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Northwood students create sculpture inspired by The Secret Life of Bees

By Brad Kosiba
Posted Monday, January 5, 2004

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Opening motivation for this project was a simple question, "What is your first memory of prejudice and racism?"

The Pittsboro Memorial Library currently houses an exceptional sculpture titled, "With Sweet and Bitter Herbs. Joy Will Come in the Morning". The sculpture was assembled from tiles created by Northwood High School Art II students and their teacher Leslie Burwell and students from Mr. Thibault's SKIP class. Inspiration came from the Friends of the Pittsboro Memorial Library, Community Read book The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

The opening motivation for this project was a simple question, "What is your first memory of prejudice and racism?" The students were asked to write a five minute reflective writing; these went into a honey jar with the label "The Secret of Life of Fear and Hate". As a class they, discussed their first encounters with fears and came to realize they often hate the things they do not understand or cannot see.

The next day they discussed the wars of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. They discussed places where genocide and ethnic cleansing have killed millions of people. They also viewed images of world famous walls - The Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, the West Wall in Jerusalem, and walls in general. They discussed how artists have created memorials for reflection and healing, much like May's wall in the story. They came to understand that sometimes there are no words and only images can touch places that are so fragile and hurt.

The second motivation was to discuss the idea of a safe haven, the idea of home and secret place to go to retreat from the world for nurture. The classes wrote spontaneously about where they go for comfort.

The students began listening to the novel in the classroom. They drew bees, walls and ideas for a tile. They created hexagon tiles with any image that they felt inspired to create. Some of the artists chose to reflect on the ideas and themes of racism, some chose scenes from the novel, while others wanted to create images of bees and their secret life.

Teacher Leslie Burwell reflected, "The wall came to me in a dream - the way it was to be made. One person could not make it. It could not be made by just the art students." Community members gathered last week and assembled the wall in the Reeves Auditorium at the library. The wall is closed for protection but open for new ideas. One side tells a story from many different students. The other side is open so people can place remembrances of past hurts or joys.

This is the journey of the NHS wall. Lily, a central character in the story, experienced bitter and happy memories. The difference was that in discovering the sweetness inside of her could never be taken away from her; freed her to know that "with sweet and bitter herbs, joy will come in the morning."

The sculpture will be offered at silent auction along with other artist works inspired by the Community Read book. A preview and reception is Friday, January 9 at 7:30 at the library. Bidding will begin at the reception and conclude on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at the Fearrington Barn. The author, Sue Monk Kidd, will be in attendance at both events. A reading and discussion of the book will follow the Saturday auction at 11 a.m. at the barn.


The Friends of the Pittsboro Memorial Library thank the following for their help in sponsoring our Community Read: North Carolina Humanities Council, McIntyre's Fine Books, Progress Energy and Central Carolina Bank as well as other businesses including First Citizens Bank, First Bank, Edwards Antiques, and Gallery 18. FMI:

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Northwood students create sculpture inspired by The Secret Life of Bees
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