A Field Guide to a Crisis
Who do we normally turn to in a crisis? Bona fide experts accredited by institutions and social hierarchies. What about experts of experience? A Field Guide to a Crisis (FGTAC) replicates and subverts the status quo of the “expert voice.” It challenges us to re-think the voices we elevate in times of crisis.
We all have felt the pressures of living with social isolations; with people in recovery from substance abuse, their broader community has long imposed social isolation through the form of stigma and state violence. FGTAC engages individuals who are formerly incarcerated in recovery, currently residing in sober living homes in Eureka, CA. FGTAC uplifts the skills of those who are faced with grave inequity in their access to safety and care, and whose experiences uniquely qualify them as educated voices on grieving the loss of community amidst crisis.
FGTAC centers on the complex needs that exist within the sober community through a series of strategic participatory actions. The program provides opportunities for building self-esteem by uplifting life experience as expert knowledge and strengthens solidarity within the recovery community by tapping into the collectivity that already exists.
The year-long program, divided into two six-month segments, is designed as a teacher’s training, preparing students to be educators in resiliency. During the first segment, students explore their skills through a series of weekly creative assignments. The medium each assignment takes is specific to the skill of the participant. Simultaneously, they work on a curriculum of four assignments to begin the transition from student to teacher. Students create instructional videos demonstrating their skills, which then serves as the transition point from student to teacher. During the second segment, students explore each other’s skills, with the skill holder serving as a mentor for each person. A primary goal of the program is to create opportunities for participants to become paid instructors. Throughout the year public lectures are organized to give participants experience and confidence.
FGTAC proposes new methods of collaboration that examine the interconnectedness of shame, stigma, substance use, and now, with the added dimension of what it means to navigate sobriety in conjunction with the Covid-19 crisis.
*Funded by the National Geographic Society, Center for Photographic Arts, the California Arts Council, and the Humboldt Area Foundation.
*FGTAC is part of a long-term project, conceptualized with artist, Marina Lopez, that seeks to challenge the status quo of expert voice in the American context.