A Freshman in College Walks into a Water Treatment Plant

Community-Based Art is a collection of banal words that means something magical. This almost supernatural process changed how I see art. I, along with seven other college students, dipped our toes into a something mysteriously exciting and new, led by an all-knowing professor Allison Orr.  We all had each others’ backs from the start, giggling…

“You made us feel like humans”

“You made us feel like humans”… These are words uttered by Al—one of the dedicated kind hearted city workers of Middletown, with whom I spent months shadowing and building an artistic performance for Allison Orr’s class “Artist in the City”. These words deeply touched me in a “conflicted feelings” way. I say this because, it…

Reflecting on Water Works

While I often aim to make art for my community I got to see a completely different and possibly more effective way of achieving this goal. By incorporating people into the process rather than simply creating it for them you gain a perspective that may have been previously unknown to you. Also though the voice…

Cultivating Connection and Relationship

One of the most important things this class taught me is that community-based art making is as much about connection and relationships as it is about art. People like the Water and Sewer Department employees are rarely seen at all, and rarely seen by the public as anything more than city workers. Making space for…

Thank you to the Middletown Water & Sewer employees for everything.

Overall, I think what we did as a class was incredible. The entire process, although difficult, ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life. I will never forget this class and the people that I met at the Middletown Water & Sewer Department. My first day shadowing the employees at…

What is the value of creativity?

This is one of the more worthwhile things I’ve done with my life. Before I took this class, I knew almost nothing about water or the life of a city worker. And those may sound like obscure things, but water is essential to everyone’s survival, and we shouldn’t neglect those who relentlessly serve us in…

“Today when we said farewell to the employees at Waste Water, Al told us that during this process we had treated them like humans; saw them for who they truly are.”

A remarkable reflection of her experience as a student in “Artist in the City” below. Thank you Lizzy Elliot! This class has taught me so much about the power of story-telling and good listening. In my experience, successful community-based art showcases good stories. While the technical components of these employees’ work are valuable (likely difficult…

Making the Invisible Visible

About three weeks ago, I got up early on a Saturday morning to do laundry. The campus laundry facility closest to my house backs up to the backyards of the “party street” on Wesleyan’s campus. The Fountain backyards–named for their location on Fountain Avenue–are a gathering place for students each Friday and Saturday night. Come midnight…

Student Interview

Hi. I’m Monica, and I’m the TA for Allison’s class The Artist in the City. The class is designed to teach students how to make community based arts performance by having them engage with the sewage plant workers in the surrounding town, Middletown, and to eventually present a collaborative performance at the end of the year at…

More on Interviews

Going into the process, the students weren’t sure what they were getting themselves into. They knew that Allison was an inspiring person, and were excited to learn from her, but also had no experience with community art, and so went into the process very uncertain. Julian says, “It’s like that feeling when you go to…