Art and Monsters

May 4, 2022

“Property matters. It’s more than just a parcel of land. It’s also window to the past that tells the story of a family, a community, a way of life. Knowing your family’s history and culture creates a sense of place and belonging. The loss of heirs’ property has impact on the entire community, not just one family.”
p. 143 Ukweli “Land Lost  Heirs’ Property: ‘The Biggest Problem You’ve Never Heard Of’by Dr. Jennie L. Stephens


Why Art & Why Monsters

Art gives us ways to tell our stories. It gives us access to the stories of other individuals, cultures,
and eras.
It engages us, invites us to express who we are, what we grapple with, what we have
experienced. It invites us to imagine, build, develop, refine. It can bring wonder, solace, intrigue,
pleasure, tears.
“Creating artwork allows your mind to be in a safe place while it contemplates the tougher issues
you are dealing with.” – George E. Miller, Child Advocacy Artist
Monsters are metaphors for our fears, both specific and general, individual and societal.
Monsters give us a way of approaching The Other, and monsters also can give us a way of facing
disturbing aspects of ourselves.
But, meanwhile, monsters can be fun. When we make a monster we get to make the rules about
what it looks like, what it is made out of. Fifteen heads, or eyes at the tip of its tongue? Who is to
say otherwise?
Meanwhile, we are creating something unique, engaged in the process of making on one level,
and on another level, doing the important work of probing our fears, both in ourselves and in the
world around us. We are giving these form, and definition. We are controlling the narrative.


Welcome to our session “If Racism Was a Monster.” I want to give a very brief intro, some quick guidelines. So, if monsters are our deep fears hiding under the bed or lurking aroud the corner, art can be a way we can safely approach them. Invite them for tea.

In 2020, Pam started an Anti-Racist book club with TinyIsPowerful members and some teachers from James Simmons Montessori, a public school in Charleston. We read: Culturally Responsive Teaching and the BrainStamped from the BeginningThe Color of LawDenmark Vesey’s Garden.

At some point during a conversation with Pam around the idea of Good Trouble the question arose: If Racism was a monster, what would it look like?

So I get working, or more honestly, playing. Plastic—it is available, it is weatherproof. Works as a metaphor for me: Plastic a toxin in our environment like Racism is a toxin in our communities.

Pam and I present at a Circle of Advisors meeting. In response to our question “If Racism was a monster what would it look like?” Jen talks about a hydra-like creature—if you cut off one head two grow back in its place. Therin speaks: “The monster that I see is heavy, heavy fog. That fog is blinding everyone. The fog could be the monster but it could be something good if we were kind to each other.”

Mind you, while I am making a monster, much of my attention is on the physical arrangement and putting together of the pieces. I explore various options, play around with the parts. This is something I learned watching middle school kids make recycle creatures. I believe playing is an important part of this process.

Some quick making guidelines: I can attest to the fact that being an adult does not mean you can’t hurt yourself. Be mindful as you use scissors, push pins, hot glue, etc. Plastic edges and points can also be sharp, so be mindful there as well. Your monster has probably hurt you enough! A gentle approach is good. Also: when you are making your monster there is no ”wrong way.” It is your monster. You get to say.

Basic ways to attach: stapler, push pins and monofilament (fish line). Also: dry wall screws, tape, hot glue, or whatever you can devise! We will take 35 minutes to work. Don’t forget to have fun!