The very first community survey on the Cobblestone Plaza of Boston Center for the Arts was a pretty interesting experience. Mostly because there were such varied reactions from community members when confronted with the notion of thinking about hope. There were some people who seemed to know instantly what their views were. There were some who felt like the question was just too large and struggled with writing and drawing, so in those instances it just became a conversation. There were others who felt less interested in identifying hope itself and wanted to focus on identifying concrete steps to activate, support, and sustain it.
With purposeful questioning, warmth, and the charm of my sketchbook and sharpies I was able to reach common ground with every community member that stopped via the creation of abstract forms which acted as a symbol for elements of our conversation that rose to surface.
One of the most beautiful and unexpected byproducts of this survey was the willingness of people who stopped by to a have full conversation not just with me and my assistant (fellow artist Charline Xu), but with anyone else who happened to grappling with responding at the table. In doing this project, I suddenly became reminded of the healing power of art. There were a few educators who stopped by the table who seemed plagued by the recent shooting at Burke High that resulted in the death of a student and injury of others. Although I could not provide a solution for what happened, it did seem like they left the table with a little less of a burden after using our conversation and art as additional tool for processing the event. On a similar note, many peoples' visualizations of hope involved peace, love, and a stronger connection to others and nature.
It was also really lovely experiencing families stop to make responses together. The fun part in that was seeing all the ways in which individual responses varied from spouse to spouse, parent to child, and sibling to sibling.
Did I mention that anyone who submitted a response got a small bottle of bubbles as a thank you? I mean what's better than some bubbles for your thoughts?!
Here are some images of community members that were kind enough to let me photograph them with their original responses and the abstraction I created as a result of engagement.