Blogged Down

By: Lisa Hoffman, curator of education on January 17th, 2018

I typically anticipate my slot in the “Woodson Wanderings” posting rotation. Storytelling is what I do; it’s the creative filter through which I experience the world.

This time, I’m stuck. I’m pounding away at the keyboard, staring at five different opening paragraph options. While dragging the hours with me – waiting for the right word, phrase, or connection to tumble – I’ve Googled chaos theory, confirmed that the butterfly effect does not imply spreading joy, uncovered dozens of synonyms for “spark,” ate my sandwich an hour early hoping an increase in blood sugar would improve my lot, sharpened pencils as a metaphorical exercise, and considered begging marketing and communications manager Amy Beck for a posting-date swap.

Visual artists, when confounded by composition or an element of their work, might turn the work upside down or look at its reflection in a mirror. I printed these two pages and tried that process. The only result was spent ink and paper.

To be clear, I’m not at a loss for inspiration or joy or a story to tell. I just can’t get it translated through the keyboard.

Last week, SPARK! participants and volunteers once again shared a lovely second-Thursday morning. Our talented, compassionate volunteers facilitate the program and share artworks on view, music, poetry, storytelling, conversation, and an art-making activity. Typically, staff assistance occurs behind-the-scenes and before the program begins. I do, however, (like many staff members) casually stroll through the galleries to hear the conversation and laughter emanating from the group. It never fails to lift a mood.

Last Thursday was a precarious day for travel and the temperature was bone-chilling. Staff expected participation numbers to reflect the poor weather. Instead, we had a full house. I had the privilege of witnessing the greetings – all hands and hearts welcoming one another and assisting with coats and gear. I later passed through the galleries and heard a lighthearted group-reading of “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear. A rousing recording of Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas” was also on the schedule, though I didn’t happen to be in the galleries when it was shared.

As the participants were leaving, I overheard talk of lunch at a local restaurant. I thanked the volunteers – Pam Frary and Gail Piotrowski – and they enthusiastically encouraged me to look in the art classroom. Typically, participants leave with a copy of an improvisational story created in the galleries and an exhibition-inspired hands-on art project. This day, the participants created a site-specific art installation. Inspired by the real and fantastical animals depicted in the art quilts of Wild Fabrications, participants were encouraged to sculpt a creature from modeling compound. For a sample, I asked Woodson Art Museum educator Catie Anderson to make a polar bear. I then – I think somewhat to Catie’s dismay – altered the artist’s intent a smidge, and added eyes (whose glint was a bit askew), a nose, and foot pads. Before the program, I placed this on a piece of blue paper to contrast with the light classroom table top.

This spontaneous creation by participants is what was SPARK!-ed last Thursday. It means the world to me.

May a modicum of all that SPARK! is – for individuals with memory-loss and their family members, friends, care partners, Woodson volunteers, and staff – find its way through my blogged-down thoughts and into this post so that you can delight in it, too.

Visit soon to see what inspires you.

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