At first glance, it looks like a tiny housing development has cropped up in the environs of the Emily Dickinson Museum. The 40 little white houses are like the words of the poet herself: carefully prepared, diligently arranged and deceptively spare. There aren’t any tiny people living here, though—just big ideas.
I dwell in Possibility—
A fairer House than Prose—
More numerous of Windows—
A stroll from Sweetser Park and the Gates Lot, to the museum grounds, and on to the Amherst Woman’s Club and Hills House provides a walk through Dickinson’s poetry. On each of the 8-foot-tall structures feature her lines writ large: “The brain is wider than the sky,” “Judge tenderly of me,” “Art is a house that tries to be haunted.”
The installation Dwell in Possibility is the brainchild of 16-year-old Deerfield Academy student Peter Krasznekiewicz, who is enamored with both Dickinson’s powerful verse and the landscape-dominating artwork of the Bulgarian-born artist Christo. The exhibit, first erected at Deerfield Academy last year, will be in Amherst through the end of June. There will be an opening reception at the Emily Dickinson Museum on May 12 at 1 p.m., followed by a 1:30 p.m. poetry reading, featuring texts excerpted in the installation. The opening coincides with the museum’s annual Poetry Walk.
“The quotes were picked for their brevity and relevance in today’s world,” said the artist. “It is my hope that people slow down and give some thought to the words.”
The installation “is one of the most creative ideas I’ve ever seen for conveying the power of Emily Dickinson’s poetry,” said Jane Wald, executive director of the museum. She characterized the structures as a fine canvas for the “paint” of Dickinson’s words.
“I was able to take a simple building form and turn it into a profound object of thought that related to the surrounding community,” Krasznekiewicz said. While the exhibit first appeared last year in Deerfield, it was always his intention to build it in the neighborhood of the Belle of Amherst.
Krasznekiewicz partly credits his older sister, now a student at Yale, for getting him interested in the poet. As children, “we actually made a slide show about a little white house named Emily,” he said.
The houses are white, but they are also “green”: when the exhibit ends, Krasznekiewicz will donate its materials to a Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity project. To similarly reduce waste and spark creativity, scrap wood from the house construction is being donated to local schools and artists to be used as canvases for new paintings based on Dickinson’s poems. Selected entries will be displayed in the Dickinson Homestead through June, and many will be featured in the Emily’s Rhapsody installation at the Amherst Biennial in fall 2012.
Meanwhile, the Jones Library hosts two “graffiti houses,” a pair of the houses splashed with color by Boston street artists Todd Robertson and William Long, through the end of June.
“I never thought it would get this big,” said John Krasznekiewicz, the artist’s father. The teen is overseeing the installation and the publication of a related book (which will be on sale at the museum), all while preparing for his final exams.
“This has turned into two years of sometimes 40-hour weeks,” his father said. “I’m so proud of him.”