By the People, For the People

By Lynn Lieu

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Posted April 22, 2010 in News

Ever wanted to get a dose of Islam 101? Or learn how to recycle jeans or build a skateboard? The new website Valyoued.org—the brainchild of a Chaffey College art professor and artist—offers folks a forum to teach or request to learn various everyday tasks or skills.

Call it learning for the people, by the people.

The website prompted a recent exhibit and series of workshops at Chaffey College’s Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art. A gallery in Fontana has taken interest in possibly hosting a series of workshops as well, according to website founder Cynde Miller.

The Wignall exhibit was centered around workshops suggested and taught by volunteers who posted their ideas on the website. These workshops spawned a network of individuals both on- and off-campus and built relationships outside of what the university had to offer.

“What really became apparent during the project is that the gallery is normally this sort of sacred space where you have to be quiet and you can’t eat and you can’t listen to music and you can’t sit down and you can’t chat and you can’t put your own artwork on the walls—we’re breaking all of those rules,” Miller says.

Miller, who received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from California Institute of the Arts and her master’s in fine arts from UC Irvine, was inspired by the experiences of Gregg Mortensen in his book, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time and the Fluxus art movement.

“I read a book, Three Cups of Tea. It’s about a guy who built about 800 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When he started, he was a homeless nurse. It gave me this kind of courage. I always tell my students, ‘Don’t wait for an opportunity, just make one. If you want to show your work just find a way to do it,’” Miller says. “I have always been interested in the Fluxus art movement, which is very interested in breaking down the barriers between life and art and is very process driven. It’s less about the product and more about the experience and whether the experience is authentic. Then I sort of just focused on what makes me happy: teaching, good experiences and communal and collaborative work.”

Valyoued.org in many ways has broken down the normal confines of not only the gallery experience but also classroom and community interactions.

“The thing about classes outside of Valyoued is the grading system, the classroom, the institution, the idea that you are doing this for units, the hierarchy between teachers and students, the fact that you have to get this, this and this done before the semester is over, [all this] creates this pretty confining environment to try to learn something—that’s not here,” Miller said.

“It’s infectious; it just takes one person to come back from one of these workshops and say, ‘Hey, you guys should have been to this; it’s really fun.’ And they say, ‘What else is going on? I want to be a part of it,’” says Chaffey College student and Valyoued.org volunteer Megan Flanders. “Our campus usually feels disjointed, but this has been really good at unifying everybody. Our teachers from class have been students with us, so it’s a whole different way to learn about people too. It has just been a huge fun social experiment on who knows each other and what we can teach other.”

Flanders and other volunteers and participants also noticed that the workshops united people with similar interests who continued to share those interests after the workshops were over.

“It doesn’t want to end,” Miller says.

Valyoued.org was funded by the William T. Colville foundation and Chaffey College’s One Book/One College program and at the moment is looking for a new home.

“We have had interests from other galleries,” Miller adds. “My interest is to sort of just keep it more community-based. I really don’t an Armand Hammer Museum [of Art and Culture Center, run by UCLA’s School of the Arts and Architecture] version of this. So, what I’m looking for are community art centers, non-profits, activity centers, community colleges—that type of thing,” Miller says.

The Art Depot Gallery in Fontana has expressed an interest in hosting another set of workshops.

For now, Valyoued.org remains available for future exhibits.

For more info, check out www.valyoued.org.


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