Sabrina Hornung teaching the art of paper cutting.

Sabrina Hornung teaches the art of paper cutting. Tasty and fun treats complimentary to the weekly theme were created by Ave Maria Village culinary staff.

A six-session Art for Life residency is currently underway at Ave Maria Village and the Heritage Centre. Guided by two artists–master and apprentice, Meridee Erickson-Stowman and Sabrina Hornung, the elders are learning about the art of paper cutting while considering the stages of their lives. Each session, spread out over a 2 month period, will be used to discuss and share specific and significant moments in the life cycle such as birth or marriage, anniversaries and death.  Inspired by those reminiscences, the elders will collaboratively create a large, elaborate 7’ tall “Tree of Life” that will permanently enhance their common room.

il_340x270.602292037_qkoy 3113_bigDuring the multiple sessions, elders will be creating paper cuts that are symbolic of life’s stages. For example, paper cuts of acorns and flowers represent family roots or doves and flowers for weddings. All of the finished paper cut artwork will be added to the tree of life creating a colorful artwork for the enjoyment of all. Time-lapse photography of the process will document the tree’s growth.

Papercutting is a traditional art found in many cultures of the world.  Simply, this is an art form where different kinds of designs are cut into paper and arranged on a different colored background for contrast.  Sometimes the paper is folded to help quickly create an image as it is cut and unfolded, much like in the making of paper dolls.  German papercutting is called Scherenschnitte and often involves black on white color contrast.  Polish wycinanki paper cutting involves the use of many colors of paper layered upon one another in ever decreasing size using contrasting colors.

Meridee learned the folk art of wycinanki (Polish paper cutting) from Leona Wojcik Barthel as an apprentice in the North Dakota Council on the Arts’ Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program and she has now passed her knowledge to Sabrina in the same program. The two artists are collaborating with Troyd Geist, ND State Folklorist and The Arts Center to bring this activity to Jamestown. The Tree of Life: Papercutting as Life Review project is just one of many similar activity plans based on the publication Sundogs and Sunflowers: Folklore and Folk Art of the Northern Great Plains.  Complied in a soon-to-be-published booklet, these activities will be perfect for activities professionals, care center staff, care givers and family members, anyone who works with elders.

Each week, staff, volunteers and artists will gather the elder residents’ words-of-wisdom,  their unique stories and contributions to a dialogue about life’s milestones. These reminiscences will be compiled and shared in association with the Tree of Life artwork and, if all goes well, in a documentary video.

The Culture Builds Community blog is submitted (almost) weekly by The Arts Center Gallery Manager Sally Jeppson. Jeppson is also the Arts Center’s Art for Life Coordinator. She would love to hear your comments here or email

Source: Jamestown Arts Area Voices