"No Strangers Here Today" is a movement monologue with live music that dances between personal memory and American history from the Civil War to the present. Susan Banyas' Quaker Great-Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Edwards, kept a diary during the Civil War with coded phrases suggesting her participation in the great socio-political movement called the Underground Railroad.
This vast and allusive bi-racial social network defied the federal government, and, through great personal risk, demanded an end to the slaveocracy, the slave system supported by both the South and the North. The memory network that arose from that time continues to symbolize freedom seeking and vigilance against economic, political, and personal tyranny by the master class. "No Strangers Here Today" is written in solidarity with the Ancestors who lived through those times and inspired this vision.
The collaboration between writer and movement artist Susan Banyas and jazz artist David Ornette Cherry is directed by choreographer Gregg Bielemeier and theatre artist Gwynne Warner. Development of this work was funded in part by a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) and a commission from The Library Foundation of Los Angeles.
Patrick Gracewood has community interaction with history on his mind in his piece called “To Grandmother’s House.”
“I love how that title implies three generations, past, present, future, and a journey...much as people who last rode the trolley as children are now grandparents,” he said. “They and the community have worked for years to bring this project, the entire revitalization of trolleys and nature trail, to fruition.”
A resident of Northeast Portland’s Cully Neighborhood, 58-year-old Gracewood has been a professional sculptor for more than 30 years. In addition to his original sculptures, Gracewood has worked on high-fashion mannequins, special effects makeup and sets in Los Angeles, and architectural restoration of historic terracotta buildings in Portland.
He’s carving the grandmotherly figure from one of the large atlas cedars removed from the Trolley Trail. His inspirations were the German immigrant farmers who settled Oak Grove and a series of photos he took when he was 19 and the German grandmother of a friend in high school was visiting.
Few figurative sculptures feature people who aren’t young and beautiful, he points out.
“I’ve always treasured these photos of this small stout woman who’d survived two world wars,” he said. “That she’s holding a rabbit is gentle and funny.”
Gracewood calls it an “anti-heroic sculpture,” because it’s in contrast to so many monumental warriors on horseback with gun or swords commemorating war. With the large nearby elderly population in mind, Gracewood wanted to encourage learning from wisdom of the past.
“It is women, especially older women, who help hold a community together, though their many relationships, loving and caring for their children, grandchildren, friends and the elderly,” he said.
He sees his grandmother figure as Mother Nature and hopes others do, too.
“As such, we still have much to learn from her (in) using and conserving our communal resources as wisely as possible,” he said. “That’s the beauty of the Trolley Trail Project, it creates efficient public transportation and a nature walk/bike/skate corridor. It’s such a pleasure to contribute a sculpture that helps tell that story.”
- Portland Tribune 23 October 2012 | Written by Raymond Rendleman
Patrick Gracewood: http://www.gracewoodstudio.com
Video and editing by Eric Nordstrom: http://www.ppav.me