Something to Talk About

By: Lisa Hoffman, curator of education on October 28th, 2020

My preferred pizza crust is thin, crispy, and cut into wedges. An abundance of mozzarella and parmesan cheese is sprinkled over a shallow layer of peppery tomato sauce with just a hint of garlic. Italian sausage, mushrooms, and onions are the pièce de rèsistance.

Although most people are eager to share thoughts about favorite pizza, finding other benign, lighthearted topics of conversation isn’t easy these days. There is much to talk about, but most is heavy and disheartening. I didn’t realize how much small talk – or at least the Midwestern variety – relies on shared experience or daily social interaction. Weather – a safe, innocuous conversation starter according to generations of etiquette experts – is either a short path or leads down another earnest one discussing climate change.

Art – visual, performing, musical, and literary – remains a great conversation launching pad. What common-ground talking points might emerge from artwork by Birds in Art 2020 artists Leslie Pratt-Thomas and Elaine Twiss?

Leslie Pratt-Thomas, It Was This Big, 2020, oil on Belgian linen

Elaine Twiss, Say What!, 2019, acrylic on Arches paper

For other more consequential conversation starters, consider MacArthur “Genius” fellow Anne Basting’s TimeSlips creative storytelling prompts, Beautiful Questions.

Perhaps you’ve been asked questions that prompted answers like mine.

  • My favorite apple is a small Cortland with an audible crunch and minor blemishes reminding me of the orchard from which I harvested it.
  • The Rocky Mountains of Colorado is my desired next domestic destination, and Scotland is at the top of my international travel wish list.
  • A memorable childhood book is Winnie-the-Pooh.
  • A talent I wish I possessed is singing (and those of you who previously attended Art Time for Tots, Art 4 You, or Art Babies programs with me wish the same.)

Try engaging others in conversation; it has the potential to lift all spirits. I suggest novel and inspiring starters and avoiding polarizing topics. I do note, though, that one of my tried-and-true harmless preference queries – crunchy vs. puffy Cheetos® – has morphed into a fairly contentious and more open-ended salvo. It seems the camps are quite resolute. Add to that the further complexity, posted by our newest staff member, Elaina – flamin’ hot vs. jalapeno Cheetos® – and you have a sticky wicket on your hands. Isn’t it enough to have orange Cheetos® dust on your fingers?

Maybe I’ll stick with asking about favorite pizza.

Share This!

Subscribe to our weekly blog. Please enter your email address.