Pipe Dreams, NJ merges with the Great Pipe Dream, NZ by Judith Wray
- I was born in 1946 and until I was 12 yr. my family, composed of nine persons, lived in a big white house on Suydam St. New Brunswick, NJ. A few blocks walk away was my grammar school, Nathan Hale. *it burned down, who knows why. I was too little to take notice. It was a borderline poor neighborhood. But our house was on the parade route and our porch looked over the street everything came through. At that time, there were still parades. My great grandfather had built our house. There were 14 rooms. My sister and I had fun counting the rooms and daring each other when our parent’s went out to venture alone from one end of the house to the other, touching the doors of every room as we passed, no cheating! *forget the basement or attic…we weren’t crazy! My Aunts lived downstairs. Retired teachers. It was beautiful, filled with glass cabinets of fine dishes and book cases, a large oak dining room table in a sunny dining room. My Aunts loved my sister Pat and I. Each night they could, they read to us Nancy Drew mysteries while seated in a big brown fuzzy chair by the light of a lamp with a dark green lamp shade. Aunt Millie and Aunt Annie…two spinsters. We learned to LOVE reading and books, the feel and smell of books, the different bindings, some with the edges of their pages brilliant gold. Outside we had a lavish garden. I remember the raspberries covering the entire back fence, vibrantly red, filling the air with their hot sweet scent. Center stage in the front yard was an enormous Bing Cherry tree covered with lush pink blossoms in Spring and after the blossoms came fat black cherries! The tree trunk had shiny bark you could peel. My parents told me not to! Both my parents had no problem with me climbing as high and as often as I wanted! Our Aunts taught us to be kind. Once my Aunt Annie caught me doing something dastardly to an ant hill. I was pouring hot water on the hill and watching…she was very angry. I think that was the only time either of them ever got angry at me. They taught me empathy. Upstairs my grandfather on my fathers side and stepmother lived in a large room. On the same floor lived my Dad and Mom, my sister and I and our grandmother. My father was a teacher his whole life. His students loved him. His father was an editor to the local newspaper and a minister. As luck would have it his father had a small church on Plum St. New Brunswick with a beautiful patch of woods behind. When grandfather died, my father inherited the small church. He was not a minister, much to my mothers displeasure as he was a minister wannabe. He had FUN trying, the weekly sermons, singing, even picking up the older parishioners and taking them back home again. He was a good man for the right reasons as were my Aunts and grandparents. He also loved toys, to play! Building blocks, science toys, chemistry sets. He was always surprising us with things like gyroscopes, microscopes, all kinds of things! He was by nature, playful! I follow in his footsteps as I too like to experiment and play as an end in itself, learning along the way. My Dad was also the director for a time of a neighborhood house with a roller skating rink and a beautiful gymnasium. This was a poor neighborhood…the Neighborhood House was a very special place. At that time, my best friend was a little black girl…she was small, with bones like a bird. She lived with her grandparents. I can still remember her house and the smells of food cooking, a dark interior, rooms not used often. In my dreams I am there wandering the rooms and hallways. One day a larger, more big boned girl from my class asked if she could come to visit me. She was not a friend. She was one of the scary kids to me as she was bigger, stronger. In recess, playing kick ball you would not want to get hit with a ball she had kicked! But when she asked me if she could visit me I said YES as she was also very nice when she asked and had never given me any reason to dislike or fear her other than her strength at kicking a ball that could knock you out! So she came. As I took her through our home her eyes were big and dark and I saw our home with her eyes and knew without speaking her home was different. My grammar school burned down and time passed. A new school was built just a block away. My Aunts died as did my grandparents. My parents moved. My life went on a town away. We moved to East Brunswick, suburbia, woods, apple orchards, lakes. In this day and age we are challenged to think big. To use imagination. My mother had a hand in that. She was very imaginative, using new things creatively like taking photos of little sculptures I did as a child and blowing them up poster size. I’m good with my hands, making things, have a feel for sculpture. I grew up to be imaginative, to think big, fun and do things with others taking wild leaps on a shoestring. My high school teachers were proud. At Mason Gross School of the Visual Arts I had a thesis class where we spent the year focusing on what was important to us. Like what would you want your tombstone to say. For my thesis show I created an installation I called Pipe Dreams. It was dismal. An assortment of pipes in different circumfrances and heights all planted on top of a sandy mound surrounded by a yellow brick road. The pipes were plugged with phalic images made from fired clay. Inside each pipe if you unplugged the orifice, were fortune cookies. So you could take a walk up the yellow brick road to the top and unplug a pipe, take out a cookie and read a message which may or might not make any sense at all. I graduated and moved on to working with artists from around the world, especially digital artists as they were a more daring variety.Their work was easy to move by attached e mail. But I was organizing shows from France, New Zealand, North, South and Central America. Then one day in the middle of it all I was invited to do a community project with my old school. The new one just a block away from the old one. The principal of the Paul Robeson School, Charles Collins invited me, a tall black American. Would I consider doing a community project with no funding? YES, after a moments thought, I would. I chose PipeDreams as the theme..as I wanted to transform a negative to a positive. I wanted to work on a message of hope. A few months after we got going on our project another school became involved, Citizen School on Van Dyke Ave. New Brunswick. The principal there kept a much lower profile with me. I barely remember him. Certainly not his name. I spent around 7 years working the project Pipe Dreams. It was one of a number of projects I worked on but the one which pains me and brings me joy and wonder the most. Below, I will attach links to that project as I try to document efforts along the way. The further back I go, the less coverage because I was living my life in the fast lane and learning about new technology as I went. Cameras, computers, websites were new to me. I was careless about keeping names and dates as I always thought relationships would continue on forever and that we were all building together. As it turned out, we are and continue to do so, just not in the way that I thought. I made a website but at that time I had no search engine for it and now it is too late without an enormous amount of sit down work and at 67 I have no desire to re invent the wheel. I am still out doing what I love to do. The website covering that period of time is
- Oct. 2000 the dream began to materialize. On a grassy knoll outside Paul Robeson School with a few young people, each with a piece of PVC pipe, some masking tape and a few cans of spray paint. One young boy had a maple leaf which he painted bright red and affixed to his pipe. The idea materialized and grew, pipes began to come from everywhere. The tall blue ball pipe featured as the lead image was not the first pipe and not even from the first school. The pipe called the Blue Ball pipe was made with 4 girls at Citizen School, New Brunswick, NJ. That pipe reached a pinnacle of sorts in a number of ways which is why it stands to speak. The last photo stands for all that were sent to us from New Zealand. Henry Sunderland living in Christchurch, NZ had done a google search using the name of his own project there in New Zealand — The Great Pipe Dream. He found me, working on the project PipeDreams, there at the Paul Robeson School. We merged. All the pipes went to Lincoln Centers Cork Gallery, NYC. Seven pop together PVC assemblages arrived at a Newark shipping facility in a huge crate. At that point we began to get the parts mixed up and that was OK, we were all playing! The first link is the Power Point Presentation by the students at Citizen School.
- The 4 Girls Famous Power Point Presentation
- MGSVA Pipe Dreams Installation
- What’s Art & Justin on News 12
- The Whole Show
- Pipes at Paul Robeson School
- Pipe Dreams at Somerset Art Association
- The Ball Pipe NZ Tour
- The flyingbeetle at the Cork Gallery, Lincoln Center, NYC
- I have hopes of doing my part to change a system. When and if you visit these pages I want to point something out that wasn’t documented. A particular afternoon late in our project when the girls I was working with at Citizen/McKinley School and I received a visit from some of the people funding the school. Not more than 20 minutes. I saw the eyes of the girls riveted on their respective computers as they took turns reading each of their parts of the Power Point Presentation expaining the whole project. Across the room I could see our visitors standing aloof in the doorway, not venturing closer, maybe thinking ahead of lunch time, who knows! Expressionless. A word about the local museum…the girls were allowed to come and speak about their project but their piece was not allowed in the door. That struck me as interesting as I remembered vividly while I was a Mason Gross student, one piece of art welcomed by the museum was a huge dick..spread out across the wall. (A white one!) What transpired in those moments and what followed has stayed with me. We, the girls and I and the administrators working close with us, all got a learning experience. When experimenting one must keep an open mind as to what will happen. How then to make the next move. The thing is…what now, if anything. I quess, what now, is this, for now. The Zinn Educational Project woke me up to a more positive way of viewing what happened..as also did Jane Goodall more recently with Roots and Shoots. Jane, who does not hate corporations I am told. She says anyone, including corporations can change…and then there is the Zinn Educational Project keeping history alive. Thankyou to both! The day before yesterday I discovered my favorite author, Leo Tolstoy, wrote a book with the title What’s Art? That was the title given to our project by the school administrators working most closely with us. It was also what we called the Power Point Presentation written by the students. So I had to laugh
- and then I bought the book on my Kindle Fire!!
Originally published at cowbird.com.