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December 14, 2000

Homewood Community's Neighborhood Values Conversation 2: The Meaning of "Home"

In December 1999, Homewood Studios opened its doors to the community. The first project we undertook was to host a dialogue about values - using the seven virtues of St. Thomas and the seven principles of Kwanzaa to investigate how we view ourselves as community builders. St. Paul artist, Gustavo Lira, helped us to translate the content of our conversation into art.

Please join us from 7:00 to 9:00 P.M. for the second in what we hope to be a long series of talks centered on how we see ourselves in our community, on how we wish to see ourselves, and on how art interacts with this vision to bring it to life. St. Paul artist Sandra Menefee Taylor will be our guest artist, John Vreyens from the University of Minnesota�s International Agricultural Programs Department will moderate our discussion.

A gallery show, �Home Sweet Home�, sponsored by the Family Housing Fund of Minneapolis will accompany this conversation. The gallery show includes over twenty local artists and portrays a wide range of housing situations and circumstances.

This event is free and open to everyone. Space is, however, limited. Please call 587-0230 to place a reservation.

Please plan to arrive at 6:30 to view the show if you have not done so. The pieces of art will provide focus for our conversation.

Reflection on discussion of "HOME"

The opportunity to discuss our concepts of HOME, while sitting amongst art providing visual representations of the invisible discussants' concepts of HOME, was a fascinating evening. There were several aspects of the first half of the evening that I carried away with me. Many of the works of art reflected depictions of a building or some aspect of a structure. However, the structure was dynamic, in transition, not a building isolated by itself but within a setting of multiple dwellings with roads, cars, a black cat, trees or flowers. Or, there was a representation within the artwork of people such as the family, next to the sidewalk, sitting near a can with a fire in it, looking at a roaring fire painted on a wall complete with a mantel piece. Others
showed a bed, a pillow, or a rolled up sleeping bag, a mask, or the many faces peaking out from windows on the colorful quilt.

These images from the invisible discussants served as the foundation for the vocal participants. I was especially marked by the composition of the group: all of us have had a place to live and in fact have had several in our lifetimes. This fact was in stark contrast to much of the artwork reflecting a desire to have a place to call home. The discussion went to a different level. Rather than a physical structure called home, the discussion focused on a place, 'be it a community, an environment, a neighborhood�that one called home. Home was the recognition of a sense of being. Sure, one's house is part of this but much more important was feeling part of the neighborhood. It was knowing others around you and interacting with them. It is a time of feeling secure and not threatened. These attributes of home, given by a here-to-fore highly mobile group of participants, told me that home, for the vocal discussants, needed to be transportable. Unlike some of the invisible discussants who conceive of home as the address or the room you always have to return to, the vocal discussants focused on attributes of home that one carries wherever one goes to settle. The structures are not irrelevant, they represent memories of past homes, and continue to represent an archive of the memories from a given point in our lives.

There was a unique bridge between the two events: we were privileged to have among us a discussant who welcomed into her home the first discussion in Minneapolis on the celebration of Kwanzaa. We came together to build on last year's dialogue about the seven virtues of St. Thomas Aquinas and the principles of Kwanzaa. This individual brought to the discussion her reflection of one of the principles of Kwanzaa into the conception of HOME. I found it very interesting that the principle reflected upon for the discussion was kujichagulia (self-determination). I found it interesting for a couple of reasons. First, our discussion of home as a place or almost a state of being fit with individuals who are seeking their own path to success. The principle of kujichagulia which supports and encourages an individual's right to determine or find her or his place was a bridge, for me, of our dialogues. Secondly, at the back of my mind, juxtaposed with self-determination, was the USA government's ultimate sign of success. A home is the largest investment for the majority of Americans. They have developed programs focused solely on home ownership. The length to which they go to value one by the address or ownership of a home permeates our lives. It was also reflected in the art and writing surrounding us in the gallery.

I feel challenged now to take the principles of last year's
discussion and my understanding of home from this year's discussion and artwork, into the community where I live and work, as part of this celebration of the Family Housing Fund which works to give others a place to call home.

(These are the thoughts of our friend, John Vreyens, who agreed to moderate our conversation.)