It took seconds for the giant quiet gallery to go from just me and the work-study student to a room filled with 50+ high school students who never planned on being there. It was cold and raining during their tour of the campus and a fire alarm went off while they were in the adjacent building and it sent them outside. They came into the Czurles Nelson Gallery to get out of the rain. As they piled into the space the chaperone yelled, “Do not to touch anything!” I approached her and told her they can touch the blocks and asked if I could have a moment to tell them what the installation is and that they could participate. It took a few moments to get their attention and focus. I told them my story and explained that they were welcome to touch the objects and to please choose one they feel a connection with. Any kind of connection. Choose one that reminds you of a memory or a story.
After my presentation and the children completed their story writing they were instructed to head for the busses. A large young man, built like a football player, approached me with his left hand on his chest, “Your story touched me miss.” He had tears in his eyes. I asked him if he needed a hug. He didn’t answer and embraced me. I looked past him as he held me and a line formed behind him. Every single child in the room waited in line to hug me. When the last student left I was alone with the teacher and she was weeping. She said, “You have no idea how much they needed this.” She held me and then she too left. The work-study student and I were alone again. I forgot about her! In the quiet she was looking at me and said, “What the fuck was that?”