My project is over as I write this. It’s been an interesting, unpredictable ride. From having to throw out my entire plan to adapting to my participants’ needs, from attempting to create community art to just making room for community art to grow, it’s constantly kept me on my toes.
And I learned a lot.
I embraced silence like I never had to before (and I love dramatic silences during storytelling!), I learned to be comfortable with letting goals slip and change as necessary (I’m a project manager at heart. Milestones must be met!), and I learned that a community needs support more than anything else in order to create.
And we did manage to create something together. A nice safe zone to talk or not talk. A place to share our stories, and our sorrows, and our joys, in story form. A place to just listen, and wait for the next word. A place to cry. A place to laugh.
On my last day, two things happened. When I mentioned that this was the last session, a lovely old woman cried. I told another story and we laughed together.
And then, they all thanked me and hugged me as I left. They told me to keep on telling. That they always looked forward to seeing me again.
And I realized, although I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, that this was one of my biggest worries. That they wouldn’t remember me, from week to week. That I was always an unknown entity walking into an (albeit very friendly) room of forever strangers.
Some weeks, some didn’t recognize me, it’s true. Some looked at me with a questioning smile and clouds in their eyes. I always just smiled and reintroduced myself. Because that was part of the plan.
But I realized, as they thanked me for the length of my stay, not just today’s final workshop, that we’d forged memories together collectively. Even though they’ll struggle to remember, even though they’ll eventually forget, I finally felt like I’d made some sort of impact.
We’d become the community I’d hoped to create via Art Place.
Community is a temporary thing, no matter how you look at it. People move, pass on, get carried elsewhere by life. In this case, they will forget.
As some retold me their favourite memories from our time together, and the stories they still remembered, I saw all that we’d created something together. Not a perfect story as I’d originally intended. Certainly nothing that can ever be performed.
But we created something that’ll hopefully resonate a bit deeper than memories, since those are ephemeral at best.
Thanks to everyone who supported me during this project. I think we created something beautiful together, even if it lasts but just a moment, like the glow of a firefly in the thick night.
Short-lived, but remarkable.
Visit Marie Bilodeau’s artist page for interviews and blogs about her arts project with the Eastern Ottawa Resource Centre.