My name is Meg Roberts. I’m a potter, a reproductive justice advocate and I run a nonprofit based in Fargo, ND. I’m one of the most recent additions to the ACP board as well as a past grantee. As a part of the mini-grant review committee, it has been an absolute pleasure to read all of the amazing proposed projects this round.
For my contribution to the ACP blog I’d like to share a bit of my perspective, having been a past grantee, and to encourage other young women to utilize this grant opportunity to lend momentum to new ideas.
Last fall my organization, Plants for Patients (P4P), was awarded a mini grant that allowed us to take our show on the road and work in several communities in Montana. At its most basic, P4P is about changing our cultural dialogue around abortion at a grassroots level through the gift of a handmade ceramic planter, and a note of support offered to patients after an abortion.
While in Montana, I worked with three communities (Red Lodge, Billings and Livingston), testing the application and adaptability of our program. This was made possible by a visiting artist residency at the Red Lodge Clay Center, where I worked to make planters and where we organized a community planting/note-writing event. Those planters and notes were then disseminated to post-abortion patients at independent abortion provider, Mountain Country Women’s Clinic, in Livingston and at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Billings.
One of the inadvertent lessons learned because of the project: blogging is hard. I have the utmost respect for people who are dedicated to blogging as a lifestyle or career. I blogged throughout my time in Montana to be able to communicate the experience with supporters and the ACP board as well as to document and highlight the notable differences working with new communities.
I definitely underestimated the amount of time and discipline it would require to condense so many experiences, challenges and conversations into a single post. Every couple of days I headed into the coffee roastery in downtown Red Lodge to upload photos, email my receipts for reimbursement to Ruth, the treasurer, and manage the organization’s social media sites.
When I returned from Montana, the ACP board sent me an exit-survey to summarize my time and the outcomes of the project. This really gave me pause to reflect on the conversations and dialogues that developed as well as how I, myself, was an ambassador for safe, healthy, constructive abortion dialogue.
It was as terrifying as it was exhilarating. I found that as a young woman, fresh out of college, busting into established communities, it was incredibly intimidating to share my thoughts and opinions with strangers, not knowing where their own beliefs or opinions lay. I found myself in these situations throughout my time there, whether it was meeting my new studiomates who had already established friendships, or visiting the clinic in Livingston and hoping they’d accept my proposal to offer plants to their patients, or talking with the residents of Red Lodge when asked ‘What do you do?’
Luckily, support was not hard to find. People seemed more willing to talk about abortion from a pro-voice/pro-compassion ideology after seeing it as an alternative to our cultural pro vs anti discourse. The residents who participated in the planting/note-writing event seemed more confident speaking from their own hearts about abortion – some even shared their own experiences in notes of support to future patients.
I talked to many other artists, including all of my studio mates, about the work I do and our unique position as ceramicists to create meaningful intersections between artistic practice and reproductive health care. Not all of the conversations were easy, even if they were not combative. I left some feeling unsatisfied, later playing them back in my mind to see how or if I could have said things more effectively or whether I should have allowed myself to engage at all.
I won’t make you read through all of my ramblings, so if you’d like to check out some of those conversations or situations click HERE.
All in all, my experience with ACP mini grants is paramount to where my organization and I am today. The ACP Board were helpful and supportive along the way, whether through correspondence with me or helping to promote the project. I fully encourage anyone who has an eye on our cultural abortion conversation to apply in the future. I especially encourage other women and men of my generation to use this opportunity to give legs to new ideas, to help re-conceptualize and recreate our social dialogue. What better way to take risks and be a social change maker than with a warm, welcoming community behind you?