International Women’s Day 2017 with My Daughters

Today, we played hooky. No work and no school for myself or my daughters in order to honor the Women’s March action A Day Without a Woman. Instead, we collaboratively wrote a letter to our State Representative and Senator and went to the State House in Boston to hand deliver it.

I’m writing now from my role as a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art – the only state funded art college in the country – as well as a working mother of two kids who attend public schools in Massachusetts. I was not engaged in a “personal” activity with my kids – what we were doing today was advocating for public education, access to safe and legal healthcare and family planning, environmental protection, racial and economic justice. The personal IS political IS professional. Women are at the foundation of society, right along side their male colleagues. The only difference is that women are still valued unequally in most of the world. As an artist, teacher and mother, I am a “culture creator” and am called to intertwine my politics with my actions and statements.

Today, we joined with other women in the Women’s March effort and learned how to navigate the maze of representatives and rooms at the State House so that we could articulate the issues we care about while pressing our representatives to reflect the needs of their constituents.

My 10 and 13 year old daughters got an incredible lesson in their power to affect change. They witnessed the leadership and bravery of strong women. They saw their mother engaged, out of the house, and proactive. They met policy makers and citizens. They shook hands and they spoke their mind. I am so proud of them. And of myself. I’m feeling like a great mom today.

Trump and his pussy-grabbing, white-supremacist, anti-intellectual, nationalist, regressive co-conspirators are not our future.  My daughters are.

#whatistrivefor #hope #resist #engage #teach #love

Inside the Senate Chamber, under the dome, surrounded by marble busts of white men.

Day Without a Woman Lobby Day Workshop led by strong women.

Inside the Senate Chamber imaging their future.

At the State House and NOT in school!

Showing up and signing in.

With Senator Michael J. Barrett’s Communications Director, Brendan Berger, who was incredibly friendly and supportive and invited us to tour the Senate chambers.


Representative Jay R. Kaufman’s office

Witnessing a Day Without a Woman Lobby Day Workshop… and asked some questions too.


Family Politics

Tunnel vision



Personal is political
Politics is personal
Where privacy becomes public and public infuses privacy

About you and me
And them
About how much you value the lives of others
In relation to yours
Who do you defend?

Where do liberals and conservatives meet?
Hard work

Personal responsibility

What else is there?
Recognition of abuse

Obligation is not understanding

Executive order
Moral bankruptcy
Populism without wisdom is holocaust.

thoughts for 2017

Being non-productive is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

As I sit here, in between meals, at the dining table of my father in law’s home overlooking the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento, Sicily all I can do is overthink.  For many reasons, it’s hard for me to “work” here.  I can see three of the largest of these Greek temples sitting in a line parallel to the coast with the blue of the Mediterranean filling in to the horizon.  These are the temples of Juno, Heracles, and Concordia. There are several other structures and temples surrounding the area and recently a theater was discovered nearby that is currently being excavated. It’s an incredible experience to walk among these ruins and ponder the story of humanity from both a personal and public perspective.  To think of the number of narcissistic politicians, ruthless militants, architects, artists, slaves, fathers, mothers and children that rose before dawn and labored until the last possible moment to erect these monuments to human frailty. These temples desperately beg mercy from the gods –  they are symbols of humanity’s perpetual lack of control and power –  The stone itself symbolizing the weight of the unknown, the mysteries of the universe, and the cavalier handling of human suffering by the deities. 

As I write on my laptop, my daughters are both on iPads – one working on a powerpoint presentation about Italy and the other one using drawing tutorials on youtube to improve her skills at creating Manga characters. Hands are forever impossibly difficult.

Their grandfather is in another room aging.

This morning I watched a video of Jimi Hendrix playing his 12 string guitar and I remembered the feeling of hiding in my room at 16 years old listening to “Little Wing” and thinking there was a chance it was all worth it and I might have something to offer the world if I could just live through the next couple of years. A white suburban girl in Pennsylvania saved by Jimi. I did not understand my place in a racist country, my own feminism, nor the dangerous environmental path humans had blazed. What I had was personal desperation and a need to flee. I had no way of understanding all the complexity in that moment but Jimi gave me hope. Transcendent hope. I’ll take it.

As we enter this time named 2017, I’m thinking about being useful, being productive, pushing boulders up hill, and hope.  I’m wondering what I can do to guide these young women into the future with confidence, self-sufficiency and the desire to contribute to change.  Though I am discouraged and frustrated about the political future of the United States and the steep climb ahead, I’m also dusting off the listening ears of my teenage self and hanging on to the act of productivity as a life force, guiding principle, and meditation.

Put the iPads away, girls, and go outside and get some Sicilian sun. I’ll be cooking and listening to “Little Wing” on headphones.  We’ll figure this out too – how to connect the crumbling past with an invented future. Gods be damned.



For Danny

Letter to a Young Artist : on the occasion of his last day in the Studio for Interrelated Media Department at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Pozen Center for Interrelated Media
December 15, 2016
Boston, MA

Dear Danny,

This has been one of the most challenging semesters in my teaching memory.   With more than the usual dose of dishonesty, corruption, war, racism, misogyny, and intolerance, it has left some of us shattered, exhausted and demoralized.  Our community has also struggled internally – with high expectations, misunderstandings and disappointments; with not enough fast enough, and with too much too soon.

Then, one of our own, a young, optimistic, free spirit, dies in a fire fueled by the furnishings of nonconformity and risk-taking, while he was doing his job – making the sounds of imagination, expansion and mindfulness. 

And now, here we are with you, in this most forward-thinking, hopeful moment. Shaking your hand and gently nudging you out the door of art school as you finish your academic to do list in this experiment we call home. You have continued to grow, to make art, to push, pull and focus yourself forward. 

You are the reason we are here – your single voice, your signature. You are a unique moment that braids together all that came before you, all that you are, and all that you will do. You are magic. You are light. You are everything that matters. 

I wish for you all the complexities of a journey into the depths of struggle that only artists can plumb, alongside the heights of understanding and clarity that comes with your vision, bravery, and irreverence. Your smile and nervous energy will propel you. Your sense of humor and contemporary click will get you noticed. Your willingness to work hard and connect will sustain you. You are an antidote. 

Though loss is fundamental in the circle of life, in this moment, your presence fills the universe.  You are an artist. And through you we all survive.

With admiration,


Some historical precedents:

  • Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke, 1929
  • Letters to a Young Artist, by Peter Nesbett (Editor), Sarah Andress (Editor), Shelly Bancroft (Editor), 2006
  • Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts-For Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind Paperback, by Anna Deavere Smith, 2006

Post Election thoughts

Exhausting day of processing all this…. comforting scared children worried their immigrant father and friends might get sent away… consoling tearful exhausted students that are gay, activist, black, muslim, etc etc.. seeing comments by FBers that are pro-trump.. listening to members of our local UU church talk about how we need to listen to those that are angry and disenfranchised enough to vote for such a person.. sad that i disagree so deeply and profoundly with so many in my own family… scared of the violence that will befall on innocent people by sanctioned sexual predators, racists and militarized and emboldened police … wondering what I can DO to stem the bleeding that the country feels.

To those in the middle of the country that is are so red with anger – i do hope that trump will fix your problems. but please don’t resort to racism, hate and misogyny. No one is ‘taking” your jobs or your money away from you. You don’t deserve any more or less than the first nation people that were here before you (and mostly murdered) or the descendants of slaves that were placed here against their will (probably before your ancestors were), or the newest of immigrants escaping horrific conditions in another part of the world. We have to be smarter, inventive, and willing to change to figure it out.

To my friends (known and unknown) that are every color of the rainbow and especially my black friends, I’m with you, will continue work to fight racism every chance I get and will stand by you. To my LGBT friends (known and unknown), I’m with you, will continue work to make a world where you feel safe and accepted.

To my students, i will continue to protect your right to freedom of expression and the open space you need to grow. Art heals, expands and educates. It does change the world.

To the birds, bees, waters, and earth – I will continue to do what i can to get rid of the plastic and poisons that are killing us all.

To my daughters, we are in this together.

More than half of the vote went to hope, sharing, openness, and tolerance. I’m going to re-focus my activism, hold my family close, and remain unapologetically progressive, liberal, secular, and educated.

I’m also going to take an FB break. good night.


7/28/16  #1

This is a poem about truth.

 It seems so subjective sometimes.
Yet events occur, one after the other, in time and space.

Sometimes only the stars witness.


When I shake with fear,

When nausea overwhelms,

When there is a deep feeling of knowing,

That is truth.


Talk to me, you said.

Communication, you said.

Yes. That is the path towards truth.

So many are so desperate for an exchange. To be heard. To be respected. To be appreciated.


Yet threatening is not talking. Blaming is not talking. Assuming is not talking. Telling lies is not talking. Building walls is not talking. Shooting first is not talking.


As my country teeters on the precipice of choosing two divergent paths of leadership,

Let’s hope we choose a path towards understanding, equity and acceptance.

And we look inside ourselves to face our mistakes, take responsibility, and do the right thing.

The stakes are high – both salvation and survival.


Often doing the right thing is inconvenient. Ask Jesus. You lose some of your power when you share the responsibility and the resources. 


Truth is unconditional.


This is a poem about love.






This is a poem about children.

They come in many forms – research, novels, buildings, social justice campaigns, major motion pictures, pets, and gardens.

Yet those living, breathing, sweet smelling, poopy versions are unique in their authenticity, magnetic attraction, and complete dependence.


They grow, question, disrespect and surpass.

They take what you’ve taught them and up the ante.

They teach you what you didn’t want to know.


Because I said so.

I love you.

I hate you.

I’ll always be here for you. No matter what.

You promised.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.


Mother bears and father rocks,

Attacking, defending, blocking, smashing, cheating, twisting – anything to protect.


And this is what it takes to get the job done. To finish the work.

To plow through resistance and rise against gravity.

To publish the book, to get the grant, to save lives.

To make a person.


The arc of evolution bends towards survival.

With each generation change occurs.

Each step is a decision, with a tendency to lean right or left, and an invitation to be strong.


This is a poem about parenting.






This is a poem about denial.


Hoping everything is ok will not make it so.

Praying for me won’t pay my bills or keep the car on the road.

Having faith in magic does not teach me how to use a shovel.


Here on earth, my tears always fall downward.

They seep back into the dirt and feed the next chance.


If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

If you don’t want to know….


The room is silent, the colors fade, the violins become white noise, and the pepper doesn’t kick.


You can only blow away the ghosts when you look in a mirror.

Sorry to interrupt but you look quite scared.


I love the blisters on my hands, the scars on my face, and taste of my lemons.

What has made you afraid has made me brave.

Daisies grow towards the sun, not the wall.  And its hot, complicated, and dangerous near the sun.


Get in there and dig.  Because keeping it superficial eventually cracks.


This is a poem about fear.






This is a poem about Family.

How easily the trust can break,

When not all the facts are in.

Or, how stubborn the ties that bind hold.

New wounds reopen old ones and the cut goes deeper still.

Blood may be thicker. But water quenches thirst, washes away the dirt, and floats us through the rough seas.

I’m held up by the bonds of love, shared experience, and all those hands on deck when I want to move mountains.

It’s a choice.

This is a poem about me.






This is a poem about noise.


There is no breathing room in a life of challenge, opportunity, 24 hours news cycle, narcissism and false gods.




Expectation without understanding,

Thinking in 140 characters, video loops, titles without content.


$ and booze ease the pain, relax the tension, loosen the lips.


Our failings, uncontrolled, rule the day.



Think first, hold out, wave your arms inside a personal bubble,

Scream in a pillow then write it all down.


Waiting reveals

Listening gives

piano soundboard, wings of a hummingbird, drops of rain, refrigerator buzz, distant bark,

in between the lines,

another perspective.


It’s cold, honest, and stings.


This is a poem about silence.






This is a poem about life.


It’s a gift, isn’t it? This fleeting touch down with breath and muscle, 

with carnal excitements and fists of fury.


To eat. To feel warmth. To have ideas and freedoms. To enjoy generosity and inspiration.


To be loved. To be heard.


To see truths under the circus tent. To fight to fix and give voice to the silent.


Stealing a moment from filing the claim, or being on time, in order to notice:

 the person, the difference between Cobalt and Egyptian blue, the fallen penny,

and the injustice.


Inconvenient, extra, essential, slow.

Often bad, sometimes brilliant, transformative.

Indirect, complex, circuitous, challenging.

The only way to stop time.


This is a poem about art.






This is a poem about getting over it.

Recoiling from a sharp dart is not

being any kind of tight.

Holding my defense in place is not

a rigid fragility.

Memory is subjective.

He said, she said. You did, I did.

You are wrong. I am right. 

No, it wasn’t like that. You don’t know how I feel.


What matters is the focus on the solution.

To seek the road to the next step, to the moving on, up and over.


on the past is not the same as –


the pain,

the misunderstandings,

the mistakes.


To dwell is to live in.

To release is to be free – To get beyond it.


Strength in vision, integrity, desire:

To shake hands, hug….. to save lives and hearts.


The clarity of responsibilities and loyalties.

Honesty: yes.

But extremism only leads to destruction.


Is it me or is it you –

feeling unwelcome, disrespected, inconvenienced,

wrongly accused?


We are each the sum total of every moment, interaction, loaded comment, impatient brush off, passive aggressive act. 

Start fresh?


Try again?



This is a poem about compromise.






This is a poem about privilege.


The few, the hard to find.

Extended to the 1% plus a few friends.


Born into it or buy it.


Education, the appreciation of aged cheese, to recognize the taste of tannin, and green olive, the sound of crickets with a full belly and your back to an open field.


The freedom to take a risk, fall, and get up again for another try.


Clean water, warm clothes, a vacation.

Fly your freak flag.

Check the ballot box.


To swim in the pool.


To walk down a street without suspicion. 

But with respect.


This is a poem about rights.






This is a poem about pushing.


I want it now. Reaction. Impulse. Primal lurch towards sugar.

Applause, and attention. Laughing at.

Immediate gratification.


No thought about the hangover tomorrow morning.


But wait… Is the distance too far, the slope too steep?


Upstairs brain

Risk benefit analysis

Executive functions and delayed satisfaction


Knowing when to stop – read the room, empathize and shift perspectives

Give and take. Laughing with.

Competing joys rather than muscle.


This is a poem about playing.






This is a poem about inconvenience.


I don’t like talking on the phone. I get antsy. I need to do.

I need to scrub, type, mold, lift, move, glue, organize and fold.


To chat for me is like twisting Styrofoam or the screech of a chalkboard.

The greeting cards and thank you notes, the little gifts of acknowledgement and Facebook birthdays.

My sands of time flowing faster away.


I’m working on this. 

It’s so easy to create love.

That moment of exchange, of meeting eye to eye, the hug, the quick call.



Condescending patriarchal savior guilt,

Throwing change to the stop sign begger.

The monthly donations of 35 dollars – to save women, oceans, and the news.


It starts at home.


I love the ringlets in your hair.

Let me carry that for you.

Hi Dad – I just called to say hi.


This is a poem about generosity




This is a poem about what is public.

The common ground good wealth space pursuit of happiness

Fresh air, warming
Faucet water, with and without lead
A drive across state lines, a walk in the woods,
A book to read, a letter to mail.

Taxes. The expectation of civic tolerance.
A gate a fence a hedge a lock a wall a fee a citation a slap a fine
A hoop to jump through.

Property.  The owning class.
Land, yachts, diamonds.

Through debt, servitude, loyalty
Your prisons. My feelings of mistrust, hatred and disgust towards you.

My home my wallet my passwords my thoughts,
My midnight fantasies.
You can’t go there.

This is a poem about what is private.

Nita Sturiale
Summer 2016