“Drink a cup of tea and get courageous.”
Cross Pollination Residency: December 7-13, 2015
Adrienne Mackey, Katonya Mosley, and Sarah Kate Burgess undertook creative work and conversation about the way bodies mediate our experience of the world, how our internal stories align with our external forms, and how we speak, sculpt and sing to get to a genuine sense of truth and connection.
The first day of Cross Pollination is a little like the first day at a new school: you have an overview of what it’s about and you might’ve met your classmates once or twice in orientation-type settings, but there’s still a lot of unpredictability and anticipation for what’s going to happen what you actually get there.
Adrienne Mackey, Sarah Kate Burgess, and Katonya Mosley were grouped together to spend a week exploring the artistic center point of Adrienne’s theater and voice background; Sarah’s jewelry and craft-making; and Katonya’s true storytelling and comedy. Before the residency began, they met three times to start getting to know each other and discovered a few shared points of interest, but beyond that, the week was an open canvas.
On day one, as Adrienne, Sarah, and I (who spent the week with the group as an outsider documentarian) sat in our gathering place making small talk about cats and feeling the minutes tick by as we waited for Katonya, there was an underlying nervousness since everyone really wanted the experience to go well.
Twenty minutes past our scheduled start time, Katonya whirled into the room. Taking in the room briefly, she exclaimed, “…I’m black!” Joking about her race as an explanation for lateness seemed to relieve Katonya’s potential nerves and anxiety around the differences between herself and the rest of the group. In that moment, the rest of us were taken aback and uncertain how to react, so we didn’t directly respond to the race acknowledgement, which added another unintentional layer of awkwardness.
The trio dove into their residency with a series of reflective exercises, generally under rotating leadership of one of the three artists. Using their conversations and interests as inputs, the trio (sometimes joined by me) explored an artistic process, often meditative or designed to bring them more into the present tense. Afterwards, they’d reflect on the exercise and flow into other conversations. This cycle of doing and meaning-making, against the backdrop of an intimate feminine space and accompanied by a lot of tea-drinking, built a micro-culture of focusing value on being openly yourself, unfinished and in-progress in the presence of others.
Following a mirroring exercise that particularly opened them up to vulnerability, the trio found themselves discussing the “I’m black” moment in one of their conversations. Adrienne commented on how she had wanted to respond to the statement with some sort of assertion that she didn’t judge Katonya for her lateness, that she didn’t assume it was a commonality of black people generally but instead just a normal occurrence of a person happening to be late that day. However, in the actual moment of Katonya’s greeting, Adrienne wasn’t sure how to say that in a tactful way; she was afraid to offend Katonya, so she kept silent. Getting to explain this sensation, even retroactively, was rare and powerful; Sarah commented that she’s often a “bottler-upper” and loved that they’d built a place where they could be open and honest. For Katonya, the moment was less unique; she frequently brings up race with her friends, and in that moment, the anxiety she was relieving came less from race and more from some unexpected personal stressors that came into play right before the residency began. Despite that, though, she values the rich exchange that came from the hastily crafted joke and the invitation towards conversation that it provided.
This conversation was emblematic of the week-long residency as a whole: the more intimate the group was with their artistic exercises, the more intimate they were able to be with their discussions. They found ways to dig into moments of discomfort and say things that were challenging, and then offered support to one another in the search for understanding and connection. Race was just one theme explored, offering an opening into a broader conversation about bodies/appearances and the impressions they convey, which was a topical intersection point between physical form, personal feeling, and external cultural narrative. They explored how the way you look influences how carefully you have to speak; the importance the culture lays on visibly different kinds of people to maintain certain levels of cleanliness or order; the way wearable objects can represent personal narrative; and how cultivating diversity is part of ensuring the best storytelling, through the broadening of perspective.
Since their residency, we have continued meeting to explore ways to recreate this mindset. We attended a Quaker meeting to see if it had the same sensibility, read The Magic Art of Tidying Up to consider how it related to our explorations of objects, and hosted a small salon to bring other people into the type of exercises we did together. We also talked a lot about a “workbook” of sorts that could offer others the tools to attempt to build their own community of mindfulness and connectivity. The following document is that workbook, which shares the exercises this Cross Pollination group explored in residency in a format that teaches you how to try them out for yourself.
I encourage you to pour yourself a cup of tea, find a couple companions, and dive on in.
Sarah Kate Burgess received a Masters of Fine Art degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2002 with a focus in Metalsmithing. In 2003 she participated in the Oregon College of Art and Crafts Artist in Residence Program. Burgess also lived in Berlin, Germany where she co-founded Takt Kunstprojektraum. She has taught meta
lsmithing at numerous places including full-time positions at Interlochen Arts Academy (Michigan), Wayne State University (Michigan), and Millersville University (Pennsylvania). In addition, she has held workshops on paper jewelry-making at the West Collection’s MAKE Series, the Philadelphia Art Alliance, and The John Michael Kohler Arts Center, as well as given lectures on her work throughout the country.
Her work has been included in Metalsmith Magazine, and numerous national and international books and magazines. Burgess has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally, at the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston Massachusetts, the Museum of Public Fiction in Los Angeles California, the Acquiro Civico, Milan Italy, the Society for Contemporary Crafts, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and with the Opulence Project at SOFA New York. Currently you can view her collaboration with Jacque Liu, commissioned by the Asian Arts Initiative for their Pearl Street Project, Peach Blossom Spring on the 1200 block of Pearl Street, in Philadelphia PA.
Katonya Mosley is creative by nature, a lawyer by training, and a simulator by day. Her current job duties include helping doctors to become better communicators, and training others to do the same. A personal growth enthusiast, she is a certified breather on a quest for the procrastination cure.
Katonya has appeared in numerous curated storytelling events, as a feature and an emcee. She has been booked in Philadelphia, Worcester, Richmond, and DC. Hallmarks of her performances are her unique brand of crafted candor and funny vulnerability.