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Phyllis is happy to announce the public launch of Gatherings, an art and poetry-based project that grew out of the pandemic. The artist Lynda Lowe invited Phyllis to collaborate on this project shortly after COVID-19 struck the U.S. with full force.

Gatherings began with 54 artists creating art on handcrafted birchwood boxes (sized 10″x10″x3″), to which 54 poets then contributed original poems. Ruby R. Wilson and Phyllis managed the poetry side of the project. They recruited work from Naomi Shihab Nye, Jane Hirshfield, Ted Kooser, Ellen Bass, Alberto Ríos, Todd Davis, Danusha Laméris, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, and dozens more incredible wordsmiths.

As of this week, all boxes have begun to “travel,” each artist giving the box to someone else. The recipient may keep it for up to three weeks, adding something to the box that speaks to his/her experience of the pandemic—a story, poem, or other writing; a piece of artwork; a meaningful object…. That person then chooses the box’s next recipient, and so on. This sequence of giving and receiving will continue throughout the summer.

Each box and its contents is for sale. All proceeds beyond expenses will be donated to relief funds supporting artists, writers, and other creative professionals who are struggling financially because of the pandemic. Nearly 20 boxes have already been bought. Interested in a possible purchase? Learn more here.

The gallery below presents just four of the 54 box lids, offering a taste of Gatherings. (Click on any image to enlarge it, or view all 54 box lids at once here.) The first image is Untold (watercolor, oil, wax) by project founder Lynda Lowe. It was randomly paired with Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Poem Menu” (read here).

Next, moving clockwise, you’ll see One Tree, Not Alone (oil) by Ivy Jacobsen.Her work is accompanied by two poems penned by Lynn Ungar, entitled “Pandemic” and “Essential” (read here).

The third image is Family (oil, metal leaf) by Tal Walton. Its companion poem is “Reading Faces” by Ruby R. Wilson (read here).

Finally, the whimsical image Domicile (acrylic) by Tyson Grumm is joined by a pair of Phyllis’s poems, “If You Ever Wonder” and “Lessons from a Park Bench” (read here).

May Gatherings bring you a wealth of viewing and reading pleasure. If you’d like, follow the project’s progress on Instagram and/or Facebook.

Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.

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