Saturday, May 23, 2009


A great picture surprised me when I walked into the DI-S K-8 school at 8 a.m. Friday morning to finish preparing for our show, "Sea of Birds," at the Reach Performing Arts Center: a first grade class circled around our teaching artist's lobby installation, finishing their learning from the artist's residency under the initiative and guidance of their teachers. They had collected "fragiles"--objects which they understood to be fragile, like the stories we tell each other about our lives. They were placing these fragile objects--slender forsythia branches, delicate paper objects, etc.--onto the fragile stick-and-tape structure they had created as a place from which to tell their own storytelling emerged (in the form of drawings on fragile paper, strung along the ceiling above the stick dome).

In creating these structures and teaching about and with fragile objects and spaces, Sebastienne Mundheim, our visiting artist, was giving the students a tactile, visual sense for something abstract: the fragility of our stories and memories. How are our stories fragile? In the way that "truth" is fragile: it is created amongst us, never by ourselves alone. There is our experience of something--and our memory of it, which is always slightly different from the actual experience. Then there is our telling of the memory, which shifts the experience again; and the hearing of this telling by the person or persons to whom we are telling it. Then the person to whom we told our story tells our story to others. And on the story goes into the world, each detail important to us, to our understanding of our shared world, and delicate as it is passed from mouth to ear and heart to heart.

And thus the students, placing their "fragiles" upon the delicate structure in the lobby, from which their drawings of the stories their mothers had told them emerged.

Check out the photos at our Facebook site: