OCTOBER 7, 2011

Quick camping trip with friends before dismantling van

I am Home!

Twelve months ago I left my house in Massachusetts, and now I am back. I drove 25,000 miles and taught over two thousand individuals how to make a wooden object with their own hands. Our project was very successful. I say our project because without the help of all of you it would have just been an idea. Two thousand individuals may seem like a small number at first glance, but the experience and education I shared will get multiplied over time in so many ways. The seeds that have been planted will grow over time. The objects that were made will be cherished for years to come. The woodturning guild members who worked with me are now teaching others. The kids I taught are showing off their objects and telling the stories of how they were made. The workshop participants are going back to their shops with new ideas. Some high school teachers are now ordering lathes to add turning to their curriculum.

The Turning Around America project seemed so simple in the beginning. I was just going to teach as many people as I could, how to make a simple wooden object. It became so much more. I taught in classrooms from New England to California to Florida, and many places in between. I have seen the frustration that public school teachers are facing every day. Many classrooms I visited had over twenty-six kids per class, six classes a day, for just forty minutes. Some schools in California had thirty to thirty-six kids every forty minutes, six classes a day. Many schools no longer had art or wood classes. When I spoke at symposiums about these issues the response was always the same, “THEY have taken these classes away.” My response was always the same: “WE are THEY!” I have seen a growing feeling of disempowerment in our country. The Turning Around America Project contradicts this feeling. I felt like I was making a difference every day. WE made a difference! Everyone who helped me with time, money, food and encouragement took a step to change the tide of disillusionment. It is through action that we can overcome inertia and disempowerment. I am returning to my own community in Boston excited to get more involved. Jennifer Moller and I are currently setting up a profile on USA Artist to get funds to continue this project and the idea of empowerment through action.

My life is forever changed. I have loved traveling around this country; it is incredibly diverse and beautiful. The people everywhere were kind, generous, and wonderful. I will never be afraid to venture out on the road alone. Living in the van for a year has given me new ways of thinking about home and space. I am coming home with a renewed incentive to pare down. Living with fewer objects for a year, I am now overwhelmed by the amount of stuff around me in my house. I open drawers and look at things I totally forgot I had. I will start dispersing these unnecessary possessions.

I had the opportunity to create a body of work at The International Turning Exchange and at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. This work was inspired by my travel. I have learned the power of collaboration not only with Jenn and all of you, but with other artists at my residency and fellowship. I have made many new friends scattered all over the United States. The blog has served as an on going travelogue but there are many stories I have not yet shared. Jenn and I are currently archiving all the information from the journey for a future book and video project.

Turning America started as a simple project created by two artists. It has turned into a vehicle for possibility and empowerment for so many people. Please go to www.turningaroundamerica.com and see all “WE” have helped accomplished and stay tuned to what is going to come in the future.

Thank you,

Beth Ireland

About turningaroundamerica

Collaborative Team of Jenn Moller and Beth Ireland
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1 Response to OCTOBER 7, 2011

  1. You must have had a journey of a lifetime. It feels great to know a person like you, who wlaks the extra mile to do something worthwhile.

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