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Postcard Project Taps into Resident Memories

"I have always felt that art has the ability to lift us out of one place and take us to another," says artist Evelyn Berde. “The Postcard Project at JCHE was a perfect example of this.”

Postcard Project

Artwork Lights Up JCHE Hallway

"I have always felt that art has the ability to lift us out of one place and take us to another," says artist Evelyn Berde. “The Postcard Project at JCHE was a perfect example of this.”

Ms. Berde is a celebrated Boston-based artist who is well known at JCHE, having worked with residents to create the beautiful Four Seasons paintings that hang at the entrance to our Brighton campus, among other installations. She came to the Brighton art room for six consecutive weeks in November and December 2015, along with fellow artists Cathie Brenner and Ariel Kessler and language interpreters, to work with residents on a project that came to be known affectionately as the “Postcard Project.”

It was based on a simple idea, according to Berde. “I was thinking of people’s many life stories and histories and it made me think of postcards – because postcards are used to tell a quick story, especially for older people who grew up sending them to friends and family,” she says.

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She instructed the participants to choose one event or place in their life that they’d like to tell a story about in pictures. Some jumped right in and focused on their homeland. Others needed more help to come up with an idea of a memorable event, such as a birthday party. Still others were content to create an imaginary place by cutting out pictures and shapes and pasting them on canvas.

“I love working with JCHE residents,” says Berde. “Their lives are so rich and diverse and they bring together so many unique points of view. The creativity that comes forth is inspiring.”

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“We’re very proud of the end product, but what was most rewarding was the process – people working together, sharing their experiences and memories.”

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The artists were not sure exactly what the end product would look like, but ultimately figured out a way to display all 29 postcards in one installation that now hangs in the walkway between the Ulin and Genesis Houses in Brighton.

One painting created by JCHE resident Yong Xin Zhao truly represents the sentiments of all who worked on the project. His card depicts images of Ulin House, along with the words “Paradise on Earth.” “This one really resonated with the group,” says Berde.

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The project was funded through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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