We Are All Here
In March 2017 the Seattle Symphony and Path with Art presented the culminating concert of Path with Art’s community-based art project, We Are All Here.
The final composition draws inspiration from poetry and visual art created throughout the course of We Are All Here, which began in March 2016. Path with Art participants of the We Are All Here project worked with award-winning mural artist Kristen Ramirez and internationally acclaimed public artist Martha Rosler, in partnership with The New Foundation at the Seattle Art Museum, to write poems inspired by the students’ reactions to Seattle’s ever-changing social climate. The students then transformed the poems into visual art, creating banners that were displayed in Occidental Square in the summer of 2016.
Throughout the summer, the project challenged the broader Seattle community to submit poems to address “what it means to be community” through public poetry drop boxes. All of these poems were published on Path with Art’s website. From these, a jury of poets made a selection to inspire additional banners for the project.
In the fall of 2016, Path with Art students began a 16-week residency at the Seattle Symphony, drawing inspiration from the poetry created through the project. The students worked extensively with Symphony teaching artists Jessi Harvey and Lena Console to create the original community composition.
Seattle Symphony teaching artists guided Path with Art students to create an original musical score inspired by the We Are All Here banners. The 16-week residency explored how to compose a piece of music, inspired by art and poetry to promote social justice and change. The newly created score was premiered by Path with Art participants and a Seattle Symphony chamber ensemble on March 8, 2017, against the backdrop of the banners.
Path with Art Executive Director Holly Jacobson explains: “The We Are All Here banner project provided a venue for people from very disparate circumstances to have a voice, and to allow us to hear those many voices as one community. The process of creating a composition inspired by the poems and art from the project, and having it performed by our students — and Symphony musicians — is a perfect ‘crown jewel’ to finish this year-long, powerful collective work and exploration of the issues surrounding inclusion in a rapidly growing city.”
Written by Path with Art Composition Students
“We have saved you a seat.” This sentiment is a bit revolutionary or unexpected, because it gives the audience a chance to sit with us in loss, pain and trauma. Our culture has devalued people to the point that we now have “throwaway people”: the homeless, the disabled and seniors. But we have so much more to offer, gifts of perspective and strength. Adversity is a forge that creates unshakeable strength and depth of self-knowledge. All people have value, worth and uniqueness. We know who we are and we know we are here. We wish for the world to see everyone, despite housing and employment, as unique, talented and valued individuals. This composition shows the discordant crisis, challenges and strength of people to persevere, so that EVERY person can find a place in the fabric of life.
This piece shows the arc of the reality of homelessness to the dream of the ideal world back to the reality we are in, but still full of hope and questions for the future. Unending exposure to the weather is a recurring theme throughout the piece. The opening storm parallels the storm of people experiencing homelessness with its extreme uncertainty and chaos. Cello runs accented by dissonant chords mark the anxiety and franticness of the unknown. Sirens in the flute and violin throughout the first section represent the constant threat of being criminalized for existing in the margins as well as the danger of the streets. Some people find shelter within a tent city. Various instrumental motives represent the people and their different conversations: positive, negative, internal and external. We move to a cry by the clarinet of, “See me, I am here,” to declare people’s right for existence. The anxiety and storm return with the entire group playing, working together for survival.
The middle section, with the chorus of “We paint the world beautiful,” shows the picture of the ideal world as it should be and the hope that society see everyone’s worth and value. Melodic lines from different cultures — klezmer, folk, samba, African, jazz — show the multi-colored threads weaving the fabric of society. We paint the rainbow with the color wheel of life, dipping our brush, showing the power art has to express our diverse experience, welcoming people to join us.
The final section returns with the storm but punctuated by “sunshine” chords, slowly abating away to additional conversations, among the various cultures. Yet the internal cry to be seen remains. The piece ends with the layering of several motives showing that social justice and change is possible through everyone working together. The final siren keeps us grounded in the reality we are in, but transforms to give the final message of not knowing the future, still hoping for change.
With Martha Rosler’s visit to our banner class last summer, I realized that humans have rights. This composition is my journey from trauma & homelessness to my brain healing so that I began to function better to living in a society where human rights are not respected, challenged & even dismissed. Despite homelessness and a mental health diagnosis, we all have the right to be respected, we all have a place in society…we are all here. I’m thrilled to be performing my saw blade instrument that was originally created & performed at the Trimpin performance.
Lynn A. DeBeal
I stopped making music 10 years ago when pulmonary fibrosis put an end to 30 years of making music. This project has helped me find my love of music again. I am back to playing my violin for the first time in 10 years. I bought a guitar, have a new attitude about my damaged lungs. Thank you.
Jennifer Lee Hamilton
This piece means to me: I have found no way to express the experience in my spirit of the street life. It was as if it had its own unknown language. This piece expresses the experience clearly & honestly. I am regenerated through this class.
Marian Hayes, seattlesmog
God created the Heavens and made such MARVELOUS music that I’ve been listening most of my life!! So now I play clarinet, violin, and recorder. This class and concert means so much to me because it’s a way to tell God THANK YOU!! for creating me and letting me know that I DO BELONG with everyone else!
Aaron J. Hill, A Homeless Man
Despite being a film score aficionado since I was a teenager, for some reason I never went beyond listening, until this class with Jessi and Lena, where I've learned about a great many aspects of composition — “crunchy chords” and tempo and articulation, etc. I had grand plans for this composition. Some came to fruition and others did not, but collaborating with others was fun. Realizing that I had similar ideas to so many others, it became a synergistic effort. Often we supplemented one another. Please note that this is a greatly abridged version of my thoughts and experiences. For a more lengthy and detailed artist's statement, please visit a special section dedicated to the subject on my blog: aaronjhill.wordpress.com/music.
This piece was lovely to work on and instigated many honest and empowering revelations about surviving and even thriving against the sheer rock face of growing income divides. Working on this piece with Path with Art I learned the dance of collaboration, stepping back to admire the genius and shine of my fellow composers, and stepping forward when my own ideas were ready to shine.
Paul H. Otis
I like this piece that is mellow because it is kind of swing, and I can add guitar notes where they belong. And it will be a fun evening. My experience writing this music was a challenge for me but I’m getting there. I have some ideas about the piece since I am a good musician.
I am not consider myself as an artist. I am a lifelong learner. I love to learn, especially with Path with Art. I joined Path with Art for ten months, but I joined some of their classes. I joined dancing class, drumming class, hats class. All of the instructors are excellent. Now I am joining the “Create a Score” class. I learned a lot about music from the instructors.
ABOUT PATH WITH ART
Path with Art is a nonprofit arts organization that exists to provide access to the arts to no-to-low income adults recovering from homelessness, addiction, domestic abuse, physical and mental illness, and other trauma. In partnership with over 30 social service agencies, 25 arts organizations and 30 renowned teaching artists, Path with Art’s multi-pronged programming harnesses the power of creative engagement as a bridge to community and a path to stability.
Formed in Seattle in 2008, the Path with Art model is being sought after by communities nationwide. Recently, Path with Art served over 600 participants in Seattle at no cost to them or their partner organizations through:
- Arts education
- Public exhibitions and performances
- Access Art: guided trips and tickets to museums and civic arts institutions
- Community Connections: art-making opportunities that bring our participants in collaboration with the broader public
The work is driven by a vision: A world where arts engagement is recognized as transformative — connecting the individual with the self, the self with community, and communities with society. In this world, the power of arts engagement is available for all.
This is the second public performance collaboration between Path with Art and the Symphony; in 2015 Seattle Symphony artist in residence, Trimpin, taught a class which resulted in a standing room only performance in Benaroya Hall. Additionally, Path with Art’s choir, The Path with Art Singers, rehearses weekly at Soundbridge Seattle Symphony Music Discovery Center.
Visit pathwithart.org to learn more about Path with Art