To see and photograph Friday evening’s closing reception of Studio Abioto‘s art and performance work Red Thread: Green Earth in the lobby of Beaverton’s Patricia Reser Center for the Arts was a rare and moving experience.
The arts have always been intertwined within every fiber of my being. The stroke of a brush, the shutter of a lens, the strum of a guitar. I see through art-tinted glasses and crave it in everything I do. Is that because I like the feeling of empowerment in making my visions a reality? Perhaps. I believe that people are often destined to find a niche and make something out of it, and I know that I was born to tell stories through my art.
Anyone who knows me knows that artistic expression was always encouraged in my family. As an accomplished architect and designer, my dad has always supported my love for art. My mom fed my creative curiosity by finding countless opportunities to expose me to the arts. She made sure I always had the physical and mental tools I needed to make my ideas come to life.
I often found myself curiously peeking over my dad’s shoulder at whatever model he was working on. My dad, Joe Baldwin, is a partner at Opsis Architecture in Portland, and was one of the lead designers of the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts. I can still remember the day he showed me the model for the arts center for the first time. It was early in its design process, and all I could see on his computer screen were these intersecting wood beams that enabled the light to shine through the gaps. I was mesmerized. I asked him what they were for, and he told me the wood beams symbolize the beaver dams that once filled the banks of Beaverton Creek, which runs adjacent to the Reser. Being present and hearing stories about how this space has brought together so many diverse and artistic minds shows how this building has created a sense of community.
The Abioto family’s Red Thread: Green Earth performance was by far the most spiritually moving artistic experience I have ever witnessed. Midnight and her daughters Amenta (Yawa), Kalimah Abioto (Dr. Wood Chopper), Intisar Abioto, Medina Abioto and Ni Abioto told a powerful story of African diasporic culture through a holistic expression of sculpture, photography, music, poetry, food, and dance.
They moved through the crowd in intricate costumes as they spoke about the human spiritual connection to the Earth, and how much it provides. They also described through various mediums how the idea of “red thread” is a representation of the blood-soaked trail that slavery has birthed within their ancestral past, and how those fallen ancestors play a part in their lives today. Every person in the audience was entranced by the performers. (See Reclaiming nature: Revelations at the Reser, Friderike Heuer’s ArtsWatch story about the exhibition from shortly after it opened in November.)
I found myself overcome with emotion by the end of the performance. To feel intensely inspired in a space so special to my dad felt full circle for me. At the end of the show this audience full of strangers danced, hugged, and laughed. It was beautiful, and showed the power that lies within art. I came to realize that bringing community and creativity into a space has the power to build a sense of place. It was in this moment I knew it was stories like these that I was born to tell.