What makes you feel safe? What makes you feel unsafe? These questions are the basis for an ongoing and expansive public art project the Toledo Library was fortunate enough to take part in last fall, and now is your chance to see it for yourself.
Artists Ashley Pryor Geiger, Barbara WF Miner, and Lee Fearnside envisioned The Holding Project as a response to the rise of anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) violence in the past few years. The Holding Project consists of an ever-expanding concertina book structure that holds community responses to the questions: “What makes you feel safe?” “What makes you feel unsafe?” Aware that three white artists could not speak for a community to which they did not belong, they invited community participation to encourage dialogue around feelings of safety and unsafety. The community’s anonymous responses are the core of the project.
The responses are the direct concerns of the general community, and though the space of the cards may seem small, they show a great depth of concern, from personal to global. What makes one person feel unsafe may be another person’s safety. Among the comforts of friends and family, the artists found that the community listed the Toledo Library as something that makes them feel safe.
The project builds on the history of art as social action. As a public art project, The Holding Project invites everyone to the art-making process. The artists called upon their craft and experiences in making the concertina book, continually adding responses and cumulatively creating a picture of our community’s sense of society.
The purpose of art is to communicate from the outside to the inside to elicit a response from the viewer. In this case, the responses become part of the project, causing the book to grow, change, and evolve as it comes into contact with the community. The artists involved in this public collaboration must put aside control and ego and embrace the unknown—to let go and see what happens. This spirit of exploration and growth moves the project forward with even its creators not knowing where this collaboration will lead.
This past October, the Toledo Lucas County Public Library (TLCPL) hosted The Holding Project workshops for community members to participate in a community art installation. Kits were distributed to the 20 TLCPL locations and over 150 response cards were gathered from members of the community. In addition, the artists had the opportunity to participate in conversations about art-making at Library branches.
A portion of the concertina book will be on display at Main Library in May, and reproductions of the response cards were made into 200 small hand-stitched books. These books include facts and resources in support of education and advocacy, and will be exhibited at all 20 Library locations.
If you would like to read more about AAPI culture and experiences, please check out these recommended titles: