‘Hope’ springs anew for Washington University grad students
UNIVERSITY CITY — Georgia O’Keeffe found inspiration in the light and shapes of New Mexico. Mary Cassatt found hers in mothers and children. Maya Escobar and Carianne Noga, two graduate students at Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Art and Design, found inspiration for their latest project from the long lines on Election Day at a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop in the Loop.
There, on the sidewalk outside the shop, which was giving away scoops of ice cream to voters, the two women felt excitement and hope among voters. They said they found that same feeling across the street in the long line of voters waiting to vote at the Loop polling place.
“We wanted to continue that moment and not let it peak out,” Noga said.
Before the polls closed, they had begun to create their “I hope…” project.
They first staked out a site: outside the University City Post Office at 561 Kingsland Avenue.
They then provided people with bright red tags and paint markers for them to write down their hopes for a better future.
The tags then are affixed to a permanent lattice wood sculpture already on site outside the Post Office.
“As difficult as it can be sometimes to voice our wishes and dreams, it can be strengthening,” the artists say in explaining their mission. “We can be reminded of the rest of the world outside our own immediate concerns. In this period of great change and near infinite possibilities, it is time for us to voice our hopes.”
While the project is for all people, Escobar said it holds special meaning for young people.
“This is our moment to make a difference for our communities,” Escobar said. “We need to be aware — of our national situation, of the economy.”
Many of the hopes expressed — most recorded anonymously — so far are noble and universal: “I hope for world peace” and “My hope is that hate is no longer.”
Some of the hopes are personal. “I hope to not fear death,” wrote one.
Others have a distinctly political bent: “I hope we get out of Iraq and don’t go to war with Iran.” And some are just fun, like the person hoping for “chocolate cake for dessert …”
A University City police officer named Hope — Reginald Hope — shared with them his own hope: for safety for police officers. A fellow officer was killed while on duty near the Loop last month.
Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton gave his hope and “wishes for better health and greater prosperity for all.”
The artists also are encouraging people to submit their hopes online at togetherwehope.com.
The existing sculpture outside the post office was designed in 2005 by an undergraduate architectural design studio taught by Carl Safe in the Washington University School of Architecture. University City resident Ethel Sherman had asked Safe to help create a sculpture in memory of her husband William Sherman, a Washington University biochemist who died about five years ago.
“It’s strong like Bill and peaceful and quiet,” she said. Sherman said she’s thrilled about adding “I hope…” to it.
“This is an exciting time of change and hope,” said Sherman, a retired psychologist and teacher who worked for 10 years at the Loop’s Craft Alliance.
The artists, both 24, come from family traditions of public service and political idealism.
“I grew up under the table of political meetings,” says Escobar, remembering her childhood in Chicago. “My friends and I formed our first political organization when we were 11 — Students Against Child Oppression — on behalf of children in sweatshops in Mexico.”
Her mother is a school nurse, and her father, an educator, hosts a radio show in Chicago called “Si, Se Puede,” which means “Yes, We Can.” The program has been around since 1996.
Noga grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and in Georgia. Her father is a psychiatrist at a state hospital, and her mother is a library director.
Both artists are second-year graduate students in the two-year master’s of fine arts program.
The project will remain up through January. Later, the tags can be relocated to other sites and the online site will remain.
University City has embraced the “I hope …” project, according to city manager Julie Feier.
“It’s an inspiring project,” she said.
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