No Word for “Empowerment” in Polish?!

We are more than halfway into American Arts Incubator — Poland, and it has been an amazing journey witnessing our growth, development, and empowerment of participants and myself through the “Layers of Life” workshop.

Layers of Life // First Day from Amy Karle. Video by Grain Films.

Each exchange focuses on a social challenge unique to that country. The social challenge for my exchange focuses on women’s empowerment in STEAM. Before I went to Poland I started asking my family, friends, and colleagues what “empowerment” means to them. It is unique to everyone and a very interesting question to ask. I was impressed by the answers that I was given, it revealed so much about each person and opened my mind as well.

When I got to Poland, I started asking the same question — and quickly learned there is no word for “empowerment” in Polish. So, from the beginning of the workshop we consistently explored what “empowerment” means to each of us, and collectively, how we could explore and express it in theory, practice, our work and our everyday lives. We are still exploring this as we prepare our projects for the upcoming exhibition and pitch/panel review.

Come join us for the event!

Exhibition and panel schedule — come join us for the event! Crystal photography by Amy Karle; image courtesy of Copernicus Science Centre.

Once we brought the concept of empowerment into our awareness, it quickly became evident that considering empowerment — how we can be empowered, how we can empower others, how we can make a situation empowering, etc. — is a very powerful lens to look through and can bring about positive change very quickly.

We found the spirit of empowerment is from within and also in support from and for others to enable and empower each other. It's diverse, and unique to all of us.

From within, we have been finding new skills in ourselves as well as inner strengths to try new things with boldness and courage.

AAI — Poland participants in project development. Photo by Amy Karle.

Marcin and Stanislaw  in project development. Photo by Amy Karle.

Malgorzata with her prototype. Photo by Amy Karle.

For many participants, it's the first time working with digital manufacturing and fabrication technologies, working in diverse groups (with artists, scientists, theorists), collaborating across disciplines to make projects, as well as presenting, pitching, and exhibiting.

For me too, this was my first time leading a workshop. From the very first day of leading this workshop, it became apparent that empowerment to me is creating the space for others to make their best work, and ultimately to be their best selves. Reflecting on my role in this workshop has taught me the value of this position from the very beginning and I have done my best to come from this place while facilitating participants and their projects to grow... and do my best to set a great example working alongside them.

Artist Amy Karle leading "Layers of Life" workshop. photo: Grain Films

Artist Amy Karle leading "Layers of Life" workshop. Photo by Grain Films.
There was a lot to learn and a lot to accomplish in a short time… it's only been two weeks and there has been an astonishing amount of achievement. Although the participants demonstrated a great deal of talent coming into the program, they had to learn to work together and to use new tools — to teach each other, find empowerment in themselves, and empower others.
Not only were new skills and tools learned, new projects were made, presentations were created, and participants worked together incubator-style — preparing budgets and timelines to receive grants and funding. Participants collaborated across long distances and prepared group projects for an exhibition and panel review over a national holiday where much was closed. When I look at all that has been done, I look back in awe and amazement.

As the work from the exhibition and panel review comes out, I hope you can see the astounding conceptual development, execution, scope, and refinement of what was produced in such a short period of time — and see the projects both as they are and all that they achieved within this short timeframe — as well as the potential of what these projects and this work can become.

All smiles during prototyping. Photo by Amy Karle.

This brings us to the other part of empowerment — support from others. We truly couldn’t have done what or as much as we have without the people who supported, collaborated with, and empowered us. Cooperation, collaboration, support, inspiration… I don’t know if I could name exactly what it was that brought us to grow and achieve so much in such a short period of time, but something that the people and institutions who supported us did, and something we have been doing for each other enabled us and empowered us to make a quantum leap in our work and feel good about ourselves in the process.

Thank you for all of the support, FabLab powered by Orange (Warsaw)! Photo by Grain Films.

Thank you U.S. Embassy Warsaw for your support! Photo by Amy Karle.
Although we still can’t seem to agree on the right word for “empowerment” or what exactly it means... I believe I can say on behalf of the workshop that we are thankful and deeply appreciative to all those that opened the space for us to dream big and fulfill our potential — we hope that in doing this exchange and making these projects, we can continue to create visions, prototypes, projects, strategies, and practices that help shape a more resilient and empowered future for ourselves and others!

Artist Amy Karle at Copernicus Science Centre. Photo by Grain Films.

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