A Seed of Hope

downloadThe e-mail flyer from the MAC (Merrymeeting Art Center) was ambiguous and intriguing:

Hmmmm…. What kind of exhibit was this? 

I read the flyer again. Then I checked the clock. 12:15.

“Hey, Lyddie,” I called, “want to go downtown and check out a show?”

“What is it?”

“I’m not really sure, ” I replied and showed her the e-mail flyer, “It’s opening today though. We’d have to leave right now, but I’d like to check it out.”

Lydia, ever up for an adventure, agreed, and about ten minutes later we were in the car, driving to our town’s local Arts Center.

After arriving, we parked, put on our masks and walked over to the entry. Outside the gallery was a small table with hand sanitizer and a stack of masks. A sign stated that only four people could be in the gallery at one time and masks must be worn. We still had no idea what the exhibit was.

As we approached, Mark, a town artist and MAC member, came to the gallery door. He greeted us and explained a little about the exhibit. It had been planned before Covid-19 and was based on the old-fashioned game, Telephone (the game where you whisper a word around a circle of people and the end word, when announced, rarely matches the initial word.) The twist, initially conceived of by a group of NY artists, was this:

“What if the game were played, not with spoken words, but with art?”

We were hooked.

What an amazing idea!” I exclaimed.

“I know!” he said, “I wanted to be in the show as soon as I heard about it!”

He guided us to a written explanation of the show and then stepped back to let us experience it for ourselves. According to the explanation, the process involved presenting the first artist with a stimulus, having him/her interpret it in the artistic medium of choice, and then sending that art to the next artist to spark another interpretation. Each artist had only 24 hours to respond. Talk about pressure!

In this case, in honor of Maine’s Bicentennial, the process began when the initial stimulus, a single chocolate cupcake with a candle, arrived at the home of the first artist, a local 10 year old girl. It arrived, unbelievably, on March 13th, as Covid-19 made its presence known. Undeterred, after a “mad scramble” of grocery shopping with her family, and amidst speculation and rumors about school closings, this young artist dove into a “creative flurry” and crafted her frosting-daubed collage:

1.jpg

by Nori Edwards

The exhibit creation was underway!

In the next day or two, as our world shifted dramatically and quickly, the Arts Center and artists considered their options and ultimately decided to forge forward. They realized the process for this exhibit was actually well suited to a “distanced” setting. Now, instead of delivering the actual work to the next artist, images and files were sent of the inspiring pieces. No physical contact was necessary.

Commenting about the experience for her daughter, the mother of the first artist wrote:
“Doing the work and sharing it with other people felt important in that uncertain moment in time.”

So, off they went, inspired by others, creating within their own spaces, sending the message on down the line, until finally, all the pieces were brought together in this community space.

In the gallery a red string leads from piece to piece, evoking old string-and-can telephone memories. As suggested, we followed the string to guide us through the gallery. What began with a chocolate cupcake evolved into various interpretations before our eyes.

As we walked through the exhibit, I stood before the pieces, admiring the art, reading the artists’ words, and was deeply moved. More than once tears pricked. The  parallel between the creation of this exhibit and our recent Covid experiences is so strong. It was inspiring to see the creative effort of this group and to know that each piece was crafted in isolation while such huge uncertainties loomed over us all. This exhibit made visible the idea of working individually toward a collective goal. It was such a positive response to frightening times–a pivot to creativity in the midst of darkness.

Midway through, we stopped before a boombox and read the description, suddenly realizing that the music playing in the gallery was one of the artistic interpretations. The artist this time was the elementary school’s principal. He had composed a piece of music after receiving his prompt, a photograph of an elaborately conceived chocolate cake.

Mark, came back to join us.

“Wow, how cool to have a musical interpretation,” I enthused. “It really changes things.”

Mark, who had received the original musical piece as his spark, emphatically agreed.
“I know!” he said, “I looked at the e-mail attachment and was like…wait…this is an mpeg file, not a jpeg!”

He rose to the challenge and created a sculptural fiber arts piece in response. It was free form, but somewhat nest-like. And, one after another, the artists continued to respond, interpreting along the way. Ultimately, the show ended with a fabric piece of two birds nesting:

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by Caitlin Johnson

I turned to Mark. “Wow! This is such a wonderful show. It resonates so much now, doesn’t it?”

He nodded, pleased and smiling, and I turned again to the last artwork, the two birds nesting. I was struck by how uncannily appropriate that piece was. We’ve all spent so much time at home lately, tending to our nests and trying to interpret the messages coming down the line.

It was a small show, but it was a powerful show. It was a testament to art, to individual effort, and to collaboration. In the midst of a pandemic, the Arts Center persevered, the artists created, and a show was born. And as I walked through the exhibit, a small kernel of hope took root.

24 thoughts on “A Seed of Hope

  1. cvarsalona says:

    How splendid! Molly, this art exhibit sounds fascinating. I love the concept and the way you slowly delivered the idea right up to the final ending “a small kernel of hope took root”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. margaretsmn says:

    I love this so much! Your own interpretation of what you experienced and how amidst all the mixed messages, this collaboration showed how unity and understanding can emerge. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cindaroo42 says:

    Your writing made me wish I was following the red string with you! What a great exhibit!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jcareyreads says:

    I love love love this. I am lost in thought thinking about recreating this experience… with our school community? I love that you took the leap to go see what this show was all about. What a gift!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tabatha says:

    Since I heard yesterday that Broadway is going to be shut down for the rest of the year, I have been thinking about artists and how they are doing. Thanks for sharing this cool, encouraging story about how different kinds of artists (and different generations of artists) can all contribute and take things in new, but still universal, directions.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Amanda Potts says:

    Boy am I glad that you went to that show! What a fantastic concept & what a great tour you offer. I really wish I could have seen it. Like Jess, I am suddenly inspired by this – how could I use this in my classroom? in my school? There’s something powerful here… a kernel of hope, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. dmsherriff says:

    Thanks for taking us with you! What tribute to ideas, creativity, and bravery! No fear of right or wrong in this exhibition! Trust and togetherness via art! In the end, bringing the community together! As Jess, said, already thinking how we can recreate a version of this in some way! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fran Haley says:

    What’s most amazing is how decisions had to be made quickly – and how moving they were. What a novel, artistic twist on the old game. I love the realization that the music playing was one of the interpretations and you’re so right about the symbolism of that final image. Nesting means new life to come … therein lies our hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tim Gels says:

    This sounds absolutely incredible. I appreciate how your writing took me along with you (don’t worry, I was wearing a mask) and I was able to enjoy the exhibit. The two birds nesting piece was, as you said, so appropriate. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Debbie Lynn says:

    What an amazing exhibit you brought to all through your writing. I’m going to research more. Thanks for your story. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Gail Aldous says:

    Wow! Thank you for bringing all of us along with your daughter and you with every word you wrote! I agree with everyone’s comments. Sounds like such an amazing exhibit and what everyone needed to see and hear about. I’m happy that your daughter and you experienced joy, inspiration, and hope. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I can see it now! The many Nixers are ready for MBH “telephone” blog posting. Maybe 100 words or less. I have no idea how to organize it, but it would be an interesting way to connect with you, who takes us all out of our comfort zone. Challenge offered! PS This is great for me since I can just toss out an idea and it is you, if you accept it, who have the work to do. I send like bosses everywhere!

    Liked by 1 person

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