Every year, Hallmark grants a sabbatical, called the Barbara Marshall Award, to someone in the Creative organization to pursue a passion-led project. This year, Photo Stylist Andy N. and Writing Studio Team Lead Marn J. were the recipients. For their project, they interviewed over 70 older people to gather their “wishes”—for themselves, for their families, and for the world. Andy and Marn created artwork based on some of the over 250 wishes for their Wishes for the World exhibit in Hallmark’s headquarters in Kansas City.
The Wishes for the World project
Andy: Marn and I share a real love for the older generation; in fact, we have a good friend, Stormy Shank, who is 99—and we’ve always treasured our friendship with her. But our real motivation was our own parents and the situations we were both experiencing at the time. They made us both look at elder care in a whole new light.
Marn: We’ve learned a lot about elder care and, specifically, Alzheimer’s. You see how important it is to advocate for elders and to honor them, especially when they are in a compromised state. Our world celebrates youth and often diminishes those who are in their final stages of life. It’s just not right.
Andy: We interviewed over 70 elders—here in town, at various senior living communities, and out of town as well—gathering wishes from all over the country. We got to meet and talk to a very diverse group of people, which was important to us. Our conversations were so fun; each person had so much to offer and so much to share.
Marn: Hearing everyone’s story was the biggest gift for us! We wanted to give these wise and wonderful people the time, an ear, and an opportunity to be heard. So often we don’t take the time to ask questions and listen to the answers. They have so much goodness to share.
Finding inspiration for art
Andy: We basically selected the wishes that spoke to us at the moment. We thought we’d end up selecting the same ones but, amazingly, we each picked different wishes. If we just had more time, we would have done all 250 of them. It was hard to stop!
Marn: That was the easy part. Each wish inspired an idea in a very organic and natural way. It’s hard to articulate where the mind wanders but I will say, it was much harder to turn off the ideas than to turn them on.
No longer “old and discarded”
Andy: Marn and I both love collecting old things—from flea markets, antique malls, estate sales—things already layered with history and from another generation. We also found pieces from the local junkyard so we could take materials that were “old and discarded”—breathing new life, new beauty into them. It was the perfect metaphor.
Marn: We started out thinking we might collaborate, but we ended up executing our own pieces. Andy collaborated with some photographers, as he is a photo stylist and loves working that way—but mostly, we created our own work. We did, however, rely on each other to help troubleshoot a piece when we were stuck.
Andy: We did see each other almost every day. We’d go over to each other’s houses to check the progress of the day and our competitive juices would begin to flow. We were always inspired by each other.
Bridging wisdom and youth
Marn: It was also important to us to pass the wishes on to a new generation, so we partnered with the Illustration Department of the Kansas City Art Institute: Students selected a wish and had a day to create a piece of art. Twenty of those pieces hang in our show.
Andy: Having the students participate was full circle for us—now the younger people are keepers of the wishes.
Sending wishes into the world
Andy: We went into this knowing we were going to have an exhibit in the end, but we had no idea how it would ultimately take shape. We were lucky to have so much talented help to put it all together. We are happy and proud of the end result—the work—but we are most proud of the fact that it is resonating with so many people.
Marn: That is the best part. The message is getting out: the important message of integrating elders into our daily lives, and that what they say matters. The stories and wishes we captured are like little gifts, and we wanted to share them with the world in a meaningful way.
Andy and Marn hope that by sharing their body of work, they will remind everyone to stop and have a conversation with an elder…to listen, and to ask them about their wishes. It will not only make their day—it’ll make your day, too. You can see their work on Instagram @wishes4world and tag yours #olderiswiser and #talktoyourelders.