Regional Emmy Award winning documentary by Scott Jensen of Alaska Dispatch News.
100Stone Project is a statewide creative civic engagement and social art project that facilitated the capture of hundreds of Alaskans' personal stories of wellness management in sculptural form. At its zenith, the project installed a population of 85 human figures into the tidal beach at Point Woronzof Overlook Park, walking into the icy waters of the Inlet. Each figure was sculpted from and by people who are directly affected by persistent emotional pressures. Once finished, the figures became the physical encapsulation of hundreds of unique experiences of vulnerability resulting from life events such as trauma, grief, chronic illness, mental illness, substance abuse, and other difficult life circumstances. Each symbolized powerful stories of resilience in the face of the marathon that is self-care and management. On December 5, 2015, many involved in the making of these figures gathered on the icy Anchorage beach as witnesses to the collective stories of our participants. It was that moment in space and time when we recognized our own humanity in each figure, empathized with a universal condition of vulnerability, and embedded in our visceral memory what it is like to have been fully seen as we celebrated the fearlessness of our fellows. We saw that we are all connected, not through tragedy and darkness, but through the beauty and light of our choral expression of truth.
CIVIC ART FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
100Stone Project is a unique confrontation of the destructive stigmas we face as people with persistent and, sometimes, acute vulnerabilities. It is a colossal suicide awareness and creative civic engagement project that anticipates that the byproducts of sanctuary, illumination, and reverence for some of our most vulnerable community members would produce the most crucial elements of wellness facilitation—respite, release, and the active engagement of a compassionate creative community of allies. This project is a deliberate sociocreative action purposed for the dissolution of shame and celebration of diverse conditions of the mind.
In the summer of 2014, 100Stone launched its statewide creative civic engagement initiative inviting Alaskan groups to collaborate in the creation of 100Stone by casting the bodies and faces of their most vulnerable community members, and those who know and care for them. Equipped with utility van, 12’ enclosed trailer, and more than a ton of processed materials, the team was able to reach participants who would not otherwise be able to engage in the project due to limited resources, ability or geography. In these creative sessions, members of the community are creatively activated as models, makers and contributors to the casting of individual stories of mental health management through figural gesture. Starting in Anchorage at Covenant House Alaska, 100Stone reached the communities of Talkeetna, Fairbanks, Delta, Tok, Glennallen, McCarthy, Valdez, Wasilla, Palmer, Seward, Homer and Girdwood. Summer, 2015, we reached beyond the road system to communities around the state, visiting Bethel, Sitka and Juneau.
In each of these communities, our work sessions served as a place to actively honor the truth of the conditions of those who suffer, as well as provide a moment of respite from troublesome mindstates through creative engagement. These sessions were opportunity for those affected to express themselves in a quiet and safe way, surrounded by their families, friends and communities, facilitated by people who have already shared their truths. In this telling and witnessing of these quiet confessions, a place of sanctuary, honor and reverence manifests demonstrating that we are not alone in our experiences, nor are we alone in our management.
Throughout the course of our production activity—January 2014 to November 2015—100Stone Project physically and creatively activated hundreds of Alaskans as models, artists, facilitators, and community supporters. From November 21, 2015 to April 9, 2016, thousands of visitors made personal pilgrimages to the icy beach time and time again, to learn, to teach and to experience the deep resonance of our stories as the came to life. Our network of partners and community champions continues to grow, even after the projects conclusion. And, through the amplification of our message online by entities such as BuzzFeed, Hyperallergic, Upworthy, Recover Alaska, Alaska Public Media, Midas Well Films, the Emmy Awards, and all our visitors, a web community of hundreds of thousands of viewers and followers have emerged.
In the winter of 2015, 100Stone Project became a creative movement of unprecedented scale in Alaska. It continues to transform cultural attitudes and approaches to our vulnerable community members by illuminating the diversity, potency and vibrancy of those affected, and identifying the often-invisible allies in our communities. Consequently, this project is creatively severing what might be the taproot of actualized suicide—shame and isolation.