These past five days have been a treat, a delicious, cream-filled pâtisserie (pastry) bursting with rich vanilla flavor. No, I’m not referring to another tea room or more home-made cakes (although I did bake two cakes this afternoon). In this metaphor, the patisserie is my life and the cream that enriches it is the Fondation Espace Ecureuil pour l’art contemporain, my old workplace as an intern in 2011.
Until Saturday, I’d only had a taste of my fond memories there. I’d spent a fair amount of time on a project with Mathias Poisson in partnership with Dickinson en France and with the center for the blind (Institut des Jeunes Aveugles), a project based personal narratives of territories and itinerancy. I’ve also spent some time with Julie, my internship mentor and friend, with whom I take a dance class every two weeks and who’s invited me to get coffee and to bigger events and parties.
But, like I said, these experiences were merely a bite of the pâtisserie that I had tried for the first time as a student in 2011. My taste buds were longing for a bigger mouthful of this vanilla heaven. And this weekend, they were satisfied. I was able to reimmerse myself in the Espace Ecureuil community on the occasion of the montage, the installation of the new exhibition, Topos. In spite of my fatigue from a long week of full-time work, I came in on Saturday and Sunday to help put up the artwork. It felt incredibly natural to be there, to be a part of the family again. I felt at ease with the tasks at hand, I knew what I should be doing, where things were, who to ask. I felt comfortable with the Espace Ecureuil team and got to spend some quality time with Julie, Marion, Charly, Sylvie…all of the people I loved the first time around and hadn’t gotten a chance to see for an extended period of time since my arrival. I also felt comfortable being around artists, talking to them one on one about their work, spending time with them as normal people, not distant figures of society.
I came in Saturday morning at 10am. I spent most of the day painting walls, going out to buy supplies, painting pieces of wood, and other small tasks that in the end make a difference. Even though I was working, I felt incredibly relaxed. Manual work really helped me get my mind off of my personal and professional worries. Plus, the atmosphere at the Espace Ecureuil during a montage is incredibly friendly and convivial. People chat with each other from across the room, bantering about topics from the most banal to the most complex. We take meal breaks to regain our strength and concentration. We really get to know each other. I was so happy all day that I ended up staying there until around 10pm. 12 hours at the Espace Ecureuil! I didn’t have as much time to spare on Sunday – because, alas, I have another job – but I still felt very much welcome. As if nothing had changed and I was still completing my amazing internship at this jewel of an art gallery.
Even on Monday, after a full day’s work at the Dickinson Center, I felt the urge to poke my head in the doorway and say hello. And Tuesday I spent all of my classes at Lycée Ozenne thinking about the vernissage (or inauguration) that was to come in the evening. As usual, the vernissage assembled a large crowd, but once the general public was gone, the artists, the Ecureuil team and a few other close friends and family members stayed for an intimate dinner around a beautifully-arranged floor table.
All of this positive energy. But today I am feeling nostalgic more than anything. Nostalgic for my time there as an intern. Nostalgic for my year abroad as a student. Nostalgic for a different time, in the same place. This year in Toulouse has so far required a deep reevaluation of my status, as a person and as a professional. I realize I long for a simpler time, when I was simply a student and I knew what exactly my place was and how to handle my time. Not that last time in Toulouse was easy –au contraire. My learning process was slow, just like any other study abroad student’s. And not that I’m not having a good time and learning a lot this time. But nostalgia.
Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia.
I’m a bit saddened by the fact that I won’t be able to sit at the information desk, work on individual and team projects, give guided tours, etc. But at least I get to participate in one way or another, negotiating my new status as a person. The pastry’s flavor has slightly changed.