Filmmakers Johnny and Marie Justice are walking up and down State Street, approaching people and asking them how far the United States has come as a nation in including people.
They ask their subjects what they think the word “humane” means, and are trying to get people to think about what they can do to be more welcoming.
“Do you think America is doing enough to make people feel welcome? Do you feel Madison is doing enough to make people feel welcome?” Johnny Justice will ask. Then he’ll say, “Are YOU doing enough to make people feel welcome?”
The Justices will use that footage in their documentary, “Walk A Mile In Their Shoes,” which is associated with the longhouse art installation on Winnebago and Sixth streets.
The project, the brainchild of Sue Thering and John Steines, is an initiative of the group Intentionally Welcoming Communities and sits next to the 11.4-acre Union Corners construction site at Milwaukee Street and East Washington Avenue.
If storms and vandals don’t interfere, it should be up until July 23.
Inside the longhouse, inspired by the communal structures built by Native Americans, are 13 panels or pillars designed by nonprofit and community groups exploring the idea of what it means to be an intentionally welcoming community.
“We were aware that there were groups in our community doing welcoming work often under the radar and with very low budgets,” said Steines, the project’s art director.
They put out a call to find groups who are intentionally welcoming and asked them how they were doing it, how successful that effort was, and what difference it makes to their communities and the broader community.
“Without justice there can be no peace. Without peace there can be no sustainability. Without sustainability there can be no nature,” reads the panel from the Farley Center.
“We are all one” is painted on a globe by A New People Emerge/Call For Peace. Period Garden’s pillar has a fountain, a willow tree and a bench and reads, “Nature and green space are critical components for wellness and resiliency especially in the urban core!”
The other groups that contributed panels include Art Working, Badger Rock Middle School Coach’s Club, East Madison Community Center, Edgewood College Community Nurses, Goodman Community Center, Kajsiab House, Hmong Cultural Center, Madison Music Makers, Monroe Street Arts Center, Rodney Scheel House/Union Triangle and UNIDOS.
There is an open space where organizers hope to display a piece from the Islamic Center of Madison.
Some years ago, the Schenk Atwood Starkweather Yahara Neighborhood Association (SASY), led by Steines, adopted the welcoming community motto.
Both Steines and Thering advocated for the co-housing project going into the Union Corners site.
It will be “multi-cultural, multi-racial, mixed income, and intentionally welcoming,” said Thering, the longhouse’s founder and administrator.
Hanging from a tree near the longhouse is an installation with faces of people of different ages and races that turns in the breeze.
The work, by artist Thomas Ferrella, is titled “1 World,” and stems from a larger series of about 60 portraits he took of people behind different types of frosted glass.
His intention, he said, was to blur color, race and age to de-emphasize those differences and emphasize the commonality among people.
The Justices, meanwhile, besides interviewing people on State Street, are talking to others from a variety of races and cultures for their 30-minute film, which they hope to finish by the end of summer.
The idea is to figure out how to include more people and welcome diversity, Johnny Justice said. “We have to get information from the people who are marginalized and feeling left out. That way you can bring their voices to the table and find middle ground.”