Last year, before my move to California, I was awarded a New Courtland Fellowship from the Center for Emerging Visual Artists in Philadelphia. This involved orchestrating a project with residents of New Courtland, Inc., and kids from a local school.
Boats are carriers of human beings as they transition from one point to another. Because of this, the boat—or vessels—becomes symbolic of the journey that is life itself. This project, Life Voyages, began with interviews of New Courtland residents by school-age children.
These interviews focused on ideas of movement, important objects that must be carried when on an excursion, and the concept of life as travel. These interviews were the basis of stencils that were later applied with pulp paint to wet sheets of handmade paper by both children and New Courtland residents.
Upon completion, the handmade paper was stretched over reed armatures, to form a series of handmade paper boats. Through the processes of handmade paper and collaboration, the final result is a visual narrative exploring the metaphor of life as a journey, installed here in the lobby space of New Courtland Education building.Many of the New Courtland residents were dealing with challenges such as dementia or were recovering from strokes. Several had lost the ability to speak, and were now communicating through a series of grunts. What was surprising to me what how sophisticated these grunts could become, and how much, and on how many levels, they could convey information. This display was only a temporary one, however, many residents and workers at New Courtland seemed to have fallen in love with it, and there was talk of moving it to a permanent location. Fingers crossed...