Alum Explores Gratitude Through New Art Exhibition

Veronica Brown ’17
Contributing Writer

Smith alumna Anne Kubitsky ’05 wants to bring the Smith community together to celebrate gratitude with her new exhibition in the Nolen Art Lounge. Kubitsky’s “Look for the Good” project asks participants one seemingly simple question: “What makes you grateful?” The exhibition showcases a collection of postcards participants have decorated with their answers.

Kubitsky never intended to be an artist. After graduating from Smith with degrees in biology and philosophy, she heard the story of a rescued humpback whale who nuzzled his rescuers to express his gratitude. The whale inspired Kubitsky to write a children’s book. The book, however, had difficulties getting published and she began to get frustrated, losing sight of the book’s message of gratitude. Kubitsky considers the whale an allegory for her life; she was too trapped by baggage from her past to appreciate the good in the present.

Realizing she wanted to focus on finding gratitude, Kubitsky left 500 blank postcards around Connecticut and the Smith campus with instructions for the recipient to write or draw what makes them grateful and send the postcards back to her. She did not know what kind of response to expect, but was surprised by the number and beauty of responses from people of various backgrounds. One of these participants was Diana Lyn Cote, who met Kubitsky at an event at a friend’s home studio. Cote began painting postcards to express her gratitude and couldn’t stop. She quickly vowed to do one every day for the year of 2012. Kubitsky says Cote’s dedication inspired her to keep going, and they began working together. Smith’s exhibition will be the last time Cote’s 366 postcards will be shown alongside Kubitsky’s pieces.

Kubitsky’s next project is to create public art using positive graffiti on doors because she believes “gratitude opens doors.” She brought some of her doors to Smith and plans to sit outside with one on Chapin Lawn in order to add layers of students’ gratitude. She launched a Kickstarter campaign to collect money to continue her work at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Connecticut this summer and to launch “International Look for the Good Day” this Valentine’s Day. On Valentine’s Day, she plans to give a door filled with gratitude to Newtown, Connecticut, the site of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

The “Look For the Good” project features many Smith alumnae and students. One particular Smith alumna Kubitsky has worked with is Maggie Worthen ’06, who suffered a stroke during her senior year at Smith. Although she is unable to move, Worthen works with an art therapist. Her mother wrote an essay about gratitude for Kubitsky’s book What Makes You Grateful?: Voices From Around the World. In the seven years since Worthen’s stroke, she has managed to say seven words, despite doctors’ predictions for her. The most recent two were “thank you.”

Kubitsky hopes to get current Smith students involved in her project. Smith will host a reception for the exhibition on Nov. 15 from 7–10 p.m., which will feature contra dancing and speakers, including Worthen’s mother. Students can also bring postcards expressing their own gratitude, with which Kubitsky hopes to cover a display . There will also be a postcard-making workshop on Nov. 16.

Kubitsky emphasizes that she and her exhibit are not the point of her work, but that she wants to help individuals become aware of their gratitude. After collecting countless expressions of gratitude, she believes “the community itself is the art.” Kubitsky remembers her days at Smith as filled with “creative, talented, insightful women” and hopes these women will express their gratitude and change the negative attitude that seems to plague our society.

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