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Who and How to Remember

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Alex Chambers:  Jei and Dorian wanted to create a memorial for the generations of people who've lived in southern Indiana, the Native Americans, the limestone workers, but they wanted to avoid the pitfalls of conventional monuments.

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  The problem of typical public monument was singular reading that was really direct, because it's so figural.

Alex Chambers:  The statues of famous men that kind of hit you over the head with their meaning. But what if your memorial is too open-ended?

Gregory Peck:  It looks like something that maybe belongs in Egypt.

Alex Chambers:  Does it matter if people don't know what it's about? This week on Inner States, we'll be talking about who to remember and how. Coming up after this.

Alex Chambers:  Welcome to Inner States. I'm Alex Chambers.

Alex Chambers:  In a city named after the founding colonizer of the Americas, in a state named after the people whose location he misidentified, there was, briefly, a memorial to the tension between those two names: Columbus, Indiana. I've been to Columbus, Indiana before, and hadn't given the irony a second thought. The difference this time was that I was there to see the memorial that highlighted that irony. It was part of an exhibition in Columbus called, appropriately, Exhibit Columbus. The organizers had asked designers and artists to make public art on the theme of New Middles. They talked about middle cities in particular, the idea being mid-sized and mid-western, like Columbus.

Alex Chambers:  The exhibit started last August. I went in October. As I walked around with my mic, I watched people encounter the art. A lot of people just gazed at it, like they were looking at sculptures in a museum, but the pieces had platforms, Astroturf hills, foggy screens to peer through, bouncy balls (which meant the kids were jumping right in). The day eventually got me thinking about history, memory, how we acknowledge the past that's still with us. But first, as we all wandered around the art, I just wanted to know who public art is for. Is it for those kids playing on it? Is it for the people who pass it daily and barely give it a glance?

Gregory Peck:  I don't look at "it", I'm too busy watching the streets, you see.

Alex Chambers:  Let's be clear. Public art isn't always for the public. It's often about telling a story to the public, the way the St. Louis Arch is a gateway to the west. It's celebrating St. Louis as a jumping-off point for Europeans to colonize west of the Mississippi. At least the arch is fairly abstract. Go back to the early 20th century, and the line gets blurrier between public art and the monuments we've put up to famous men or to fallen soldiers. We have a lot of war memorials in this country, so many lists of names of fallen men. A lot of people are ready to pull down the statues of Confederate generals, but it gets more complicated when it comes to the soldiers who often went to war as much out of necessity as patriotism. While I was in Columbus, I walked through the war memorial. I didn't actually know what it was at first.

Alex Chambers:  I'm standing on 2nd Street in Columbus, and there are these columns that just rise up into the sky, a square of columns. One, two, three, four, five; one, two, three. So, 25 columns made out of limestone. I didn't know what this was at first, and then I realized it was a war memorial, as you are likely to see in many downtown areas.

Alex Chambers:  The insides of the columns were sheer and there was writing on them, not just name of fallen soldiers, letters from the soldiers right before they died; others written to family members, notifying them of their loss.

Alex Chambers:  13 July, 1992. 18 March, 1963. "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Shomel " "Mom, what do you think about me getting married?" "The attached information regarding your son..." "I'll see you in two weeks." "...the late Private First Class, Charles D. Shomel, US Marine Corps." "...and bring my new bride home for you to meet." "...is provided." "...love Ralph " "...We will keep you informed of any actions resulting from this information." "Airman 2nd Class, Ralph L. Denny, US Air Force was killed March 19th, 1963." "Method of search. A surface search of a 500 by 500m area was conducted." "Mother, dear, do not worry over me." "No remains, personal effects or a discernible crash site were located in this..." "...I'm alright. And tell all my friends that I died happy." "Official report to his parents." "I just was shot, and I know that I will die, so goodbye all." [OVERLAPPING] "PFC Dennis Shomel " "But God bless you. I cannot write no more. I am too weak. Your son, Louis." "His body has never been recovered." Louis Tabor wrote this letter to his mother, Susan Tabor, of Columbus, from a hospital bed in France, hours before he died of wounds suffered in a World War One battle.

Alex Chambers:  You feel that loss, hearing those names. I wondered, though, standing there, surrounded by these moving stories, what it meant to etch these particular stories into stone?

Alex Chambers:  It's interesting to think about the limestone that's been taken from the ground and what it's been used for, what we're trying to say with the limestone, I guess, and right here we're saying that the deaths of these men, all men, are the things that matter and that we need to remember. And I do think it's important to remember their deaths, but I wonder, too, about the other deaths of other people, maybe not men... other people who haven't been remembered and why they haven't been remembered. And I'm inclined to say that they haven't been remembered because they weren't part of the conquering army.

Alex Chambers:  I had ended up at the war memorial by chance. I had come to see a different memorial, but that one didn't point to a moment in history. There were no names on it, no particular war, no group of fallen soldiers, no individuals. It was way more abstract. And yet, as I would come to learn, it tied together a lot of different histories about colonialism, the native people who first lived here, the European laborers who've been quarrying it for generations, and you might say those kids, too, who were climbing all over it. As I walked up to the churchyard where this art piece, or memorial, stood, I met a man waiting for a bus.

Gregory Peck:  I'm a little early, but they can either come from that direction or from this direction, and they both go to the same place, the bus station just north of Mill Race Park.

Alex Chambers:  Okay.

Gregory Peck:  And then I get on the right bus, and then I go home to Donner Park.

Alex Chambers:  And can you just say where we are?

Gregory Peck:  We're at the corner of Franklin and 5th Street, and you're looking east, and I'm looking south.

Alex Chambers:  I was there, because I was curious about what was going on in that churchyard. In the corner...

Gregory Peck:  The corner of Franklin and 5th Street.

Alex Chambers:  ...where we were standing, the kids were playing among valleys and hills. The Astroturf hills rose about 2ft off the lawn, then fell into limestone valleys, maybe a stream bed made of limestone blocks. At one end of the valley, there was a tower, like a 10ft cellphone tower, but instead of those rectangular antennae, there were diamonds of limestone framed with intricately detailed metal pieces. I asked the man waiting for the bus what he thought about it.

Gregory Peck:  It looks like something that maybe belongs in Egypt! [LAUGHS] It's Egyptian-looking. I don't know why, but that's how it strikes me. I, I don't know. I've never read this before, I've never had time to. I don't know. The pharaohs would have liked it. [LAUGHS] It must be that scrawling on there, you know? It reminds me of a movie I saw once called Land of the Pharaohs. Still no bus, hm. Well, you see they'll, they'll both be passing this way to, to go back to the station, the bus station where, where they all gather before each bus run. And so, I know I'm a little early.

Alex Chambers:  Okay.

Gregory Peck:  So, and here is the number five bus.

Alex Chambers:  It's the bus!

Alex Chambers:  And then there was a bus. When I asked for his name, he hesitated, just for a second. Was he suspicious of me? I think he was.

Gregory Peck:  Am I on camera? Well, where is the camera, you know?

Alex Chambers:  There's no camera. There's no physical camera, it's just radio.

Alex Chambers:  His hesitation made me wonder if he was coming up with a wild card for the man with the mic.

Alex Chambers:  Can you tell me your name?

Gregory Peck:  Gregory Peck. I was named after him.

Alex Chambers:  Really? I like his movies.

Gregory Peck:  Be sure and see all of them, especially The Snows of Kilimanjaro, it's a great film.

Alex Chambers:  Gregory Peck had a bus to catch, so I went over to a woman sitting on a bench nearby. Her kids were the ones playing on the structure.

Alex Chambers:  What's your name?

Dusty Eggers:  Dusty Eggers.

Alex Chambers:  Dusty Eggers?

Dusty Eggers:  Yes. Named after the singer, Dusty Springfield.

Alex Chambers:  That's right, named after Dusty Springfield. I'd just met Gregory Peck and Dusty Eggers. It was an auspicious start. I told Dusty I was doing a radio project on public art, and she asked her kids a question.

Dusty Eggers:  What's art? What were we talking about? What's art?

Child:  Art is good.

Dusty Eggers:  And it's anything that makes you have an emotion when you look at it.

Child:  When we have a emotion, and when we have a emotion, it's called art.

Dusty Eggers:  Yes.

Child:  And I thought this, this was art.

Alex Chambers:  Art isn't about getting things right and wrong. As Dusty and her kids said, it's about feeling something... partly. It's time for a short break. When we come back, we'll go beyond the feelings to what public art can help us think about. You're listening to Inner States.

Alex Chambers:  Welcome back to Inner States. I'm Alex Chambers. We're talking about a piece of art that was on display in Columbus, Indiana, as part of Exhibit Columbus last fall. Art is at its best when it helps us feel things we didn't know we could feel, but public art and memorials can also reshape the space around them, get us thinking about history and who we are in new ways. As I stood there in Columbus looking at Astroturf hills rising up from limestone blocks, I could sense the southern Indiana landscape, the rolling hills, the quarries. This is limestone country. We've been digging out the limestone for over a century. "Our limestone built the nation", some people say. But the hills bring up other histories, the land before the extraction and who the land belonged to before it was taken to be sold.

Alex Chambers:  When I first saw this piece of art, it reminded me of these densely undulating hills in an out of the way corner on the campus of the University of Michigan. The hills must have been 3ft tall, the peaks maybe 4ft apart. When I visited, I would stand at the top of one hill and let gravity pull me down, running, until the momentum took me up the next, over and over. I know this sounds like a childhood memory, but I was, like, 20 years old. Anyway, that was one of Maya Lin's wave fields. You know Maya Lin, she designed the Vietnam Memorial. You had to know where to look for that wave field. This churchyard in Columbus, though, right downtown. You should be able to find public art, come across it on a wrong turn. This one wasn't that hard to find in person. But even standing on it didn't tell me what the artist was thinking about, what the piece was trying to do or say.

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  LaWaSo Ground is on, we call it, contemporary memorial and community ground of land, water and soil.

Alex Chambers:  Get it? Land, water, soil: LaWaSo. I figured I should talk with the designers themselves. That's Jeeyea Kim. She's originally from Seoul, Korea...

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  Born and raised.

Alex Chambers:  ...and she's now an architecture professor at Indiana University's Eskinazi School of Art, Architecture and Design. She designed LaWaSo Ground with Dorian Bybee.

Dorian Bybee:  I'm also a faculty member at IU at the Eskinazi School. I teach interior design in the undergraduate program there.

Alex Chambers:  I spoke with them at the Bybee Stone Company. That's the stone mill that Dorian's family owns. Jeeyea, or Jei, as she has Americans call her, Jei said they were trying to emphasize some basic things about culture. That's why they focused on land, water and soil.

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  These are the rudimentary elements for many different cultures in the world, and then we connected to the culture of Indiana limestone, which is our core material. About research and design, we wanted to engage in that, as like, something related to colonial culture as our limestone is soft and has been used for a century and a half to build up the nation, especially for monuments and also civic buildings.

Alex Chambers:  Limestone from this one small part of Indiana, is the facing on the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, the National Cathedral to name just a few. Indiana limestone built up the nation's legacy, a legacy of course that involves a lot more than just triumphant settlers conquering the land.

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  So we related the limestone to connect it to the name of Columbus, which is the symbol of a colonial culture.

Alex Chambers:  Columbus, the man, helped Europeans start to settle the Americas. That encounter of Europe and the Americas brought a world-changing exchange of plants and animals, languages and technologies. It also led to a devastating decline in human population, from around 54 million people in the Americas in 1492 to about six million in 1650. History is complex, and I think you can like the Empire State Building and still acknowledge the holes that were left to build it. Jei and Dorian realized they had to acknowledge those holes.

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  The quarrying production area they call the "stone belt", is 40 miles long and sometimes four miles width, also known as the "production belt". There are many quarries left along that area, and we really wanted to engage with the extracted land form of those quarries that is left over or still active, and the limestone quarry becomes a spiritual memory of that industry. People engage, go swim there and they think about the history, how things were built.

Alex Chambers:  Quarries are defined by what's gone. They are filled with absence. All that stone, taken somewhere else, made into stories.

Dorian Bybee:  So, we looked at how monuments and memorials, the stories they tell. We look at the fact that, typically, it means that we're choosing one version of history over another, usually it's the "winners" who design the monuments, memorials, and we wanted to recognize that there are other cultures, other histories, other stories that are really important. We wanted to create a different kind of memorial that didn't celebrate just the winners or a single version of history, but could become a space where multiple narratives could happen at the same time.

Dorian Bybee:  So, we're here in Indiana where we have these rolling hills in the landscape, but we also have these quarries that have been extracted from the ground, and then looking at Native American cultures, the older ones that made mounds and various types of earthworks, and then thinking, okay, so how can we bring these together in such a way that it really inspires dialog at the site and rethinks the whole preoccupation of what a monument or memorial is.

Alex Chambers:  They wanted to point to the long history of the land, where Columbus, Indiana, now sits. Jei reminded me of all the tribes who have lived here.

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  From the old culture, Adena, Hopewell and Cahokia to, you know, more modern tribes of the Miami and the Delaware and Kickapoo or Pottawatomie, and other Shawnee.

Alex Chambers:  Indiana has no reservations; all the native tribes were pushed westward. That doesn't mean all the people were. Like so many place names in this country, it's easy to hear Indiana as a memorial itself, like it's honoring the people who were here before, as if Native Americans only exist in the past. It can be easier that way, to put people in the past. You don't have to deal with what they might need right now. That's something I like about LaWaSo Ground, even if it's billed as a memorial, it points to today's landscape too. There's the rolling hills and quarries. There's the tower with patterns designed by Katrina Mitten, a Native American and Hoosier beadworker. The tower might be reaching up to the sky as a kind of prayer, or maybe it reflects a different kind of worship: 5G, texting? The hills also refer to Native American mounds.

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  So then form becomes a way of commemorating or celebrating their cultures. We were trying to think about the symbolic monuments or memorials that the people built and especially in terms of the imagery of public art in public grounds, especially in the city center where everything is built up, with the very closed image of, like, very sculptural and very literal, about, "This is the person who built the nation, Christopher Columbus, Robert Lee", you know? That kind of literalness of the monuments.

Alex Chambers:  As opposed to a memorial that almost emerges right out of the natural environment, a memorial that people can walk around in, maybe one that acknowledges multiple histories, not just the conquerors but the people who lived here first.

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  Yes, and throughout the design we invited some of the indigenous people, the Shawnee and the Miami especially. They are definitely frustrated that their culture is not depicted in the nations and especially in the public art in the civic center of Indianapolis. One of the sculptures depicts Christopher Columbus, the indigenous culture is actually kneeling and worshiping his figure. That kind of illustration in the civic area is becoming more problematic. If you go to Chicago, in Michigan Avenue there are big [UNSURE OF WORD] sculpture that are victoriously celebrating the winning scene over the indigenous people; they're fighting, basically.

Alex Chambers:  It should be clear by now that memorials need to be revisited. What might have been acceptable in one time may not be anymore. There are examples of that all over the country, but let's stick with Indiana. That Christopher Columbus memorial Jei mentioned is on the southwest side of the Indiana State House: a bronze bust of old Columbus himself sits on a granite post with a scene carved into it. In the center stands a bare-chested man, sort of Roman looking. To his right stands a black man, his gaze averted downward. Below him, a woman kneels and, I don't know, she might be looking past the man in the center, but it really looks like she's staring at the vague cloth covering his loins. To the man's right, a stereotypical Native American crouches, gazing up at the white man as if he's the pinnacle of civilization.

Richard McCoy:  You know, I think monuments to Columbus are so interesting and problematic, and there's so much to them and they represent so many different things.

Alex Chambers:  That's Richard McCoy.

Richard McCoy:  And I am the Executive Director of Landmark Columbus Foundation.

Alex Chambers:  That's the foundation that runs Exhibit Columbus. I had called him to ask whether the exhibits were permanent.

Richard McCoy:  They're all temporary all the time.

Alex Chambers:  But it turned out he had also been thinking about that Columbus monument in Indianapolis.

Richard McCoy:  When I looked at the Columbus memorial or monument in downtown Indianapolis, it's just on the southwest side of the State House, it represents Italian Americans trying to illustrate that they have a piece of American heritage and, as a way to sort of elevate their status within society. You know, a lot of that was that the Italians, who were considered of the lowest class, were using that Columbus as a way to sort of get out of their class struggles. Like, "Look, Americans, we belong here." And it was like they were considered at the same social scale as free black people in New York. They were living in the poorest parts of the city, and they were trying anything they could to, like, "No, no, we're white like you. We're Christopher Columbus white."

Alex Chambers:  I don't know if that quite counts as a defense of the monument. Italian Americans were facing serious racism, but their embrace of Columbus and Whiteness just reinforced the idea of a racial hierarchy. But Richard's not defending the monument per se.

Richard McCoy:  I fully understand how problematic Christopher Columbus is.

Alex Chambers:  And the fact that it's complicated should remind us that memorials and public art are always of their time. Sometimes we need to reevaluate them.

Alex Chambers:  What's the benefit of having a temporary piece?

Richard McCoy:  Well, that's a good question, you know, and it's one that I think people that work in public art think a lot about. And there's a certain part of that group that thinks that, you know, we shouldn't even be messing around with permanent things anymore, just because they always eventually become problematic and that it's more appropriate to make temporary things that flash and arc across the sky and then go away. I think there should be both.

Richard McCoy:  People in cities should have the courage to think about what is the best of their culture and what they want to represent and put out in the public realm, and then stand by it for a long time and to really make a contribution to society. I think the temporary things can become more experimental, more cutting edge. They can push farther and harder into ideas in the public realm that you can't do in a permanent monument, and maybe you shouldn't do in a permanent monument. And so, I think they're doing totally different things and I love both spaces.

Alex Chambers:  LaWaSo Ground is open-ended. It invites people in. It's welcoming, but that also means you might not know what it's about. I wondered how much that mattered to Jei and Dorian?

Alex Chambers:  So, I talked to a few people. I went out to the site and I talked to a few people, and one guy, I asked him what he thought and he was, like, "Well, it kind of makes me think of the pharaohs." And someone else said, you know, I can't remember, she just liked that her kids were playing on it and stuff. But I'm curious what your thoughts are on putting something out there and trying to create a discussion and if, you know, the people who are then sort of engaging with it, like, have a completely different discussion in relation to that. What do you think about that?

Dorian Bybee:  Good. I mean, as we were just describing. If the intent is to encourage conversation and dialog, and to do so without trying to manipulate that conversation or dialog, then it naturally follows that different observations, different opinions of the work are going to come out and I think, ideally, the more diverse those opinions are the more successful our project is. So, you said somebody thought it looked like something to do with the pharaohs in Egypt; I had not heard that. We heard lots of responses from people while we were on site, but that one is one of my favorites now, because I would have never guessed it, but that's wonderful. And I think in general we both feel a lot of our interests in design revolve around not forcing a certain interpretation of work, but designing things that encourage thought, and certainly that's part of what we wanted LaWaSo Ground to do.

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  The problem of, let's say, typical public monument was singular reading that was really direct, because it's so figural, which is educational, but at the same time there's no room of imagination and interpretation of that public art, which is basically directive and singular.

Alex Chambers:  Right, right. Like, it's having just the one narrative...

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  Right.

Alex Chambers:  ...that's very clear.

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  Right.

Alex Chambers:  And so you're forcing it on everyone who's experiencing the piece.

Jeeyea (Jei) Kim:  Right.

Dorian Bybee:  Well, so yeah, monuments, memorials in general tend to be a tool of control, so controlling the narrative, controlling our version of history and so, in our project we wanted to kind of give that control back and leave that control in the hands of the people who would come and actually occupy the site. You know, we have a certain bias here towards our own project, I think, but I like that version of a monument or a memorial: the idea that our civic spaces might present, as Jei said earlier, multiplicities, you know, opportunities for the public to kind of claim their own version of the narrative, which oftentimes might be more accurate.

Alex Chambers:  Yeah, I love that. And, you know, I do think the kids who were rolling down the hills were a really good example of that.

Dorian Bybee:  Now children, we all need to pay attention. It's not just because we have our own children, although that kind of forces you to notice this, but children occupy spaces better than adults do, and they oftentimes show us the way in so many different contexts and yeah, for sure, seeing kids on our project was one of the highlights, I think, because they just enjoy it in this very natural human way. You know, we're sitting here trying to grapple with these complicated ideas of history and narrative, and potentially genocide and colonial culture, and all these really difficult, heavy things, and you look at the project and you see a four year-old just rolling down the hill laughing and giggling, and you're like, "I like that as well. That's really wonderful."

Alex Chambers:  Most of the people who saw LaWaSo Ground probably didn't walk away reflecting on who gets to control the story of a place.

Emily Bord:  Well, I really love this one on the corner.

Alex Chambers:  Emily Bord lives in Columbus, and I can imagine she'd have something to say about the difference between the tall imposing monument of a famous man, versus an open-ended memorial that invites you to come in to play.

Emily Bord:  It has kind of Astroturf domes, little cement alleys and things.

Alex Chambers:  But LaWaSo Ground brought something else up for her.

Emily Bord:  I think it's kind of nostalgic for me, because it reminds me a lot of the Commons Mall? Have you been to the Commons Mall Playground? It used to look just like that. It had big mounded Astroturf with tunnels going through. It was super magical. And so that one reminds me of what it used to be and, when we took my daughter, who's three, and then a two year-old and a one year-old over there and they were touching the symbols. They were tracing them, asking questions, saying, "Look, a triangle! Look, a square!" Rolling on the hills and so I like that one because I like the concept, but then I also liked how easily the children felt like they could be a part of it.

Alex Chambers:  Kids play on the art, or on the playground, the ground for play, and it's also a ground for remembering and maybe it gets us talking about big ideas or maybe we just stand nearby and remember the rain.

Gregory Peck:  I especially like that last rain we had. It lasted 12 hours. [LAUGHS] That last rain we had. It started slowing down around six to six-thirty, and I thought, "Oh good, it's finally going to stop." No. It was just a light rain but then it built up again and went back.

Alex Chambers:  It's time for a short break. When we come back, what we talk about when we paint on walls.

[music]

Alex Chambers:  Welcome back to Inner States. I'm Alex Chambers. When I was out in Columbus last fall, I came across a wall with a pattern painted on it. The bricks had been painted white and there were black shapes on top of that. I wondered to myself, street art, graffiti, mural? Actually, I didn't wonder at all, it was obviously a mural. Murals might be the oldest forms of human art. There's a cave in Indonesia with a painting of a wild Sulawesi warty pig that's over 45,000 years old - the painting, I mean, not the pig. There's the Cave of Hands in Argentina, a rock wall covered with stencils of left hands, as if a crowd of people is waving at you from 10,000 years ago. But those are old and protected. Most of us don't usually feel invited to join in painting public spaces. I mean, that's the whole thing about graffiti, right? Part of the thrill is that you're not supposed to be doing it.

Alex Chambers:  Even the great Mexican muralists of a century ago, they were making populist art. They were envisioning a new society, a society where art was for the people but, as far as I know, Diego Rivera wasn't inviting the people to paint. Still, murals were an important part of larger political movements. For the Chicano movement in the US, they were a way to communicate when language or literacy was a barrier. They depicted struggles against oppression in the US, they gave people a sense of collective identity and they emphasized the lives of peoples who weren't usually part of the story.

Alex Chambers:  In Northampton, Massachusetts, there's a mural showing three centuries of women's history that I would see whenever I went downtown as a kid. We can look at those murals and be reminded of people whose stories were left untold. We might be impressed by the artistry of the work. Still, we probably don't feel invited to put paint on the wall. But then, last fall, I was at the annual Fiesta Latina in Columbus, and I saw kids painting the wings of a giant butterfly. It was at one end of the festival, past the Brazilian Friends Band on the outdoor stage, past the stands selling horchata and tacos al pastor, past the booths for local volunteer networks. There was a big wooden board about 6ft by 9ft with the outline of the butterfly in black, and there was a woman helping the kids fill their palettes with color.

Karla Guerrero:  This is called Nuestra Alas, so it's a mural project between Columbus Area Arts Councils, Su Casa Columbus. I'm the Project Coordinator for this. My name is Karla Guerrero. I work for Su Casa Columbus as the Youth Engagement Coordinator. I'm pretty passionate about mural projects out in Los Angeles, so I've done quite a bit of studying around mural projects that are done, basically around Chicano art, though, so Mexican American. So, looking at different symbolic things like the [FOREIGN DIALOGUE] Guadalupe, and they do big mural projects where they put even famous icons from, like, [FOREIGN DIALOGUE]. So, I thought, what would be so cool was if the community was to be a part of that, right, if they all came up and added. Because the mural you see, it gets commissioned and then you have artists that come in, but never is it community folks who are just adding to that piece, right?

Karla Guerrero:  So, I took something like a mural and said, "Alright, let's make it interactive a little bit, so folks can also be a part of it." Because I think there's something really significant about adding to something, you know, even if it's in the smallest ways that you look at that, and you're like, "I was a part of that in some way," you know, instead of just walking by and being, like, "Oh, this is beautiful." and it signifies our community, but being that tangible part of it, I think is what's really important, and what leaves in the minds of, like, kids in families, you know, because they're like, "Oh yeah, we were a part of that. We did that!" which is the exciting part, which I wanted to do with the murals. Because I always walk by murals and I'm like, "Oh, I wonder who did that? I wish I could be a part of that." So now, looking at this, you could be, like, "Oh yeah, I was", you know? But I really want to continue this interactive mural piece, because I think it's fun. It could look different ways for different age groups and things like that. But this was an experiment, to be honest.

Alex Chambers:  It seemed like it was working. One side of the board had that outline of the Monarch, to honor all the immigrants in the community.

Karla Guerrero:  The Monarch takes a long flight through Mexico and here to the United States. It's a very delicate animal, so it's kind of a metaphor for all of the immigrants and much of our community coming here to Columbus and migrating all that long way.

Alex Chambers:  So, when you say "my community" can you tell me what you mean?

Karla Guerrero:  When I say "my community" I think about the people that I've experienced, that we experienced the same things. We're fighting for the same cause. We're making space for ourselves. We're trying to get the same resources. We're trying to get to clinics, we're trying to get food, we're trying to get clothing and we're just finding ways to get those resources without it costing so much money. With all the challenges that we face, we're trying to see ways to move around a system that kind of prevents us from certain things. So, for example, I'm a docket student, so every two years I have to renew my docket. So, things like that prevent me from getting government help, so community comes in and is, like, "Hey, we're going to help you out. These are the resources here."

Alex Chambers:  Can art be one of those resources? I think Karla would say so. This mural project gave people another way of thinking about community, too. The wall was freestanding, so I walked around to the other side. A man had just painted something on it.

Enrique:  The flower of Nicaragua, Central America. I just put the name of the country, Nicaragua, and I put one of our famous words that we use in Nicaragua, you can spell it deacachimba so it's kind of difficult to say it, but it's like saying...

Tasnim:  I'm happy, I'm good, I'm deacachimba! [LAUGHS] Yeah.

Alex Chambers:  That was Enrique and Tasnim. As they said, they're from Nicaragua, and they came to Columbus for summer vacation and to make some extra money.

Enrique:  And now we are three years over here. [LAUGHS]

Alex Chambers:  Really?

Enrique:  Yeah.

Alex Chambers:  Here in Columbus?

Tasnim:  Yes.

Alex Chambers:  You live here?

Enrique:  Yes.

Alex Chambers:  How's it been?

Enrique:  Actually pretty good. I mean, it's totally different our culture and everything, for people, jobs and everything, you know, but we love it. I mean, we have a good experience over here.

Alex Chambers:  You were, like, less sure?

Tasnim:  [LAUGHS] What do you say?

Alex Chambers:  Like, I asked how your experience was and he was like, "Yeah, it's been great," and you were, like, "Eh."

Tasnim:  No, I like it. You know what? When we go to another city we miss Columbus. Yeah, I don't know why, but we miss Columbus.

Alex Chambers:  Tasnim came to Columbus with no idea what it would be like.

Tasnim:  I had no expectation, to be honest, I just go to work for three months. I was not expecting anything, but we are here, we are liking it. Like I told you, we feel at home. [LAUGHS]

Alex Chambers:  How long do you expect to be here?

Tasnim:  We have no idea! [LAUGHS] We have no idea.

Enrique:  No idea about it.

Tasnim:  We go to our country every year. We go to visit, but we don't have plan to go back right now.

Alex Chambers:  Everyone in Columbus was talking about what a lovely place it was. Could it really be that great? I thought it might have had to do with my public radio microphone. Enrique had a different idea.

Enrique:  It could be maybe because you have several cultures over here. You have Central American people, Mexican people, North American people, Colombian people, Venezuelan people, also Brazilian people, you know, and you are like, "How in the world can this small town get together so many different cultures at once?" And, like she said, we feel like home over here.

Alex Chambers:  This art that we were standing in front of was about all those different identities and more. It was another board, painted white. At the top it said "soy" and...

Tasnim:  It said “Soy…”

Alex Chambers:  ...people had written all kinds of things on it.

Tasnim:  I am mujer, Mexicana, immigrante, una columbiana, braziliance, dominicana, una Buena bilingue, Chicana, book lover, vicinos de [?],Puerto Rico, happy/veracruz, and deacachimba.

Alex Chambers:  Here's Karla again, who created the piece.

Karla Guerrero:  What we do here is going to inspire other folks to also do projects and talk about what's going on. And you see that as people come and add to the artwork, and they're just kind of talking about it, like, "What should I write? What is my identity? Who am I?" You know, apart from a mom or, you know, these parts about ourselves that we don't often get to talk about, so these spaces just serve as, like, a cultural conversation where it's like, "Yeah, I am Puerto Rican," or, "Yeah, I am Dominican," "I am Mexican" and embracing that, you know? We have a couple of, this is “Go Venados” a running club in Chicago. So she was like, "Yeah, this is me, you know. I'm a runner, you know, and people didn't know that about me, you know, because they only see what I do for others, right?" So they're sharing those parts of themselves.

Karla Guerrero:  One of them is guapa, you know, embracing, like, self-confidence, you know, in the community. We have Dreamer, you know, we're all dreamers in some way. We dream of futures, what our communities might look like, what we hope for them to be. And I think that this piece kind of creates a canvas for people to be, like, "Who are we?" you know? "What does our expression look like?" So yeah, I think that bilingual is also really important. We're bilingual, we speak different languages, and we find community through that, because it's exciting to know somebody else who speaks another language or multiple languages and connect through that, and be like, "Oh well, I do that, too. I'm taking classes in this," and that forms connections, right? So I think that that's what it is.

Karla Guerrero:  But I think art has a really fun way of bringing out people's fun sides and messiness and I'm trying to gather more art friends, because I have, like, a background in art studio so I'm trying to get more artists to kind of form like a club of some sort so we can do, like, activist artwork, because that's kind of what I'm about, kind of artivism, that's what we used to call it. And I love that. I think there's so much we could do here in the community. Even if it's like art projects that are, like, based on social justice initiatives I think would be such a cool way of, like, connecting people. In the future I see, like, a non-profit cultural arts center here in Columbus, so I mean that's a long term goal, but it's there somehow. I'll be organizing towards that goal.

Alex Chambers:  So awesome. Can you say your name again so I have it on this recording?

Karla Guerrero:  My name is Karla Guerrero.

Alex Chambers:  Okay. You pronounced it differently this time.

Karla Guerrero:  Oh, I said it, "Karla Guerrero"? It sounds better like that. [LAUGHS] Thanks so much.

Alex Chambers:  Well, I felt like you were really like holding that identity the first time we talked, and then this time you're like, I don't know, talking about coming from DePauw. That's interesting.

Karla Guerrero:  Yes, it does. And, you know, yeah, because I am Chicana, and my culture is Mexican American, so when I'm with my more like Mexican friends, things like that, there's a different vernacular that happens; there's a different way that we talk, different Spanish words and stuff like that, whereas English, it's more, the way I was taught was more direct or more organized maybe? It's a good way, maybe? Whereas with Spanish, it's like, no me importa, like it doesn't matter how I say things, you know, but I think it is, you know. It's always that identity piece of going in between both spaces and figuring out what's comfortable and meeting different people as well, right? Like, what parts do I show? What, what is accepted and what is not? Because I think that, as an immigrant, I have those fears. You know, what is accepted, what is not? What makes people feel comfortable or what doesn't?

Karla Guerrero:  And it's kind of how we all are when we come from different cultures, and we pick up from different cultures. We just want to be respectful, things like that. So, I think it's always a conscious effort for me to be navigating between those identities. But the more I get comfortable, the more you see kind of my use of la chicana linguistic come out more, just because I get more comfortable, you know? And I'm like, "Okay, this is fun," you know? [LAUGHS]

Alex Chambers:  Later that day, I was standing by a memorial for limestone workers and the indigenous people who've lived here for more generations than anyone else. I was talking to a man about a bus, when a car went by. It was pulling a trailer. On the trailer was a wall, about 6ft by 9ft, with a bunch of words painted on it. It was messy and colorful. It made me think of another wall in a cave, where a bunch of hands had been stenciled on. Were they waving, singing? I don't know. But both of those walls, from October and long ago, held a kind of presence. It was people saying, "We're here. Even when we're gone, still we're here."

Alex Chambers:  You're listening to Inner States. I'm Alex Chambers. For our last chapter today, we've got one more story about memory. This one, though, is more personal. It's about what happens to your relationship with your mother when she can no longer remember who you are. It comes to us from producer, Anna Grimes.

Anna Grimes:  I'm home, back from college for the weekend, and not much has changed. Well, there's now paint swatches on the walls to compare the colors. It's been months, but my mom hasn't pulled the trigger to repaint yet. Judy Grimes is not one for change. She's lived in the same house for years, she's worked the same job, even has the same haircut. But recently there's been a dramatic shift in something she thought would never change, her mom.

Judy Grimes:  If you tell someone, "I really miss my mom," or use words that you feel, it's like, "Well, is your mom dead?" No, she's just right here, it's just that she's not my mom anymore.

Anna Grimes:  Two years ago her mom, Freda Hauk was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. We're sitting at the dining room table. My mom's on her iPad to distract from the awkward, describing when she first noticed a difference.

Judy Grimes:  When my dad was really, really sick, she started acting very strange.

Anna Grimes:  Before, Grandma would stay with him, even if it meant sleeping on a chair, but she stopped coming.

Judy Grimes:  It was really, really odd, and it hurt my dad a lot, but he told me, "No, she can't remember anything. You have to make sure that she's okay". And after my dad died, it became very, very obvious that there were problems.

Anna Grimes:  Freda spends more and more time at my mom's house, eats at least one meal there a day. This Sunday, I drive her home after dinner. We are in an old Accord. It's the same car that she used to pick me up from school in, like ten years ago. It's got the same decorative stuff, a smiley face hanging from the rear view mirror. It's the car that she gave me when the doctor told her to stop driving. My grandma couldn't understand the street signs anymore. Soon, she won't be able to live alone. It's snowing hard.

Anna Grimes:  Oh, are you okay?

Freda Hauk:  Oh, it slipped.

Anna Grimes:  She almost falls.

Anna Grimes:  Here.

Freda Hauk:  Oh, be careful. Come on.

Anna Grimes:  Inside, the house feels empty.

Freda Hauk:  Oh my goodness!

Anna Grimes:  I still get the same tour, though.

Freda Hauk:  Take off my coat.

Anna Grimes:  Because she is my grandma, we head straight for the fridge.

Freda Hauk:  I showed you my food, didn't I?

Anna Grimes:  You can show me again.

Freda Hauk:  Look.

Anna Grimes:  It's near empty, with the exception of several microwave meals.

Freda Hauk:  Chicken and brocc-- I don't. Judy buys those for me.

Anna Grimes:  My grandma can't cook anymore, really.

Judy Grimes:  But she was a really good cook, the things that she made.

Anna Grimes:  When talking about it, my mom said--

Judy Grimes:  She likes still the same things, and she doesn't like the same things, but she doesn't remember any. So, I will cook something that she has cooked for years and years and years since I was a very little girl, and she will ask, "Well, what is this?" And we'll have her taste it, and she'll be like, "Well, this is really good!" And it's like, "Well, Mom, it's your recipe."

Anna Grimes:  She just doesn't remember.

Judy Grimes:  It's just so sad, because that's what moms are for. You get stuck on a recipe or something or you get really hungry for something they used to make and you can call them and say, "Will you make that for me or tell me how to make it?" It just turns into calling my sisters and saying, "Do you happen to have the recipe? Did you get it written down before Mom started forgetting everything?" And sometimes they do, and sometimes they're like, "No, I was hoping you had it," and so then it's just lost forever.

Anna Grimes:  Nerve cells and their connections are deteriorating in the frontal and temporal lobes of my grandma's brain. These regions that govern personality, behavior and language are breaking down. My mother is a doctor of pharmacy, and she understands anatomy. She's conscious of dementia in a way most aren't.

Judy Grimes:  I know that, at some point, just as an example, she won't remember how to cough and she won't remember how to eat, and I mean all of the other functions that are way more important than remembering someone's name. People with dementia end up just bedridden, so that makes it harder, because I know that there's really horrible things to come.

Anna Grimes:  Back in my grandma's house, the thing she was most excited to show me were the pictures. The walls are all lined with framed photos of family and old friends. They smile down on you immediately on entry, and she describes her favorite pastime, sitting in her best chair and looking out, talking to her pictures, saying hello and reminding each image of each precious person that she loves them.

Freda Hauk:  Yes, I look up and I say, "Oh hi, Cindy, you're looking great, and Debbie and Mommy and Daddy, and Judy and Joshua and Nicole. So good to see all of you, and Ben and Ian," and I sit here and tell them how much I love them! [LAUGHS] It gives me something to do. Oh yeah, I'll say, "Oh, oh, I still love you so much." [LAUGHS] Yeah. I love those pictures.

Anna Grimes:  She imbued some of this appreciation for pictures in the heart of my mom.

Judy Grimes:  When you look back through pictures, you might say, "Oh, I totally forgot that this happened," and it floods a whole bunch of memories from that time period back and without that picture that memory is gone forever, so that's one of the reasons why I like pictures.

Anna Grimes:  Yeah.

Anna Grimes:  At this point in time, Freda, the mom she remembers, the one in her pictures, only exists in memories.

Judy Grimes:  They're still there, but they're just a shell of who they were. They're not that person anymore, they're a different person, and so you can love that different person but that's not, that's not the person. That person is gone. I, I think that's really hard.

Alex Chambers:  Anna Grimes is a researcher and science writer in Indianapolis. She produced this story in early 2020. Her grandmother, Freda May Hauk passed away that November. You've been listening to Inner States. If you have a story we should hear, or some sound you want to share, let us know at wfiu.org/innerstates. Speaking of found sound, we've got your quick moment of slow radio coming up, but first the credits.

Alex Chambers:  Inner States is produced by me, Alex Chambers, with support from [UNSURE OF NAME], Mark Chiller, Michael Paskash and Kayte Young. Maggie Nye Smith offered invaluable editing on this episode. Our executive producer is John Bailey. Special thanks this week to Gregory Peck, Dusty Eggers, Jei Kim, Dorian Bybee, Richard McCoy, Emily Bord, Karla Guerrero, Enrique and Tasnim in Columbus and Anna Grimes. Our theme music is by Amy Oelsner and Justin Vollmar. We have additional music from the artists at Universal Production Music and Airport People. After an episode on suppressed stories in particular, I want to acknowledge and honor the Miami, Delaware, Potawatomi and Shawnee people on whose ancestral homelands Indiana University Bloomington, home of WFIU is built, as well as the generations of workers who built it. All right, time to take a breath and listen to a place.

Alex Chambers:  You've been listening to water on rocks at Lake Monroe in Southern Indiana. Until next week, I'm Alex Chambers, thanks for listening.

LaWaSo Ground, Columbus Indiana

LaWaSo Ground, designed by Jeeyea Kim and Dorian Bybee for Exhibit Columbus in 2021 (Landmark Columbus Foundation by Hadley Fruits)

In a city named after the founding colonizer of the Americas, in a state named after the people whose location he misidentified, there was, briefly, a memorial to the tension between those two names: Columbus and Indiana. I’d been to Columbus, Indiana, before and hadn’t given the irony a second thought. The difference this time was I was there to see the memorial that highlighted that irony. It was part of an exhibition in Columbus called, appropriately, Exhibit Columbus. The organizers had asked designers and artists to make public art on the theme of New Middles. They talked about middle cities in particular - the idea being mid-sized AND midwestern. Like Columbus.

The exhibit started last August. I went in October. As I walked around with my mic, I watched people encounter the art. A lot of people just gazed at it, like they were looking at sculptures in a museum. But the pieces had platforms, astroturf hills, foggy screens to peer through, bouncy balls, which meant the kids were jumping right in. The day eventually got me thinking about history, memory, how we acknowledge the past that’s still with us. But at first, as we all wandered around the art, I just wanted to know who public art was for.

Was it for those kids, playing on it? Was it for the people who pass it daily and barely give it a glance, like the man on the corner who said “I’ve stood at this corner before. But I don’t look at it. I’m too busy looking at the streets, you see.”

Let’s be clear. Public art is as often about telling a story to the public as it is . The way the St. Louis Arch is a “gateway to the west.” It’s celebrating St. Louis as a jumping-off point for Europeans to colonize west of the Mississippi. At least the arch is fairly abstract. Go back to the early twentieth century and the line gets blurrier between “public art” and the monuments we’ve put up to famous men, or to fallen soldiers. We have a lot of war memorials in this country, so many lists of names of fallen men. A lot of people are ready to pull down the statues of Confederate generals, but it’s more complicated when it comes to the soldiers who often went to war as much out of necessity as patriotism.

I found myself in a square of twenty-five square limestone columns. This a permanent piece, not part of the exhibition. I didn’t know what it was at first, but then I realized it was a war memorial. It was the most intriguing war memorial I’ve seen, other than Maya Lin’s Vietman Veterans Memorial. The columns were rough-hewn on the outside, but the inside faces were smooth, and they had writing on them. I looked closer and I realized it was the text of final letters soldiers had sent home before they were killed. There were also official letters notifying families of their loss. All these letters were chiseled into the stone. It got me thinking about who we choose to remember - soldiers, white men - and who we don’t.

The piece I was there to see offered a different take on the idea of the memorial. That one didn’t point to a moment in history. There were no names on it. No particular war, no group of fallen soldiers. No individuals. It was far more abstract.

And yet, as I would come to learn, it tied together a lot of different histories about colonialism, the Native people who first lived here, the European laborers who’ve been quarrying for generations, and, you might say, those kids, too, who were climbing all over it.

That was LaWaSo Ground, designed by Jeeyea Kim, Dorian Bybee, Katrina Mitten, Tyden Graverson, and Brian B. Kim. I spoke with a number of locals who had interacted with the piece - or, in some cases, had walked by without paying much attention at all. I also spoke with Jeeyea Kim and Dorian Bybee about their goals with the project. That conversation got me thinking about other memorials and public art in Indiana, so I called Richard McCoy, the executive director of the Landmark Columbus Foundation, who’s thought hard for years about the role of public art.

The day I was in Columbus was also the Fiesta Latina, a celebration of all the Latinx cultures that have made a home there - and it’s quite a range. At one end of the Fiesta Latina, I saw kids painting the wings of a giant butterfly. It was at one end of the festival, past the Brazilian Friends Band on the outdoor stage, past the stands selling horchata and tacos al pastor, past the booths for local volunteer networks. There was a big wooden board, about six feet by nine, with the outline of the butterfly in black, and there was a woman helping the kids fill their palettes with color.

Nuestras Alas butterfly mural

Her name was Karla Guerrero. Karla is the youth engagement coordinator for Su Casa Columbus. We talked about why she created a participatory mural, about what community means to her, what art can do for communities, and - somewhat accidentally - about code-switching.

Finally, this week’s episode ends with a story by producer Anna Grimes, about what happens to your relationship with your mother when she can no longer remember who you are.

Special thanks this week to Gregory Peck, Dusty Eggers, Jei Kim, Dorian Bybee, Richard McCoy, Emily Bord, Karla Guerrero, Enrique and Tasnim in Columbus, and Anna Grimes.

Music

Our theme song is by Amy Oelsner and Justin Vollmar. We have additional music from the artists at Universal Production Music and Airport People.
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