‘Guardians: Spirits of Protection’ follow up project encourages community to submit cathartic poetry

The outdoor exhibit has a clear message: together we heal

By CLARA FISCHER — arts@theaggie.org

Ann Savageau, professor emerita and artist, and Edward Whelan, UC Davis associate instructor and MFA graduate in design, have collaborated to bring the Davis community to follow up to Savageau’s earlier exhibit “Guardians: Spirits of Protection.”

The aforementioned exhibit explored healing after facing loss and was inspired by tragedies weathered by Savageau in both the pandemic and her personal life. This follow up is meant to inspire the community to explore their emotions much in the same way as Savageau, albeit through a different medium: poetry.

Anyone and everyone is welcome to submit poetry relating (or very loosely relating) to the themes of healing and loss displayed in Savageau’s work. Submissions are accepted on the project’s websiteand the deadline has been extended through March 14.

Whelan said he was inspired to take on the project by the immense feedback from the community, especially pertaining to the interactive component of the initial exhibit (in which viewers were encouraged to write down any thoughts, prayers or comments they might have had after reflecting on Savageau’s work).

“Ann and I started focusing on her writing as a way to really deal with her grief, but also as a way to build hope and resilience. I thought a good thing to do would be make that opportunity available to everybody,” Whelan said. “I think it’s really great that we’re able to provide some kind of outlet right now — we welcome everyone to submit, in any language they’d like.”

Poetry submissions are welcome in any prose—every submission will be made part of the exhibit and put up for display in the Arboretum. Whelan and his creative team from him, including students Iris Xie, Niloufar Abdolmaleki and Julia Dang, who help with both outreach as well as other creative aspects of the installation, will carve the poems into 24 × 12 inch pieces of slate and arrange them in a spiral staircase formation. The exhibit is set to be installed around March 18, 2022.

“We picked the Arboretum because there is a lot of foot traffic… and there’s something about nature that fits well with the poetry,” Whelan said.

The creative team chose the medium of stone because they “wanted a sense of permanence,” and were partially inspired by the Scottish art exhibit “Little Sparta.” They also plan on giving the stone to the corresponding participant after the installation is taken down, indicating the permanence of their art. When asked about the significance of the spiral formation, Whelan noted that they “wanted something that was a progression.”

Similarly, this project itself can be seen as a progression of the impact Savageau’s initial gallery had on the community. After all, the process of healing after dealing with personal loss is a topic that resonates with many, especially after the past couple of years.

“Exhibitions have an opportunity not only to inspire and provide a story, but also, they can be places where communities can come together and really talk about what’s going on,” Whelan said.

For those interested in more of Whelan’s work, he is offering a first-year seminar starting Spring 2022 entitled “Make an Exhibition” that is open to all majors, and those who want to explore more of Savageau’s pieces can find them on her website.

Written by: Clara Fischer — arts@theaggie.org

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