ART FOR A BETTER WORLD
~ Saad Ghosn
• Images For A Better World: Jan BROWN CHECCO, Visual Artist
Jan Brown Checco, a painter, sculptor and art administrator, holds a BFA degree from the Art Academy of Cincinnati and an MFA degree from the University of Cincinnati/DAAP. She has been working as a studio artist since 1991, and before that worked as an illustrator and graphic designer, and as an art director for museum exhibitions and theme park projects. Jan Brown Checco is committed to fostering intercultural understanding and mutual appreciation through community-based art projects, both locally and internationally. She also serves the city through her role as Arts Administrator for the Cincinnati Park Board and as a member of the Cincinnati Arts Allocations Committee.
In 1995, for the street art festival dedicating Cincinnati’s new Aronoff Center, Jan Brown Checco drew ‘Culture Crimes – Art Assassins,’ a sidewalk chalk mural of men known for their repression of creative thought throughout history. At the time, Newt Gingrich was championing the removal of public funding from NPR and PBS. Unfortunately, the image only lasted 48 hours, being defaced and pressure washed away afterwards.
Jan Brown Checco developed a process for international drawing exchanges between Cincinnati and its Sister Cities. Artist teams from two or more cities draw original images that are then modified by partners in the other cities to recreate new images. This drawing exchange has run 4 cycles to date, including Munich, Germany; Liuzhou, China; Kharkiv Ukraine; and Baracoa, Cuba. In ‘A Change of Perspective’ Jan Brown Checco’s redraw of Munich artist Arno Backhaus’ original drawing, commented on the banking industry’s warped credit practices 3 years before the meltdown of the American investment and banking system. This drawing exchange project won the Sister Cities International award in 2008 for Innovation in the Arts.
Jan Brown Checco developed the concept for ‘The Black Brigade Monument,’ the first public art installation in the new Smale Riverfront Park. She lead the process for artist selection and art directed design and fabrication of the monument created by a team of local masters including sculptors Carolyn Manto and John Hebenstreit and writer Tyrone Williams.
Jan Brown Checco designed and directed ‘Clay, Color and Fire,’ a community-based public art project at the Friendship Pavilion of T M Berry International Friendship Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. It involved seven visiting international artists and dozens of Cincinnati artists who created over 15,000 handmade ceramic mosaic tiles for application to the columns and hearth of the pavilion.
In 2005 Jan Brown Checco designed ‘Vine Street Murals and Can-paign,’ a community-based project for Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and directed dozens of teenaged employees in workshops over five months. Over-the-Rhine residents designed and painted dozens of colorful murals and trashcans in an anti-blight campaign that sparked reclamation of safer streets for the families who live in this downtown neighborhood.
In the context of an English Language summer camp in Liuzhou, China, a Cincinnati’s Sister City, Jan Brown Checco and her daughter Amanda collaborated in 2006 on designing and leading ‘Friendship Tapestry for Liuzhou, China,’ a community-based fiber project that included more than 200 teenaged students and their instructors. Participants wrote a wish in English on a slip of paper, translated it in Chinese, then tucked it into a pouch they decorated with embroidery and beads.
• Words For A Better World: Fran WATSON, Literary Artist
Fran Watson is, above all, a full time lover and appreciator of all arts: theater, fine art, fine writing, dance, and a special niche for music. She is an artist, a musician and a writer; she paints, plays flute and classical guitar, sings tenor, writes poetry and contributes art reviews to “Aeqai”. Her first passion is her family. Children, grandchildren, and great -grandchildren nurture her fervent hope of ending wars forever.
• Fran Watson believes wars, all wars, are foolish projects designed by those who do not fight for those who will, aided and abetted by the words of those who do not know, nor ever will, the horror on which they expound.
Once wars were won or lost.
Victory was the goal. Peace, the prize.
Impromptu parades, delirious with relief
followed the ends of wars,
an embarrassment of hope.
Now we fight.
On and on, wreaking and harvesting
death and destruction, cutting down
our hopes for tomorrow, always somewhere else.
Villages we can’t pronounce
much less spell or comprehend
become the graves of our children
Right and wrong are nebulous grays
as posturing wins our days
and shames our nights.
• Aggression seems to come in waves. Like the guys who push the buttons get tired of pushing buttons and stop for a while. Maybe it’s too cold, or too dreary, or too expensive to clothe an army in winter, but things seem to slow down when weather cools. Spring, however, inspires more than butterflies and lovers. It makes war easier. It stirs the groggy testosterone into greed… Fran Watson finds it sad that such a frivolous whim destroys so much.
The Red Red Rose
And now the red, red, rose turns dark,
an ancient velvet bloom, stares downward to the ground
Hostas droop in ochre tones, so, too, the weeds;
my summer foe fought from June till now
armed with spray, with trowel, with clipper blades,
aiming mayhem at their shoots.
Now, too, the frenzied heat subsides into
chilled sunsets; super-socks and afghans close at hand.
Regardless of its welcome, sun’s listless rays,
unable to diminish cold, grow timid in defeat
when faced with winter’s inevitable litany
of colorless days.
This is the time of peace. Too cold for crime,
invasion and other hot weather games.
Still nights, lit by frozen stars
whisper respite for all living things;
to sleep, to die, to rest, curled in fetal dreams
Autumn comes bringing silence;
a season of fogs and frosty dawns
filled with regrets and honking geese,
begging the world to pause,
put aside aggression’s until spring,
when mankind bubbles up destroying other men,
and even wars seem right again.
• Haiku is Fran Watson’s favorite form of poetry. She believes writing should be brief, concise and sincere, all of which are haiku at its best.
Brief Thoughts About –
days that start with dawn
rosy, soft, caressed with clouds
often crash by night.
perhaps that’s why the sun rises –
giving us another chance.
hunger, far away,
wrinkles my heart. shatters me
with its injustice.
peace must be, first of all things,
food, love, then the end of fear.
fighting is not me.
nor killing, nor hate are me.
my ancient tears fall
slowly wearing small salty
pits in the rock-hard world.
freedom is quiet.
defeat is sadly silent
death glides near unheard.
victory blares and trumpets.
but of all these, is briefest.
about peace, hear this:
each of us may have our peace
but together? united?
only war connects us all.
• “Virtual” best describes our world today. The truth is even more difficult to sift from all the media blasting into our own corners. But the yawning distance between life styles all over the world is acknowledged. It seems to be the only truth we should keep in mind.
freedom, the elusive chalice,
subject of ad campaigns,
byword of shiny men in suits, themes of endless movies
involving bloody battles, horrendous tasks
and sacrifices,… someplace else.
Nomad tribes are free, now, to be counted
and beg on city streets.
the homeless are free to be sheltered,
in designated places.
everyone may buy starter castles,
but may not hang out sheets to dry.
children and dogs have parks for play
carefully encased by wire fences and gates.
a nameless devastated village
sprinkled with squatting survivors, staring in shock
while some heroic voice pronounces them free,
in a language they cannot understand.
purchased from their aimless content
by the foolish bravery of strangers.
hopelessly, they search for their children,
sifting for memories in the debris of lost homes,
too hungry and lost to care about “freedom”.
• Fran Watson is happily surrounded with trees, roaring in storms, bursting into green, whispering in evening breezes and just existing. Unfortunately condos, those harbingers of deadly concrete rabbit warrens, are creeping daily closer. She needs trees to feel free.
The Wind Last Night
moaning hungrily, the wind last night
tore at the hilltop across the road,
nearly bending trees to the ground.
dead branches crashed, and last year’s nests
were shredded, discarded in the dark.
one mighty blast followed another,
relentless in the attack, reveling in power,
possessed of endless energy.
alone and alert, I listened.
surely the woods were destroyed,
the hilltop bare, the landscape furrowed,
forever altered by the charge.
today, a weak winter sun, half gray, half cream,
revealed the trees, reaching familiarly skyward,
as if this same prosaic sky had not raged
hours before, predicting total ruin.
the wind will return, and the trees will bend,
not break. the strong will become stronger,
the hawks will rebuild, swooping down the hill
and soaring above in effortless arabesques.
once more I will hear seductive summer’s breeze
whispering tenderly through green, leafy crowns
as if the chaos had not been,
and will be again.