Monday, May 23, 2011

2011: Walkin' The Tightrope - Liv Chaffee

Photo: Sara Skolnick of Time Out Boston Magazine

Walkin' The Tightrope
Article for this blog by Liv Chaffee

Five of her students:

Deandre Dewhollis
Jose Pena
Kyshuari Santana-Everet
Rayuana Martin-Milton
Xavier Barrientos

participated in The 2011 Mobius Wearable Art Runway Show

‘Walkin’ The Tightrope’ is a Visual Art program that explores the connection between the art of sneaker design and the power self-expression with third, fourth, and fifth graders.

Students began this journey by creating detailed studies of real sneakers from observation. During this more in depth look at a seemingly ordinary object, great discussion was generated about the ART of sneaker design; opening students’ eyes to design not only as a form of creative expression, but as a marketable career path that they may have never realized existed.

This year I orchestrated ‘Walkin’ The Tightrope’ at the John Marshall Elementary School with my 2nd-5th grade students. One hundred and ten pairs of sneakers were donated by Converse for our young aspiring artists to make their own. Their design had to be autobiographical. It was required to tell the viewer something about the artist through the use of color, imagery, written language, symbolism, or pattern. As a way to gain a better understanding for one another as well as our community, a written component was included as a part of each final product. Each student answered two questions:

If you walked a mile in my shoes you would know…
To continue taking steps in the right direction I promise to…

We then debuted their final sneakers, as well as their initial drawings, paintings, and written pieces at a local Boston venue. The sneakers were set up in the space as part of a large-scale installation as if they are strung from telephone pole electrical wires. In local neighborhoods, shoes hung from wires typically have negative connotations attached. Some are used to mark gang territory, to signify where drugs are sold, or to commemorate someone lost to violence. One goal of ‘Walkin’ The Tightrope’ is to transform these assumptions from negative to positive. The function of the exhibit was to recognize and celebrate student work and to connect the school with the greater community.

These sneakers became a catalyst for imagination, self-expression, ambition, and hard work in my classroom:

“If you walked a mile in my shoes you would know that I have speed and talent. You will know that because you will see the flames that come out of the bottom of my shoes. To continue taking steps in the right direction I promise to act like a scholar.” –Omari, 3rd Grader

“If you walked a mile in my shoes you would know that I want to be an architect and a designer. To continue taking steps in the right direction I promise to make shoes that YOU will want to wear everyday.” –Daniel, 3rd Grader

In addition to Converse, we were honored to have the support of Nike’s Jordan Brand lead Designer D’Wayne Edwards, who read about us in the Boston Globe and decided to come from Oregon to visit my students at the Marshall. He inspired the children and shared insights on his artistic journey and career at one of the most prominent footwear companies in the world:

“If, you walked a mile in my shoes you would know I am a product of the inner city and ART saved my life. Without being exposed to art at such a young age I would not have fulfilled my dream of becoming a professional Footwear Designer. To continue taking steps in the right direction I promise to share the gift I was blessed with to as many young aspiring designers so they to get a chance to walk in shoes they designed.”-D’Wayne Edwards

We also had the support of local publications and business owners such as The Boston Globe, Stuff @ Night Magazine, Time Out Boston, The Good Life, The Tannery, and The community support played a major role in making this program a success and it had an amazing impact on my students as well as their parents. We are currently partnering with to create a ‘Walkin’ The Tightrope’ t-shirt designed by my students to be sold on worldwide- all proceeds going to the John Marshall Art Department.

Please feel free to learn more about our Walkin' The Tightrope journey at our website and follow the progress on our current Walkin' The Tightrope T-shirt design contest!

Photos: Sara Skolnick of Time Out Boston Magazine:

Photos: Liv Chaffee

Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011: These Belgium Shoes

A worker in the non-profit sector, which includes nurses and social workers, throws his shoes onto the steps of the stock exchange building, during a protest in Brussels, March 29, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Thierry Roge

An image depicting another example of shoes throwing, sent to us from Joanne Rice.

Accompanying article:


BRUSSELS - Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:58am EDT
Analysis: Should the world be more like Belgium?
By Philip Blenkinsop

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2011 The Return of Shoes in Politics - Part 2

"Walk in My Shoes" in the United States

On Saturday February 26th, states around the country show solidarity with their union brothers and sisters in Wisconsin.

In Boston, this shoe "installation" was displayed on the steps of the State House and alludes to the following quote from now President Barack Obama's election campaign speech in South Carolina, 2007:

"And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States."

Photos from MoveOn Rally in Boston, MA
February 26, 2011

photo by Milan Kohout

photos by jw

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2011 The Return of Shoes in Politics - Part 1

Shoe Throwing in the Middle East Redux

February 10, 2011 EGYPT: Shoes held up in protest

Anti-government protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square wave shoes in dismay as President Hosni Mubarak speaks to the nation February 10, 2011. Mubarak provoked rage on Egypt's streets on Thursday when he said he would hand powers to his deputy but disappointed protesters who had been expecting him to step down altogether after two weeks of unrest. Leave! Leave! chanted thousands who had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square in anticipation that a televised speech would be the moment their demands for an end to Mubarak's 30 years of authoritarian, one-man rule were met. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic


February 24, 2011 BEIRUT - Return of Iraq's Shoe Thrower

Evan Vucci / AP

Time online article about Muntazer al-Zaidi
The Return of Iraq's Shoe Thrower: A Rebel's New Cause
By Nicholas Blanford,8599,2049523,00.html

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"The Politics of Shoes"

"The Politics Of Shoes" The Politics of Shoes Exhibit @mobius – May 23 through May 31th, 2009
Mobius – 725 Harrison Avenue, Boston MA –

by Jill Furumoto

The Red Ruby Slipper, a twisted nest of wire coiled,

A powerful red shoe, bigger than you, stands alone at the front door

Let the games begin- here, in a place called

"The Politics of Shoes"



The defiled sole of a dirty shoe, A

Projectile weapon hurled at George W. Bush-

A dirty sole aimed towards another soul, tainted

with the blood the innocent.

Arrested, the shoe is shuffled away.

Step into the another puddle of sand,

Sand puddles on your shoes

Are tracked as you step across the floor to read about the

The 63 homicides that took place in Boston Last Year.

As you walk away, your footsteps

Drag the dirt around the room. Nobody is safe, even

running leaves traces of the crime scene-and panic spreads like

dust in a windstorm

Women's shoes in the corner window

High heels, pointed toes, fine leather and textiles of varied design.

These women are deceased, but their shoes endure to archive

intimate details of their lust for

beauty, style, fashion, and social acceptance...

I was told that people will judge me by my shoes (and my hair)

After I am dead, what tales will my shoes tell? No one will think much of me.

I didn't bother to dress up my feet. I have tried to free myself of

The Politics of Shoes.

Turn another corner and view- running shoes with steel protracting high heels

Can't a woman be athletic and feminine at the same time?

Where does the politics of shoes end?

Not in my backyard.

We hear these old songs, and we step over torn up sheet music.

Songs of racism and oppression are strewn all over the floor-

While scattered footprints cover their lyrics, the message is revealed

to those who look closely.

The Politics of Shoes-Where does it end?

Maybe with a click of a heel, a video loop

Two shoes knock to together, walk together, try to get along.

But this is not right, this is the bizarre tale of two left feet trying to act as a pair.

I'm ready to go home now, enough of the Politics of Shoes.

Monday, August 10, 2009

David Chin - "The People's Shoes"

David Chin posted each of his photographs for the Politics of Shoes exhibit with the accompanying text/comment by the wearer:

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Politics of Shoes: Artistic Profile Sam Tan

The Politics of Shoes: Artistic Profile Sam Tan

by Jill Furumoto

After viewing the Politics of Shoes art exhibit hosted by Jane Wang, many thoughts and feelings and images flooded my mind. There were so many ideas and so much to look at.

As I reflect on my experience with the Politics of Shoes show, a few of the exhibits stood out in my mind. One of them was the piece "63 in '08", by Sam Tan. This piece engaged me, and I immediate felt that I had literally "stepped into the artist's" medium when I crossed a sand puddle on the floor to read the names of the 63 homicide victims in Boston in 2008.

After reading their names, I stepped back across the sand puddle and tried to move on to the next piece. In doing so, I tracked the sand across the floor and realized that I was now part of the art piece. Yes, it made a direct impression on me. The interactive aspect of this piece grabbed me. The violence in the community rubs off on our souls or our soles, in this case, and when we try to walk away, the residue symbolically follows us. This was a great idea, and it made me stop and think about what the Artist was trying to say.

I decided that I would like to learn more about Sam Tan's artistic process and his journey towards making 63 so I interviewed him electronically and was glad he was willing to share some of his thoughts and background via facebook. Here is a summary of the interview.

Question: What is your background? Did you go to art school?

I am largely self-taught and my background was originally in psychology. I've always enjoyed visiting museums and galleries and was intrigued and inspired by the creative journeys that the artists went on. After following the programming of quite a few of the local galleries for awhile, I felt that I had the courage to jump into the deeper and see what would come out of it.

Question: What is your favorite modality?

I don't have a specific modality that I stick to. I don't like to box myself in, and I enjoy shaking things up now and then. That is why I found the open call to participate in "The Politics of Shoes to be appealing and challenging as I have not made site specific work in the past .

Question: What inspired you to do your piece 63?

Some of my work; like abstract biomorphic paintings are more intuitive and fluid in its process while others like “63 in '08” and my other work which involves using gay pornographic imagery are more conceptually based and linear in its process.
I came across the Politics of Shoes through an open call posted on the net.

The inspiration behind my piece was that I had been basically (and continue to be) troubled by the homicides that took place in the city. I wanted to communicate the idea that we are all interconnected to one another even though we may live in much safer neighborhoods that have not been a witness to such crimes.

Question: What are you working on now?

I am currently working on abstract paintings that have collage elements. Its a continuation of the work that I have shown earlier this year at the artists foundation gallery in Boston. I have no plans to make other site specific installations like "63 in '08". Although I could conceivably create variations of that work in the future.

The responses I have gotten from my piece have been good. Because of the sobering content of the piece, some viewers have been moved by it while some others were able to make interesting cross-cultural connections.