For several years, SPACE has had 2 regular arts programs with the Portland Housing Authority (PHA) Study Center students: an outdoor event in the Summer and an indoor event on MLK Day every January. Both events regularly involve guest musicians and speakers, a party, and a collaborative art project between the students and visiting artists. In 2020, due to SPACE’s closure of its venue and gallery during the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to shift our strategy to stay connected with PHA students in their homes through a mail art project.
We reached out to the cohort of MECA’s Masters of Art in Teaching program and presented them with the challenge of designing a make your own flag kit that could be mailed out to PHA students.
Mail art provided the opportunity to stay connected with a community we care deeply about without putting anyone at risk, share quality art materials that the students can use beyond the life of this project, and support the post office and demonstrate its excellence as a method of connection, accessibility, resource sharing, and freedom of speech.
SPACE also has a history of artist-made flags that we exhibit on the facade of our building including We Are Authentically Human, Pledges of Allegiance: Diaspora Cloud, Untitled 2017: Fear Eats the Soul. The flag is a highly recognizable visual symbol for public statement, national identity, and solidarity with issues of social justice. Mobilizing this symbol in the hands of young people who are finding themselves as artists is a gesture of respect and support for their personal empowerment and voice.
Designer Beth Taylor Weyand designed the instructional guide included in the kit, which included translations in French, Somali, Arabic, and English.
We are immensely proud of the creativity and resourcefulness that the MECA MAT cohort brought to this project and extend our gratitude to Lauren Anderson, Audrey Robidoux, Seth Baron, Trent Redmon, Shelby Pyrzyk, Sean Dillon, Philippa Grace, Sophie Olmsted, and Madi Mahoney.