Porches are perfect metaphors for summer, the American Midwest and local culture anywhere. Here at the Wex, we have a kind of porch that extends from Mershon Auditorium toward High Street. Although the space is in some ways highly institutional and authoritative and does not necessarily embody vernacular architecture, it functions like a porch at times, especially for our Summer Kids and Teen Art Fusion classes during the summer (which are a big part of my responsibilities as the Wex's educator for family and youth programs).
Mershon porch is shady, breezy, wide, and embodies a grace of another era. The two old maple trees in front are populated by cardinals and serve as a scrim that shields the porch from construction, sirens, and traffic exhaust on High Street. Many different people visit the porch at various times of the night or day. Some people sleep on this porch. I have seen some people kissing on it. Some people wait here. Some fly through it on a skateboard. Some eat their lunch here.
I have spent quite a bit of time out on the porch this past summer, hanging out with kids, teens, parents, grandparents, dogs, neighbors, babies, and friends. I love the wide demographic of people who come here and the ease among the people as we spend time together here, briefly. "Talkstory" is a great word that's used in Hawaii to describe what folks do when they gather to get familiar with each other or connect or reconnect. We talkstory on Mershon porch and listen and share and laugh and learn or just quietly reflect or keep to ourselves. Everyone is free to be themselves--anyone can chat, tuck themselves into their iPod, read a book, play, do whatever they need to do all at the same time and in the same space. This high level of acceptance and tolerance is a hallmark of the Wex, something that I cherish working here and seek to share with our visitors, especially with kids who come here in the summer. This is not school. This is not home. This is an alternative to all that and everyone is welcome regardless of what flavor you happen to be that hour or day or week.
Even as summer turns into fall, I invite you to come as you are and hang out on our porch. Stop by between classes on campus, or come for a special program or event at the Wex. Learn and practice and connect with new and different people of any age or experience or simply enhance your own private world. It's all totally fine with us.