What is the Cairn Project?
The Cairn Project was started by artist Corinne D. Peterson and includes workshops where people create a clay rock to represent their suffering and a porcelain token to express their inner light. The rocks are piled to form a memorial cairn which is installed in a public art space with the tokens of light hovering above. The light over dark becomes a collective expression of trauma and hope. To date, over 350 people have participated in 38 Shaping Clay, Shaping Life workshops. The installations, entitled Cairn & Cloud: a collective expression of trauma and hope, have been exhibited in four art spaces which include: Zhou B Art Center, Art on Armitage, Wicker Park Lutheran Church, and Lillstreet Gallery Annex. Forthcoming exhibitions include: one sponsored by the National Veterans Art Museum around Memorial Day, Oak Park Art League, October-November, and Citlalin Gallery, November-December, all three in 2016.
Who benefits from the project?
Our workshops reach out to a variety of people. Past participants have included:
Men, women, and children; immigrants, transgender youth, LGBTQ youth, cancer survivors, survivors of sexual abuse, Iraqi, Burundi, Burmese refugees, mentally ill, veterans, the bereaved, blind, nurses. We’ve worked with Awakenings Foundation, Thresholds, Heartwood Center, Kenwood Academy, Advocate hospitals, El Circulo, International FACES (Heartland), NAMI Chicago, Zhou B Art Center, National Veterans Art Museum, Lillstreet Art Center. In addition to Chicago we have been to Naperville, Prairie View, Oak Park, Evanston, and Park Ridge in Illinois. In May we travel to Ontario, Canada!
Workshops will return to several of these places this year, such as International Faces (Heartland) and Thresholds. New places include Woman Made Gallery and Sarah’s Inn, where both English and Spanish workshops will take place. Of several special Memorial Day events National Veterans Art Museum is sponsoring, we are one! We'll conduct a drop-in workshop at the May installation of Cairn & Cloud, which they have also organized.
Why is the Cairn Project important?
The project is important because all people experience trauma, but it is often hidden and unattended. Research shows that unresolved childhood trauma is a serious source of both mental and physical illness in adults. Trauma falls on a continuum, which Sophia Richman describes as “ranging from the inevitable losses that we experience in our daily lives due to the human condition to exposure to extremely violent and catastrophic events outside of common human experience.” She adds “…creative action is one of the most effective ways of coping with trauma and its aftereffects”.(p.3, Mended by the Muse, Sophia Richman, psychoanalyst, painter, holocaust survivor.)
Why Clay? Why Rocks?
The Cairn Project fits in to the overall canon of Corinne's work and brings many streams of her practice together, as both psychotherapist and artist. Thirty years ago, Corinne discovered clay as a way to make her inner experience visible. She was amazed by how it helped her recognize, understand, and begin to heal from early trauma which often caused her to disassociate from herself. For years, Corinne's sculptural work has centered on rock forms. Because rocks are formed through trauma, they are an apt metaphor for personal history. Two years ago in a dream, she hung small black clay rocks in a grid on a wall. Later when she made them, each seemed to represent a particular trauma. These rocks sparked something in her memory which resembled an ancient burial cairn that she saw in Sweden. Corinne thought of how cultures all over the world have built cairns to mark special places, and she imagined making a collaborative contemporary cairn. To address the suffering common to all humanity, she decided to hold workshops with people from all over the city and all different situations. Corinne's goal is to provide a compassionate place where both suffering and inner light can be witnessed and honored.
Here's why we need your help!
Money from two small fundraisers, fees from workshops, and other donations has covered much of the Cairn Project expense. Additionally, the help from our wonderful volunteers and enthusiastic team has allowed for the project to be a success. Support from Bruce Robbins, owner of Lillstreet Art Center, includes his donation of clay for the workshops and kilns to fire the work. Corinne has filled the gap with her own resources.
Part 1. It is imperative for the project to have sufficient physical assistance and monetary help to complete the planned 16 or so workshops and three exhibits. This includes office assistance, transportation to and from workshops and installations, studio costs, and materials.
Part 2. In addition, it is important that this project is documented with video, audio, still photos and clear writing. As you know, all of this costs money.
The Cairn Project needs funding for Part 1 and Part 2.
All of the above will give the Cairn Project team the materials:
- to work toward securing a permanent home for the project and
- to create an important lasting Cairn Project archive.
Risks and challenges
Our workshops and installations are many. Because each one is in a different place from the last, we must treat each one as unique, so there is always the chance of missing an important detail. We have a lot of "standard operating procedures" to help us keep it together. We are always adding new volunteers with the skills needed for particular tasks, whether to do the studio clay work, install the ceiling grid for the exhibits, or assist in the actual workshops. Most volunteers have taken the workshop so they understand the meaning of what they're contributing their efforts to, even if it is wedging clay. Because we rely heavily on so many different volunteers, keeping everyone on the same page is challenging, and requires a lot of communication and patience.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)