Living Room is a durational public and performance art piece that sources community knowledge and experience to share, learn, and heal in Flint.
Living Room functions as a both a public and private space for Flint residents to find comfort and reflection beyond the Flint Water Crisis. Historically, the living room in the home is a multi-functional room for solitude and communal gatherings both formal and informal.
Living Room examines meta questions about what it means to live and living within the larger civic narrative in Flint by creating a comfortable safe space for intimate gatherings and solitude. A space where residents can knowledge share their experience and skills from various generational, racial, socio-economic, and professional backgrounds.
Living room is a mobile space that would travel throughout the city with programming for social bridging and healing desperate neighborhoods in Flint. Living Room would be used for book clubs, block parties, meetings with civic leaders, art workshops, potlucks, mother’s clubs, storytelling, taking a nap, getting a massage, relationship building, granny tours, and the Flint Living talk show.
Living room is a performative act of movement building for a healthy Flint both publicly and privately. All movements are built through one on one conversations that contribute to a larger public narrative. Living Room seeks to build a movement of healing and care among the residents of Flint for themselves and each other.
Flint Living: A weekly talk show hosted by Desiree Duell that highlights positive happenings in all part of the city. Each week, she would feature a different neighborhood and a guest that lives in that area doing great work. She would be featuring entrepreneurs, community leaders, artists, domestic laborers, small business owners, civil servants, youth, and our elders. Flint Living is cultivating neighborhood pride and celebrating each neighborhoods unique culture.
Granny Tours: Granny Tours would pair elders from different neighborhoods to give tours of Flint in the Living Room. Learn about Flint’s history through the stories of elders.
Park ‘n Planning: City of Flint Planning Department, City Council, and the Mayor can have open office hours at the Living Room.
Self-Care: Massage Therapists, Holistic Healers, Cosmetologists, and other wellness practitioners would render their services on certain days for the public free of charge (paid for by Living Room). Those who can afford the services can have the option to pay. Self-Care could also checking the space out to read a book, take a nap, do yoga, or meditate.
Tiny Concerts: Local musicians and vocalists can hold an intimate gatherings for children.
Talk to a Friend: Invite community members to volunteers to be a friend for a hour. Meet someone new, visit with someone you know, spend time with a relative.
Game Night: Learn a new board game or play one that you love. Bond with your friends, family, and neighbors.
Sharing Family Rituals: Share and swap your rituals for celebrating life and your family. What traditions have you created or inherited?
Show and Tell: Local Artists and artisans share their work and talk about their process as an artist. This would include traditional and craft based artists. Artist may facilitate a workshops with participants.
Meet A (Insert Profession): Have you ever wondered what a scientist, electrician, city planner, community organizer, police officer, lawyer, professor, chef, council member, or journalist actually do? Learn about their professions and maybe you could do that too. For all ages.
Date Night: Dinner delivered + date in the living room with your sweetheart new and old.
Mixed Media on Paper
Accelerated Fabulation reflects on the constant subliminal messaging of our Anthropogenic culture through consumerism, and the fracturing of consciousness through environmental destruction. The work draws upon scrapbooking techniques, the surrealist movement, fairy tales, mass media, pop culture, personal narrative, and National Geographic propaganda.
Flint Water On Paper
Residue was a series of material experiments with Flint Water. The paper would be submerged for days, but coloration of the water did not translate a pigment to the paper. The pigment of the Flint Water was revealed by lightly sanding the paper. This became a mediation on material as content to examine the trauma of environmental injustice on the body politic.
Flint, Michigan, once the industrial heart of America has now become an iconic symbol for the dissolve of the American Dream. Made famous through Michael Moore's 1989 documentary, "Roger & Me" for being the birthplace of General Motors and the destruction of a post-industrial city. Flint has continued to receive national media attention over the past twenty years as a city that has met its demise through arson, violence, urban flight, and the gross mismanagement of city officials. Growing up in Flint, Michigan, I pursued art as a youth to escape from the desolate environment of the collapsing auto industry.
Escape From Flint is an ongoing research and performance project that examines the myth of the American Dream through a historical and personal lens.
Serenity House of Flint is a non-profit recovery organization that advocates on the current public health crisis of addiction as well as informing the public of holistic options for recovery. Serenity House addresses the need to end the stigma of drug addiction, and treat those struggling with addiction with dignified, holistic care. Serenity House is currently building the capacity to regularly offer reiki therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, yoga therapy, mindfulness meditation, dance meditations, and peer-to-peer counseling to people in recovery and their friends and family.
Tara Moreno worked as a news reporter before becoming the founder of Serenity House in 2015. Tara and Desiree first met through working on art related events in Flint. They are both committed to collectively building healthy relationships and sisterhood on an organizational level in Flint. Desiree currently supports and serves Serenity House as Vice President on the Board of Directors.
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A Body of Water was the first community arts installation in response to the Flint Water Crisis. The installation traveled to various sites throughout the city of Flint- Woodside Church, the Hispanic Technology & Community Center of Greater Flint, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Flint, and Flint City Hall functioning as an alternative platform for protesting.
A Body of Water was awarded a Share Art Flint grant in 2015 and 2016 by Greater Flint Arts Council with generous funding from the Ruth Mott Foundation. A Body of Water was also featured at Flint Public Art Project’s Free City Festival 2016 through support from the Andy Warhol Foundation.
A Body of Water continues to be shown upon request.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Showering is a private act, but we rely on public utilities to do that. To build solidarity between Flint and Ann Arbor, Flint activists asked Ann Arbor residents to open up their homes to allow them to take a shower. Through a matching process, Flint activists met with their Ann Arbor hosts to take a shower before collectively meeting at Governor Snyder's condo. Washing Away Snyder's Sins was a performance protest that took a dialogical approach to protest as both a public and private act. Collaborators included Michigan Nurses Association, Flint Rising, Flint and Ann Arbor Solidarity Network, and LEO Union.
The Flint Water Crisis was an act of state violence. Activist, Nakiya Wakes lost twins in her second trimester due to drinking poisoned water. Many women had multiple miscarriages due to the Flint Water Crisis, but miscarriages are not recorded as deaths so it was a health issue that was going unreported by health officials.
America’s Heartbreakers was influenced by die-ins from the Black Lives Matter Movement and other protests done by Planned Parenthood while incorporating performance art techniques to raise awareness about the impact of the Flint Water Crisis on women’s reproductive health.
The Flint Water Crisis was so environmentally technical that it was hard for people to understand the emotional and physical trauma that occurred to the people of Flint. When trauma on that scale occurs there are often no words to name the emotional response to such a violation.
America’s Heartbreakers had three goals to help those participating heal, give a name to the unspeakable trauma in our community, and help those outside our community understand how deeply devastating this crisis was on an emotional and physical level.
Water Not Walls was a sculpture created to protest Trump's tour of Flint during his presidential campaign. Water Not Walls consisted of a twenty foot wall made out of used water bottles. Calling attention to Trump's obsession with building a costly wall at the border of Mexico instead of focusing on helping the residents of Flint. Trump was the last presidential candidate to visit Flint, and said almost nothing concerning aid to its residents.
Water Not Walls also functioned as durational protest throughout the presidential race as a public art installation.
The Flint Change was a participatory art action to promote voter and civic engagement based on the premise that voting is an investment in civic life. The Bank of Flint Change traveled throughout Flint asking participants to “deposit” an art piece into the bank. Flint Change also registered residents to vote.
Through story circles, community members were able to tell their stories unfiltered by traditional media sources. This project sought to enhance and support civic empowerment, especially in using media and visual storytelling as a tool for community organizing, building power, and articulating issues of social injustice.
Flint Change was a project in collaboration with PICO National Network’s federation, Michigan Faith in Action, with participation of other local activists, artists, and congregations. This project was made possible in part by funding from the Pluribus Project Narrative Collboratory, a program of the Aspen Institute.
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Desiree served in various capacities as needed in the movement for clean and affordable water in Flint. She co-founded and organized the Flint Mom Power Group, filtered media requests, did spokesperson work, facilitated community meetings, interviewed residents, crafted messaging for the movement, and worked with non-profit entities to make the recovery effort accessible to the most vulnerable identities during the Flint Water Crisis.
Through the codification of a broad based arts coalition, which included Flint elected officials and staff, The Greater Flint Arts Council received a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant in 2012 to develop an Arts Master Plan in conjunction with the City of Imagine Flint Comprehensive Master Plan.
Desiree was selected as an arts consultant to the City of Flint Master Plan and the Our Town grant as a Content Knowledge Expert in Public and Community Arts for the Community Facilities and Infrastructure advisory group. Her work encompassed various roles as an arts advisor, organizer, and artist for the Imagine Flint Master Plan. She co-facilaited artist meetings with former Mayor Dayne Walling, sat on the steering committee for Artists in Residence for the Our Town grant, and organized community meetings. She was also commissioned to take photographs of community groups for Imagine Flint Master Plan's branding, and illustrate a map of Ward 7 for Artist in Residence, Connor Coyne.
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Lansing, MI/Joinville, Brazil
On The Line was an interactive performance that examined the Occupy Movement as an extension of the Sit Down Strike during the Labor Movement in Flint. The viewer was led through a stimulation of an assembly line to a community discussion on art and labor.
The performance was produced by Buckham Gallery. Collaborators included Occupy Flint activists and artists, choreographer Emma Davis, video artist Eric Hinds, and sound by DJ Lits.
Artists Catherine Grau and Desiree Duell collaborated with Tracy Brewington, program coordinator of the Rowe Building to organize a fundraiser for the shelter of Flint.
The artists used this opportunity to construct a relational installation and invite the public to a shared meal. The installation aimed to illumine community solidarity through the involvement of numerous collaborators. While utilizing the furniture and household goods from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and the St.Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop, the Rowe building also functioned as a temporary showroom for these stores, allowing these organizations to sell their furniture on site.
The artists cooked dinner with only locally grown produce to connect with a number of Flint-based initiatives that are involved in organic, urban food production. The artists asked local farms to donate produce for a vegetarian meal that was served with bread from a local initiative, Revolutionary Bread.
By producing this event within the context of the Art Walk and utilizing artistic strategies, the artists aspired to bring together people from various backgrounds and promote these initiatives as collective endeavors. This event highlighted the resources of Flint that are embedded in social engagement on issues of cultural and ecological sustainability.
Inviting the community come together under one roof and partake of a communal meal was a gesture of solidarity and collective resilience.
Flint Public Art Project was an initiative started by producer/writer Stephen Zacks in collaboration with Red Ink Flint.
Desiree joined Flint Public Art Project as an artist in residence during its early inception. She organized artists, produced public performances, provided artistic direction, and collaborated with visiting artists beyond handling administrative logistics for the project. Collaborators included The City of Flint, The Local 432, Flint Community Schools, Mott Community College, University of Michigan-Flint, residents and artists of Flint.
Growing Washakie was a community arts and development project that spanned two years, and launched the first Washakie County Farmers Market. This project also included a weeklong summer arts program for youth and continued with the growth of a community garden for the residents of Worland, WY. Growing Washakie was supported by The Chamber of Commerce, The City of Worland, The Worland Community Center Complex, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Wyoming, and The Wyoming Arts Council.
Kids with a Statement was an innovative art and performance based after-school program at Carver VoTech High School produced by Child First Authority in collaboration with Maryland Institute College of Art's Community Arts graduate program, and AmeriCorp State.
Youth were paid to attend the program and co-create performances about social justice issues. High school artists developed interactive performances from their personal narratives dealing with issues of racial profiling and access to higher education. Youth were trained in grassroots organizing techniques that were incorporated into their performances. Through design workshops, the youth created their own, Power Suits that were used during performances as well. Kids with a Statement performed at Walters Art Museum, Maryland Institute College of Art, Centerstage, and Villa Julie College.
Dream Wall was a community generated public art project produced in response to a construction barrier that blocked the entrance to The Harwood Community. In designing a project for the construction barrier, the students' tactics for visualizing their aspirations took form physically by attaching their dreams to the realities that roadblock access to opportunity.
Michelle Blue, director of the community arts center Follow Your Dreams, explained the Dream Wall project to her city council representative overseeing the road construction, the fence was moved within a matter of hours. For the children, this served as a lesson in the power wielded simply in the act of articulating the ideal in the face of the real. Collaborators included Follow Your Dreams, David Sloan, Michelle Blue, Paula Phillips, The City of Baltimore, and the youth of the Harwood Community.