Listen to the latest Newest Americans podcast about “Brick by Brick.” A collaboration between Artist Adrienne Wheeler, writer/poet Paula Neves, Dr. Tim Raphael, and scholars from the Honors Living and Learning Community (HLLC) at Rutgers University—Newark.
Brick by Brick was a collaborative result from a HLLC course taught in the spring of 2017. The work was part of the GlassBook Project, a socially-engaged artwork founded by artist Nick Kline. The class and the glass books created were inspired by interviews from the Ironbound Oral History Archive, a collection of over 250 interviews with Lusophone migrants to Newark that have been conducted since 2002 by Dr. Kimberly DaCosta Holton, director of the Portuguese and Lusophone World Studies program at Rutgers University-Newark, and her students.
In one of the first classes, the professors and students began talking about the various identities people inhabit: individual, familial, cultural, and national. This became a pivotal moment to guide the students (many of whom were either immigrants themselves or the first generation born outside of their family’s country of origin) through the process of interpreting other’s stories while maintaining the integrity of each.
As part of the Honors Living and Learning Community, these students were already a community unto themselves with a highly developed sensitivity to each other’s stories. They all listened to and/or read each of the 16 interviews given to them before selecting one interview, one life story to inspire their abstract portrait. As a result, they encountered stories that mirrored their own, and some that were entirely unfamiliar. This, along with creating their own docu-narratives, gave them the opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes and not feel isolated in their own stories.