James Trainor


Paul Butler: Collage Party

Paul Butler: Collage Party

One late spring in the 1970s, my kindergarten teacher decided to suspend the normal curricular routines of 20 six-year-olds.

Border Crossings, November 2006

Until school let out in June, instead of learning how to read and write, we would all be drafted into a major collaborative project: to build a classroom-sized model of our hometown, New York City. Divided into civic task forces of twos or threes (some friends and I were assigned the task of approximating all the city’s parks) we were to construct this Lilliputians' Gotham only out of what we could scrounge or borrow or steal from our homes, and along the way we were to learn how to work together on a massive creative works project. What I mostly remember was a giddy sense of purposeful play and something like responsibility (a fragile state always threatening to devolve into anarchy and fits of tempera-clogged frustration, rancorous glue-fighting or interdepartmental jealousy), a miniature Babel-like endeavor resulting in something more collectively and messily beautiful than any of us could have imagined.


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