Featured Artist: Carmanie Bhatti

IMG_1772Carmanie Bhatti

My name is Carmanie Bhatti. My given middle name is Olive. I like to work on social justice projects and help people look at life with an understanding that is necessary for their growth. I have always admired beauty, talent, art, skill, and my very famous quote that I add is “wherever I see a combination of these, I do not hold myself back!” Yes, that is true. I find beauty in everything, because there is so much beauty in us and the nature around us. But, besides beauty, where there is question of finding beauty in death and suffering. I have tried to address that through my poetry, photography, and paintings. My understanding about social justice is relative to expression through different means, whether it be arts, or the use of our hands, bodies, souls, minds and strength. In order for us to address the topic of social justice, we need to make sure how are we addressing, and to whom? Words matter a lot, and can be a source of healing or metaphorically speaking, terrible injury to our neighbors.

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When I worked on my first social justice project in IL, I discovered that I am named after a fruit, but an evergreen fruit and an evergreen tree. I resonate myself with the image of an Olive, while my first name also means an evergreen fruit and tree, respectively. I made use of this analogy, and answered questions about oppression and vulnerability.

Life is full of challenges, but my whole journey is about loving my neighbors with zeal, and compassionate heart, and helping them receive insight into issues of social justice so that together, we learn to live in harmony and brotherhood.

As a poet, I am used to speaking in metaphors, as a photographer through striking pictures that touch hearts and sink in memory, and as a true lover of art, through images in paintings. Through this very poem, I have shared my journey and understanding of life, its challenges, sufferings, and new life, but will leave it for the readers to absorb themselves into its message.

Hope you enjoy reading my poem and seeing my painting, which is an illustration of this poem.

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Featured Artist: Lilith Dorr

Lilith Dorr
Fine Artist~Art Educator~Artist Advocate 

My given name is Valerie Reitzel.  My taken name is Lilith Dorr in honor of the daughter I lost to the  vestiges of domestic violence almost 13 years ago. (My husband threw me when I was almost 4 months pregnant).  This tragedy was the catalyst on my journey to recovery.  After several years of “Internal Reconstructive Surgery”( a blend of intense professional and personal intervention) , I went back to LACASA to be trained as an On-Call Response Team Member (2006 through 2009) and in 2014 was elected to become the first LACASA survivor to become a Board Member. I use my art work and public speaking to reach out survivors and the community at large about topic revolving around abuse and intervention. I have been a public school art teacher since 1989, serving the joy of art making to over 10,000 students.  In addition, I am a producing artist with four exhibitions to my credit:1) The 13 Ladies: An Epic Journey of a Survivor.  This exhibit explored my experiences with child abuse and domestic violence.  You may see the video of the making of this body of work at www.13ladies.com

2) The 7 Sisters:  A Tribute to my Mothers.  This exhibition was a genealogical exploration into my maternal and paternal history to find out just where my development of a victim mentality and enabling behavior originated.  Was it genetic or learned behavior? I proudly display this exhibit in the 2011SSW art show!

3) Harmonic Rapport: A Celebration of Visual Poetry.  This body of work was proof of my healing and ultimate overcoming of all forms of abuse.  It is a powerful and uplifting collection of poetry and abstract artworks. To view this work you may go to Etsy.com under my shop entitled, TornEdgeCreations.

4) The 21 Gal Salute.  I am in the process of completing this latest body of work.  The central sculpture is self illuminated, has 8 faces, 3 breast plates, 21 hands which are holding 21 images taken from my visual journals as I worked through my trauma associated with the many sexual assaults I have endured in my childhood into young adulthood. There are also 21 large renditions of the journal images which hang on the walls of the gallery.  I hope to have this body of work on exhibit at ArtPrize 2015 in Grand Rapids in the Fall.

My latest accomplishment was to have been selected for The 2014 Phoenix Rising Award by Intentional Legacy Inc. This award honors SE Michigan citizens who have overcome great personal adversities, and have used their experiences to give back to their community.  Just being nominated for this award was a great honor.
Artfully Yours,

“Why I am Participating in the Social Justice Art Festival”

As an outsider to violence, it has always been difficult to process the motives of hate, discrimination, and injustice. I would think to myself, “I don’t believe in these things and neither do the people in my life.”

I used to be naïve.

Growing up in a predominately middle-class environment I had many luxuries and advantages I figured every individual had an opportunity to experience. I didn’t understand gender, race, economic status, religious beliefs, or one’s sexual preference was used as justification for hate.

I used to be sheltered.

Every evening I failed to see the reality of the world because I knew the mantra of “If it bleeds, it leads,” and assumed I was witnessing a byproduct of a culture that fetishized violence and that it couldn’t really be that bad.

I used to be ignorant.

My introduction to the realities of violence occurred in San Francisco where I witnessed a homeless person physically assaulted outside a restaurant for no apparent reason. I had never seen another person’s blood sprawled across the pavement before and it was a jarring experience that stays with me to this day.

I used to make excuses.

My introduction to the realities of vulnerability occurred here in Michigan, my home. On any given day, there are over 3,000 children in the Michigan Foster Care System. Many of these children experienced unspeakable neglect, emotional and physical abuse and it was my job to write about them in hopes of finding them a forever family and a chance at a better life.

I was awakened.

Those kids opened my eyes to importance of advocacy and the necessity of being a voice for those who do not have one. Making excuses and remaining quiet are no longer an option for me. My hope is that the Social Justice Art Festival provides us with thought-provoking works of art that will inspire us all to be vocal leaders within our own communities for those most vulnerable.

Brandon Monzon
Volunteer and Supporter

Why I am Involved with SJAF

“I’m a Gay Poet Warrior. I have no choice but to be involved with the Social Justice Art Festival!

In all seriousness, violence is a reality in my life that I do not have the privilege of ignoring. I am the target of intimidation, verbal abuse, physical assault, death threats, and violence in its many other forms–not because I am in the wrong place at the wrong time, but because of who I am.

I reject the idea that violence exists “out there” and on the national news yet is locally absent. People are surprised to learn how often I’ve been a victim of homophobic violence. People are surprised that I was physically assaulted this past October, right here in Ann Arbor, less than a mile away from the site of the Social Justice Art Festival.
People are surprised with the non-indictments, racist police murderers, Islamophobic hate crimes, gender-based beatings
. . .

We who know violence as a reality are waiting to be surprised. I believe that the Social Justice Art Festival is an opportunity to surprise ourselves by creating unities among our communities. When we gather in a space filled with art related to violence, vulnerability, and social justice, I believe we will see something greater than individual snippets of peoples‘ experiences; I believe we will see how the works of art speak to each other. By entering this artistic dialogue, perhaps we will begin to discover ways in which otherwise divided communities might unite against violence.

In a way, many of us are already united–through no choice of our own–by violence. It is one thing we have in common; we all have a vested interest in eliminating violence from our respective communities. I believe that if we tell our stories through art, we can identify and disrupt the systems of oppression that channel violence into our communities. At the very least, the Social Justice Art Festival is my attempt at active solidarity against violence.”

– Brian Minalga
SJAF Committee Member

About Us

The annual Social Justice Art Festival will take place on Saturday, April 11, 2015 from 12:00 – 5:00 pm at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work. The event aims to explore how art can be used as a mechanism to promote social justice and/or change. The theme for this year is Violence and Vulnerability.

Are you interested in becoming involved? The submission period is now open for 2015 and applications will be accepted until Friday, March 20. We also welcome volunteers to help before and during the event.