This is the final post about the most recent piece of public art I completed. "Dragon Flight" was originally created in 2003 for the Samson-Dimond Branch Library in Anchorage, Alaska. At that time, it was a 15-foot long, double-sided triptych that divided a then-new computer lab and a story-time/programming room. In 2010, it was moved to the children's area of the larger Chugiak-Eagle River Library, and in 2014 I started the process of procuring funds to expand the textile work to fit this larger space and add a community art component. A team of us wrote grants, and in the end received funding through the Chugiak-Eagle River Foundation, the Anchorage Public Library and Friends of the Library. This part took time, but we were patient and gratitude filled.
And I got a little thicker skinned in the process.
The first blog post in this 3-part series, "How to wake a dragon," provides the more important history of the work, as it was originally created in memory of a young woman named Jessie Withrow, who was killed by a drunk driver while riding her bicycle on an Anchorage sidewalk.
Every day, I drive past the white ghost bicycle I believe is erected in her memory, right there near the corner of Northern Lights and Minnesota Boulevards in Anchorage.
I brush past her.
The second post in the series, "How to tend a dragon," gives insight into the process of working with this piece once it came down at the end of October (if you are interested in using fire retardant on textile works, you might want to read this), and ends with those ropes dangling in my entry way after I cut it down and loaded all 6 double-sided panels in my car for the 30-minute drive to Eagle River last week.
I'm a melancholic. And part of this personality assumes that everything that can go wrong, will. I was pretty sure my house was going to burn down during the between-time of completion and installation. I was pretty sure I'd get in a spinning, icy car accident delivering it. I could hear the twang! of a cable snapping as we hung it. But the most likely scenario involved dirt, so I wrapped it in 2mm plastic sheeting and didn't remove it until we were positive of the positioning.
In 2003, I'd enlisted my husband's mad scroll saw skills to cut out 3 different sizes of stars in 1/4" mdf, which I painted and hung all around the small room at the first branch library. I'd forgotten how many there were after all this time, but someone had saved the stack and they'd been sitting on a shelf in the storage room at the Chugiak-Eagle River Library since 2010. I was so excited to see them produced last week -- they may as well have been made of gold.
It took just under 3 hours to hang, with the help of Bill, the gruff, yet lovable library facilities manager, who brought his super ladder. I promised chocolate chip cookies for his help and made good by delivering them the next day (despite the fact I only had 1/4 cup of chocolate chips in the house and had to secretly chop up a bunch of the kids' hidden Halloween candy because there was no way I was going to the store at 9 pm).
On Saturday, Dec. 10, 50 of us gathered to celebrate and tell the story of the now 30-foot, double sided dragon while children ran between the stacks squinting and pointing as they looked for "their squares" on the reverse. Some were dismayed to not find them right away, but I promise they're all there.
I'm not the same person who made the dragon in 2003. As a mother now, I have a different sense of community and how vital it is to nurture. My children, who saw this piece for the first time in 2013, aren't the little pudgy-armed sillies who posed for this photo back then, either. They weren't at all interested in posing for photographs on Saturday, but they are the ones who helped and helped and helped with the community art part ... my daughter, now 8, must be responsible for at least 15 of those star-studded squares.
And when it comes to raising dragons, even the smallest ones, I'd say there are a few important things to pass on:
For example, I'd want a dragon to remember that everyone is always welcome at a table.
And that every one of us deserves to make a lasting mark, no matter how small or imperfect, because we all deserve to seek and live with beauty.
And yes, of course there are some things you absolutely can and should go back and change, even years later, with the intent to make better.
And you should do this every chance you get, because there are too damned many things in life we can't change, or fix, or make better, ever.
I'd also want a dragon to know that there are people you'll never meet who still have an enormous impact on your life.
And because of all this, gratitude should be the first emotion you lay on the table.
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For related posts on public art, see "Unicorn heart" and "How to mount a unicorn."