Collaborative Doers for Humanity

Amie Ohlmann

Since May 2011, CARTHA is a sponsor of Amie Ohlmann’s “The Derek Project” which creates an interdisciplinary forum for educators, artists, and students to collaborate by fusing poetry, literature, history, dance, music, theater, creative writing, and visual art. Bringing people together in the spirit of community and art, this project consists of a series of performance and art workshops at local schools and a culminating performance in public venues outside of schools. The mutual aspirational interests between Amie and CARTHA resulted from an introduction by CARTHA Ambassador Mark C. Ginsberg.

Amie Ohlmann is a second year Language, Literacy, and Culture Ph.D. student in the Teaching and Learning Department of the College of Education at the University of Iowa. Amie received her B.S. in Secondary Education with endorsements in English, speech, and theater from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her M.A. in Written Communication from Eastern Michigan University. Before beginning her doctoral studies at the University of Iowa, Amie taught Language Arts for 10 years in diverse high school settings. It is this interest in teaching and literacy that influences her research endeavors. Her academic advisor, Dr. Bonnie Sunstein, has encouraged her to pursue this interest through organizing community events that bring together a diverse group of people. For the last two years, she has helped to organize the National Day on Writing for Iowa City. For this event, a diverse group of writers from young to old, amateur to professional, poets to journalists, have come together to read their work. Her current endeavor is titled The Derek Project in memoriam to her brother who was a young, aspiring artist. The project emerged from Dr. Linda Bolton’s “Art, Ethics, and Justice” class in the English Department of the University of Iowa. One of the core questions in the class is “What can/should art do?” Specifically, art is examined within the concept of our accountability to others in this world. The purpose of The Derek Project is to explore the connection between this accountability to others and power of art to incite awareness and action. To do this, community schools and organizations create interdisciplinary projects fusing literature, visual art, creative writing, history, dance, music, and theater. For the pilot of this project, three classes of West High School art students read Simon J. Ortiz’s book, from Sand Creek, and created paintings to show their interpretations of his writing. Students grappled with such ideas as erased history, distorted memory, shame, guilt, hope, the American Dream, and war. For the culminating event, Ortiz reads from his book and students present their paintings to the community in Iowa City on May 23. The hope is that this project expands to more schools and even beyond Iowa City.

In May 2011, as Amie Ohlmann joined as a new CARTHA Fellow designing and leading complementary volunteer programs with CARTHA which would help cultivate Collaborative Doers (including especially those individuals interested in the advancement of The Derek Project). Amie wrote the following about her emerging affiliation and aspirations crafted with CARTHA:

"The core of CARTHA, built on the foundation of innovation, dignity, respect, transformation, sustainability, and collaboration, are the same building blocks which began the concept of The Derek Project. Just in the brief time from the beginning of May 2011 when I met Usha, CARTHA’s founder, in a meeting organized by newly appointed CARTHA Ambassador, Mark Ginsberg, I have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people. From these brief meetings, potential for collaborations arose and already the horizons for the project have expanded. More importantly, these meetings have emphasized that collaborations are not primarily about projects, but more about people and what we can accomplish collectively rather than individually. Certainly, in the time I have already spent with Usha, I have seen the C2G2 Training Model, CARTHA’s framework, in action. For instance, within two meetings, I have been networked with people who have similar concerns about literacy and community. I can tell that this is only the beginning, though. The idea of Collaborative Doers is that they stay in motion, working toward greater good on local, national and global levels. CARTHA helps people to do just that."

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