Recollection: Storytelling Through Memementos

Objects are powerful conversation starters. Personal objects store our stories, histories, and memories. Found objects reveal our experiences, dreams, assumptions, and values. Recollection: Storytelling Through Mementos is a project that explores how and why we collect and save objects. No matter our generation or age, we keep objects that hold meaning.

Storytelling workshops were conducted at six partner organizations. Participants were invited to bring a personally meaningful object with them and asked to share its history and meaning with a small group—often with acquaintances and community members that they see regularly, but may not know very well. Other participants were invited to join in a collaborative storytelling workshop where found objects were displayed on the table. Participants were asked to select an object and to start a story by identifying who owned the object and where. Participants then worked together, using the other objects on display to develop creative, and unexpected, stories. This exhibit was organized and under the creative direction of Michael Flanagan and Rebecca Mushtare. In addition, Seeley Cardone collaborated on the storytelling workshop design and helped to facilitate the sessions that provided the content included in the exhibition. Original Recollection branding by Stephanie Armour Dobrowolski. Photography and catalog by Julie Farquhar. Exhibition designed by Kelsi Bryden, Liliya Gapyuk, Kimberly Grunden, Nicole Lightfoot, Kayla Matthews, Rasheda McLean, Tyler Morgan, Ngan Nguyen, Miles Petersen, Hannah Sojka, and Carly Violante under the direction of Michael Flanagan and Rebecca Mushtare. Technical support from Steven Ginsburg.

Installation of exhibition at St. Luke Health Services in Oswego, NY.
Interior of catalog. Catalog designed by Julie Farquhar. Photo by Ngan Nguyen.
Collaborative stories piece designed by Liliya Gapyuk and Hannah. Sojka. Photo by Julie Farquhar.
Spin for a story designed by Kelsi Bryden and Miles Petersen.
One of ten posters meant to extend the extend the exhibit throughout the facility. Designed by Kimberly Grunden.

Nottingham Wall Hangings

For two weeks I served as an artist-in-residence at The Nottingham, an adult living community in Central New York. The Nottingham campus includes three facilities: Assisted Living, The Glens (Independent Living), and Skilled Nursing (Residential Health Care Facility). Residents and staff collected plastic shopping bags that were cut, collaged and heat-fused with the help of residents from The Glens and the Assisted Living facilities. My “studio space” was set up in a very public location in each space which facilitated regular interactions with residents as they moved from one space to another.

Three wall hangings (one for each facility) was created from the 37 unique compositions made by and with residents. Some compositions had strong narrative structures and others were more jazz-like in construction. During the work sessions over a two week period, I got to know the residents and they got to know me.

The final three wall hangings required editing, cropping, etc. of the components made. I strived to preserve the original intent of the participants and attempted to highlight vignettes that the contributors and observers to the project found particular successful. 

Snippets. 36.5″ x 42.5″. Installed in the assisted living facility.
Detail of Snippets.
Meditate on This. 42.5″ x 57″. Installed in the Independent Living Facility.
Detail of Meditate on This.
Stories We Tell. 61.5″ x 32.5″. Installed in the Residential Health Care Facility.
Detail of Stories We Tell

Recollection: A Memory Awareness Project

As life expectancy increases, and the overall senior population grows, we are faced with increased incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia, which impacts individuals and their support networks. Lack of interest, lack of training and perceived irrelevance by young adults are challenges that surface when addressing health issues related to aging. In 2012, Tyler Art Gallery at SUNY Oswego, began planning a project, Recollection: A Memory Awareness Project, to illuminate issues surrounding Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders and engage our community in a dialogue about its impact. The project included an exhibit in two galleries in 2014 (one at our main campus and one at a branch campus), film screenings, lectures and training workshops to introduce the arts into the care plans of local facilities. The initiative engaged students, faculty, staff, health care professionals, adult care providers, senior care facility residents and their family members to create content for the exhibit. Although not originally planned, the exhibition traveled to five adult care facilities and a public library throughout Central New York before “retiring” in 2016.

The true power of the project organically unfolded while the exhibit occupied these non-traditional spaces with non-traditional audiences. As the project gained traction, components were adapted to respond to the needs of the community and to better represent and amplify their voices. The structure of the project has allowed for fluid participation and a sustainable pace. We’ve deepened our partnerships and developed a reusable framework for future iterations of Recollection and other forms of multi-generational, multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional collaboration.

recollection logo is a purple bridge
Installation of exhibition at Tyler Art Gallery.
The Pathway and Cards for Compassion installed at Loretto’s Cunningham Facility in CNY.
Dear Alzheimer’s postcard and exhibition handout.
Individual opening one of the cards for compassion which included both a sound recording and text.
Cards for compassion installed at Loretto’s Cunningham facility in CNY.

Students collaborated on the work included in the exhibition, including two large-scale non-digital interactive works that engaged the spaces and participants in unexpected ways. One piece, Cards for Compassion (designed by Tim Ano, Mallory Eckert, Katherine Morelli and Evander Russ), is a collection of fifty greeting cards with sound modules that weave together the words, wisdom and experience of those locally impacted by dementia. Each card tells the story of dementia from a unique and personal perspective, many of which offer conflicting points of view. The second installation is The Pathway (designed by Katelyn Cardone, Sean Gnau, Tong Lu and Alan Wisniewski) is a series of 24 double-sided cards that hang from the ceiling and dance in the breeze. One side of each card contains either a photo or facts and statistics about dementia juxtaposed with a personal story on the reverse.

After traveling to the first adult care facility it became clear that the exhibition needed to have a component that would allow viewers to share and process their own stories. For this component a postcard was designed. The side to write on started with “Dear Alzheimer’s” or “Dear Dementia” and participants were asked to write a letter to the disease. Visitors included their stories in the provided album and helped to grow the exhibition in each space it traveled to.

These pieces and other components of the project are detailed in a short paper titled, The Art Gallery as a Platform for Advocacy and the Exhibition Brochure.


Scribe is the result of a creative experiment exploring the relationships between texture, movement and sound. Could seemingly disparate sounds, textures and images become unified? We discovered that with a moderate level of consistency between specific movements and sounds, and between particular images and sounds an audio-visual vernacular developed. Analogous to how a child might begin to associate words with meaning, the viewer begins to feel like they understand the conversation, even if they cannot articulate specific audio-visual definitions. Advertising often deploys similar tricks– as we have the desire to assume that simultaneous sounds, images and concepts are interdependent.

spatial dialogue

Spatial Dialogue investigates perceptions of space, such as the relationships between exterior and interior or public and private space. Creating in the intersection between new media, choreography and set design, the three collaborators were interested in an exploration of the impact of space on physicality and movement and its representation through technology.

Funded with a Sokol Grant from Marymount Manhattan College. Premiered at Marymount Manhattan College’s Theresa Lang Theatre on December 12, 2009. Video documentation available upon request.

Spatial Dialogue Mystery in the Box Sequence. Performed at the Theresa Lang Theater.
Spatial Dialogue
Mystery in the Box Sequence. Performed at the Theresa Lang Theater.
Spatial Dialogues Opening sequence. Performed at the Theresa Lang Theater.
Spatial Dialogue
Opening sequence. Performed at the Theresa Lang Theater.
Spatial Dialogue First Section. Performed at the Theresa Lang Theater.
Spatial Dialogue
First Section. Performed at the Theresa Lang Theater.

Production Credits

  • Choreographer: Nancy Lushington
  • Light and Set Design: Robert Dutiel
  • Set Design Assistant: Catriona Jones
  • Digital Media Design: Rebecca Mushtare
  • Assistant Digital Media Artist: Jeff Lewis
  • Costume Design: Michelle Ferranti
  • Rehearsal Assistants: Meghan Rose Murphy, Kirstin Sierer
  • Cast: The MMC Dance Company


  1. Force composed and performed by Armand Amar.
  2. Sextet composed and performed by by Chris Fitkin.
  3. Begin Again Again? for Hypercello Solo – Energetic composed by Tom Machover and performed by Matt Haimovitz.
  4. Concerto in C Major for Two Trumpets & Strings, RV 537: II. Largo composed by Antonio Vilvaldi and performed by Wynton Marsalis.
  5. A Ramble at St. James’s Park composed and peformed by Michael Nyman
  6. A Zed and Two Noughts-Film Score (1985) – Prawn-watching composed and peformed by Michael Nyman.
  7. Machine composed and performed by Armand Amar

comfortable spaces

The project was facilitated through the Boundaries in Syracuse course taught by Lori Brown & Alison Mountz. The main focus of the research was on how the university LGBT community defines comfortable space.

There were two large outcomes of this project. First there was a close examination of heteronormative spaces on campus, particularly bathrooms. A number of students are not perceived as belonging to the gender dichotomy of male and female, therefore a directory of single stall bathrooms, along with specific details about safety and the current labeling of the bathrooms was compiled. That compilation is available as a webpage off of the SU LGBT Resource Center website and as a printed brochure.The project also included installation at Company Gallery that looks at comfortable and uncomfortable space through physical space, video, audio and maps.

A set of 6 “trading cards” that point out heteronormative space and the many locations and spatial situations heterosexuals take for granted. These cards are used as a way to initiate the conversation outside of the installation, or as a continuation of the installation.

comfortable spaces Brochure [front, center, back].
comfortable spaces
Brochure [front, center, back].
comfortable spaces Trading Cards.
comfortable spaces
Trading Cards.


Borders is a fabric hallway that existed for a week in the Quad of Syracuse University. The hallway brought attention to ways of seeing, ways of framing, and ways of blinding within our space. The walls blocked our normal physical perspective and viewpoints and drew attention to other ways of physically seeing the world. In five large “windows” were removable patches that provided a semiotic system provoking reflection on our understanding of borders, fields of vision, and mediation on our campus, in our lives and in our society.

borders Installation at Syracuse University.
Installation at Syracuse University.
borders Detail of interaction with fabric wall.
Detail of interaction with fabric wall.
Borders Detail of windows in fabric wall.
Detail of windows in fabric wall.