JASON WYMAN: REDEFINING COMMUNITY THROUGH THE ARTS
“The self does not reside solely; rather it exists in relation to community. Artistry is a unique combustion of talent, observance, mastery, repetition and luck.”
REDEFINING COMMUNITY OUTREACH AS COMMUNITY ‘IN’ REACH
By EJ WickesAs an educator Jason Wyman has always been concerned with cultural, generational and social dynamics for most of his life. Jason is also an artist and an enabler. He believes in equality through opportunity and opportunity is what the arts and technology are offering the new minds of today. He’s got a bad attitude for all the right reasons and it’s beginning to payoff for his community in a number of ways.
If metamodernism is about anything it’s about cross-currents and diversity. Through the universal language of art Jason Wyman brings those cross currents and cultural dichotomies into positive coexistence. Through a number of multi-media collaborations that “weave singular narratives into plural platforms”, Wyman is committed to “amplifying the experiences, perspectives, and voices of peoples and communities historically confined to the margins of institutional and systemic power”.
Jason in following his calling toward the humanities studied art and communications in college and then spent a short time in seminary school. It was there when he realized that the conventional wisdom of society’s institutions didn’t necessarily have his back. And it was then when he realized how normal people can defy the restrictions of conventional wisdom.
His flight from a certain dissatisfaction with college was the impetus behind Wyman’s relocation to San Francisco. There he found a great internship working with a home for severely disturbed children. Throughout his career as an educator and an administrator he began to observe patterns and relationships between community, communication and the arts.
Much of what Jason Wyman does is act as a facilitator of community arts action. In talking about 14BlackPoppies.org, the brain child of his and long time friend Margaret Bacon Schulze, Wyman describes their inter-generational development program. The mission is about bringing together all of the different generations through experiences happening at the intersection of community and “arts wellness”. Arts wellness programs are designed to enrich the community through all stages of life by combining innovative, creative arts programming and holistic wellness services in one vibrant collaborative space.
Instead of remaining apart and selectively inclusive, their formula is in contrast to the status quo of many institutionalized non-profits today. Working from within the community generates true grassroots support. From the cultural interaction that comes, perceptive and innovative community leaders are quick to follow the current.
SPACE AND BELONGING
Social experiments are generally conducted by psychologists and cultural anthropologists but artists often engage the same methods in their work. Artists inquire; they want to see how the pieces fit. Where we see ourselves in that composition of life and community is the emphasis of the Where Do You Belong project. Where Do You Belong is one of the current investigations inspired by 14 Black Poppies and coordinated by Rebecca Schultz and Jason Wyman.
The artists are encouraged to go into public places and take surveys; and upload their results onto a digital database. From this data the artists extrapolate concepts for their works and performances. In some cases the Milgram experiments resembled interactive performance art in the way the students were challenged to interact with the subjects. Art can cause an emotional response in a similar way that social mechanisms do.
Multi-disciplined art is nothing new. Art is in everything we see. And we don’t have to go far to see it. It’s part of our digital make-up. But still there has always been a two dimensional polarity between the arts and society as a whole; economically and as an educational tool. Artists and art organizations are always building the “Bridge of Sighs” between them and the community with very little staying power without larger institutions behind them.
In the non-profit community It gets very difficult to sell your package to the civic leaders and philanthropic foundations you’ve been meeting with, if they never have time to actually attend your events. Too often are grass roots or pro-active community art organizations mistaken for having too much in common. Through the experiences of Jason, his associates and many unique and varied approaches by others like them, the potential of art and culture as engines for social and economic change are becoming more understood and appreciated.
What is a Social Practice Artist?
”Proverb #13: Complexity is simply simplicity repeated repeatedly.”
“Margaret Bacon Schulze is a writer of Okinawan and Anglo (English, Irish, Scottish and French) ancestry. She was born in Okinawa, Japan and grew up mostly in Southern California though she also lived in Florida, Mississippi, Singapore, England and Scotland. San Francisco has been her home longer than anywhere else, and she continues to reside near Ocean Beach with her family which includes three children and four cats.”
“Rebecca Schultz is a multi-disciplinary artist and educator dedicated to using the arts as a tool for community dialogue and development. To this end, she has spent the last fifteen years creating original performance and installation pieces about social issues, as a performer, director, and facilitator. Rebecca has created a number of solo performance pieces exploring issues of gender and identity, and directs community-based theater projects, including the Play it LOUD! project with LGBT youth. She also worked as an artist in residence in schools throughout the Bay Area, teaching visual arts and theater to youth of all ages. Rebecca co-founded Bay Area Theatre of the Oppressed in 2003 and has facilitated a number of Theatre of Oppressed workshops for diverse groups in the Bay Area and beyond. In 2007, she co-founded OutLook Theater Project, for which she co-developed and directed This Many People.”
“Jason Wyman is an experimental writer performing critiques of permanence, acceptance, death, and transcendence. He also facilitates arts and wellness workshops and experiences through 14 Black Poppies, revives the collective spirits of the LGBTQIA communities through OutLook Theater Project, and transforms his body into the Illustrated Man 2.0 where each tattoo tells a fable.”
Jason has performed at Gathering the Embers, The News, Poetry Mission: The New Shit Show, the Ocean Avenue Art Walk, Try SOME THING, This Is What I Want Festival, and other community events. His writing appears at In Our Words, A Salon for Queers and Company, Mission Local, and the Western Edition. Jason was also the featured chef at Feast of Word’s Feast with Ben making a delectable roasted tomato bread pudding.
Regardless of who he is at any given moment, Jason Wyman is also (and always) a husband to his greatest love, John. And he is always and forever family to those on the margins. He has called San Francisco home for over 18 years.