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Local artist invites Juneauites to participate in workshop, installation

Posted: April 19, 2012 - 12:01am
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Artist MK MacNaughton, center, cuts up plaster strips for Willem Neyhart, 8, left, Jack Imel, 10, Natalie Cosgrove, 11, Capri Potter, 10 and Leah Neyhart, 10, right, during a "one million bones" workshop at her downtown studio on Tuesday.   Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Artist MK MacNaughton, center, cuts up plaster strips for Willem Neyhart, 8, left, Jack Imel, 10, Natalie Cosgrove, 11, Capri Potter, 10 and Leah Neyhart, 10, right, during a "one million bones" workshop at her downtown studio on Tuesday.

Juneau will be one of more than 30 state capitals to participate in a one-day art installation taking place next week, thanks to the coordination of local artist MK MacNaughton. The local installation is part of a larger project called One Million Bones, scheduled to take place in 2013. MacNaughton, who works out of her own studio, Sketch, was inspired to join in the national effort after learning about the project’s goals and the vision of its creator, artist and activist Naomi Natale.

“I was really moved by this artist,” she said.

The project involves the creation of one million bones in various artistic media, which will eventually be placed en masse on the National Mall in Washington D.C. as a way to raise awareness of ongoing genocides and humanitarian crises in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Burma. Prior to this national installation, capital cities across the country will create their own local installations on April 28, a one day project called The Road to Washington.

MacNaughton said the project inspired her in part for the opportunity it presents to have a voice in an overwhelmingly huge and distant problem.

“For me personally, I feel like this is an opportunity,” she said. “How can I stop what’s happening in the Sudan? I can make a contribution that will have a visual impact in D.C. and that maybe will influence policy makers. I can have an individual voice that makes a difference. But also I think there’s just a lot of hope in conducting this project, in connecting people and educating the next generation.”

MacNaughton’s words echo Natale’s own views on the subject. In a recent Huffington Post blog, she wrote,

“In my personal experience, it’s not apathy that prevents many of us from taking action. More often it’s that we are overwhelmed or feel hopeless that our contribution will make a meaningful difference. Taken from this perspective, the problem has a very clear solution: Offer people a compelling, tangible way to make a difference and they will seize it.”

Art provides this tangible way.

The Road to Washington, like the larger project, involves the installation of artist-created bones, this time on a local level. In Juneau the bones will be installed near Marine Park downtown on April 28. MacNaughton has asked participants to wear black or brown shirts with neutral pants, such as jeans, during the installation, which will be filmed by UAS student Ryan Cortes Perez.

In preparation, MacNaughton will lead a bone-making workshop from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, April 22, in the parking lot outside her studio, located behind Kenny’s Wok & Teriyaki at the corner of Front and Main streets.

“Anyone can drop in, you don’t have to stay for two hours,” she said.

MacNaughton will supply materials, such as plaster and paper. Natale has encourages bone-makers to make the bones realistic (no real bones will be part of the exhibit), and for this MacNaughton has the help of a full skeleton model, given to her by Jeff Brown.

Bones were chosen because they “testify to our common humanity,” Natale said in her TED presentation. They are also what’s left of us when we’re gone. Of course, the installation is also representative of a mass grave.

In her TED talk, Natale wondered if a similar, real-life installation could have prompted change when the Rwanda genocide was taking place in 1994. According to the BBC, an estimated 800,000 were killed at that time.

“If the bones of the those murdered in Rwanda were piled in the streets in Washington D.C., would we as a nation have been brave enough in the face of that evidence to have called it a genocide, would we have done that, would we have acted?” she asked.

MacNaughton’s goal for the Road to Washington project is to create 2,500 bones.

Those who wish to participate in Juneau’s installation can also make their own bones at home, MacNaughton said.

The One Million Bones project was organized by Natale in conjunction with Students Rebuild, a group that inspires young people to take action on global issues. Through Students Rebuild, an initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation, each bone that is made will raise a $1 donation for CARE for their work in Congo and Somalia.

Those who don’t want to make their own bones for the national installation can have a bone created in their name for a donation of $5. Those bones will be handmade of biodegradable material — some may even contain seeds inside designed to sprout when the bone has decomposed.

In addition to being a powerful art installation, the national project is also designed to be a “visible petition” to help convince the US government to implement the recommendations of the Genocide Prevention Task Force report, released in 2008.

The Road to Washington project was inspired by an event that took place in Albuquerque, N.M., last year, when more than 500 volunteers created 50,000 handmade bones. One of the participants, Carl Wilkens, the former head of a relief agency in Rwanda, was, according to many media sources including PBS, the only American who chose to stay in the country during the 1994 genocide. In a speech, Wilkens was quoted as saying “When we make something with our hands, it changes the way we feel, which changes the way we think, which changes the way we act.”

MacNaughton said she found that quote very inspiring.

For her, the project is also a reminder of how we live day-to-day. As a parent, she tries to empower her kids with the courage to speak up against things they know are wrong.

“I think stopping injustice even on a small, personal scale counts,” she said. “If we can’t speak out about the little things — bullying on the bus or ostracizing a kid — then how can we speak out about the big things?”

For more information about MacNaughton’s workshop or the local installation, contact her at 957-2061.

For more on the national project, visit www.onemillionbones.org.

KNOW AND GO

What: Bone-making workshop

When: Sunday, April 22, from 3-5 p.m.

Where: In the parking lot outside Sketch (next to Kenny’s Restaurant) on the corner of Front & Main Street.

Details: Participants will be making bones out of plaster in preparation for April 28 installation at Marine Park.

What: Juneau’s “Road to Washington” installation

When: Saturday, April 28 at 4 p.m.

Where: Meet on the dock by Marine Park.

Details: Participants should wear solid colored clothing in dark colors. The installation will be filmed by Ryan Cortes Perez.

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