Collective Memory | Harwood Art Center

Collective Memory

Monday, January 23, 2:41pm

Community Outreach Coordinator Jen DePaolo finds hope in beauty.

Cardboard templates and sketches for Collective Memory by Jen DePaolo and Annika D.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Martin Luther King

“It’s a long time coming, but I know, I know change is gonna come.” Otis Redding

"Tell me of despair, yours ~ and I’ll tell you mine.” Mary Oliver

I don’t think I need to enumerate my despairs here for you. I expect that you, like me are feeling thin and overwhelmed. Maybe you wonder what issue to take up (there are so many) or where to apply your efforts (is anything going to make a real difference?) But if you believe in the power of community and art, stay with me.

I had lunch with a dear friend today whom I’ve known for almost 20 years. He asserted that we are making progress while I suggested the Machine seems to be winning. In the end we met in the middle- each reminded that we have in fact bent the moral arc toward justice and yes, it has so much farther to go. He said, “If we look at everything we’ve done so far and decide that it’s made no difference, we’ll give up.” I haven’t given up. So there must be some optimism fueling my long hours, my passionate appeals, my community meetings.

I returned to my office at Harwood Art Center with my mind fixed on finding hope. Soon I was busy returning emails and compiling lists in support of Harwood’s newest community collaboration: the Collective Memory project. I put Otis Redding on and began to envision a community sculpture installation taking shape. Soon I caught myself bobbing around in my office chair. Office dancing, you might say. It suddenly became apparent to me: My path forward is through beauty. It always has been. It’s how I came to be an artist/ community outreach coordinator to begin with!

Let me share the beauty we envision in its latest iteration. It might encourage you, and you may be able to help.

The Collective Memory project is designed to bring our community together to share stories of loss and survival through art. Harwood Art Center will run free* workshops at social profit organizations across the city for artists of all ages and abilities. (Are you a social profit organization who’d like to partner with us? Contact me at

We will introduce some of the fish that have disappeared from the Rio Grande through illustrations and cardboard templates. Participants will reconstruct missing fish and will add fins, tails, and details to make their own unique “species”. We’ll use text, collage, painting, and drawing to enhance our fish and communicate our own stories of loss, challenge, recovery and survival. As a community, we will practice healing and hope by making something beautiful.

Finished fish will join a larger “school” of fish created by participants across the city at an exhibition at Harwood Art Center for Encompass 2017. Then, fish will return home to reside with their makers to remind us of who we are, and what we’ve survived. We’ll hold memory and share knowledge of the place we call home.

If you want to host a workshop or support, get in touch with us. Materials can be donated at Harwood’s front desk. We are looking for:

Cardboard boxes, broken down
Old Magazines of the National Geopgraphic sort, no fashion mags please.
Paper of all sorts!
Fabric Scraps
Paint brushes
Pencils of all sorts
Plastic containers with lids from yogurt, cream cheese etc
Tape: packing tape, duct tape, painters tape, masking tape- we’ll take it all!

Hope then to belong to your place by your own knowledge of what it is that no other place is, and by your caring for it as you care for no other place…” Wendell Berry

Thank you!

*Free workshops are made possible by those who help fund Harwood’s Creative Roots Outreach Programs. We thank the Albuquerque Community Foundation, the City of Albuquerque 1% for Public Art Program, the Kerr Foundation and the McCune Charitable Foundation for making this work possible!

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Current Studio Artist

Harwood Art Center is my sanctuary and my connection to the community.  It’s unusual and amazing to have these opposing forces satisfied in one place.  The Harwood community enriches my life because of studio artists, staff, teachers, and exhibits. Through classes at the Harwood Art Center and mentoring from influential New Mexico artists, I began painting in 2005.  My paintings have been included in exhibits at the Albuquerque Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, Mariposa Gallery in Albuquerque, and Patina Gallery, in Santa Fe.

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