By Bixyl Shuftan
I was invited over to the Hope Gardens Photogrpahy Exhibition by Catalina Staheli, the team captain of "A Stand for Hope." Last Friday on April 8, was when I headed over. Getting there turned out to be easier than planned as when i brought up my Second Life viewer, it was the first location listed in the login screen's Destination Guide.
I dropped in near the entrance of the exhibition, and ran into Catalina, who happily greeted me, then explained, "Everything is slowly coming together. The dream us going to be realized, and everyone who has taken part and come seen (it) has said they are very happy." When I told her about the place being in the Destinations Guife, she was thrilled, "That's so wonderful! I applied, but wasn't sure it it would happen."
She offered me a tour, "To start with, this whole dream came about a year and a half ago when a friend of mine was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He was in SL, but after his diagnosis, he didn't want anyone to know. (He) did not want to go to ACS Island, did not want to join a team or tell anyone. And that just ... always stuck with me ... that there might be people who didn't want anyone to know but who were facing this fight and doing so along. So the dream was to create a safe haven where people could come that wasn't quite as obvious as ACS Island, where my friend said that he didn't want to go because he felt like people would 'know.'"
"And so the dream for this was to create somewhere people could come, whether at 3PM with all of their friends, or 2AM all alone ... and hear the stories of those who were going through their battles, or who had gone through the fight. And the idea of tying it in with photography was a way to give those who shared their stories a gift, a way to say thank you. So in exchange for their stories, they received the portraits last year. And last year it was only survivors that could take part."
"This year, we changed it a bit and opened it up to caregivers as well. And one thing that was said over and over again, as I spoke with these amazing people ... was how many of them shared that this was the hardest thing that they ever had to do, sharing their stories, writing them down and reliving those experiences. But many also shared with me that when they were originally diagnosed, they couldn't say the word 'cancer.' They couldn't tell anyone for quite awhile. And so, this was a place, I though ... you can come to and not have to say it just yet ... you can hear the stories without having to open up that painful conversation of 'I have cancer. Can you tell me what your journey was like?' "
I asked how many took part. Catalina told me, "Last year the goal was 20 participants. We ended up with 19, though sadly one of them, Riko Kamachi, passed away from brain cancer in February, and was gone before we were able to take her pictures or get her story. So instead, we collected the stories from everyone else, their memories of her and their times together. At first her friends thought they'd have to withdraw her from the exhibition, and I said, 'No, No, NO!' We will find a way. So people donated their pictures and memories, and she was there with us at the exhibition."
Second Life Newser wrote about a memorial to Riko in February.
Catalina went on, "This year, we've got 25 participants, both survivors caregivers, and those who have walked both journeys, along with twenty amazing photographers helping me take the pictures. Both years, we've done a custom build, something that was made just for this event, perfect to celebrate and remember the stories and photography woven together, and Mel (Melodie Jigsaw) has been amazing in helping that happen. And like last year, this year due to a generous lady's donation, we're going to be able to keep the exhibition up the entire Relay season.
"And this year, we've added something new, which I am very excited about," Catalina told me, "Each tree and lamp post have affixed to them a plaque that people can claim to honor or remember someone special. It is my hope that as the season goes on, this whole avenue will feature many names, reasons, hopes, and more. We've called them 'Hope Plaques.' "
"And the other exciting new thing we have this year ... " Catalina paused her discussion when someone inquired about Nitroglobus, whom had passed away from cancer earlier this year. She soon continued, taking me, and Isa Messioptra whom had joined us, to a set of auction boards, "The other new addition this year is that each photographer has agreed to do a donation to auction something, whether photo sessions, or portraits. As well as others have donated some amazing gifts. She listed the people and groups/publications on the boards, which included Wildstar Beaumont, whom offered, "fifty landscape portraits of the winning bidder's choice," and she herself offered a portfolio package of ten single portraits."
"It's an incredible list, and I'm very very excited to see how everything does," Catalina grinned, "This was changed from last year. Last year, we asked people to sponsor a participant with a 10,000 L donation. This year, we're doing the auctions instead. Each photographer has done such an amazing job. It's mind-blowing to see the different interpretations and perspectives on things. And like last year, this year's exhibition is biased off a song. As you look around, you'll see lyrics up on the walls to the song 'Hope Can Change Everything.' It is what started the inspiration for everything."
"We all did it together," Catalina grinned, "This would never have been possible alone. And Mel has gone through and done this navmesh model to make it as lag free as we can, and deleting scripts as much as we can. We've said come on over at 11. The unveiling is going to be at noon. I am sure it will be a success. And we've got Blake Hambleton to open the exhibit for us (big grin). What's really great is Renee, as well as about four others, are all re turning participants from last year." Isa commented, "I know Renee is happy to be a part of it. So one of the wonderful things is that people will be able to see their stories progress and how the last year's journey has been."
It was about this point we heard, "BIXYL! CAT!" Catalina looked over and grinned, "And there's Mel." We were quickly joined by Melodie Jigsaw, "I loves landing on Cat's head (smile)." A few words were exchanged between the three women, then Catalina told Melodie, "I'm going to steal Isa away for a moment. Going to check her pictures (big grin). Melodie giggled, "Once things rezz, I have a few details to deal with." She then asked me if I had a chance to look around. Telling her I'd been chatting with Catalina since arriving, she commented with a smile, "(the) Destination Guide will be both a blessing and a curse. ... hard to keep things a surprise! The big picture reveal (smile). (But the) traffic is good! (We) might get some new folks interested in Relay For Life, the more the merrier!"
"Good thing we were mostly ready," Melodie told me with a smile. I asked her what wasn't, and she answered with a laugh, "We're missing Cat's pics, and a story or two (laughter). It was 5AM opening day before she was done last year; too early to panic yet (smile)." Asking her how long the event lasted, she answered, "It starts at 11 on Saturday (April 9) - and we have DJs all day - all weekend - and throughout the week. It ends Sunday at 6 I think with the auctions ending. But double check all that with Cat. ... I'm just the sidekick (grin)."
"We're really proud of everyone participating this year," Melodie told me, "all the survivors AND caregivers ... and all the photographers. It's added a new level of emotion to have had different photographers interpreting the survivors and caregivers stories. And we're wondering how the hell we're gonna beat this next year! (laughter) But you know Cat - she dreams big! (grin) Fun to try to bring her dreams to life." She looked around, "This wasn't what either of us had in our hears - but it just grew and turned into a nice set up. I hope everyone likes it, but - don't tell - I get lost in there (laughter)." She joked she was good at walking in circles.
Melodie then bade farewell, "Okay, I'm off! Have a great night, Bix. Thanks for coming by!" I then began looking around. There were a number of artworks, some sculptures, but what caught my eye were the portraits. Clicking on them gave me a notecard of the story of the person pictured. If you're a regular at Relay like myself, you may find that behind the happy little sugar glider, behind the girl in the rubber suit, and behind a number of other men and women, there are tales that may add a new layer of detail to the avatars you thought you knew.
Saint Kitts Isle (138, 56, 21)
Krysta Ember did this video of the exhibition, (Click here if the video fails to play)
To check out Gemma Cleanslate's article, Click here.