Tag Archives: Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection

Protective Armor Against Terror

How meeting one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing changed my perspective on studying history through art.


Art studies the world, in all its manifestations, and renders back to us not simply how we see, but how we react to what we see and what we know as a consequence of that seeing.
– Kit White [1]

A few weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing I was, much like the rest of the community in the Boston area, trying to get back to life as normal. This “normal” activity included going to a bakery one Saturday morning for breakfast and a session of drawing. The seating area in the bakery was busy and after purchasing a bagel and cream cheese I began to hunt for a spot to sit down. Upon seeing an open table right next to a gentleman sitting quietly with his coffee, I rushed over to set the food tray down in order to stake out the spot. I noticed the man at the neighboring table had severe injuries to both arms, and I immediately got the impression this person would be open (not always the case in Boston) to a friendly gesture.

For several minutes, while working up the courage to offer half of my breakfast to a stranger, I began to draw in my sketch pad the next in a series of illustrations inspired by a samurai armor exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (please see Contributing to the Conversation). The noise of the busy bakery made the offer to share breakfast hard to hear, but the man at the next table understand my intention and graciously accepted half of the bagel. It was several more minutes before he very politely interrupted my drawing with a wave—I had by that time put in earphones—to share that his injuries had come from the Boston Marathon bombing.

We sat in conversation for ten minutes or so about the extent of the injuries suffered– a nearly detached hand and severe ongoing headaches– as well as discussing the medical treatment received over the prior weeks. He explained that the physical trauma was devastating, but there was also a constant mental anguish about reliving the experience in memory. My heart went out to this man as he shared his struggle to cope with the after effects of such a terrible ordeal. It turns out that on the morning of the attack he was in the very same bakery where we were sitting, and the staff had wished him well before he went off to the marathon festivities.

Once the story was finished we did not speak again until the man got up to leave. As he was collecting his various bags and items, I offered him one of the samurai drawings with the grand hope that the armor depicted could act as some symbolic shield to the mental trauma, or at the very least some small distraction.

Jason Freeman is the founder of Work of Start.

1. Kit White. 101 Things to Learn in Art School (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2011), 6.

Contributing to the Conversation

A lesson from Kit White: how creating art adds to the historic dialogue.


Art is a continuing dialogue that stretches back through thousands of years.
– Kit White [1]

My favorite spot to visit in Boston is the Museum of Fine Arts. This place has numerous opportunities to get lost in rooms full of spectacular artwork. While wandering through the MFA I have discovered art from around the world, which many times has traveled to this place and time over hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years. The last trip to the museum offered the chance to see a new exhibit, “Samurai! Armor From the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection,” and I acted on some inspiration to draw–this was my first time drawing at the museum–some of the samurai armor on display.

While I was drawing quietly in front of a magnificent suit of armor (shown above) an art student from a local university came over to see the sketch. He seemed very thoughtful and interested, so I offered him a pencil and paper. This offer was eagerly accepted and we both sat quietly working for the next ten minutes or so. After finishing the drawing he gave a sincere thanks and went on to explore the rest of the collection.

There were many objects that caught my attention, and by the end of the exhibit the original sheet of paper was filled with a half-dozen sketches.  I was sitting on a bench in front of the final display when an older gentleman came over to chat. He had trouble talking and hearing, but it was surprisingly easy for us to connect over the beauty of the samurai exhibition. As the conversation gradually came to a close  it  became apparent in my mind that this man should have the drawings. The gift was happily accepted.

The opportunity to connect over artwork with strangers at the MFA reminded me of a lesson from Kit White in the book 101 Things to Learn in Art School. Art is the opportunity to make “…your contribution to that dialogue. Therefore, be conscious of what has come before you and the conversation that surrounds you.” [1]

Jason Freeman is the founder of Work of Start.

1. Kit White. 101 Things to Learn in Art School (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2011), 16.