What’s for Lunch? An Ekphrastic Exercise


The Harrison Center has a new summer tradition-- Ekphrastic Lunches. The term ekphrasis comes from the Greek language, describing a work of art produced as a rhetorical exercise. When the idea was first introduced by summer intern, Emily Neuharth, it was met with immediate excitement by fellow interns, Harrison Center artists, and staff.

Each week’s ekphrastic exercise brings about a new sense of discovery as a different piece of art is interpreted. The first exercise was inspired by Kate Oberreich’s “How Did You Find This Place” and Harrison Center artist and curator, Kyle Ragsdale, called the experience “almost spiritual.” As for myself, I couldn’t wait to do it again since I felt that these exercises calmed me -- realizing that I need to journal my feelings out more often. I have discovered that observing different pieces in each gallery of the Harrison Center creates a personal perception of the artwork and allows a deeper connection to be formed between artist and viewer.


The exercise on Oberreich’s piece was similar to a recent exercise inspired by Kyle Ragsdale’s oil painting, “Shadow Land,” in that both invited the viewer to step directly into the world beyond the canvas.  The two exercises brought forth somewhat similar reactions prompting their audience to reflect, emphasize that there isn’t one correct way to feel, and especially with “Shadow Land,” encourage the viewer to put themselves into the narrative. One summer intern, Megan Auffarth, stated that she “didn’t know writing could do that.” Everyone who participates in these lunches are encouraged to vocalize their thoughts and opinions of how the artwork speaks to them. This is a new form of expression for some, and everyone’s wholeheartedly supportive of one another’s attempts to step outside of their comfort zones.

The exercises have been received with positive feedback from its participants. There’s not only a bond to the artwork being built, but also a bond built between the interns themselves. Megan Auffarth claims that these lunches are a “good start towards feeling more comfortable with each other in general” because they encourage summer interns to cultivate connections, built upon friendships and art interpretation which influences everyone’s separate roles within the Center.

Each ekphrastic lunch brings a newfound sense of understanding and fosters an appreciation for the ability to see artwork from different perspectives. Being able to share our unique views creates a space of respect and understanding. We all understand that each piece of art that we observe leaves different impressions on us, and we can appreciate how these lunches are helping expand our mental and creative horizons. Despite the emphasis on differing opinions, these ekphrastic lunches have found their way into the hearts and minds of everyone at the Harrison Center during the summer of 2018.

Onyea Cummings