My best friend and I have been traveling together since 1992. Even when she moved to Georgia in 2003, we still were able to go on trips together, usually at least once every season.
Not imagining that the country was about to close due to the pandemic a year ago, we had decided to take what we call “a lark” to one of our favorite museums, Crystal Bridges, in Bentonville, Arkansas. We wanted to view an exhibit, All Things Being Equal, which featured the art of Hank Willis Thomas. It was a deep exploration of the African American experience.
Little did we know that it would be our last trip together for a year. Little did we know how the exhibit would inform what would unfold in the months ahead as the pandemic deeply exposed the even more serious divides of color, economics, and access in our country.
So many times as my friend and I moved through the year cancelling trips planned together and others to visit family, we would be ever so thankful for that quickly planned and taken trip in February, 2020.
Newly vaccinated, one year later, we booked our first trip together for a new exhibit at Crystal Bridges, Crafting America. This exhibit celebrates the stories told through that which we create with our hands.
The exhibit features craft by people who are both native to our country and who immigrated from a variety of countries for a variety of reasons.
One piece that gave me pause was a chest of drawers created by Gentaro Kenneth Hikogawa, a man imprisoned in a Japanese American internment camp during World War II. Needing a place for storage in that prison, he used scrap lumber and packing crates to create something of great beauty. It now sits in a museum and tells a story.
Another part of the exhibit displayed “beaded prayers.” For the past twenty years, Sonya Clark has invited others of all ages to create prayers from scraps and beads to express grief, hopes, and dreams. Over 5000 people from thirty countries have crafted duo prayers—one to keep and one to join the communal artwork.
The exhibit covered four walls, and the room shimmered with holiness when I entered. Each little creation had a story from the depth of a person’s heart.
We may think of crafts as being second to art. The exhibit reminded us that the root of the word craft means “strength” or “power.” In this year that has passed, so many times I have had no words for the depths of my feelings. This exhibit reminded me that there are many ways to express thoughts and feelings through hand work.
From baking bread to cleaning dusty blinds to hand written letters to songs sung to paths walked.
We can find strength. We can find power.
Thanks. Be. To. God.