WISHES ON DISPLAY: Part of art exhibition, festival remains online after inaugural event

Published 11:31 am Monday, January 10, 2022

Special to the Democrat

NATCHEZ — Art exhibits that were built for Mississippi’s inaugural light-based exhibition and festival on the grounds of Dunleith Historic Inn in November had to be taken down, however, a special part of one of the exhibits can still be viewed online, said event co-founder Stacy Conde.

“The Wishing Tree,” one of the featured installations at Allumer Natchez during the weekend of Nov. 19 through 21, was an immersive experience situated under a 260-year-old magnolia tree that asked for visitor participation.

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They were beckoned to come in and place a wish within the cave of the ancient magnolia, which glowed with green light, and asked to explore the “mystical and sacred space” within the tree boughs while “sorting through a shimmering passageway of secret hopes shared within the environment,” Conde said.

Hundreds of handwritten wishes that hung from the tree as a growing part of the exhibit through the weekend will now be featured on the website condeconteporary.com, typed exactly as they were with only the names of people removed to protect their privacy, she said.

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“The experience of walking under the boughs of the tree, and passing through hundreds of wishes fluttering the wind, was uplifting and heartbreaking at once,” she said. “When it was time to uninstall, I couldn’t just throw away the hopes of our community. It felt disrespectful.”

A group of girls dressed as fairies, organized by Nicole Harris in association with Natchez Little Theatre, aided festival-goers in pinning their wishes to long green ribbons hanging from the magnolia’s branches. Some of the paper wishes were rolled or folded very carefully while others were pinned open for all to see.

After being preserved on the website, Conde said she would burn the notes in the new year, symbolically releasing them into the world.

“The color green is important to the installation as it’s both symbolic of nature and the heart center. Even the soundscape we played was a specific frequency,” Conde said. “Theoretically, it’s supposed to clear energy blockages of the heart—whether it does or not, I have no idea, but it certainly set the perfect tone.”

Allumer Natchez, a project of Conde Contemporary art gallery in Downtown Natchez, was a free event—purposefully removing economic barriers to attend—meant to provide a path for the community to come together through art while helping establish Natchez as a center of innovation in the state of Mississippi and the Southeast, Conde said.

The festival was made possible, in part, by grants from Home Bank, Visit Natchez, Visit Mississippi, Allstate, Entergy, Country Roads Magazine, Listen Up Y’All Media, Concordia Bank & Trust, United Mississippi Bank, Hampton Inn & Suites, Crye-Leike Stedman Realtors, the Natchez Garden Club and with the support of Historic Natchez Foundation, Community Alliance, Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce, Church Hill Creative Foundation and The City of Natchez.