Two Mason faculty members from different Mason colleges have developed an innovative collaborative project for their students. Suzanne Scott, Director of Women and Gender Studies, and Lynne Constantine, School of Art, decided to replicate Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree Project on the Mason campus and to involve the students from their two classes. Professor Scott teaches Art, Beauty and Culture, a course through New Century College in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Professor Constantine teaches Aesthetics in the School of Art in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
The Wish Tree Project is a part of Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace project, which was inspired by her work for peace with her husband, the late John Lennon. The Wish Tree Project began in 1996 and continues to be replicated around the world. People participate by writing their personal wishes for peace on white shipping tags and tying the wishes to a tree branch. Mason’s tree was located across from the main entrance to the Art and Design Building, and was open October 1-18.
Professors Scott and Constantine asked their students to work in groups to develop informational fliers, spend time at the Wish Tree, and keep a joint journal. Individually, each student was responsible to introduce the project to at least 10 colleagues and family members and to write an individual reflection about the project and the process.
Students participated enthusiastically, bringing their creativity to the time they spent at the tree. A student in Professor Scott’s class brought music by the Beatles and a hula-hoop to entertain passers-by. A group in Professor Constantine’s class held a party at the tree, offering people walking by a selection of donuts and other snacks while they learned about the project.
Both Professor Scott and Professor Constantine were delighted with the results. “The students were initially apprehensive, but they not only learned about a non-traditional art project, they also learned what it is like to be part of something larger than themselves and their individual projects,” said Professor Scott.
Professor Constantine noted that several times she saw students not in either class and other passers-by reading the tags or taking pictures of the tree with their phones. “If the idea of a network of people wishing for peace came into their consciousness for even that brief minute, I feel satisfied with that,” she said.
Both professors believe that a special benefit of the project was the flexible collaboration between the two classes. Even though they did not participate in work groups together or see each other frequently during the process, each class reported pleasant experiences when students from the two classes found themselves taking their turns at the tree at the same time. Students from both classes also participated in the removal of the tags on the final day.
The final stage of the project will take place in early November, when the hundreds of collected tags will be photographed, boxed up, and shipped to the Imagine Peace Tower, a monument to John Lennon that Ono established in Reykjavik, Iceland. Ono collects all the wishes from trees she installs – currently totaling more than a million—and stores them permanently at the Imagine Peace Tower.
October 29, 2012