“I can't tell you how valuable it has been to have the fellowship as validation as I worked through these two years, as an excuse — though that's certainly not the right word — to leave my computer behind and to exercise my visual brain, to walk the streets of Boston, to engage on issues of art and history with my son, and to do so without fretting that I should use those hours to do some sort of tangible quantifiable work.”
Novelist and educator Allison Lynn’s process began in the spring of 2016 when she traveled to Boston to walk the Black Heritage Trail with her seven year old son. To prepare for the trip, Lynn and her son researched the life of Harriet Tubman. She understood that although the Black Heritage Trail would lead them by landmarks relevant to their interests, they would not see much related to Tubman herself. Yet, when the trail ended at Beacon Hill’s African Meeting House, Lynn and her son discovered themselves standing on original floorboards where Tubman had actually stood. Lynn says, “It felt as if a ghost were with us. As I listened to a Park Service historian talk about Tubman attending a meeting there, and also Maria Stewart and Frederick Douglass speaking from the pulpit in front of us, I could barely breathe. This was by far the greatest surprise of my fellowship, one that gave me chills then and continues to do so.”
Though she intended to focus entirely on Harriet Tubman, Lynn also traveled to Paris for part of her fellowship. That travel pushed the shift in her project’s scope to even broader terms, “investigating the larger issue of the physical/visual ways we attempt to commemorate the pre-Abolition African-American experience as a whole, as this is an experience that underlies all of American history; one that is uncomfortable and yet cannot be ignored.”
The final highlight of Lynn’s trip was a visit to the Musée de Quai Branly. She was overjoyed to discover how both she and her son found themselves constantly drawn to the same artwork, Thornton Dial's Don't Matter How Raggly The Flag, It Still Got To Tie Us Together. The work is a large assemblage of a flag made from mattress coils, clothing shards, wire, torn canvas, and spray paint, all ripped and woven and layered and glued and reassembled and misassembled. When Lynn discovered it was on loan from the Indianapolis Museum of Art, she was ecstatic and felt her renewal had come full circle.