Last week, Tiffany Besonen and I traveled to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Cedar Crest College. It was an incredible trip. Yes, it was the first exhibit of our collaborative work, Reassurances: Incantation Bowls, Reimagined, but it was much, much more than that. It became a collaboration not just for the two of us, but for the two of us and the Cedar Crest community.
Art Department Chairperson Jill Odegaard coordinated a campus-wide community art project. Students, faculty and community members were invited to write their own incantations or prayers against fears, and to create bowls on which to write them. The results were stunning, and turned out to be my favorite part of the whole experience. This is a part of the exhibit that we will continue, as it (we hope) travels to other places.
Listening to our fellow bowl-creators talk about their processes and share their courageous words with us was transformational. And that’s what these bowls have always been about, from ancient Babylonia to now. They are about confronting our fears, standing up to them, asking them what they want of us, and casting them out so that we can move forward with grace and awareness. Two people doing that is a big deal. A hundred people doing that is a HUGE deal. I have to think that so many people coming together and fighting the forces that hold us back, as individuals and as a community, must have a beneficial effect beyond the people in the room last Thursday, and beyond the bowls that were displayed there.
Making things and having people come and look at them is one thing. Having them join you in what you are creating, and take ownership in it, and think deeply about it as a participant and not just an observer is something else.
Deepest gratitude to Jill Odegaard, to gallery director Brian Wiggins, and to all of the students, staff, faculty, and community members who contributed to this exhibit. You made it so much bigger than we knew it could be.
LouAnn Muhm is the recipient of an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is funded, in part, by the Minnesota State Legislature from the State’s arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on Nov. 4, 2008.