PUTNEY -- When Landmark College Associate Art Professor Christie Herbert decided to put together a show at the Putney campus, she said she wanted to explore the connections between Landmark students, teachers, administrators and staff.
She wanted to create an art show that invites in the members of the greater Landmark community and which encourages visitors to think about learning disabilities, education and perspective.
So when Herbert was looking for a unifying theme she settled on the word.
Landmark College was founded in 1985 to teach college students with learning disabilities how to move beyond the limitations of their disabilities. Literacy, Herbert says, is at the core of everything that happens at Landmark College.
Herbert sent out e-mails to hundreds of Landmark students, alumni, former and current teachers, administrators and facility staff and asked them to answer up to five questions about the college.
She then gathered the responses, the thousands of words, and built her art show around them.
The show, "Reading the Landmark College Community," will have an opening reception Saturday, April 27, from 2 to 4 p.m., in the Landmark College Fine Arts Building.
It will also be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through May 4.
"I wanted to get people to think about disabilities, but I also wanted to ask bigger questions than that," Herbert said Friday while hanging the work.
Herbert is currently on sabbatical, and as a part of her break from teaching she committed herself to creating an art show at Landmark.
She knew she wanted to invite in as many current and former staff and students as she could and so sent out hundreds of requests, all over the world.
She asked her subjects how Landmark changed them, and what was the most important thing they did, or are doing, at the college.
She wanted to know a significant life event that happened before coming to Landmark that has contributed to the community, and asked what a picture of their brain that enabled visitors to see their true potential might look like.
And she challenged them to use three or four words to describe the Landmark community.
She received about 200 responses.
Michaela Hearst, 18, who is finishing her second semester at the college, says she wanted to take part in the art show as soon as she opened the e-mail from Herbert.
Hearst said Landmark has changed her life, and it has given her new perspective on her disability and on the true potential that she says she is discovering every day.
"That's my story you see as soon as you walk in," she said. "I have been learning how to learn."
Hearst looked around at the show Friday as Herbert was hanging it.
She said each response speaks to her a little bit.
"We all have something to say," she said. "It's so beautiful to see it all up here."
Herbert says she wanted words to be the starting point for the show, but not the ultimate destination.
She sent some of the responses to fellow artists who were asked to create an object based on the comments.
Herbert received paintings, sculptures, photos, book art and a video which is positioned around the gallery.
A hanging chain of books extends from the second floor of the gallery and a glass sculpture reflects the light shining behind it, casting shadows of words on the wall.
Pieces of note paper highlight the responses and are spread across the room.
When Herbert sent the questions out she promised to keep all answers anonymous, and so in the art show a current student's response might be positioned next to one from the president of the school, which might butt up against a former teacher's.
"I didn't want there to be any segregation among the responses," Herbert said. "I wanted to really look at the community, and I wanted the community to really look at itself. Art is a way to bring people together."
Not knowing who wrote the lines, Herbert says, allows visitors to interact with the exhibit.
Linda Whelihan is a Windham County artist who is helping Herbert with the show.
And as someone who is outside of the Landmark community Whelihan said the show reveals a lot about what goes on there.
"You can see how much empathy and compassion there is here," Whelihan said. "Each individual response is different, but you see connections there."
Eli Cox, 20, is finishing his fifth semester at Landmark.
He is graduating this year and will attend SUNY Purchase in the fall.
Cox also said he was eager to take part in the art show.
"This is a great project. We all come here from a different place but we share a similar perspective," said Cox. "When you see all these words, but you don't know who said them, it shows that you're different, but it unifies you with everyone else. And it makes you feel like you won't be judged for that."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.