American Art Incubator participants hold artwork by Malgorzata Marczewska (center). The prints depict visualizations of each person speaking about what they love. Photo courtesy of Vena Naskręcka.
We are more than halfway into American Arts Incubator — Poland, and it has been an amazing journey witnessing our growth, development, and empowerment of participants and myself through the “Layers of Life” workshop.
Each exchange focuses on a social challenge unique to that country. The social challenge for my exchange focuses on women’s empowerment in STEAM. Before I went to Poland I started asking my family, friends, and colleagues what “empowerment” means to them. It is unique to everyone and a very interesting question to ask. I was impressed by the answers that I was given, it revealed so much about each person and opened my mind as well.
When I got to Poland, I started asking the same question — and quickly learned there is no word for “empowerment” in Polish. So, from the beginning of the workshop we consistently explored what “empowerment” means to each of us, and collectively, how we could explore and express it in theory, practice, our work and our everyday lives. We are still exploring this as we prepare our projects for the upcoming exhibition and pitch/panel review.
Once we brought the concept of empowerment into our awareness, it quickly became evident that considering empowerment — how we can be empowered, how we can empower others, how we can make a situation empowering, etc. — is a very powerful lens to look through and can bring about positive change very quickly.
We found the spirit of empowerment is from within and also in support from and for others to enable and empower each other. It's diverse, and unique to all of us.
From within, we have been finding new skills in ourselves as well as inner strengths to try new things with boldness and courage.
For many participants, it's the first time working with digital manufacturing and fabrication technologies, working in diverse groups (with artists, scientists, theorists), collaborating across disciplines to make projects, as well as presenting, pitching, and exhibiting.
For me too, this was my first time leading a workshop. From the very first day of leading this workshop, it became apparent that empowerment to me is creating the space for others to make their best work, and ultimately to be their best selves. Reflecting on my role in this workshop has taught me the value of this position from the very beginning and I have done my best to come from this place while facilitating participants and their projects to grow... and do my best to set a great example working alongside them.
As the work from the exhibition and panel review comes out, I hope you can see the astounding conceptual development, execution, scope, and refinement of what was produced in such a short period of time — and see the projects both as they are and all that they achieved within this short timeframe — as well as the potential of what these projects and this work can become.
This brings us to the other part of empowerment — support from others. We truly couldn’t have done what or as much as we have without the people who supported, collaborated with, and empowered us. Cooperation, collaboration, support, inspiration… I don’t know if I could name exactly what it was that brought us to grow and achieve so much in such a short period of time, but something that the people and institutions who supported us did, and something we have been doing for each other enabled us and empowered us to make a quantum leap in our work and feel good about ourselves in the process.
Learn more about our workshop and programming at: