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Intergenerational Learning Comes to the Wex

Thu, Apr 30, 2009

When I lived and worked in Hawaii (the picture is the view from my doorway), and when I lived and worked on the Rez in Wisconsin (both as a guest), I learned a lot about a great way to learn. It's an ancient way, but it seems brand new to some of us. You could call it “intergenerational.”

In Hawaii, the Kanaka Maoli (First People) of those 129 islands and shoals brought with them from Micronesia a very simple premise that was one of the cornerstones to their entire culture: “take care of the keiki (children) and the kupuna (elders).” The idea is if you can properly care for these two groups in your society, you are all set: everything else falls into place. This same wisdom is found in most indigenous cultures all over the world, and it makes a lot of sense to me. To learn in family groups (however you want to define that) is a great way to connect, role-model, bond, play, have fun—and learn. Art is connective, and making it together, looking at it together, can bring us together in ways few other activities can.

I recall building treehouses with my father (and sometimes my mom and sister, too) in the woods in rural Wisconsin, and those times were some of the best. I was not only learning a lot, I was having fun with my parents and basking in their having fun, too. It was silly--neither of them were great architects, but it did not matter a single bit--we were embarking on an adventure together, and we had no idea what the outcome was going to be! We would find an old piece of wood and drag it out of the garage and see if it would work somehow, essentially cleaning out the garage and sticking half the contents up into the giant weeping willow tree! HA! It was my first collaborative public art project.

No/low cost, noncommercial studio experiences that bring self-defined family groups together, involving all ages and skill levels, seems like one way to let creativity and fun find their ways into our increasingly exhausted, isolated, oversaturated and overstimulated lives. At least it's an idea I want to try out in programs like Project Fashion Show here at the Wex.

PARKING UPDATE: Construction at 15th and High. For more information click here.

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