What is the Cairn Project?
The Cairn Project brings the healing light of compassion to the darkness of individual loss and pain. The project was first conceived by artist Corinne D Peterson, and has included over 550 collaborators who have participated in workshops, organized exhibitions, and contributed to a growing archive.
The workshops at the core of the project, titled Shaping Clay, Shaping Life, have been held across the greater Chicago area and in Canada. Participants have included: immigrants; LGBTQ youth; cancer survivors; survivors of sexual abuse; families of gun violence victims; the homeless; Iraqi, Burundi, and Burmese refugees; veterans; nurses; the bereaved; the blind; among many other men, women, and children from diverse communities across the city.
Shaping Clay, Shaping Life workshop participants are asked to create two forms: a rock from stoneware clay that embodies their inner experience of pain and loss, and a small white porcelain token that represents their inner light and hope. When installed, the stoneware rocks are piled to form a memorial cairn, with the porcelain tokens of light hovering above. The light over dark becomes a collective expression of trauma and of hope.
We live in a culture that discourages us from looking at pain. – Corinne D Peterson
The Cairn Project Archive contains a growing record of over 550 participants from communities across Chicago and in Canada.
The archive will give prominence to each ceramic piece as a valuable object worthy of individual appreciation; just as each person and their life experience is worthy of attention and respect.
The archive page is also host to written, audio, and video reflections. We encourage anyone who is touched by the project to submit a contribution.
The goal of hosting an online archive of the Cairn Project is to encourage reflection, not only by those who have participated, but also by those who find inspiration in the forms that were created to celebrate suffered loss and pain.