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Hampshire Alumna Kate Browne 78F Builds Community Art

Artist, writer, and director Kate Browne 78F recently built a 26-foot x 10-foot cocoon with a small-town community in the Mississippi Delta.

The cocoon is part of a larger collaborative arts project that Browne created and has been working on since 2008, in which she builds giant cocoons with artists and townsfolk out of local materials. Each cocoon stands alone in reflecting its community and is connected to every other in the continuum of Browne’s project.

Kate Browne
So far, three have been built: in Cragsmoor, New York; Mexico City; and most recently, Greenwood, Mississippi.

“I look at a place and see if it resonates me,” Browne said. Greenwood's history of cotton plantations and civil rights struggles interested her. Communities in Schools, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and the Natural Resources Initiative of North Mississippi funded the Greenwood Cocoon.

“I try to make myself invisible” in the process, she explained, saying that her goal isn’t to tell locals about their community, but to work with them. “I read a lot before I go to a place. But it’s not about me—it’s about the people who are there and what they can do with this project.”

Browne has a background in theater, and says that experience led her to take “my work to the public in a way where they wouldn’t have to pay money and could be involved in the art.”

In addition to building one large cocoon, “I ask people to make miniature cocoons, to choose materials they like and that represent the past, present, and future for that individual.”

Browne interviews people and records their stories, and then the mini-cocoons are hung in the larger structure, representing the way individuals create vibrant community.

She expects the project will take about five years, and hopes to go to inner city Detroit in the near future. Her husband, photographer Eric Etheridge, is shooting photos of all the miniature cocoons and they are planning to have a gallery featuring pictures and audio from the sites.

You can see more photos of the cocoons on Browne’s blog.

Photos courtesy of Eric Etheridge.

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