On this night, I congregated with a limited group of less than ten strangers under an art installation that mimicked a starry-night, curated by the Therapeutic Artists Residency in Atlanta, Georgia. Here was the beginning to an intimate, open dialogue led by artist Julie L. Sims.
The dark, small space was no bigger than a walk-in closet, which brought participants close, as we anticipated the introduction. Only a small handful were allowed in each session. This first segment was called “Connect.”
I immediately tuned into the soft audio of inhaling and exhaling breathes, reminding me of waves coming and going against the shore.
This instantly resonated with my daily practice of meditation, which Julie Sims shared how she incorporates the practice of becoming present while stargazing when stress and life’s problems seems to weigh us down. This was no typical opening of an art exhibition; this was a call to be transparent and I could not have felt more in sync with being in the right place. Sims opened up about releasing sunken moments by realizing how small we are compared to the ever-expanding mass of the Universe. I too use this same practice to redirect my energy when I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.
After Sims shared a literary piece centered about the theme, she opened up about sensitive battles such as mental health and her diagnosis with breast cancer. Her transparency pulled me in and I was the first to give feedback on how much I connected with the moment. I shared about how my recent flight back home became an opportunity to reflect on how small my problems were, how much more work I needed to do in order to make an impact, and how easy it is to move forward when you remember where you are in scale to the rest of the world.
This conversation offered us all healing …
and set the tone for what was waiting for us in the next room.
Behind the curtains of the next room held a organic, nature-inspired installation that was living and breathing, and welcomed our participation. In the tanks of water, we had a chance to wash away things we wanted to release. A prompt suggested that we take a sheet of paper and write down something we wanted to release. On the neighboring prompt, we could also write down something we wanted to give life to. The interesting thing about this piece is that not only did it embrace collaboration, converting viewers to contributors, but it was an on-going additive work of art. We were invited to comeback to the finale where a larger salt-water tank would be open for us to enter as a deeper symbolic gesture of washing away what no longer served us.
I walked about feeling like “Wow. How did I get here?” Not because I felt I was out of place, but because I felt I could not have been in a better place. I expected to stare at art on the walls, but I found myself being gifted with an opportunity to heal. One of the things I’ve been asking the Universe for are moments to heal through joy and love because often times we learn through heartache, stress, and pain.
The second part of this series was reserved for “unfolding,” performed by Xenia Simos and the third and final part was reserved for “release.”
Many returned to witness the ritual baptism, led by Julie L. Sims. As she read aloud the reflection on her year of hardship before entering the bath to release, I was humbled. The forgiveness of her pain opened the hearts of many to forgive themselves. The script that carried insight into Sims’ tragedies were drowned in water before Sims’ dipped her own body into the tub as an act of cleansing, release, and renewal. Then, viewers were invited to do the same. How empowering it was to be present in self-love and mercy. So much was learned by the bravery of each soul to stand in spite of vulnerability and transform their darkness into light.
I truly appreciate the work TAR Projects is doing for the community through an avenue that is open and safe.
Therapeutic Artists Residency:
2016-2017 TAR Residents:
Steven L. Anderson
Kyle A. Henderson
Julie L. Sims
Day & Night Projects (Atlanta, Ga):