The name “Autumn Leaves” refers to the 49 individuals 50 years old or older who are the subject of the project: these elders (or “leaves”) are in the autumnal time of life. The phrase “autumn leaves” is also a declaration of a truth: namely, this season (autumn) too shall pass. In general, “Autumn Leaves” refers to the fragile beauty of age and fleeting quality of life
About The Project
Peter Bruun, an artist, educator, curator, and community activist, found himself in early 2013 (when he was 49 years old) making 49 drawings metaphorically reflecting on his own aging. The entire project was inspired by these drawings (which will be included in the “Autumn Leaves” exhibition) and conceived by Peter Bruun.
The “art” in the project exists in at least two levels. At the most obvious level, the portraits and youth art performances taking place as part of the exhibition and events are art in and of their own rights. But less obviously, the entire undertaking is a kind of community art endeavor, with precedents less in the Western canon and more drawn from tribal tradition, where the entire village participates in “the dance”… in what might inexactly be understood as an “art” experience.
Yes. Elements that make up the entire “Autumn Leaves” experience are drawn from sources as disparate as secular rites of passage events such as anniversaries, benchmark birthdays, or memorial services; 12-step or Quaker meetings in which those present share unreservedly from the heart; and more conventional visual or performance art traditions. It is not any one of these things, but a collage of influences.
“49” initially because that was the age of Peter Bruun at the time of the project’s conception, and the number of drawings he made to mark his passing time. From that point out, “49” and “7” naturally fell into place as a kind of leitmotif, providing not only structure to the project, but also symbolic value: in situations secular and religious, “7” and “49” are significant numbers, often referring to passing time or transition.
The process was more art than science. Over many months, Peter Bruun spoke to and invited dozens of people—those he knew and those referred to him by others. Values guiding the process included seeking as much diversity as possible, looking for people inclined toward community-mindedness, and wanting people who by nature are reflective and apt to want to share from the heart.
Peter Bruun selected the three questions to be addressed at the events by the project’s 49 “leaves” (What gives your life meaning? How do you think about your own dying, or passing? What do you have to say to the young people coming after you, or what advice would you give your 21 year-old self). Fundamentally, these are questions he found himself reflecting upon as he looked to become 50 years-old, and felt asking diverse and wise people to share their answers to them might help him learn something about the meaning of life.
The words “elders” and “leaves” have been used interchangeably for “Autumn Leaves” to refer to the 49 individuals 50 years-old or older who are the subject of the project. Some have felt the term “elder” to be honorific, while others feel it connotes they are old— over the hill. “Leaves” has been more widely embraced as the word of choice for its metaphoric implications.
“Autumn Leaves” is made possible by a number of individuals who have generously sponsored different aspects of the project, as well as many who have donated through the project’s crowd-funding campaign. Additionally, the project received a Creative Baltimore Fund grant from the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. Details on supporters can be found on our support page.
The project is layered and complex, with a lot of meanings, and a lot of moving parts. Any questions you may have can be addressed to Peter Bruun, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410/916-3752. No question is too large or too small.
About The Events
No. “Autumn Leaves” events are public events open to whoever wishes to come by. No reservations are necessary.
Yes. There is no charge for attending any of the “Autumn Leaves” events, though you will be invited to offer a contribution to the youth art group featured at whatever event you attend.
Each event is marketed as “doors open” at a certain time, and “presentation begins” 45 minutes after doors open. We encourage you to arrive within 10-15 minutes of the doors opening so that you have time to see the art, slide shows by the leaves, and enjoy some food and refreshments before the presentation begins. We urge you to arrive before the presentation begins, as arriving during the presentation is disruptive, and you will be missing the main event
Before and after the presentation, you are welcome to move about the gallery, enjoying the art, the slide shows, the food and beverage, and fellowship with friends, family, and colleagues. During the presentation, however, we ask you sit or stand and quietly pay attention. If you need to get up or move about for any reason, of course do so, but be mindful of the presentation taking place and keep quiet about it.
Timing of presentations will vary from event to event, but generally they will last 60-75 minutes. There will be no intermission.
The main event of each presentation is each of that event’s 7 “leaves” sharing for 7 minutes their reflections to the projects three questions about the meaning of life. Each sharing will be from the heart: these are neither performances nor lectures, but sharing. Besides the “leaves” speaking, the youth art group will play a supporting role with words and/or performance, as will the event advocates, who host the occasion.
The events include comment cards for all, and a few of the events are including a short portion of time toward the end where those in attendance are invited to briefly share their own reflections.
Yes—indeed, they are highly encouraged to attend. As “Autumn Leaves” is about modeling healthy community, what better audience than young people?
49 portraits (one of each “leaf”) by 7 different artists are on exhibition the entire time the show is up at Area 405 (September 19 to November 2, 2014). Each event highlights the portraits of the 7 “leafs” featured that event, and the artist who made them. In addition, 49 drawings by Peter Bruun that metaphorically invoke the notion of reflecting on passing time are also in display throughout the exhibition.
Peter Bruun’s drawings are for sale. The portraits belong to whom they portray.
Each event has a writer who creates a 49-word piece intended to convey the essence of the person and the portrait. The words will be displayed next to the portraits as text labels. At some of the 7 events, the 49-word pieces will be read or performed from the stage during the presentation.
Each “leaf” for their event has been given the task of creating a 49-image slideshow that is in essence the story of their life. The slideshows can be literal and narrative, or they can be symbolic, or a mix of both. During each event, there will be seven screens, each screen projecting one of the “leaf’s” slideshows, looped and playing continuously.
The precise role of the youth art groups varies from event to event. But generally speaking, performance is one thing to expect—a flourish or processional something to initiate the presentation, and another flourish to mark the presentation’s ending. Youth may play a role introducing the “leaves” as they take the stage for their 7-minute shares.
Yes. At each event, the youth art group featured will have a resource table. We encourage all visitors to visit the table, and at least sign up for their mailing lists. We also encourage small contributions to the youth art groups.
Comfortably. Climate control at Area 405 is a challenge, so dress for the temperature.
We have a videographer for every presentation. Following the events, these will be edited and shared.
Relax: there is plenty of street parking in the immediate area.
About Area 405
Area 405 is located at 405 East Oliver Street, one block west of Greenmount Avenue, where the number 8 bus makes a stop. It also is less than a 10-minute walk from Baltimore Penn Station, the hub for much rail and bus transportation. Visit http://mta.maryland.gov/ for more information.
There is generally plenty of parking on Oliver Street and one block north on Federal Street, as well as in the surrounding blocks; parking is proving not to be a problem.
Area 405 is the ground floor of an old factory building, converted to be a gallery and event space. It is airy, funky, and somewhat raw. There are two main spaces: a front room where you enter and will be greeted with introductory information, and a back room where the bulk of the art will be on view, and where the stage for the presentation is. The space can comfortably fit several hundred people.
Yes—but only one small one. For the events, we will rent an additional port-a-pot, the discrete location of which will be clearly marked.
Yes: by appointment with an email to email@example.com and also every Friday, 3-7pm, during the run of the exhibition.
Area 405 is in the Greenmount West neighborhood, which is part of the Station North Arts & Entertainment District. The area is increasingly well known and established as a place to experience interesting art and culture of all kinds. Visithttp://www.stationnorth.org/ for more information.