Reading Together 2013 Blog

Some Reflections on Art as an Expression of Grief

Anyone who has struggled with grief may share in the disconnected and disorienting place it can be. The death of a loved one or good friend whether it is impending and expected, or tragic and sudden, can bring emotions that seem impossible to navigate.

This presentation looked at the variety of ways art may serve to navigate that experience and move through grief individually and as a community. The panelists wove a common thread through how art, whether a community memorial or a personal pencil sketch, may facilitate the grieving process.

Death and dying is such a phenomena that human beings no matter how matured are left dumbfounded; art as an expression of grief acknowledges the loss. This may be the first step to acceptance and healing. Art has the ability to acknowledge and share the grieving experience. Studies have shown that communities where people feel connected and supported have higher qualities of life and health. Perhaps there is a correlation between those societies and communities who create memorials to commemorate and thereby acknowledge the grief experienced by those directly affected. In so doing the memorial, the sculpture, the painting, by acknowledging the life and death experienced we are creating greater connection and a deeper sense of community.

~ Norm Hamann Jr, Reading Together Steering Committee

Knowing that not everyone is affected by tragedy in the same way it was important for me to find a balance between sentiment and honor. I feel it’s important for people to be able to mourn in their own time, openly if they need to, and for a community to acknowledge its history and its tragedies.

~ Brent Harris, sculptor, commissioned to create the Eric Zapata Memorial in honor of the Kalamazoo Public Safety officer shot and killed in the line of duty in 2011.

Reading Together Steering Committee