The Road Home is a multi part collaborative project that explores the relationship between trauma and addiction while offering that creativity and connection can be one stitch in the fabric of healing. Working with Philadelphia Mural Arts, and collaborators Jessica Radovich, Heather Box, and Julian Mocine-McQueen, The Road Home began as a month long series of workshops set in Mural Art’s Kensington Storefront.
Photographs courtesy Steve Weinik and Caledonia Curry
Five Stories was a collaborative project which wove together art therapy, storytelling and public murals as a means to address the cyclical nature of unhealed trauma. Participants in Philadelphia Mural Art’s Graterford Penitentiary art program, Guilds Restorative Justice program, and residents at Interim House drug rehabilitation center worked along side artist Caledonia Curry, therapist Jessica Radovich and Story Coach Heather Box. Curry began the sessions by sharing the way in which creativity had helped her find stability amid the tumult of an addicted family, and lead participants through exercises which utilized some of her own most grounding processes, including self portraiture, and the creation of myths and fables to tell the story of past and present experiences. In the course of these sessions some workshop participants volunteered to become portrait subjects for prints which would later appear as public murals in the Philadelphia area. The last piece of the project was a public story telling event. Workshop participants who volunteered to tell their story were assisted in exploring their life histories and translating their life experiences to share with a broader audience.
Konbit Shelter began as a response to the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010. As the world grappled with how to respond, a small group artists engineers, architects and builders realized that we had spent the last decade developing a skill set which might be of use. We had been employing creative problem solving skills to build unlikely structures in uncertain and difficult circumstances, and we asked ourselves how what we had learned could be of service to the community rebuilding efforts that would be needed following the quake.
We assembled a team and connected with the community of Komye, a rural village situated about 15 miles from the quake’s epicenter.
Our first effort together was to adopt the incredibly resilient earth-bag dome style of architecture developed by Nadir Khalili, and to construct a three room community center.
Why start with a community center when people are in need of homes? The problems on the table were these - how to rebuild without repeating the mistakes that had lead the quake to be so devastating, how to face the challenges created by the extremely high price and low quality of available building materials, and how to answer these problems in new ways, while also creating structures that people were comfortable with and felt good about. When we posed these questions, the answer that can back was unanimous - build a community structure first. Build something that everyone can create together, have ownership of together, and decide from there what’s working and what feels good to live in.
The construction of the community center cemented a bond that would continue for almost a decade and counting. Along the way, we found that the creation of meaningful, well paid work did as much to help people rebuild their lives as any structure ever could.
In the following years we created 3 homes, as well as supporting an arts after-school program and and English club which meet weekly in the community center.
Kaye Monique :
The first home was built almost immediately following the community center, and Monique La Pierre, a woman who had recently given birth while living in a tarp structure was chosen by the community to be its recipient. This home is built using the same earth-bag style as the community center. Kaye Monique’s is a 1.5 bedroom house with a an additional interior loft space, a wood frame front porch, and double chambered composting toilet behind the house.
After the initial momentum of reconstruction began to slow, we took some time to gather feedback from the community. What was working about the new structures, and what wasn’t? We found that despite the super-adobe dome’s inherent strength and reliance on very little cement, the plaster’s exposure to tropical weather, combined with the high price of cement in Haiti meant that the usual maintenance required by natural building techniques was prohibitively expensive for the average Haitian salary. The next home was adapted to keep the natural disaster resilience offered by the earth-bag technique while scaling back the structure and protecting it with a metal roof.
Continuing to adapt with feedback from folks in Komye, an idea arose to construct a home with bamboo. Komye is a farming community, and bamboo is a crop that can be grown locally, supplying building material while also helping with erosion in the hillsides. A collaboration was started with architect Joanna Torres of Oficina Design, and the final home of the Konbit Shelter project was constructed in 2017. Louisanna’s home may be the most expansive, containing 4 sleep/live spaces and an outdoor kitchen.
In 2014 the Konbit Shelter project took a listening year, pausing our construction work, but staying connected with Komye through the activation of the community center. We partnered with Guilds, a group specializing in play-based education, and Klub Obzevetwa was born. The club meets weekly to give Komye kids time to develop their creativity with the help of local teachers.
In 2018 folks in Komye made a simple request - help us start a weekly English class so that we can hone our English skills to further our education and job opportunities. Klub Angle was launched in February 2019 with help from team member Stan Kniss.
January of 2020 will mark 10 years since the earthquake, and the beginning of Haiti’s long road of recovery. We will spend the remainder of 2019 dialing in the details on each of the structures to make sure that they are fit to be maintained by resident of Komye for years to come.
In January we will turn over the care and maintenance of the structures to the community, participate in a resilience and healing celebration, and formally complete Konbit Shelter’s work in Haiti.
Klub Obzevetwa and Klub Angle will continue.
Konbit is a Haitian Creole word for a traditional form of cooperative communal labor, whereby the able-bodied folk of a locality help each other prepare their fields. It refers to a form of solidarity and neighborly cooperation in the face of adversity. Konbit Shelter references this word with a global interpretation, as people from all over the world coming together after the earthquake to work in solidarity with our neighbors in Haiti.
Photographs courtesy Tod Seelie, David Sundberg, Olivia Katz, Ben Wolf, Caledonia Curry
With special thanks:
Konbit Shelter is a project that has been created with many hands and much support.
List of all team members....
Creative Time Global Residency Award
The Braddock Tiles project was born out of a desire to repair a formerly abandoned church in North Braddock Pennsylvania, and to do it in a way that would provide jobs, arts training, and a sense of hands on participation to the surrounding community. While the goal of supplying thousands of hand made tiles and repairing the church roof remained out of reach, a great deal of repair work was done on the building and its adjacent lot, and the Braddock Tiles company was formed. Barddock Tiles has since offered soft-skills job training to dozens of folks coming out of the Braddock Youth program. Braddock Tiles became an independent entity in 2016. More about their continued work here:
Photographs courtesy Tod Seelie, Jauary Frederics, and Caledonia Curry
The Music Box Village
In 2011, the Music Box began on the site of a collapsing creole cottage in the Bywater of New Orleans. New Orleans Airlift, formed to revive the arts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, asked Swoon to envision a sculptural intervention that could take place on and around the cottage before its eventual and necessary demolition. Swoon proposed a playable musical installation that would fuse the celebratory musical culture of New Orleans, with its equally rich architectural traditions. Before this idea could be executed the cottage collapsed. Out of the rubble of the structure, the Airlift Team proposed a more expansive collaboration, bringing together dozens of artists and musicians to create not just one, but a series of smaller playable musical houses, and the Music Box Village was born. In the following years Swoon became on of the many collaborators who would work along side the Airlift team to make the Music Box a permanent fixture in the creative landscape of New Orleans.
Photographs courtesy Tod Seelie, Bryan Welch, Caledonia Curry (and others to be listed).
Swimming Cities of Serenissima
In 2009, Swoon and a group of collaborators reconstructed two of the rafts from the Hudson River voyage, and created a third from scraps salvaged along the Slovenian Coast. Together they navigated the Adriatic Sea from Koper Slovenia to Venice, traveling by sea during the day and docking along the coast at night, sometimes venturing into the Italian Littoral Canals. The group gave evening performances in ports and villages en route, and were met with the sometimes wary, but mostly overflowing hospitality of the Slovenian and Italian countrysides.
The Swimming Cities of Serenissima arrived in Venice uninvited and unannounced during the Biennale of 2009. Part prank and spectacle, part formal invitation into a state of wonder, the sight of these hand constructed architectures floating amidst the ancient stones of Venice seemed to ring out like wake up call, rattling a desire to imagine other worlds.
The final voyage of the Swimming Cities rafts was an illegal overnight voyage through Venice’s Grand Canal.
Photographs courtesy Tod Seelie
Swimming Cities of switchback Sea
In 2008, Swoon, and almost 70 collaborators piloted a series of hand made rafts down the Hudson River from Troy New York, docking in Long Island City.
Photographs courtesy Tod Seelie
The Miss Rockaway Armada
In 2006 and 2007 The Miss Rockaway Armada, a collectively realized semi-utopian experiment in communal living and home made raft navigation, made it’s way down the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to St. Louis.