The Burden Boat Project was first conceived on September 11, 2009 as part of my solo exhibition on the campus of Virginia Tech University. The school population was still in mourning over the April 16, 2007 shooting, during which 32 people were killed and 25 more were wounded. In response to the tragic shooting several years earlier, I wanted to create a participatory art piece that might assist in the healing process. The Burden Boat Project was born, a 12-foot vessel made of ceramic and wood, with cotton bags full of hallowed ground from the Virginia Tech campus. On September 11, 2011 the Burden Boat ceremony was conducted at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery as a commemorative ritual healing of the 10-year anniversary of 9-11.
The concept behind the sculpture is to create a container where people can intentionally release their personal burdens. There is no dogma, pretense, or religious undertones - it is a piece of art that is infused with the spirit of those who choose to interact both privately and in community, in whatever way they feel is suitable for them. This is often an uplifting event as it is a time for reflection and celebration, of moving forward in our lives and becoming wiser from our experiences. The ceremony brings people together; it creates common bonds on a deep level and fosters compassion, empathy, and trust. It is an honor to all those that have made the courageous choice to let go of something they may have held for moments, years, or a lifetime.
The first version of the Burden Boat resides at Carilion Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia as a permanent installation in the main lobby. Patients, staff, and public are welcome to write and place their burdens in the boat, and an annual ritual of release is conducted each fall. A second version was made, and two ceremonies have been conducted with it, one in Brooklyn, New York, and the other in Central Park. This latter version will be burned, along with its notes, in a ceremony in 2018. The location and date have not yet been determined, but if you wish to be notified, please sign up for my mailing list on the contact page.