Activity Group 6: Collaboratively Reading Martin Luther King
After the Studio K.O.S. workshops in Fall 2020, A.R.T. Education Advisor Wendy Tronrud returned to collaboratively read a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. with the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council (WACTAC). This exercise focused on question jamming rather than jamming with images.
Tronrud chose to focus on King Jr.’s 1954 sermon “Transformed Nonconformist”. In this sermon, King Jr. muses about the nature of making social change. King thinks about how people often follow norms that are widely accepted yet might actually cause harm. He considers how people passively follow damaging patterns created by particular kinds of institutional and social structures. As King Jr. says, “Instead of making history, we are made by history.” You can read more about the importance of King Jr.'s work for Studio K.O.S. in the Guiding Question section of this Reading Resources guide.
Using Zoom, Tronrud and WACTAC "popcorn-read" King Jr.’s sermon aloud, each participant reading a paragraph or a few sentences before popcorning it to someone else. While reading aloud, all participants had the same Google Document open in which they jammed by writing each and every question that came to mind. By using a Google Document, everyone could write anonymously and, in the spirit of Studio K.O.S.’s collaborative jamming, could see each other’s questions unfold in real time. Just as in jamming, where participants see someone else’s visual image and allow it to inspire their own work, participants could see and be inspired by each other's questions. This process generated a question-based conversation in response to King Jr.’s sermon.
After the workshop, two WACTAC participants, Tylia Kennedy and Henry Ouellette, shared their reflections on the question jamming process. They each consider the connection between reading aloud and generating questions, as well as how this process contributed to their understanding of King Jr.’s sermon.
On the Process:
“The activity struck me. Though simple, reading the text aloud was surprisingly powerful; it brought the words to life in a new way that’s hard to describe, with the inflections others chose to make creating new connections and questions about what the words meant. Writing those questions down as fast as I could with the safety net of anonymity allowed me to be relaxed and rush wherever the words and thoughts directed me, sometimes bumping into someone else’s question and building it into my own train of thought. I was most excited by the sense of complete freedom to think and question and listen without stopping and editing my thoughts, just letting myself fully interact with what I was reading and hearing and letting everything flow out. That freedom, when multiplied across the entire group, produced better thoughts, questions, and understandings than any of us could have had reading the text alone in silence.” — Henry Ouellette
“This workshop was one of my favorite workshops I've done because it made me take a step back and reflect. When Martin Luther King writes, he's very direct and doesn't sugar-coat what he says. After reading this it made me ponder on the question of "What makes a true Christian?" or "What is a true Christian?" As a person who has gone to a Catholic school all my life, I've always been taught the oversimplified way of being a Christian. The way this passage points out this idea of being one in two worlds (Christian in a world of eternity and on earth) and the idea of anything going against it you're supposed to oppose it. I like this because it makes you think of how we as people need reforming in our morals—just because you're taught it's wrong doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong. The fear of standing alone is what holds people back from opening their minds to the idea of the possibility of exploring if such a thing is truly morally incorrect. I liked generating questions because I am a person who likes to look at things in detail; this idea of anonymously submitting questions was very pleasing to me because I felt as though I could truly ask what I wanted without the fear of being ridiculed. (Not that I thought my group would do that.) It makes you feel as though you can truly hear what a person wants to say without the weight of blanketed terms and sugar-coated sentences and thoughts.” — Tylia Kennedy
Tylia Kennedy is 17 years old and a junior in high school. She wants to become a creative and art director as her future career. She’s interested in fashion, art, and photography! She enjoys reading, learning new things, having deep conversations, engaging in civil discussions, and listening to new music!
Henry Ouellette is a high school junior planning to study philosophy and/or law. He’s currently a member of far too many clubs and spends his spare time reading nonfiction, playing D&D, and making sculptures while on the phone.
A.R.T. thanks WACTAC members for their integral contributions to Reading Resources: Studio K.O.S.:
Question Jamming Activities
After reading and question jamming, participants can continue to engage with the text and questions in several ways. They can:
— Organize the questions according to theme or topic
— Choose a few questions they really like and then respond by free-writing in a journal
— Choose a question and revise or develop it to become more debatable
— Use a question to prompt an essay
Tylia Kennedy also suggests that participants “can speak about quotes from the text that stand out to them to get their brains going. Sometimes creating even the simplest questions can be hard, so just finding words or paragraphs that stood out to them or they really liked can be helpful. Another suggestion: In case anyone is scared of speaking up or talking you can ask questions of ‘how did [insert part of the text] make you feel? Do you feel that you could relate to it? Why or why not?’”
Reading Resources: Studio K.O.S. was produced by Wendy Tronrud (A. R. T. Education Advisor) in collaboration with Art Resources Transfer (A.R.T.) and the Walker Art Center in 2020-21.
In memory of Tim Rollins.
A.R.T. would like to thank the Walker Art Center; in particular Nisa Mackie (Head of Public Engagement, Learning, and Impact), Simona Zappas (Youth Programs Coordinator), and Sara Shives (Production Manager).
We are grateful for the financial support of our generous funders. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.
Additional support was granted by:
National Endowment for the Arts
H.W. Wilson Foundation
Wilhelm Family Foundation
A.R.T. Board of Directors
A.R.T. Advisory Board
Most specially, we thank Studio K.O.S.: Angel Abreu, Jorge Abreu, Robert Branch, and Ricardo Savinon.
Web programming by Document Services.
Copyright © Art Resources Transfer, Inc 2021.
All images are protected under copyright by the original rights holders.
A.R.T. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.