The Journey

Freedom and Social Justice: The Lisa Bade Story
By Aaron Bowen

Lisa Bade's life has been similar to the path a snowflake takes when falling from a cloud. It is hard to tell which way it will go, since it has undetermined freedom in its fall.

"My description of my life since Whitworth? Unexpected! Like a bucket of cold water," Bade said.

A penchant for following her heart and seeking justice in the world have been the foundations of Bade's existence. Her life patterns her art: she credits natural forms or patterns that occur in nature has her inspiration. Her will to create strong community has led her places far and wide.

How It Happened

Bade's path to seeking social justice in the world started at Whitworth in 1977. She studied three years of art and philosophy, which introduced her to the idea of social justice. She moved to England to work in the L'abri Study Center. L'abri centers are located around the world and focus on integrating Christian faith into all aspects of life. She moved there because the center was focused on the relationship between Christianity, philosophy and art.

During her time in England she met her husband, Michael Bade, who was a part-time musician and fisherman. Michael Bade convinced her to move with him to Bristol Bay, Alaska, to work full time on his grill-netter boat. When they weren't working, they were building a home warmed by solar heat collection. Their goal was to live unaided by society and to be completely self-sufficient.

"It was a rocky, adventurous time. We really didn't know what we were doing but we did it anyway," Lisa Bade said.

Making a living off of fishing isn't always as safe. While fishing one day, the Bades were almost shot by friends from another boat. The bullets were meant for a particularly large fish but instead careened off the water and narrowly missed the terrified couple.

"There's nothing that stays in your mind so clearly as the sound of a bullet cracking next to you; you hear it right before you hear the gun go off," Lisa Bade said.

It was also during this time when she began working with a local peace group gathering information about the U.S. involvement in injustice in Central America. Her work with this group developed into an enthusiasm for seeking justice throughout the world.

But art was always her passion. She began showing her artwork at Langley and also at galleries in Seattle. The travel, though, took a toll on her. She fell in love with the Emerald City, she and Michael, along with their three children, relocated to Seattle. The family lived off the commission she made from her art. The next move came when Michael took a videographer job with the Mennonite Central Committee in Pennsylvania. Lisa became a book distributer promoting peacemaking through the Mennonite Central Committee. It was quite an adjustment going from urban Seattle to rural Mennonite Pennsylvania. Lisa no longer had her summer solstice festivals to go to.

The work she did for Mennonite Central Committee helped shape her zeal for building strong communities and alerting people to social injustice around the world. She learned to "think globally and act locally."

"Creating just, peaceful communities where we live and work is so much more challenging, though, because we have to live in them," Bade said. "People know our inconsistencies; it takes a lot of humility,"

She continued contributing to her surrounding communities upon her return to Seattle in the late 90s; she took up a job as an art teacher at Renaissance High School.

"I've been in storms in Bristol Bay pulling nets in by hand, had guns pointed at me alone in a small room in Chad, actually ducked bullets on a boat deck, but I have to put teaching high school at the top of the list of challenging experiences," Lisa Bade said.

Community Work

Since being back in Seattle, Bade did not forget that the world needs help. During the late 90s, Bade and her daughter, Nicole, worked with the Direct Action Network to help organize the now infamous World Trade Organization protest that turned into a full-scale street riot. While Bade was not involved in the riots, she did help organize the street protests. She says supporting her daughter's work led to a shift in her thinking toward examining herself as an artist and what she could contribute to speaking up for the oppressed.

Using art as a medium of communication and storytelling has been a very effective way for Lisa Bade to get her message heard. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she was asked to use art to create a visual presence at rallies protesting violent retaliation from our government.

She helped organize the Art of Resistance political artists conference in Seattle from 2003-05. The conference came from the understanding that artists whose work has political content often work in isolation and usually have difficulty finding financial support for their work. Working with the Art of Resistance conference allowed her to build a community within a group of vibrant artists and creative people.

"The kind of momentum that can build and the generosity that emerges is breathtaking," Bade said. "It really takes on a loaves and fishes kind of reality."

She continues to ponder the meaning of community and still finds it to be increasingly important to define and create.

Whitworth Legacy

Throughout her life's journey, Bade said she has never forgotten some of the skills that Whitworth has instilled in her. The analytical thinking and the ability to come to conclusions and keep thinking have influenced her greatly, especially with her art. Being able to understand literature and the meaning of symbols, physics and the languages of motion are all what she calls essential skills for artists.

Bade hopes that the projects she has worked on will add to the momentum of positive change and lifting oppression, and moving toward a more peaceful and just society.

"I hope that the way I've lived will add to the ratio of people who believe they can act creatively, make art, build community and care for each other and not detract from it," Bade said.