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Rhonda Porter Community Piecing it Back Together Change is a small word, with a big impact.

. As a result of the effects of globalization, many small towns are experiencing change. One casualty of this powerful force is the small, rural community, where I have lived for the past 56 years. This once bustling community that was filled with community pride and activity has fractured economically as well as socially during the past 20 years. The process of watching this once close-knit society slowly dissolve has built a desire within me for change. As I considered the radical changes that have occurred within this tiny village, I realized that the pieces that make up a community are similar to the pieces that make up a mosaic. A community is made up of many different voices that are all attempting to be heard. Without a unifying direction, the voices are weak and ineffectual, yet if they are able to join together, much like the building of a mosaic, they can create something beautiful, meaningful, and powerful. Community art to affect social change should be created by people, lots of people; big people, little people, people that have talent, and people that do not; people who look like me, and people who do not. These are the pieces that make up the mosaic of community and can be the motivating factor in putting the pieces of a broken community back together. An important piece of creating a unifying voice within a community is creating a system for allowing citizens to hear each other by engaging in a dialogue with each other. One especially effective technique called, intergenerational dialogue, was described in the article by Mel Alexenberg and Miriam Benjamin (2004). This article described the creation of three mosaic thrones, based upon the dialogues of African-American, Jewish, and Cuban elders, in which they shared similar stories of suffering and courage recalled from memories of slavery, the Holocaust, and Cuban oppression. This multicultural group discovered that working together resulted in a deeper appreciation for other cultures, plus a realization of the similarity of their values and experiences. It also developed a respect for these elders in the younger student volunteers. This type of socially interactive art moves beyond the usual art for arts sake into a world view that incorporates many voices into one, just like the many pieces of tile that were laboriously put into place by old and young hands, as they reached across generational lines to create art that reflects both diversity and unity.

Another vital piece towards affecting social change within a community is the ability to create economic opportunity through art, which is evident within the international efforts of New Orleans mosaic artist, Laurel True (2009). True, in collaboration with the Art Creation Foundation for Children created a large-scale mosaic mural in Haiti, which serves as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the earthquake of 2009. This art process also functions as a means to teach the children of Haiti a sustainable skill in order to help them to become self-sufficient. Still another critical piece within the mosaic of social change within a community is the ability to engage the community to action by focusing on an issue of vital importance to the entire community. In Art Changes Lives, Nancy Stutman (2001) reveals how artist, Candice Lopez, successfully used art as a means to change the dynamics of her neighborhood, which was being terrorized by drug dealers. Organized around the theme of taking back their town, the citizens in this community united around the creation of an Urban Arts Trail, which represented the path to a peaceful future. This action-based arts project provided incentives for the youth to become engaged, not only in the arts, but also as active participants within their own community. A final piece to be placed into the mosaic of social change within a community is employing the grout to secure the elements together into a cohesive whole. This grout can be found in the form of organizations, such as non-profits or art councils, which act as the glue that connects all the pieces. One such organization is We Are Mosaics, run by Chad and Sara Skowronski (2012), which is an international organization that is dedicated to building creative communities through the making of mosaics. They offer a process that utilizes community, communication and creativity in an effort to transform communities. Another type of glue can be seen in the efforts of the Colquitt-Miller Arts Council, which successfully transformed their town through the implementation of the art of storytelling. Nicole Wallace (2011) tells the story of this fractured community, and its rise to economic success through the guiding forces of an arts council. Even though I have developed a passion to fix my community, I realize that the best way to discover what needs to be fixed is to realize that it will not come from me, but from what is already found within the community, in the form of the community spirit. Employing the techniques of the above artists and organizations can be the first step to a community transformation that is successful in putting the pieces of a fractured community back together.

Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men. Mahatma Gandhi

Alexenberg, M., Benjamin, M. (2004). Creating public art through intergenerational collaboration. Art Education, 57(5), 13-18. Skowronski, S & Skowronski C. (2012) We Are Mosaics[Web site] Retrieved from: Stutman, N. (2001). Art changes lives (Urban Art Trail). Letter Arts Review, 16(1), 24-33 True, L. (2009) International projects. True Mosaics Studio [Web site]. Retrieved from \ Wallace, N. (2011). A theatrical gumbos helps a small town stir its economy. Chronicle of Philanthropy, 23(7), 20.