Downsized: Real Stories of Homeless Children, A Multimedia Exhibit
Trailer Trash is taking it to the streets. We want to tell the stories of children living with their families in cars and trailers parked along the streets of Los Angeles. We’re also want to hear from children whose families are facing foreclosure. To get started, we need to buy a used van to tow our mobile recording studio – a 1972 Aristocrat trailer. Trailer Trash is a member of Fractured Atlas. Donations through our Indie GoGo Campaign are tax-deductible!
”…a concerted effort to place children’s rights at the centre of urban decision-making is the only way to narrow the gaps [of inequality] and build a more equitable and prosperous urban future.” -UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2012
Nearly $7 trillion dollars went up in smoke with the housing crisis in the United States. The loss in social capital has not been calculated.
The Trailer Trash Project is hitting the road, taking a mobile recording studio into Southern California neighborhoods to the tell stories of families fighting to stay in their homes in the face of foreclosure. A House Is Not A Home is the name of our new series of bi-monthly reports for KPFK 90.9 FM (Pacifica, Los Angeles). We’ll dig beneath the surface of housing crisis to pinpoint how one foreclosure can affect an extended family, a neighborhood and community. We’ll also document how a coalition of activists have come together under the umbrella of the Occupy Movement to bring about much needed change. The series will also include a traveling exhibit will online access to material
Help us report from the road on the foreclosure crisis in Southern California. We need to raise $3500 to buy an audio recorder and a used van to tow our 1972 mini camper. The camper will serve as recording studio and home on wheels which we’ll take into neighborhoods around Southern California. (This 16′ camper is not to be confused with our 33′ Spartan trailer we are restoring as a performance space.) Click here to make a tax-deductible donation.
Javier Hernandez: "You hear stories of people who loose their homes and never get over it." Javier and his 4 year old brother are pictured at a rally in downtown L.A. to lend support for a lawsuit seeking redress of unlawful foreclosure practices.
We’ll tell the stories like these: Javier Hernandez was a 25 year old delivery driver in 2006 when Countrywide Finance him a $546,000 loan on a home. Before signing, Javier, who planned to live in the house and share costs with mother, father and brother asked the lender if he thought the family could swing the $3,900 monthly payments that would require more than half the family’s income (The family had no no credit medical or car payments debt.) The lender assured him that after two years the value of the house would increase substantially and he could then refinance with lower payments.
In fact, the opposite happened. In 2008 Javier’s mortgage payments ballooned The lender assured him that the value of the house would increase substantially after two years at which point the family could lower their payments. The opposite happened. In 2008 Javier’s mortgage payments balloonedThe lender assured him that the value of the house would increase substantially after two years at which point the family could lower their payments. The opposite happened. In 2008 Javier’s interest rate ballooned, raising mortgage payments to $5,000. They asked to refinance but were told the value of their home had sunk; the only way to get help was to stop payments and go into default. In 2008 they were given three months to vacate the house. While the family remains in the house, they know the axe could fall at any time. Meanwhile, Javier and his brother Ulysses – both previously apolitical, have joined the Occupy Movement to support the fight to keep people in their homes.
When Bank of America bought Coutrywide,
Faith Parkerwho has lived in her South Central L.A. home for 50 years. An educator
Mrs. Faith Parker and her eldest daughter Brenda outside Mrs. Parker’s South Central L.A. home of 50 years.
who has contributed much to children and families in her community, Mrs. Parker fell on hard times when she refinanced her home to get a loan to help care for her daughter who had contracted multiple-sclerosis. Her mortgage payments shot up from $900 to $2200. When Mrs. Parker asked for a second revision, Bank of America told her she would first have to default. In a letter the Bank told her not to worry, trust the bank, she didn’t need a lawyer. After months of frustrating letter writing and calls, Faith’s house was put up for sale.
Bertha Herrera, a grandmother and volunteer chaplain for has lived in her home of more than 40 years. Mrs. Herrera’s troubles started with an accident and ended with eviction from her home in January. The Trailer Trash Project was there when deputies with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department broke down her door and evicted her. On hand as well were more than a dozen “Occupiers” providing support and publicizing Mrs. Herrera’s plight.
The NOMAD Lab Art Project for children celebrated Human Rights Day on December 10 by envisioning a world – real or imagined – that they would like to live in. Multimedia artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and musician/composer Kevin Robinson led the event, held in an apartment complex at the Valle del Oro Neighborhood in Santa Clarita, CA., where the children live. The Trailer Trash Project organized the event in collaboration with NOMAD Lab founder Evelyn Serrano, who uses art to encourage children to work together build a peaceful, tolerant multi-cultural neighborhood. Musician/Composer Kevin Robinson with NOMAD kids
Tenor Saxaphonist Kevin Robinson, who is a firm believer in the power of music to heal, demonstrated how the sound that comes out of his instrument is influenced by his stance, breath, emotions – even the rate of his beating heart. He showed how musical instruments can be fashioned from found objects such as hat stands, lamp stands and shades. Even the voice, hands and feet can be effective instruments, he said. A lesson in learning about how the music becomes one with your body came with Kevin encouraging the kids to clap their hands to a set beat, while he riffed and a NOMAD kid repeated sounds to a tune.This winter, the Kevin Robinson Ensemble (KREation) will be on tour in New York City and Baltimore this Winter (see dates)
For her part, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle recounted tales from her Kentifrica homeland, providing maps and drawing of the people who live there and the instruments they play. She encouraged the NOMADS to draw maps of their own home country (real or imagined) and then asked them to describe what life was like there.
Artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle's shows her portrait of a fellow citizen of Kentifrica to kids with the NOMAD Lab Art Project
Kevin Robinson, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle and the NOMAD Lab Art Project collaborate with Sam Breen’s Trailer Trash Project in its mission to foster creativity and a sense of community through a program of art performances, exhibits and residencies in local Los Angeles neighborhoods.
NOMAD Lab founder, artist and CalArts faculty member Evelyn Serrano
In recognition of Human Rights Day, two international human rights lawyers based in Geneva, Switzerland joined the group. Tom McCarthy and Anna-Lena Svensson McCarthy who were in California on a family trip, provided an opportunity to explain to that shelter is a human right.
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housingand medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” (article 25(1)) Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Sam Breen joined a group of students and graduates presenting “CalArts Plays Itself” (September 29 – October 2, 2011) at PACT Zollvereinin Essen, Germany, one of Europe’s up-and coming culture centers. The show featured original, cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary work, including Breen’s “Trailer Trash Project: Life Meets Art in a Tin Can.” Using a 15-foot inflatable model of a travel trailer he told the story of how he lost his family home after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. He explained how his mother—a former filmmaker for the United Nations refugee agency—was left without a place to live after the storm. A few years later, he took on unlikely
Musician Archie Carey presented at “CalArts Plays Itself,” part of PACT-Zollverein 2011
project: he began transforming a 33-foot long trailer into a green place to live (for his mother) and a moveable place for him and his fellow artists to showcase their work. Even in its un-restored state, the 1951 Spartan trailer soon became a emblem at CalArts for student-driven creative work, the backdrop and the catalyst for many cultural events around the
institution. In Essen, Breen’s gallery space was crammed with the oversized blow-up model, making it hard for guests to ignore his invitation to step inside. The inflatable served as a dominating yet fragile symbol, a reminder of those who turn to transient living as a last resort.
” Sam Breen’s inflatable trailer project … lays bare contemporary America’s white whale: the housing problem, its connections to the current economic crisis, and to Hurricane Katrina. Like Jonah in the Old Testament, Breen was swallowed up by the whale. Several months later, he has been vomited out: the whale has turned into a screen onto which new stories are projected. The contemporary state of collapse has turned into a space of play, where new individualities and collectivities emerge”
Breen, who recently received an MFA in acting from CalArts, considered his 10-
Sam Breen in Essen with his inflatable trailer by sculptor Michael Darling
day stay at the PACT-Zollverin festival as a residency, using the opportunity to develop his presentation with his audience. He invited fellow artists— musicians taking part in other performances at the festival— to impromptu jam sessions inside the trailer. Daily conversations with patrons helped shape the installation. Many noted how the inflatable, sustained by two household fans, appeared to “breathe” as people entered and exited. It had a similar effect on Breen, who returned to Los Angeles energized with a new perspective on his project. He is planning to conduct more residencies, this time inside his actual trailer, which he will bring to the parking lots of cultural institutions in and around Southern California to continue renovating the trailer and performing art.
The Center for Cultural Innovation has awarded Sam Breen an Investing In Artists Grant, given to individual artists to acquire equipment or materials that will support them in their creative process. The $6,500 grant will be used to build a performance space inside the 1951 Spartan trailer that Sam has been working on since September, 2010. Thanks to CCI, Trailer Trash is able to engage Eddie Paul Industries to open up the trailer’s now-fixed front windows, making the indoor performance space accessible to outdoor audiences. The process requires considerable re-engineering, since it means cutting into the trailer’s aluminum skin the structure that gives the trailer 80% of its strength (see monocoque design.)
The banquette will be used for readings and discussions. It can fold away and become a small performance stage for indoor or outdoor audiences.
The work should be finished for up-coming performances this Fall, including one in December for the NOMAD Lab Art Project for kids. Like Sam, most artists pursue their work with little outside help – often by holding down low-paying, no benefits jobs. CCI understands that at certain points along an artists’ creative path, material and organization support can be critical. In addition to material assistance, CCI provides training organizational support and networking with organizations like USA Projects.
On Saturday Sept. 24, Trailer Trash will help power a KPFK fundraising event at MacArthur Park to help the radio station go solar. Bring your e-waste, enjoy some great food truck eats and listen to featured music. Then pay us a visit inside our 1951 Spartan that we’re restoring into a green and mobile space to showcase art. We’ll show you how we operate off-grid with solar. Get a preview of our composting toilet (Relax, it’s not hooked up yet!)
Bring along these items to donate to KPFK: computers, monitors, printers, scanners, copiers, routers, hubs, modems, peripherals, TVs, VCRs, DVD players, A/V equipment, cell phones, and answering machines No large home appliances like microwaves, refrigerators or air conditioners, please. For more info on KPFK’s solar plans, click here.
Featuring Music by KPFK’s Chuck Foster, Sergio Mielniczenko and DJ Boxy D! Raffle, Food Trucks, Good Vibes & Green Energy! Other participants: Lime Truck, Rebel Bites, Nomad on Wheels, ANEW, Grid Alternatives, Energy Upgrade California.
Sam and his cousin Sasuke make templates for plywood that will be used to cover the walls and ceiling.
With graduation over, work on the Trailer Trash restoration has heated up. The 1951 Spartan Royal Mansion left it’s CalArts home on June 15 and was towed 10 miles to a canyon on the the outskirts of Santa Clarita, where lizards and coyote are almost as plentiful as motorcycles rushing to the Angeles National Forest.
In June, Sam’s cousin, Sasuke, came from Japan to help out. A recent graduate in geology from Kyoto University, he spent a month working with Sam inside the trailer. (Sasuke has an interest in nuclear energy and hekept us posted on recent happenings at the Fukushima nuclear reactor.)
The task at hand was to the walls and ceiling. First, Sasuke attached wooden strips to along the ribs where the cabinets and closets will eventually be installed. Then he fashioned carboard templates which will be used as a pattern for the plywood that will cover the walls. The job isn’t as easy as it looks; it requires lots of measuring, precision and patience. Although he had little building experience, it is hard to imagine how Sam would have gotten the job done without Sasuke’s help!
If you are considering volunteering your time with The Trailer Trash Project, this slideshow might show you the kind of work we’re involved with now:
With graduation over, work on the Trailer Trash restoration has heated up. The 1951 Spartan Royal Mansion left it’s CalArts home on June 15 and was towed 10 miles to a canyon on the the outskirts of Santa Clarita, where lizards and coyote are almost as plentiful as motorcyclists roaring up the road to the Angeles National Forest.
Sam’s cousin, Sasuke Breen, came from Japan to help out. A recent graduate in geology from Kyoto University, he spent a month helping Sam get ready to install the walls and ceiling. He crafted and installed wooden strips to reinforce the studs on the walls and ceiling. Then he made cardboard templates for the walls and ceiling – not as easy as it looks. The job requires lots of measuring and patience. It’s hard to imagine how the job would have gotten done would have gotten done without Sasuke’s help.
The stars–and the moon- were in alignment last week when Cody Braudt, a BFA-1 student at Cal Art presented his play “Outbound to Wonderland” at Trailer Trash during the New Works Festival 2011.
The play focuses on the relationship between a precocious seven-year old girl and her writer father, a dreamer who fights for his daughter’s right to develop her imaginative powers. Cody describes Lizzie as “spunky, sarcastic and ironic with a strong sense of fantasy- and sometimes a lack of focus.”
Nora King as Lizzie and Casey Jackson as her father
When a school psychologist prescribes medication to improve Lizzie’s math scores and classroom behavior, her father recoils, worrying that medication will squelch Lizzie’s creative side. Together, father and daughter plan an evening together under the stars in Wonderland, their imaginary world that is a tip of the hat both to Lewis Carroll and to the real-world name of the last stop on Boston’s Blue Line.
Several of the play’s scenes are set underground, on a subway platform and inside a subway car. Filmed images from a speeding subway window are imaginatively projected against the Spartan’s aluminum siding, in a superb use of space, sound and light.
The inspiration for the play came more than a year ago when Cody and his dad were visiting schools in Boston. To get Cody a real-world feel of student life in the city, his father insisted that they take public transportation. Descending the subway steps, they saw the sign, “Outbound to Wonderland.” At that moment something clicked: they both thought it would make a great title for a play.
photo credit: Thrillho
In the end, Cody chose Cal Arts over Boston. But the idea for the play surfaced again when he first arrived at his new school and saw Sam’s trailer parked in the lower lot. “I thought it would be a perfect place to stage a play,” said Cody. Later when Sam gave a talk to one of Cody’s classes, the two agreed Cody’s new work could take place at the trailer.
Two days before the first performance, the crew descended on the trailer at midnight to set up. Then, during the tech rehearsal it rained, underscoring the challenges of outdoor performances. The challenges of working with a small venue was another element.
“It’s a creative challenge,” Cory explained. “It’s not easy to work with the constraints on space. But that’s what makes it stimulating. It’s difficult to imagine the play being staged anywhere else.”
Cody (right) and his fellow technical directors for Outbound to Wonderland.
Cody practically grew up in the theatre world, acting professionally as a child at the Guthrie Theatre and other Minnesota venues. At Cal Arts he wanted to turn his hand to the technical side of productions. “It’s a whole new world of creativity. As a director, I want to be able to bring all these aesthetics together, to understand sound and lighting design.”
The move to Cal Arts was difficult at first, having left a tight-knit group of friends behind. “After high school, some of them stayed in Minnesota; others moved to Chicago. I was the only one who went all the way out to California.”
As the school year comes to an end Cody has fallen in love with Cal Arts. “I’ve made new friends and have still been able to keep my old ones – they’ve been very supportive.”
When discussing the importance of home and community to artists – a theme central to the Trailer Trash Project – Cody says, “Home is not about a place, it’s about the people you enjoy being with, people who will support you. People who won’t stifle your imagination.”
detail from poster designed by Cody Braudt for "Outbound to Wonderland"
As the crew stuck the set late last Thursday night, Cody’s thoughts had already turned to future, considering how to expand and improve on the play, and of new productions he would soon undertake. But he stopped long enough to discuss ways that Trailer Trash could join him on his journey, Outbound to Wonderland.
OK, folks., it’s time to tackle this subject head on. Trailer Trash needs a toilet. This may be a hard sell, but try to stick with us, because we are asking for your help.
The Trailer Trash Project is committed to creating a green space to live and perform art. We want to conserve water and fuel and recycle whenever we can. Or goal is to keep as much stuff as possible out of our landfills, oceans, rivers and lakes.A composting toilet was added to our wish list when we started thinking about the trailer’s design. When it came to holding tanks for water, we had to figure out our daily water needs. That led us to wonder: What’s the use of a big expensive holding tank when most of that water would just get flushed down a toilet and sent into the sewer? We thought why not use a toilet that requires no water at all?”
********************************************************* Help Trailer Trash Get A Super Green Toilet CLICK HEREto donate $10
Nature’s Head will sell us a composting toilet at a reduced price ($500 vs. $875). We can get there if 50 people donate $10 through our Indie GoGo campaign. Donate $20 and we’ll send you a copy of philosopher-farmer Gene Logsdon’s smart and irreverant Holy Shit. Here is an interview with Logsdon on WBUR’s Here and Now: “Farmer Calls For Managing Manure to Save Mankind”.
The C.K. Choi building is widely recognized as a model of sustainable design
In case you think we are a bunch of extreme tree huggers, take a look at some of the organizations that have composting toilets:
Bronx Zoon (NYC)
Queens Botanical Garden (NYC)
C.K. Choi Building (Vancouver)
Southface Eco Office (Atlanta, GA.)
Dufferin Grove Park ( Toronto)
Eco Dorm, Warren Wilson College (NC)
Neptune Elementary School (NJ)
…and lots of nature centers, trails, etc.
To see the system in action, check out this video made by the Bronx Zoo. Their system is designed for 500,000 uses a year. They are also using the toilets to inform users with conservational messages.
Now, we’re getting down to brass tacks. From what I read the toilets don’t smell (a vent fan should be kept running at all times). Some people have told me that the toilets have a faintly earthy smell, like mushrooms. O.K., I’m prepared to adjust to that. But what about emptying the liquid and solid waste? And where will I put it?
I admit, it will probably take me a little while to get used to this part. Liquid waste will have to be emptied once or twice a week and dumped into a proper compost bin. The solid waste will require emptying less often and can also be dumped on a proper compost head.
I’m getting inspired and informed by two great, but very different books. Gene Logsdon’s Holy Shit and Joseph Jenkins’ Humanure Handbook, which Trailer Trash will review in an upcoming post.
Trailer Trash is a member of Fractured Atlas; donations are tax-deductible to the extent permissible by law. Your comments and donations are welcome.
Lydia Breen has written and made films about refugees, immigrants and displaced people for more than 30 years. She has filmed on-location in refugee camps and war zones in more that 30 countries in all world regions. In 2005 she left her New Orleans home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and was never able to return. When the Trailer Trash Troupe is not using the Spartan, Lydia will live stay in it and write about living small and green in difficult economic times. Her permanent home is a 1972 Aristocrat trailer that occupies less 100 square feet.