Faculty & Staff Reflections—About Vulnerability

About Vulnerability 2/3
Faculty & Staff Reflections—About Vulnerability

Alison Safford • Anne Rearick • Brian Surkan • Carmen Leahy • Diana Baruni  Emma Fedor • Jen Quest-Stern • John Cohan • Marci Cohen • Marilyn Del Donno • Nailah Randall-Bellinger • Patrick Foley • Rosanna Salcedo • Steve Scrimshaw • Taposhi Biswas • Todd Bartel • Tom Evans • Tony Loreti

Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.
Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, Daring Greatly, 2012
For this, our second of three shows in the About Vulnerability exhibition series, we turn our attention to CSW Faculty & Staff Reflections on our yearlong theme. Our exhibition presents 18 individuals from various school-wide departments who responded to the call to “share something they have made or otherwise selected that highlights any aspect of vulnerability."
CSW Faculty & Staff Reflections—About Vulnerability is an exhibition that, like a rare flower that blooms only too briefly, will last only as long as the remainder of this module. It opens Friday, February 28, and runs through Friday, March 6, 2020—it lasts but one week. We hope you will return often during this short time period to reexamine the work on display that sheds light on a great many aspects of our theme.
Author Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, points out that each of us has gifts that only we can contribute. When we engage with our gifts and allow them “to be seen” the “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure,” and the “vulnerability we experience,” she affirms, “is not a weakness”:
When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.
Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be—a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation—with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.[1]
In the checklist booklets below, visitors to the gallery will find information about each contribution on display and an accompanying statement expressing the rationale behind why it was selected. Visitors will notice many independent themes and several overlapping or shared themes in the room:
ephemeral things/ephemeral moments
steadfast humanity under vulnerable conditions
the risk of exposure
tentative transformation
threatening situations
mutual trust
venturing into the unknown
play and shared experience
life-long searching
changes in the landscape and climate
Seven of our contributors are veteran exhibitors who teach in one of the Expressive Art’s disciplines. Eleven individuals from across the school present despite uneasy feelings of a lack of experience in one way or another with exhibiting. All participants feel their contribution “sheds light,” and each individual embraced the challenge to select something of interest. Each contributor embraced the opportunity to collectively reflect upon the nature of what it means to be susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm. Their collective contributions, in turn, are empowering examples of community engagement. We invite you to reach out to the contributors about the work on display. Engage with them regarding your observations, and the theme of vulnerability.
Todd Bartel, Gallery Director

[1] Brené C. Brown, Daring Greatly, Avery (Penguin Random House), New York, NY, 2012, p. 2.


CSW Faculty & Staff Reflections About Vulnerability

Marci Cohen
Skills Center Director
Morning Dew, 2019
What is more impermanent and, therefore, vulnerable (yet resilient) than a drop of dew?

Nailah Randall-Bellinger
Dance Teacher, Department Chair
Dancing Beloved an interpretation of Toni Morrison's Novel, Beloved, 2007
My choreography speaks to the enforced vulnerability put on African Americans during the practice of American Slavery, especially during the height in the 19th-century. As Toni Morrison did in Beloved, I wanted to speak to the spirit of enslaved blacks. How was it possible for us to hold on to our humanity in the face of enforced vulnerability?

Rosanna Salcedo
Dean of Equity and Inclusion
Into the Deep, 2007-2008
After my divorce in 2007, I went through a period of deep reflection. My identity as wife and mother was firmly entrenched, and then everything changed. I had to redefine myself. Overcome with sadness, worry, and fear about the future. I felt self-doubt about my ability to carry on by myself. Painting became a vehicle for self-reflection. A meditative process that ultimately filled me with peace, hope for the future, and restored belief in myself. Painting was a vulnerable act, as is sharing my work, and this story.

Emma Fedor
Director of Marketing and Communications
Human vs. Nature, 2008
It's easy to look at this image and assume it is the man who is vulnerable, susceptible to the rough landscape of the jungle. In reality, I fear, it is the rainforest—in this case, the Amazon—that is most vulnerable.

Carmen Leahy
English teacher
My Journals: A Battle Against Time, 1993-present
When my mom dropped me off at college, she left me with a journal (the one with the little girl praying on the front). Journaling as a practice has evolved for me over time, but a few functions of journaling have stayed consistent. My journal, from the very early years, has been a place that I go when I want to wrestle with the emotional terrain of my life, and in that way, its pages contain many of my most vulnerable moments. In these entries, I am trying to let go of negative emotions, and I choose the journal for its privacy. At the same time, my journals are a place where I attempt to capture and store the moments that I want to preserve. I think there is vulnerability here as well; I fear that I will forget the small joys that give my life its music. I have created a journal for each of my children where I try to capture, in words, who they are at this moment before they grow into the next version of themselves. Will I be able to hold on to the feeling of this moment? To remember the way my son calls a wreath a "reach"? Or the way my daughter delights in birds and fears spiders? Time marches on, and these journals are the way I wage war on that ultimate force. My journals are my feeble attempt to preserve and protect my most treasured moments.

Diana Baruni
Academic Dean
Toi et Moi, c. 2010
My poem is about the dance a couple may experience in figuring out who each other is. One can be a part of a couple but must be vulnerable in knowing that we can never know everything about someone else. Some things that we know about another individual are visible to the naked eye, but other aspects are enveloped in your soul and not obvious. Even in a couple, you and me ("toi et moi") are each individuals engaged in committing consistently to going through this life together, vulnerable in the knowledge that there is a commitment. But, we will never know everything about someone else.

Brian Surkan
STEAM Teacher / Tech Support
Tango by Moonlight, 1998
Social dancing is the communion of souls. To expose one's soul to another, often a stranger is the embodiment of vulnerability. It is simultaneously one of the most exhilarating and terrifying experiences. There are few activities where I am more in the present and listening more intently with body and mind than when I am dancing in the arms of another.

Marilyn Del Donno
Science Teacher, Sustainability Coordinator
Strength, 2019
I have recently started learning to weave reed baskets. As with anything artistic, I always feel that I am the least competent in my group, so I am at my most vulnerable. It reminds me of how my students might sometimes feel about their work with me. But the reason I chose a basket is because in working with reed, I have learned how brittle it can be, but how incredibly strong when prepared by soaking and woven together. I am always stronger when I accept my vulnerability and work with others to make something beautiful in a basket or in my work as a teacher.

John Cohan 
Athletic Teacher
Johneez and Mareez Table Tennis Table, 2015
I enjoy making these tables being a player myself and sell them at craft fairs for all to have fun. The table can play three different games, with two people playing ping pong, one person playing with a stick put in the bottom of the table, hitting the ball from side to side, and basketball hitting it off the backboard into the cup. It develops fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.

Anne Rearick
Visual Arts Teacher
Supergirl. Emmett, Idaho, 2018
This photograph is of a young girl in a small town in rural Idaho. She is vulnerable yet open to the world around her. She is a survivor, and I feel that she will rise above the numerous challenges she is faced with in terms of class, lack of education, and being raised by survivalists who believe that world economic collapse is imminent. Much of my work as a photographer is about the beauty and strength of the human spirit and the ability of people to survive and transcend trauma (both historical and personal) and adversity.

Alison Safford
Visual Arts Teacher
Trauerarbeit/Grief Work, 2014
The gestures of those who are gone.

Tom Evans
Visual Arts Teacher
God on Earth, 1990 and 2020
Spirituality is a fragile, vulnerable state for me. I had a powerful experience many years ago, being greeted by a woman outside of a church I never entered. I still wonder what it all means. 

Steve Scrimshaw
Science Teacher
Storm on the Lake, 2011
This photo is of Pocono Lake in Pennsylvania during an intense rainstorm. The Nature Conservancy included this part of the Pennsylvania area on its global list of "Forty Last Great Places." The wetlands around there are home to many endangered plants and animals

Patrick Foley
History Teacher
Connections, 2008
Every Summer, my childhood friends meet for a long weekend in Vermont at the same place we first traveled to in 1986. This weekend I put out a blank canvas and asked my friends to add to it as the weekend unfolded. It was meant to capture who we are at that moment while reflecting on a lifetime of friendship.

Taposhi Biswas
Science Teacher, Department Chair
Surrender, 2019
The person standing out in the snow certainly doesn't seem dressed for the weather or prepared for this situation, so I'd say they provoke a feeling of vulnerability for me. And yet the only obvious alternative to standing in the snow would be the cabin that's on fire—an option, but not a good one. So I think there is a sort of quiet acceptance of vulnerability in this scene. Of course, there is also the fact that I am not really a painter and so it's vulnerable for me to show anyone my paintings, but that's more about me than the work.

Tony Loreti
Visual Arts Teacher
View Along Lexington St. (Near CSW), 2019
Within a quarter of a mile of this spot are corporate campuses of Verizon, National Grid and Sanofi-Genzyme, a Home Depot, and a Costco. Approximately 15 acres per day of forest and open land in Massachusetts are converted to development. The Massachusetts Audubon Society calculates that for every visible acre lost to development, an additional three acres loses its ecological function. 

Jen Quest-Stern
Director of Community Health and Counseling
As Is, 2010
These figures are unique creations, standing as they are—nothing more/nothing less. Vulnerability is strengthening and connective when creatures are together...as is.

Todd Bartel
Visual Arts Teacher
Anima Hominis (Corporeal Gestures Amidst Open Horizons), 2019
Anima Hominis (Soul of Man) is a puzzle-piece collage I made using paper I have collected from the 1880s. The paper is fragile and difficult to work with. I show it here without the protection of a frame to emphasize the immediacy of its metaphors and subjects. In the Anthropocene—the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate—the subjects of landscape, natural resources, and shifts in environment have all been shown to be in states of crisis. This work is part of my Landscape Vernacular series a series of puzzle-piece collages which contain definitions related to land and landscape. In this instance definitions double for “tilling land” and steering a vessel. I am interested in both senses as they relate to human gestures and the decisions that come attached when choosing a direction and a course of travel. The two rudder images in the work are very specific. One rudder is from the Mayflower, and the other is a rudder from a Boeing 767, the plane(s) flown into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. 911 demonstrated that America is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Americans today occupy territories appropriated from peoples who were here well before European arrival. The wake of some rudders continues to reverberate long after its parent vessel stops moving, leaving many people and many things in vulnerable states. I juxtapose all these things to raise the question about humanity's next course of travel. Where do we go from here now that we are so clear about all these warning signs?


The Cambridge School of Weston is a progressive high school for day and boarding students in grades 9–12 and PG. CSW's mission is to provide a progressive education that emphasizes deep learning, meaningful relationships, and a dynamic program that inspires students to discover who they are and what their contribution is to their school, their community and the world.