The Thirteen Tuesdays of Saint Anthony
May 13, 2017
Grants Committee Chair
Farsdale Arts Council
City Hall, Office of the Mayor
212 Dwight Ave., Suite 203
Farsdale, MA 01007
Dear Ms. Olsson,
COMMUNITY ARTS ACCESS GRANT PROPOSAL
THE THIRTEEN TUESDAYS PROJECT
I am writing to apply for a 2017 Farsdale Arts Council grant following the application guidelines provided on the Farsdale Arts Council website.
There isn't a city in the world that generates more prayers per capita than the city of Farsdale, Massachusetts. Yet, despite the hard work of Farsdale's city council, its teachers, and its many outreach workers, most citizen prayers remain unanswered. Broken marriages, despoiled innocence, shattered trust—it smothers our city's streets. In some neighborhoods the air is so thick with grief and prayer, inhalers and hospital masks are a necessary accessory. The weight of Saint Anthony's failure hangs heavy over Farsdale's streets. No one seems to know if our city's entreaties to Saint Anthony are on hold, abandoned, or simply unheard.
Among the more than eight hundred Catholic saints, it is Saint Anthony who is assigned the task of providing aid to the lost and the stolen. A young girl's heart, a straying husband's soul, that feeling of trust between a mother and a child, Saint Anthony is responsible for recovering it all. No wonder Saint Anthony used to weep from the strain. But in the end the impact of this backlog goes far beyond Saint Anthony himself. Unanswered novenas and prayers have become the new norm for the people of Farsdale. We suffer longer, more deeply, and with less hope of even the slightest reprieve. Some days life feels pointless to each and every one of Farsdale's forty-three thousand residents. Some days I barely manage to breathe.
As the report of the Mayor's Citizen Advisory Committee makes clear (Hope and Inter-heavenly Cooperation Survey—Analysis and Conclusions April 4, 2014), despite these systemic problems, less than ten percent of Farsdale's citizens blame Saint Anthony himself. Most understand. Sometimes even the blessed are powerless, are deaf and blind to the simplest entreaty.
The city council, at least, has noticed our festering scars and our failures to "just forget." Over the last two years, they have responded with a series of educational programs. The city-wide 2015 Power of Organized Prayer Campaign and the school-based 2016 Importance of Tracking Your Tears Campaign are the most well-known. But the council has gone far beyond these initiatives. Informational pamphlets in Spanish, Vietnamese, and Saint Anthony's own language, Portuguese, now litter our neighborhoods. In an attempt to reach out to Farsdale's homebound citizens, council members have also partnered with Victory Home Health and Mercy Hospice.
Thanks to the foresight of our city's government, the people of Farsdale know that Saint Anthony is most accessible via ritualized communication. They even know that thirteen novenas over thirteen consecutive Tuesdays is his particular sweet spot.
And still Saint Anthony fails to answer our prayers. With each breath we are forced to take in our neighbor's burden along with our own. A punctured finger, a bruised thigh, physical pain of any kind is a welcome relief. These days I smile whenever I see a child's savagely skinned knee or feel a cold sore erupting across my lips.
The Thirteen Tuesdays mural project is more than an expression of our citizens' need. It is an actual solution. It aims to resolve the issue of pending prayers and Saint Anthony's broken system of reclamation through the mechanism of thirteen carefully crafted murals. The Thirteen Tuesdays mural project will harness the power of our citizens' own memories and pain, amplifying our cries one thirty-by-fifty foot mural at a time.
There must be someone out there ready to listen. There must be a way to ease this pressure on my chest, bearing, always bearing down.
The collapse of the Essex House was not the first sign, but it was the first to catch our city fathers' attention. For years the five-story tenement stood empty. Apartments, businesses, and a neighborhood daycare resided just feet away from the block-length landmark. Yet despite thirteen weeks of prayer by a committee of neighborhood residents, midday last December, the building cast off its southern wall, showering mortar and bricks across Jarvis Avenue, Essex Street, and the surrounding structures. A few citizens claimed the lack of any human injury was a sign that Saint Anthony was not entirely negligent ("Editorial: Saint Anthony's Mercy During this Holy Season," Daily Farsdale Gazette, December 13, 2014). However, to most citizens the destruction of the Essex House demonstrated a fundamental shift in Saint Anthony's responsiveness; Saint Anthony had failed to heed a single prayer. The Essex House incident also marks the moment when our city's ongoing tally of pending intercessions became formalized ("Announcements: Intercession Count," Daily Farsdale Gazette).
Each day the evidence of Saint Anthony's lack of attention mounts: the flayed and mutilated body found behind Our Lady of the Cross; the missing girl, Cecile Johnston, whose picture, twelve months later, is still plastered across our city's telephone poles; along with images of so many other vanished souls. The weight of our city's suffering poisons every living creature. Pigeons and sparrows no longer nest in City Hall's eaves. Feral cats no longer wander the streets.
The Farsdale Senior Center now offers breathing centers with tanked oxygen at strategic points throughout the city. However, that alone is not enough to counterbalance the absence of Saint Anthony and Our Lord. In recent months the citizens of Farsdale have also had to contend with a multitude of disembodied voices wandering almost every city block. In the North End and Canal Street neighborhoods, the voices are most prevalent. Some voices scream as though through half-collapsed lungs while others echo the never-ending whimpers of a dying child. Despite the NyQuil and Ambien, I can't remember that last time I slept through the night. I know I am not alone.
The Thirteen Tuesdays Project aims to solve all these problems at their source, galvanizing Farsdale's citizenry to come together and request the assistance of someone who can, and will, actually help.
Statement of Need:
I have a C-section scar along my lower abdomen from the birth of a child I knew for less than a year. I have three ruptured discs and a steel rod in my upper spine from a spinning-car crash that took me through a windshield. At least I survived. I walk. I stand. I run. Faster every day, though I never get away.
The accident sits like a putrefied knot of flesh beneath my skin, a hematoma of hardened blood and nascent infection. Soon it will be too late.
As far as I can tell, Saint Anthony and his Lord are unable to solve a thing.
The Book of Ezekiel states, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh."
No people need divine assistance more than the people of Farsdale. As an artist the conversion of actual physical flesh has always been at the heart of my creative work, and the Thirteen Tuesdays project is no exception. As the attached portfolio shows, prior projects have included cleansed skulls in the woods of Sre Leav and hand-sewn flesh capes in the desert just outside Mexico City. If funded, the Thirteen Tuesdays project will be a culmination of these and other works, incorporating the two crucial steps required to find grace: rigorous cleansing and transformation. It is one thing to erase. To take the hardness within a human heart and change it, that requires art.
Thirteen murals in thirteen weeks. Each week for thirteen consecutive weeks, the project team along with local volunteer artists will paint a mural across one of the buildings of Farsdale. As artistic director, my role will be to guide the artists. However, the heart of the creative process will come from the volunteer artists themselves. To make sure the entire city is included in any resultant grace, a special effort will be made to include volunteers from each of the city's six neighborhoods. To maximize the power of the project's communal prayer, the first mural will start on Tuesday, June 13th, the date on which Saint Anthony died, and will be completed on midnight of the following Monday. All thirteen mural initiatives will begin on a Tuesday, Saint Anthony's actual death day. Death is always the first step. And the last.
Materials for the project will include supplies acquired by myself and my core project team along with those collected by the volunteer artists. Potential volunteers will be required to apply at one of four confessional booths that the project team will set up around the city in the weeks prior to the start date. The following locations have been identified as applicant locations and the appropriate permissions obtained for booth placement: the intersection of Lyman Street and Canal Street, next to the bus stop at the northern end of Jarvis Avenue, Babolla Road just south of Ashley Reservoir, and most fittingly, the end of Hospital Drive.
For the nine weeks preceding the project, the four booths will be manned by a team of eight interrogators on a twelve-hour rotation. The booths will follow the pre-Vatican-Two design and will contain both a privacy wall and a grill along with the most modern soundproofing. Inside each booth potential volunteers will be interrogated, and if found to be suitably attuned, will be provided with a sketch pad, a knife, a paintbrush, and a stub of leaded pencil with which to draft their early inspirations.
Once an actual mural is begun, it will be the responsibility of that volunteer artist to render the most effective visual entreaty without hesitation. As Artist Director, my responsibility will be to breathe, to watch, to listen to the screaming voices, and still to guide him to the end.
The scars tighten whenever the rain draws near. The hollow feeling lingers after I open my eyes each morning. Some days it feels like nothing I do will ever be enough.
Over the last few months the core project team has conducted a series of anonymous surveys concerning the proposed project. For the project's success, it's important that the Thirteen Tuesdays Project represent the needs of all of Farsdale's citizens. Community feedback has been specific and spirited. Clearly, the project has already engaged the imagination of Farsdale's citizens.
A representative sample of survey responses is included below. As much as possible, this feedback has been incorporated into the final proposal. However, while the project includes suggested guidelines for its volunteer artists, no form of creative expression is proscribed. As Father Xavier tells us, the purity of a penitent's heart has by far the most influence on a novena's outcome. Perhaps the girl on Jarvis Street would have fared better if her older brothers hadn't forced her to make that single, life-altering cut. A forked tongue could have symbolized so much if the slash of the blade had been freely offered.
Please note, a full report on the survey, including all respondent comments and a statistical analysis of these responses has been attached to this application.
"Vivisection is the provenance of the Lord and his disciples and should remain constrained to veterinary colleges and monastic retreats."
"Mixing tears and tempera paint creates a very unstable substrate. It'll never weather even one winter."
"Medical professionals should be present for all self-directed aspiration. You never know how people will react to the sight of blood."
The importance of filming each mural's seven-day creation using physical film rather than a digital medium cannot be overstated. As each of these murals will demonstrate, it is the physical act that separates the human idea from the actually divine. Thirteen Super 8 cameras have already been reserved and will be purchased as soon as this project is approved. However, each Super 8 cartridge is only expected to capture three minutes of artistic sound and motion. For each mural this translates into twenty cartridges an hour for seven days. By far the most expensive item for this project will be the acetate film.
With the assistance of our camera crew, each nuance of our penitent's creative journey will be recorded. The inspiration this footage will provide future penitents in their creative design is incalculable, well beyond the initial 1.4 million dollar investment. No digital camera, no smartphone, no pixilated image can capture the blessed touch of god-hungry inspiration.
Aside from the film, the four confessional booths and the scaffolding are the only other significant expenses. No financial compensation is expected for any project participants, including the eight interrogators, the artist volunteers, the camera crew, and myself. Additionally, as will be made clear during the interrogation process, the cost of any materials provided by the volunteer artists, along with any resultant post-mural expenses, will be borne entirely by the artists themselves. The only human expense associated with this project is the de-sanctification ritual the diocese requires before selling the confessional booths.
|Four confessional kneelers with privacy screen||$1053 each|
|Twenty-four acoustic wedges||$60 each|
|Four de-sanctified confessional booths||$1800 each|
|Bauer S108 Super 8 sound camera with extendable mic||$74 each|
|Kodak Vision 3 color negative super 8 film||$34 per 50 ft. cartridge|
|14-foot fiberglass twin stepladder||$168 per week|
|Two scaffolds||$160 per week|
|De-sanctification ceremony by an archdiocese-selected priest||$1200 per confessional|
|Final cost to the arts committee||$1,508,034|
Long before anyone noticed the thickening air and the screaming voices that consume the edge of everything, Saint Anthony blessed me. In his final act before his Great Disappearance, Saint Anthony chose me to spread the new truth. One day God and his saints ruled this physical plane; the next day Saint Anthony and our Lord were gone, disappeared. Death is like that.
The car's crumpled door, half-open. The dome light, flickering and dim. Blood dripped down into my eyes. I could taste the choking scent of powder from the still-inflated airbags. Icy midnight air rushed in through the shattered windshield. Saint Anthony had done his best his best to reach me.
The car's seatbelt warning system ping ping pinged as I screamed. And those sobs from the backseat kept on rising for a second, a minute, an hour before dying away, and then it was just me. I remember my arms shook. I remember I couldn't turn my neck. I lay sprawled across the dashboard, another abandoned and ungrateful sinner.
Despite my tears, I understood nothing. I had been blessed; despite the Lord's incipient migration to parts unknown, Saint Anthony had reached down and interceded one final time. Of all the people in all the world, he had chosen me as his vessel. Saint Anthony's message was as clear as the crack of my skull against the too-hard steering wheel, as clear as my shattered jaw and the pins and wires that came afterward. Only the body—the flesh, the bones, and all the viscera—carries the correct moral weight for heavenly supplication.
The Lord has vacated his realm and taken all his heavenly host with him; Farsdale's only hope is to scream, to writhe, to act as a human beacon, guiding the new gods close. Every town needs its blessings.
Even as I plan the Thirteen Tuesdays project, I practice the truth of Saint Anthony's message: a broken nose, a shattered collarbone, the long flap of skin that rubs and bleeds, constantly seeping up into whatever shirt I wear. And still our new gods fail to notice a single one of my bloody prayers. My own voice is not enough to create an actual path, though I understand the seriousness of my charge.
When the time comes for each Thirteen Tuesdays artist to create one of the city's murals, physical film will record the sounds and sights of their one hundred and sixty-eight hour entreaty. Physical film will replay that entreaty to the gods.
I am the last artist blessed by the hand of Saint Anthony. Thirteen novenas over thirteen Tuesdays. Even in this new world, how can the new gods fail to look favorably on a people willing to transform the taint of our own flesh into a light capable of guiding the heavens themselves? It is time the people of Farsdale steered the gods toward their duty. It is time the new gods blessed each one of us with their eternal grace. It is time our screams rang from the city in a clarion of prayer.
Julie C. Day's fiction has appeared in such magazines as Interzone, Electric Velocipede, and A cappella Zoo's best-of. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from USM's Stonecoast program and a M.S. in Microbiology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Some of her favorite things include gummy candies, loose teas, standing desks, and the tricolored prevost's squirrel. You can find Julie on Twitter or through her website.