After the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy in December 2012, the Connecticut Parent Teacher Association asked for handmade snowflakes from the community that would adorn the school and create a "winter wonderland" for returning students. The PTA's request went viral, and a global showing of support left the Newtown, Conn., school showered in snow: Millions of handmade paper snowflakes arrived in envelopes and boxes, all created by schoolchildren and their families.
The snowflakes each paid tribute to the 20 children and six adults murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary by gunman Adam Lanza. The Coral Springs Museum of Art re-creates the memorial on the first anniversary of the shootings with "The Snowflake Effect," an exhibition of roughly 100 hand-cut snowflakes, winter-themed paintings and photography on display through March 15.
Coral Springs Museum of Art director Bryan Knicely, who does not ignore the irony of snow-themed works on display in a South Florida museum, co-curated the show to honor Sandy Hook's victims and to explore how tragedies provoke outpourings of public art.
"I wanted to show the role of art as a healing process. What happens if there's a tragedy and there's a call for public art?" Knicely asks. "There were hundreds of monuments put up at Ground Zero at the World Trade Center. Now, we're getting about 15 new snowflakes a week to add to the exhibit. Making snowflakes is infectious."
Dozens of snowflakes have been suspended from the ceiling of the museum's east-wing Kuhn Gallery, crafted by museum patrons during a Family Fun Day in November. Some are treated with markers, dusted with glitter and covered in crayon, while others are more intricate: a snowflake doubling as a cobweb adorned with a red-and-blue spider, or crafted into a disco ball-like assemblage of shiny silver discs.
The snowflakes are surrounded by paintings such as JM Fields' "Blizzard," an arctic-blue landscape containing Chinese characters and a dragon, and Gloria Eckhart's "Arise at Dawn," a calligraphic holiday poem on canvas that includes lines such as, "I gaze at the beautiful, glittering primeval snow/whitening the distance." Meanwhile, in a small alcove opposite the gallery, a 12-foot-by-12-foot square of the NAMES Project's AIDS Memorial Quilt, created in the wake of the 1980s AIDS epidemic, is fastened to the wall. Knicely says the AIDS quilt is another example of the public rallying to create art as a way of remembrance.
"I didn't tell any of the families or the artists that this exhibit was about Sandy Hook, because I didn't want artworks showing up as memorial pieces," Knicely says. "We wanted happy winter scenes."
In Laurianne Macdonald's decoupage "Snowflake Effect," a man holding an umbrella appears in silhouette on a snow-blanketed bridge lit by street lamps. The image appears on handmade paper, which Macdonald created by shredding and blending recycled paper, and binding the pulp together again with Elmer's Glue and flour. The result, the Coral Springs artist says, appears "gravelly and tattered and fragile, like a snowflake.
"I didn't know at first that this was anything other than a winter exhibit," she adds. "After I learned, I was just so honored, and it brought tears to my eyes."
The Snowflake Effect
When: Through March 15
Where: Coral Springs Museum of Art, 2855 Coral Springs Drive
Contact: 954-340-5000 or CSMart.org