Creating Memories: Simple Gallery Spaces for Your Home
Ok, I’ll admit it: I hoard my memories. I have boxes of vacation photographs, ticket stubs, birthday cards, and letters written to me by my grandmother and my husband. But I don’t stop there. I hoard other people’s memories as well. I have boxes of lovely things that once belonged to my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my husband’s parents, and my own mom. I don’t have room for them all, but they’re too special to throw away.
I have always felt the need to display my memories, to share them with the people who share my living space, and to keep the memories alive by talking about them and incorporating the past into my present. I just didn’t know how.
Enter Stefanie Darr, Director of Community Education at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. She’s not only an artist in her own right, but a thoughtful advisor for the memory hoarders among us.
According to Stefanie, less is more. “The key to arranging an artful display is to be purposeful with your selections,” she says, showing me a small shelf in her home. On the shelf, she has displayed a mixture of personal items in a way that not only honors each piece, but creates an impactful exhibit. The shelf felt like a little gallery space tucked behind her couch.
Stefanie gathered items that she loved first. “Focus on things that interest you and mean a lot to you,” she says. On her shelf, she framed a small print she bought at the Watkins Yart sale for $10 and displayed it next to a small bottle she bought at a flea market. Beside the bottle, she placed a small study for a larger statue created by her husband. The materials relate to one another: glass, metal, and living green plants display both hard and soft organic shapes.
She suggests either buying or making a small shelf to serve as your own personal gallery in your home. “Think of your little shelf as a museum space,” she says, “and try to curate that space. Find a link between the collections you choose.”
On the other side of Stefanie’s shelf, she chose a glass vase that belonged to her grandmother and a bronze cast of a hummingbird balloon animal given to her by a friend. “These things are important to me,” she says. And while they’re interesting on their own, each piece causes me to linger over the next.
But Stefanie is an artist. As are her husband, her friends, and her colleagues. My memories are less artful, and I express my concerns over displaying my boxes of collected hootenanny. Stefanie shakes her head.
“Anything can become a piece of art,” she says. “It’s all in the display.” She suggests framing old magazine ads that have appeal, hanging vintage plates on the wall, even framing one of the letters or tickets from my box of memories.
She also suggests supplementing my current collection with a new piece of art that speaks to me. She suggests visiting the Hillsboro Art Walk, the Nashville Flea Market, and the Watkins’ Yart Sale for inexpensive and beautiful art. “Student art sales are a great way to supplement your collection,” she says. “Most pieces sell cheaply, between $5 and $100.”
She also urges me not to be married to my display. Changing photos, trinkets, and artwork frequently will keep the space fresh. Museums change the artwork on display all the time, and Stefanie invited me to think of my personal gallery space in the same way.
It’s sound advice that is also inspirational. I don’t have to display every letter my grandmother ever wrote to me or every photo my husband snapped when we were in college. But I can choose representative pieces from my collection to honor my memories and display them in a way that brings honor to them and to the people and places connected to them.
The specter of heredity has lurked in the darker corners of Cheryl Perkins’ mind for as long as she can remember.
Her mother died of colon cancer four years ago, and nearly all of the women on her mother’s side of the family had hysterectomies between age 45 and 50 because of cancer diagnoses.
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