Monday, June 19, 2017

At the Bloc 11 Cafe with Tori Weston: Somerville Writer, Printmaker, Essayist, Educator

Tori Weston

At the Bloc 11 Cafe with Tori Weston: Somerville Writer, Printmaker, Essayist, Educator

by Doug Holder artist

Multi-talented artist and writer Tori Weston dropped by my usual table at the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square. We were there to talk about her creative work. Tori, is a thoughtful woman, with an easy smile, and seemed to be somewhere in her early 40s.

Weston—originally from Rhode Island—moved to Somerville from Cambridge, Ma. And she has lived here for 12 years. She told me that she loves the Somerville arts community and has participated in the Open Studio events both as a participant and volunteer. She said, “ Somerville is an easy place to connect with people.”

Weston got her MFA from Emerson College in Boston. There—she counts as her mentors—Senior Writers in Residence, Richard Hoffman and Margot Livesey. As for Hoffman, Weston said, “ Richard started each class with a poem. He intensively reviews the work that is submitted to him. He made sure we were all 'ready' to write our stories-- both from the personal aspect and the audience's perspective. He always discusses the impact the story will have on the audience.”

As for the Scottish novelist Margot Livesey, Weston offered an anecdote, “ Once in class a white student said that my characters did not sound 'black.' Livesey asked the student, ' What do you think a black character should sound like?' The white student had no answer. Livesey focused on the writing—not whether the writer was black or not. I appreciated that.”

This Somerville writer is a painter as well. She studied independently—taking classes at the Museum School. She also studied with a Somerville artist Carolyn Musket, who owns the Musket Studios on Cedar Street. Weston told me that she is currently engaged with litho printmaking. She said that this process uses an aluminum plate or stone, where an image is cast in ink. Weston reflected, “ The process is like writing. Things can end up very differently than what you started out with.” Weston told me about one print she completed called, “ City Girls.” In her depiction the girls wear hoodies. “ The simple act of wearing a hoodie transforms the traditional idea of femininity. When girls wear hoodies—there is certain grit or confidence about them. You own yourself more.”

Weston told me about a print of hers that was displayed at the Open Studios. It depicted the bodies of black women. Inside the bodies were were negative stereotypical words associated with black women, like: “Mammy,” “ Brown Sugar”, etc... But on the outside the bodies have hopeful words, like, “ Soul Sister, “ Classy, “ “ Mother of Civilization,” etc...

Weston writes personal essays as well—one of which was published in the online magazine, “Sleet.” The essay dealt with her own childhood abuse. Weston paused, “ It took me three years to write it it. It is hard to make people understand the trauma of this kind of thing.”

Weston works at Emerson College in Boston. She runs a pre-college program for high school students. The program teaches kids acting, theater, film making, etc... Weston was inspired to start this program at Emerson from a program she was in years ago at Brown University. She said, “ it opened up my world.”

Undoubtedly Weston open up more worlds for kids and adults—through her writing and art.

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