Week 4 was the make-it-or-break-it final stretch for us. But we were swiftly building momentum and the final day included multiple class visits and an awesome session with some middle-schoolers to help us sprint to the finish line just moments before the “Closing Reception” (I am putting that in quotes because it is highly unusual for an exhibition to have a final showing, and because actually in fact the show did not close until 1 week later). It really went down to the wire!
Sep 26: We will begin Week 4 on Monday, because we included the Friday session in the previous chapter, and then Chelsea kept us out of the gallery over the weekend. We must have had a Think Tank session in the afternoon, but for the life of me I cannot remember.
Sep 27: I can barely remember our final sessions with the environmental ethics class, details have totally faded. We had two 90 minute sessions with them in this week. Somewhere in the 2nd week Erin had taught an Active Listening exercise (I guess I forgot to put it in there), and these students had subsequently interviewed some active players in the MVP battle, mostly homeowners opposed to it but also a few business interests and regulators. Our Tuesday session was mostly spent talking about their experiences. We did some series of exercises working on collating and synthesizing their different perspectives. Later we would have a session in which we tried to distill the essence of their findings.
We also hosted a history class in the big gallery, directing students through the standard Interpretative Discussions.
As well as a really interesting group from a drug rehabilitation center in the area. We started with a Spectrogram about drug legalization – the conversation was interesting and diverse. Erin gave a really good special presentation of The True Cost of Coal with a focus on addiction, chemical, spiritual, and economic (download ppt here). And then we did a Mind-Map and some Metaphor Push-ups around the idea of “Recovery.” Many participants seemed really moved and showed us a lot of gratitude, it was another exceptional session.
Sep 28: We had a beautiful day off, kayaking on the James River, and we ate pawpaws!
Sep 29: Again I forget the details of our final session with Environmental Ethics, except that at the end of about half a dozen exercises meant to get them psyched up and trusting us, we actually convinced them to write Earth Haikus (which still was not easy, many were very resistant). We explained that this was a crucial part of our project, and it was, because we had them write the 3 lines on 3 pieces of brown stick-like paper, which we subsequently used to build the stilts that would lift the as-yet-still-non-existent opposing characters out of the “rising waves.” We were getting so close! (And you are too, not many words left). The idea that we had just come up was a fun gift to the middle-schooler students who would bring it to life on the final day:
We also hosted another poli-sci class and did the standard Interpretive Discussion, but this time focused on Mesoamerica Resiste because they are studying Haiti and Caribbean regional politics.
In the evening we gave a Mesoamerica Resiste workshop. Whew! A big penultimate day.
Sep 30: It just got better and better toward the end, culminating in a really awesome final session. We hosted 8 students and 3 teachers from Springhouse Middle School, a small alternative school with which Erin had worked in the past. Some of the students knew her and had participated in making one of the graphics hung in the Olin Gallery. So we took them on a quick tour of the gallery (they loved seeing their piece there!), and then explained to them that we needed their help to complete the project. First we did a Spectrogram, and we traced the final “rising wave” on the wall. Then we did another bit of role-playing, but this time in the spotlights – 4 students posed as the four characters in the slingshot scene, and their silhouettes were traced life-size on grey paper.
Then all together they cut them out and made a bunch of symbolic accessories out of Community High patches as well as their own ideas such as balloons with slogans like “Hope” and “Try” and we worked together to assemble them on the wall – some of them had tons of fun scrambling up a tall ladder while I stood back and told them exactly where to stick it. Unfortunately they could not stay long, so we had to put all the finishing touches on ourselves.
We hustled to make everything just right in the few hours we had left, and we took turns running back to the house to shower and change clothes – we really were finishing this exhibit up to about 20 minutes before the Closing Reception!
It was during the Closing Reception that I understood that this program actually was really impactful. The President of the college told me that this was the highest-attended exhibit in the gallery’s history, the gallery director from Washington & Lee University told me that it was “the best art show I have seen in a long time,” and one of the Environmental Ethics/Earthbound students thanked me profusely and then introduced me to his mom (it was also parents’ weekend). All that really helped me to feel like we did a great job, something that was never quite certain in the middle of the process when no students were showing up to our workshops, and this was very reassuring. Of course, there were also snacks. I mostly just ate snacks.
I have included a brief section with my top 10 activity pics, and then after that you will find lots of photos of the Final Exhibition.