Sasha Bergmann Lichtenstein

Judaica - Potter - Collaborative Artist - Art Educator
(617) 923-2669
Boston Area


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Community Collaborative Art

Table Talk
Las Vegas
Hands Project
The Bread
Tufts Univ.
Freedom Quilt
Princeton Univ.
Hands of Light
Detroit Federation
U Hartford

Extended Community Residency Projects
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My vision for a collaborative project as part of an extended community residency is based on techniques that have been used in my other community projects. By enacting these successful techniques within a committed community during an extended residency, I can create a collaborative project with up to 1000 participants. Rather than describing a specific project in the abstract, sharing the essential parts of my process will present a good view of my goal. The values and process I bring to community art include providing easy access, using community-based visual building blocks, engaging a collaborative visioning, choosing a sculptural size that engages the human body, implanting layers of meaning within the sculpture, and providing non-threatening, physical interaction through the creative process.

All of my collaborative projects are based on easy access—no previous art experience is necessary. Basic art techniques will be offered to participants, enough for people to feel mastery over the process. The focus will be on expression, using materials that are easy to produce and a method that easily conveys an individual’s expression.

In order to create an accessible and meaningful sculpture for the participating community, the sculpture’s elements (building blocks) would be familiar to the group. For example, I used bread as a building block for the eating disorder community, matzah for Jewish women, the sukkah format for Jewish college students, and hands for the M.I.T. University community.

The process of visioning the artwork with the community is itself a contribution of my work. In some cases the vision for the final sculpture is based on my interactions with the community regarding their goals and issues. Then the community adds their stories onto individual sculptural elements. More recently, in the MIT Hands Project I facilitated a gathering in which we all shared the creative process, collectively visioning the community sculpture. This event was like standing on the edge of a cliff and finding out we could fly together. By including participants’ ideas, the power of community art is extended.

The final sculpture needs to relate to the human body. Viewers can pass through or interact with my collaborative sculptures, allowing them to physically engage with the art, and giving them an intimate view into the community’s issues. For example, in the Tufts University Sukkah, 120 people created their own fabric collages about the Jewish holiday Sukkot that became part of the 25-foot by 8-foot quilted wall of their Sukkah, the annual outdoor community dwelling place in which to ponder, study, eat, and even sleep. The integration of the community art expressions with the physical space where people are allows the viewer to feel their part in relation to the whole community, its diverse values, and its goals.

Layers of perception reveal themselves in my sculptures, as the viewer gets closer to the work. In Not By Bread Alone, for example, at first glance one sees a house. As the viewer approaches the house, bread slices begin to appear. Then upon closest view, individual stories are seen on the slices of bread. I would use this aesthetic device for community building, in which on the most literal level the community’s goal or issue is clearly seen. Then as one approaches the sculpture, different groups, coalitions, or sub-communities could express themselves on the issue. Once the viewer is fully engaged with the artwork, the individual stories will reveal themselves. Thus at the sculpture’s core we find ourselves at the heart of the community as it expresses its diversity. My interest is in creating bonding experiences through identifying common community interests among people and/or groups who appear to be quite diverse, expressing these different interactions within various aspects of the sculpture.

A collaborative artwork can be a mirror back to the community as well, informing them of who they are and preparing them for their next step in their developmental journey.

Another powerful tool in community art building is using physical contact through an art medium to encourage peaceful interactions between diverse members of the community in a non-threatening way. This experience creates another level of intimacy. In the MIT Hands Project, individuals from diverse backgrounds were paired together to place smoothing materials on the other’s hand. It was like a spontaneous performance that encouraged gentleness and listening. This is a goal of all my work, that this gentle listening and supportive expression becomes a healing for individuals and community alike.