Ascension Place is a nonprofit transitional housing program with a mission “to support women in crisis and transition by providing a stable environment and the opportunity to explore options for their future.” For more than six years, Ascension Place has hosted an annual arts program with funding from the Minnesota Regional Arts Council (MRAC). The emphasis of the 2011/2012 MRAC program was to support artistic expression while simultaneously encouraging independence and skill-building, focusing on sustainable and accessible fine arts projects that participants could recreate once they transition to independent housing. Ascension Place’s arts program also provides opportunities for each participant to express her point of view in relationship to her surrounding community, illuminating artistic visions of women who oftentimes feel voiceless or underrepresented in our various political processes.
The exhibit includes pieces selected from Ascension Place’s Photography Workshop, Printmaking Workshop and Found Object Sculpture Project, all conducted by Minneapolis photographer and artist Hillary Cohen DeParde. Every session began with a Mixed Media free-association drawing exercise that used varying combinations of watercolors, color pencils, oil pastels and markers. The exercise was inspired by the Orphism art movement, known for its vivid geometric designs. The Photography Workshop was comprised of low-tech methods including cyanotype and pinhole photography, relying on the use of accessible, everyday materials. The participants also helped construct an onsite darkroom and developed the film using traditional methods. The Printmaking Workshop included various techniques such as monoprint, relief print, lithography and etching. The Found Object Sculpture Project repurposed wood scraps as well as participants’ unused personal items.
Each workshop included dialogue in recognition of prominent women artists, with projects inspired by Sonia Delauney, Louise Nevelson, Kathe Kollwitz, Amie Kingston, Faith Ringgold and Deborah Butterfield. The workshops also promoted community-building, with many projects resulting in collaborative pieces as well as individual works.