Kitchener-Waterloo·Photos

Talking trees tell of trials and triumphs in art exhibit

Deb Cripps and Carl Hiebert, two local artists, spent the past year and a half creating the Illuminative Forest of Storytelling Trees. It's an exhibition that features 17 tree sculptures that integrate art, music, storytelling and technology currently at Kitchener City Hall.

'When you hear the tree story or read it, you’re hearing the life journey of that particular tree'

Deb Cripps and Carl Hiebert spent the past year and a half creating the Illuminative Forest of Storytelling Trees exhibition. It features 17 tree sculptures that integrate art, music, storytelling and technology. (Carmen Ponciano/CBC)

Imagine walking through a forest that wants to have a conversation with you.

Deb Cripps and Carl Hiebert spent the past year and a half creating just that. The Illuminative Forest of Storytelling Trees is an exhibition that features 17 tree sculptures that integrate art, music, storytelling and technology.

And each tree has a story tell. 

"The trees don't tell you a story, they tell you their story," Cripps said. "When you hear the tree story or read it, you're hearing the life journey of that particular tree."

This is the "Freedom" tree, voiced by Wilber Cortez. This tree tells you about what it means to be free. (Carmen Ponciano/CBC)

For example, the "Happiness" tree tells the story of a little girl playing through her branches, while the "Resilience" tree, which has had the most difficult time in the forest, talks about about hardship and endurance.

Those walking through the forest can either read the stories or listen to them using a smartphone. 

Cripps and Hiebert said people have told them they feel a range of emotion while they walk through the forest. (Carmen Ponciano/CBC)

Connecting with the stories

Cripps and Hiebert said people feel a range of emotion while they walk through the forest and they hope people can connect and identify with the trees.

"We can all relate to a tree, no matter where we come from," Cripps said.

"Every person who has gone through there has told us there have been three or four trees that have spoken to them and really felt the essence of that tree's story," Hiebert said.

Though the majority of the work for the creation of the exhibit was done by Cripps and Hiebert, they also worked with 19 different artists such as musicians, writers, voice artists and painters.

The youngest contributing artist was a 23-year-old voice artists. The oldest was a 92-year-old man who voiced the "Elder" tree.

This is the "Happiness" tree. Voiced by Mary-Eileen McClear, she tells the story of a little girl playing through her branches. (Carmen Ponciano/CBC)

The exhibition also calls for people to connect with their community. At the end of the exhibition there is what Cripps and Hiebert call a Belonging Barometer, a wooden box where people drop in a small questionnaire about community.

"It gets fed to local municipalities, in this case the City of Kitchener, in terms of how we can make a difference in our own community," Hiebert said.

The Illuminative Forest of Storytelling Trees exhibition will be at Kitchener City Hall until June 18 before it travels to Cambridge City Hall July 6 to July 15.

The Belonging Barometer is a wooden box where people drop in a small questionnaire about community. Hiebert said the mini questionnaires go to local municipalities to hopefully make a difference in the community. (Carmen Ponciano/CBC)

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