Written by Darya Kosilova

Over the six-week run of our Yoko Ono: Mend Piece (March 1-April 15, 2018) exhibition the Education Program at Rennie Museum hosted 184 young visitors from ten Vancouver schools. The diverse groups, ranging in ages five to eighteen, learned about the interdisciplinary career of Yoko Ono and participated in Ono’s instructional artwork MEND PIECE, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York City version (1966/2015).

In groups of ten, students sat at a table and were instructed to mend pieces of broken ceramic cups and plates using provided materials such as glue, tape, twine, string, and elastic bands. As students mended, they were asked to consider how the act of mending related to a greater conversation about change, notions of perfection, and the individual process of problem-solving. Students shared their experiences of having to overcome the pressures of perfection whether that meant achieving excellence in their academic performance or succumbing to peer pressure. Other times we simply reflected on what it meant to reconcile a mistake. Students also voiced their concerns about recent social issues such as gun violence, the Me Too movement, and the marginalization of ethnic and racial minorities. When the mending session came to an end, the students placed their creations on the shelves surrounding the mending table. Students often agreed that, although far from perfect, what they had mended was complex and unique. One educator noted, “I loved seeing how everyone created a new piece that was a representation of who they are.”

Gilmore Community School student poses with mended cup

The Education Program is designed to prompt investigations between contemporary art and other subjects such as Social Studies, Literature, Critical Thinking, and Science. For every exhibition, our programming offers customizable activities and workshops pertaining to the themes of the exhibition and to class curriculum. The workshop for the Yoko Ono: Mend Piece exhibition encouraged students to consider how positive affirmations could manifest individual goals for social activism through discussion of Imagine Peace Tower (2007), another artwork by Yoko Ono.

Imagine Peace Tower (2007) is an outdoor work of art conceived by Ono in memory of John Lennon. The tower, located in Reykjavík, Iceland, symbolizes Lennon and Ono’s continuing campaign for world peace. Buried underneath the tower are over one million written wishes that Ono gathered in an ongoing project titled Wish Tree. In honour of the tower being lit during the Spring Equinox (March 20-27), students were invited to write a wish on a provided postcard. During this writing exercise, students considered the kind of positive changes they’d like to see in the world. One student wished to see society embrace disadvantaged individuals, “I wish this world can show more love and empathy towards the people that stand on the weaker side of our society.” Another wished for gender equality, “I wish for gender rights and no sexism in the world and for women to have the same rights as men.” Following the end of the exhibition, all 184 wishes were mailed to Imagine Peace Tower.

From the perspective of the Education Program, it was inspiring watching students thoughtfully engage in the act of mending. Our young visitors ignited Yoko Ono’s instructions to “Mend with wisdom, mend with love” and in the process reflected on the human mind’s imaginative power to manifest peace. Despite the formidable issues affecting youth, it was electrifying to witness their optimism, compassion, and commitment to making a difference in the world. The Education Program’s mandate is to give students the opportunity to explore new ways of learning through art. This time however, it was our team at Rennie Museum, who learned from the students about the hopeful future they inspire.