An Interview with the Founding Artist and Curator of the Autumn Leaves Project.
Autumns Leaves is the latest collective project of Peter Bruun, an artist with a long history of creating unique community art projects in Baltimore. Unlike many of his younger peers now working in the field, Bruun’s projects tend to be less bombastic and more about bringing a diverse group of people together for an experience of deep sharing and intimacy. Bruun’s collaborations function as a way to interconnect sectors of Baltimore that rarely, if ever, cross—even though they may live in less than a mile radius of one another. With Autumn Leaves his communal “actions” have attained a new high point.
I attended the first event and was very moved, not only by the speakers and performers but also by the deep engagement of the audience, more diverse than any I have ever seen in this city. They were young, old, black, white, rich, and poor—and all in between. The energy verged on the sacred—something I never imagined writing in a review of an art event.
The inspiration for Autumn Leaves started with Bruun age 49, in his studio facing down the prospect of turning fifty years old and noting this reality began to manifest itself in his own artwork. From there, as is usual with the artist, he wanted to expand upon the idea and see where it would take him, what others might feel or have to say on the same topic.
What has transpired since is remarkable in its complexity, the amount of collaborators, and its profound outcomes. Bruun created forty-nine drawings to represent his age at the time and from there asked forty-nine people of diverse backgrounds to come together at seven live events, seven speakers at a time to speak for seven minutes each about their views on life, aging, and what advice they had to offer. To augment this he had all the speakers first celebrated through portraits by visual artists and photographers, then by assigned writers, and finally before their talk, a younger person in creative performance of some kind would precede them.
The project has been two years in the making and Bruun is now fifty-one. During the planning and implementation of the project many of the speakers experienced life altering situations, including severe illness and some involving the death of a loved one. This included Peter, who during the middle of the project lost his beloved 24-year-old daughter Elisif Janis Bruun in February of 2014—an experience he speaks powerfully of here, and he has written eloquently about on his website at: http://bruunstudios.com/blog/a-new-day.
This interview with Bruun is detailed on all aspects of Autumn Leaves from start to finish, both professional and personal, and also speaks to what his future plans are. As always Peter is lively, reflective, and insightful in conversation.
The final event will be November 2. All information on the series, including participants, dates, and documentation can be found on this site:
Art exhibition with 7 events at
405 East Oliver Street
September 19 through November 2, 2014.
Interview and review by Jack Livingston.
Many photographs courtesy of Sarah Edelsburg