lot of the Cru members who were around during my time in FOKUS, if any of them ever needed anything that I could help with, I’d be there. How did your interpretation of “Art is...” evolve/change/stay the same throughout your time in FOKUS? When I first joined FOKUS, I think I would have finished the “Art is…” statement with a finite list of the typical forms of artistic expressions: music, poetry, etc. Being involved with FOKUS for 3.5 of my 4 years on campus made me realize that there’s no limit to how that statement can be completed. Art can be something different to different people, but the spirit behind art, the spirit of self- expression and the appreciation of selfexpression, is what unites everyone who has some sort of love for the arts. FOKUS definitely brought me to this realization.
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Ashlee Arder How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? I joined FOKUS sophomore year, after hearing about it through an existing member (Gerloni Cotton) at the end of freshman year. Gerloni and I were roommates at a conference in San Francisco that we attended with a group of University of Michigan students/staff. She spoke so highly of the organization and of Alma that I was encouraged to attend the mass meeting that Fall. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? My favorite FOKUS memory is having dinner with Janelle Monae the day before she performed at the Michigan Theater. To know that a bunch of students got together and raised enough money to bring such a talented individual to town was inspiring. She was also such a beautiful person in and out. What was your first Vanguards like? I hosted my first Vanguards. It was great! I freestyled in between introducing acts. It was also the year Vanguards fell on the same day as Hashbash, so it was interesting to see so many confused, yet inspired stoners on the Diag. Met John Sinclair and threw up the “Flint” sign with him! What has being in FOKUS meant to you? Personally/Professionally? Being in FOKUS was a wonderful catalyst for connecting with people that I consider lifelong friends and family. Professionally, it taught me the inner workings of event planning and budget management. I use both of these skills in my current line of work as an arts administrator. What does the FOKUS mission mean to you? It’s important to educate yourself. That extends beyond academia and holds true for relationships with people and places. Sometimes finding common ground in something such as art is a wonderful way to explore new things and get to know new people. Any advice or words of wisdom to a new member of the Cru? No idea is ever too big. If you’re not scared as hell by an idea and the thought of making it into a reality, you’re not thinking big enough. How did your interpretation of “Art is...” evolve/change/stay the same throughout your time in FOKUS? FOKUS taught me that art can be found in any and everything. Just living is an art.
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Ted Cullinane How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? Two things stand out to me when I think of my first FOKUS meeting getting free copies of The Fader magazine, and being told I would have a platform to DJ. Coming into the University of Michigan as a transfer student, I was very appreciative of how welcoming FOKUS was. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? There's tons of memories to choose from, but I would say my favorite would be Janelle Monรกe coming out to "Violet Stars Happy Hunting!" at the Michigan Theater. That moment when she hit the stage was the culmination of a lot of hard work and creative willpower by the FOKUS core. Monรกe is an artist that embodies the FOKUS spirit, and it took a group effort to bring her to Ann Arbor. The way she effortlessly blends genres, pushes the boundaries of modern music, and communicates a vision of liberation definitely speaks to the FOKUS vision. Her performance was a year before her first full length album dropped, so I felt like we were helping introduce her to the Michigan community. Monรกe and her band proceeded to kill their performance, so much to the point where I didn't care when they unknowingly sprayed water all over my DJ set up. After the show, hearing Monรกe describe FOKUS as "thrivals" that "want to be the change they see in their minds" was the icing on the cake.
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Jason Jamal How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? My freshman year my friends were telling me about this arts org they were in. I wanted to join, but I had labs all of that year and couldn’t make the meetings. I would just show up to the events, help out where I could and then sophomore year, being able to make meetings, I officially joined. The creative minds along with the love of the arts made me stay through my college experience. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? Do I have to pick one? We had some good times! The concert we threw as a part of the MLK Symposium was my favorite public event. I was filming it and sat on stage for Big Sean and was set up in the orchestra pit for Janelle Monae. Watching Alma completely lose it and spaz out at the end of Janelle’s set was hilarious. My favorite FOKUS Family event was when we rented out a part of the UMMA (University of Michigan Museum of Art) off-site space when they were doing renovations at the main museum. We ate food, discussed art, and played charades. My team won on the word model with me doing my best runway walk, ha! What does the FOKUS mission mean to you? My concentration was Screen Arts & Cultures, so it fell right in with what I wanted to do with making movies/tv shows. I think arts advocacy is especially important now with so many schools around the country having issues. The first things they cut are music and fine arts. When I was in grade school, art was mandatory until 9th grade. I always saw art as a global media studies course. The value of not just knowing but understanding people through their art and culture is underrated; The mission is very much a diplomatic one and that is what I admire most about FOKUS. Any advice or words of wisdom to a new member of the Cru? Whatever your passion is, roll with it and flesh it out; See if you can make something of it that you didn’t see before.
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Rachel Spruill What does the FOKUS mission mean to you? Family, community, freedom and encouragement to express myself artistically and to think outside the box, being socially and politically aware of issues on campus and in the community, as well as around the world. What makes FOKUS different is what it was founded on. Two young cats from New York dared to be the change they wanted to see. That's inspiring in itself. We are a family, a support system, we teach leadership, courage, responsibility, time management, to be yourself etc. Our methods are unorthodox and we still get the job done! Art is in everything that we do! It’s a way of life! One does not have to be a typical “artist” to be in FOKUS, but a person that is dedicated to progress, because we are THE PEOPLE WHO GET THINGS DONE! How did being in FOKUS change/impact your college experience? It was an escape from the craziness of college and allowed like-minded people to come together that may not have otherwise done so. What has being in FOKUS meant to you? Personally/Professionally? FOKUS taught me many things like sticking with something that I'm passionate about, be a team player. I’m sure there are many things that have to be revealed to me, that I have gained through being a part of FOKUS I know that it has helped me communicate more effectively, and to speak my mind. FOKUS will always have an impact on me and what I do, in order to positively impact others and show them that heART is... what unites us.
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Ayodele Alli How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? I was a new at Michigan and was looking to put an album release for my new poetry album. I met Atiba shortly before then and FOKUS agreed to host the event for me. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? Vanguards 2006. We had these green shirts and face paint on at the diag. It was so EPIC! What has being in FOKUS meant to you? Personally/Professionally? It has been great to build and connect with people who value art in varying entities. What does the FOKUS mission mean to you? It means that we as FOKUS have a duty, a need and strong desire to promote, curate and place art. Any advice or words of wisdom to a new member of the Cru? Let the experience take you wherever it may. How did your interpretation of â€œArt is...â€? evolve/change/stay the same throughout your time in FOKUS? This is almost impossible to answer.
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Senesi Blake How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? I worked with Atiba at Universtiy Michigan's UROP program (an undergraduate research program). He let me know about FOKUS, and getting involved with it sounded pretty cool. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? Vanguards in 2006. It was the only Vanguards I was a part of, unfortunately. But it was some if the most fun I had at UM. What has being in FOKUS meant to you? Personally/Professionally? Personally it's helped me (slightly) manage my time better, but professionally it's helped me (considerably) organize events and make sure that all the moving parts of something are working. What does the FOKUS mission mean to you? It means that creativity is contagious. Hopefully someone has learned something at an event or on our Facebook page that they could apply to their own life and those around them. Any advice or words of wisdom to a new member of the Cru? Hustle! You'll need it when you come to NY and work to make events happen with many fewer resources. How did your interpretation of â€œArt is...â€? evolve/change/stay the same throughout your time in FOKUS? I think since I've been with the NY Cru it's taken on a more inspirational feel, one that's about how creativity can spread.
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Suhaly Bautista How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? Once I met the "Michigan Crew/Cru," UofM became synonymous with FOKUS. Actually, I think I went to a Cru meeting & a FOKUS event (Vanguards 2011) before I even did anything with the NYC Chapter, so I like to think that my relationship with FOKUS started on board the mothership in AA. My friends talked about FOKUS as an organization that changed their lives & perspectives, that intensified the way art influenced their lives. I knew I had to be a part of something like that so I joined the NYC Chapter in 2011. I actually don't remember my first official Cru meeting! Maybe that means that my transition in was smooth & seamless. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? We are always doing something cool, so usually my last FOKUS memory becomes my favorite. We are always trying to out-do ourselves. I love #STORYTIME ART. I love watching youth engage with literature & to see what brilliance young imaginations can produce. "The art of sampling" and "#FOKUSonher" are two online media projects that I really enjoyed working on; our fashion panel, the gallery exhibit @ T/PSY - it's too hard to choose just one! What has being in FOKUS meant to you? Personally/Professionally? Being in FOKUS is like taking myself to art school, or creativity school, or advocacy school. It is a commitment to learn and to do, a constant reminder that I will be as engaged as I choose to be in the arts and in the communities & spaces I occupy. FOKUS becomes more important and powerful to me each day, as I myself grow into a life where art is at the core of everything I'm doing and not just a seasonal gig or a one-time shoot. What does the FOKUS mission mean to you? Educate. Empower. Unite. Those are all very powerful action verbs. It is a 3-way challenge, regardless of how you look at our mission & I love that! FOKUS decided to actively work towards educating, empowering and uniting communities through the arts & 10 years later, is still committed to that undertaking. Any advice or words of wisdom to a new member of the Cru? Do something amazing. Spend more time putting together a handful of quality events rather than less time putting on a series of "ok" stuff. People only remember the amazing stuff. So, do more of that !! How did your interpretation of â€œArt is...â€? evolve/change/stay the same throughout your time in FOKUS? My "Art is..." has always been the same. My art is "theearthwarrior." I know what that means to me and it's special and true to think of environmental advocacy & justice as my art. It's what I do naturally (no pun intended) I definitely think that I have added some layers to my "Art is..." & that is a testament to my growth in the FOKUS family.
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Allison Maritza Lasky How did you join FOKUS? Do you remember your first Cru meeting? I joined FOKUS the night or day after it was conceived by Alma and Atiba. I sadly, dont remember my first meeting but I do recall standing at the back of one of the Angell auditoriums during our screening of Crash. It was likely the first time I saw FOKUS spread her wings completely for everyone to see. What is your favorite FOKUS memory? I moved back to NYC in November 2006, after having been in AA for almost 6 years. A year+ later, I made my first trip back to Michigan, and surprised Em$ and Alma at a gallery event being held in the Union. I was so proud that the energy of FOKUS was clearly loud, vibrant and flowing with pulse. Moreover, I didnt know half the people in the Cru, which was great! -it meant we were still expanding, welcoming fresh faces, as has always been the intent of the org from day one. What has being in FOKUS meant to you? Personally/Professionally? FOKUS has led me into uncharted territory in both worlds, and im all the better for it. I learned that mixing business with love can be incredibly rewarding if you steer your energies into doing instead of fearing a possible negative outcome. I've had some of my closest lifelong friends/ fam come out of FOKUS- a gift I'm forever grateful for. Professionally, FOKUS has made up some dominant pillars of my skillsets, and I take those abilities and pay them forward in my life on a daily basis. Its the most fun, however, to either collab with Alma on how to make her professional writing flow like she does on the mic, or, still joking with Cru now about 'ali-isms,' which came out of an AA Cru meeting 9+ years ago. What does the FOKUS mission mean to you? FOKUS isnt the latest fad or health kick that will inevitably be replaced with the next up and coming thing. FOKUS is a mindset with a purposeful stream of consciousness/awareness/desire to act. FOKUS became part of my DNA 10 years ago, so to me, the mission is how I carry myself long after the Cru meeting is over and the last Insight edit has been agreed upon. Any advice or words of wisdom to a new member of the Cru? I would say, make time for FOKUS to be a part of your college/after college experience if you'll allow yourself the internal and external space to be open to it. No two people (even our founders) have an identical response or identity within the organiztion. This is what makes it so great and enticing and tantalizing. Don't be scared or shy away from what it could mean for you - even if youre only able to attend a few events, youll be adding to your creativity / life holster in ways youd never imagined you would. How did your interpretation of â€œArt is...â€? evolve/change/stay the same throughout your time in FOKUS? I'm sure back when we started my art was a combination of working at UM Athletics, trying to stay out of trouble (which I failed at miserably) and finding my way. Now, art has harnessed everything I've amassed in my life-that I can remember at least. I think being over 30 affords me the chance to truly look back and say 10 years ago the statement in itself is an amazing work of art all its own.
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FOKUS would like to thank all of the artists, audiences, collaborators, partners, supporters that we've gotten to know and work with over the past decade. We would also like to thank every single Cru member, current and former, for shaping the world of art and increasing folks access and understanding of what art is and what it can be in life.
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here, on earth
by Allison Maritza Lasky
This mini trilogy of photos was created out of a single day of paying attention. As I took a breath of fresh air in between geriatric art therapy grant writing and a medical student program call, I found myself noticing a few unplanned - but welcomed - scenes that gave me reason for a brief respite.
guardians 68th street is my home away from home now. I know it like the back of my hand. Where the concrete breaks a bit following the construction for the new research building on the left side of the street; how the slope increases just at the main door of Memorial Sloan Kettering; what time the same scrub colors exit and enter the medical center campus, and so on. What I hadn't planned for, however, was the exact moment when I thought I'd left my Cornell id on my desk while simultaneously realizing the sun had peeked out - and there they were - the pigeons on the lamppost arm. There were a whole crew of them, but as soon as I looked at them, all but three immediately flew away. That's when I knew I was being watched. I recently told someone the story of how birds became such a cornerstone image in my family. Stemming from my mom's parents and her aunt and uncle's love of birding, the presence of birds now serves as a sign that our loved ones are near us. Primarily, the birds currently represent my mom's mom, Mamoa, my mom's dad, Poppie, and my mom's uncle, Bill. When the three birds left perched on the limb appeared to not want to leave, I saw their formation and knew for sure they were my guardians. As a spiritual person, I firmly believe that love, protection and prayer extends far beyond the realms of our tangible world. Thus, the special crossing of birds prove my theory not only correct, but that my guardians are never too far to watch over me, offering me a few moments of space to feel safe and breathe.
Allison Maritza Lasky feeds herself creativity at every juncture - whether its while reading JAMA articles for work, making playlists for her commute, or taking candid pics with her droid when something catches her eye. "Being me IS being art... art is ME." 30 | INSIGHT MAGAZINE
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higher power Have you ever had one of those days where the rain cloud is absolutely following you and only you around? When your coworkers just aren't getting it done, you spill your coffee in your bag, everyone on the train smells like old funk, and the technical devices, which you habitually rely, on are out to get you? I had one of these days a few weeks back and while I hadn't intended on needing to leave my office more than once that particular day, I fled down the stairs to escape the cramped workspace, in the hopes that getting another gust of cold air on my face would offer me some peace. Boy was I wrong! After tripping down the stairs, hobbling out of our emergency entrance only to step in dog sh*t and then drop my iced tea on myself. All I could think to do was lay down and scream. Before I could, however, I took a moment to just stop moving, shut my eyes and mutter something internally - maybe this was my punishment for an earlier mishap, or maybe I deserved it for mentally mouthing off to someone in a meeting? Nevertheless, when I opened my eyes I caught a glimpse of yet a second parting of clouds and blast of sunshine in my line of vision. What did this mean? Was I being reminded that karma is a b... Or that it was likely necessary that I step, literally, into the kind of day only to be grateful of other, better ones? I conceded that the shape of the clouds was much more incredible to me than the actual movement of the sky, and why was I wasting time trying to figure it out, when I should just be enjoying this teachable moment. The wing-shaped cumulus figures reminded me of angels, then of Raphael Putti from the Sistine Madonna, then of my cousin, Liana, who passed suddenly in 2012, when we were both freshmen in college. I feel her presence. The raw power of the energy she left behind in me, at the most serendipitous of moments. As soon as I connected the mental breakdown from my day with the precise emotion connecting me to Liana, I felt so grateful that I was able to have both - the escape from the every day and just a few minutes alone with my cousin.
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best buds Enough spirituality! Well, maybe not... after seeing my birds and the parting of the sky, I figured staying outdoors a bit longer could only do me good. I went on the hunt for some much needed caffeine and chose to walk north on 1st avenue, in the direction of our outpatient geriatric facility. This walk is a favorite of mine, especially midday, with so many healthy agers doing their errands or dog walkers briskly jogging along. It never dawned on me that I would have the joy of seeing a combination of my favorite things - viejitos ['little old ones'] and puppies, until I saw this scrumptious twosome of 'grandpa and dog.' I love to imagine all viejitos as grandparents, maybe because it makes me too unnerved to think they spent their lives alone, sans children and/ or spouse. In my view, grandparents are the best there are, so why not include them on my walk? I saw grandpa with his blue metallic walker ahead of me first. I noticed the four wheels, the tan windbreaker [I think this is the clothing item for all grandparents, especially those that live in Florida], brushed back white hair and the lean to the left as he puttered forward. Then, the leash caught my eye, and while at first I got nervous thinking some idiot owner let their dog get tangled into this poor man's walker, I then saw the leash extended from the walker, and that the pup was lovingly looking up to grandpa as his paws, too, puttered forward. Man with man's best friend. Could I have seen or felt any better? I wanted to scoop them both up in my arms, tell them I loved them, and put them in a protective bubble. Unfortunately, I got so caught up in the fantasy of sharing an ice cream with the duo that I missed my light to cross back towards work, and instead, followed them with my eyes until they were too far ahead on their way. It's funny, to me what we become connected to, even obsessed with. We have guilty pleasures, sure - a lame reality TV show, HSN at 2am, eating peanut butter out of the jar - but my affection for viejitos has become more than my professional focus. In any environment, I'm always looking out for signs that the best, best buds get better, and sweeter, with age. Lastly, and probably most importantly, my friends joke that I am like a safety ambassador for the aging. I think it might be my way of acknowledging those who look over me from above. That if they're doing their job up there, I can certainly do the same, even for graying strangers, down here.
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INSIGHT magazine's next theme is:
The notion/feeling of being young.
We are looking for your artwork! send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
INSIGHT Themes for 2014 Gratitude (March) Youth (June) Neon (September) Futurism (December)
www.fokus.org/insight @fokus www.facebook.com/fokus