The University Record, October 1, 2001

Exhibition provides a lifeline at Residential College

By Elizabeth Manasse
University Record Intern

Record intern Liz Manasse examines ‘knots’ from the exhibition. (Photo by Bill Wood, U-M Photo Services)
When faced with tragedy, U-M studio arts program instructor and lecturer Ann Savageau expressed her grief in a positive and creative way. Savageau’s son, Patrick Savageau, a University of California—Santa Cruz student, lost his life at the age of 20 in a climbing accident in California last year. Ann Savageau prepared an exhibition, Life Line: a climber’s life, to celebrate Patrick’s life and serve as a permanent tribute to the avid rock climber. The exhibit runs through Oct. 14 in the Residential College’s East Quad art gallery.

Life Line highlights moments from Patrick’s life as a student, a family member, a friend and a rock climber. The works reflect his interests in everything from exotic plants and animals, to architecture, inventions, sports and climbing in the world’s most spectacular natural settings. The exhibition includes more than 200 prayer flags donated by friends and family members. The flags were inspired by Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags, which come in five traditional colors for the five elements. According to the Tibetan Buddhist culture, as the wind moves over the flags, the prayers are carried to all living beings. Strings of flags are displayed in the North courtyard at East Quad.

“Creating is an integral part of the grieving process for an artist,” says Savageau. “Preparing the exhibit was definitely an outlet for my grief and a method of healing.” For Savageau and her family, searching through Patrick’s belongings was a way of remembering and reliving positive memories from his life. The signature piece in the exhibit, titled Life Line, is 18 boxes—out of a planned set of 21—that represent each year of his life. The final box represents Patrick’s last year and is shaped like a triangle to symbolize a mountain. According to Savageau, “I expressed in visual terms emotions I could not express any other way.”

“I hope to inspire dialogue about grief and loss, and encourage people who have faced tragedy to find creative ways to express their grief,” Savageau said.

Life Line motivated U-M staff members to provide a method for students to collectively express feelings associated with the national tragedy on Sept. 11. The Residential College staff is implementing a plan to make flag material available at the Residential College offices and in the East Quad Benzinger Library, so that students can make memorial flags for the victims of the terrorist attacks.