Last Wednesday, March 23rd, I attended the opening celebration of ’15 alum, William K. Kimmell’s, sculpture, “Communal Narrative”. This sculpture was made possible through Will recieving PPS’s Change Maker grant, as well as being chosen as this year’s Rachel and Allen Weller Memorial sculpture installation. This honor is bestowed upon a sculpture student every other year by the art faculty.
Students, professors, Will’s family, a dog, a baby, and even Judith Weller Harvey (the daughter of Rachel and Allen Weller) all gathered on the front lawn of the Art building to experience the true purpose of the sculpture.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
As Will stood on the stump in the center of his sculpture, he explained its purpose. He said that the idea was driven by an October 2014 meeting of artists and activists discussing police brutality and marginalization. Will said “one of the main themes from that meeting was finding or creating a platform on Guilford’s campus for students and community members that felt marginalized to have a platform to speak.” This goal eventually led Will to create “Communal Narrative”, a community space for “stump speeches”.
He explained how “something important for me, as a white man in a very patriarchal racist society, was trying to find a way that I can participate in progressive movements.” He decided that the best way to do this “was to create a platform for other people.”
He tied this platform into the spirit of Guilford by making it conceptually represent the history of Guilford and the community, which I think is so fitting, since essentially, the people who will use this sculpture all have ties to Guilford. The words spoken from this stump will effect our Guilford community, through their ability to educate, strengthen connections, and create mutual respect between people on our campus and in our community.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
The stacks of broken brick encompassing the bottom of the sculpture represent our society’s origins of slavery. Having the pillars rise up out of the brick represents how we came “out of the rubble”. But the presence alone of the rubble implies the continued presence of the harm slavery has caused our society.
The seven pillars represent the seven principles of the Quaker organization that “holds this community together”.
The stained glass leaves represents “the organic beautiful community that we are”.
Finally, of course, the stump is intended as a tool for public speaking, which “continues that defining of what we are”.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Elena Robles spoke at the event, reading from a journal in Spanish. Even though I could only pick out words here and there from my limited Spanish vocabulary, the emotion of her words spoke to me, demanding my attention and respect, which is the whole point of the sculpture- to give people a voice. She ended her speech with “Thank you for your patience with me”, a statement so simple, yet so meaningful in the fight to give all people a voice in the community that will be heard.
Will’s sculpture is a stellar example of how art can be used as a tool for combatting social justice and promoting community growth. It’s gratifying to see a piece of art become a vehicle for communication, making it an aspect of the art department that is accessible to all people.