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Thursday, November 21, 2013
For three weeks this fall, first year art student Young Tseng “YT” Wong sat at a folding table in DesCombes Quad offering passersby an unusual opportunity: a moment to sit with him and reflect upon someone or something for which they were thankful.
Wong's modest "Bureau of Thanks" table would have been easy for harried graduate students to ignore. But instead they paused, sat, and confided their gratitude to a complete stranger.
"I was moved and honored by the depth some people allowed themselves," Wong said. "It really reaffirmed my faith in the CGU community."
His visitors offered thanks to their families for life and love, or for sending them to study abroad.
An art student thanked a professor for "giving me so many brushes and tools even though I don't know how to use these things." Another student thanked the heart "for continuing to pump at those moments when my mind and spirit have lost interest." A CGU staffer thanked a coworker for bringing donuts to work in the morning.
"Everyone who dictated a thank-you note to me was honest and open and sincere about the thanks they were giving," Wong said.
Wong carefully wrote each thank-you message on a sheet of vellum paper, then tucked it away in a leather folder. He folded a carbon copy into a blue envelope and gave it to the person who dictated it.
Wong, a trained mime who came to CGU after studying transdisciplinary performance at Pitzer College, conceived the "Bureau of Thanks" as a performance art piece. He modeled it after scribes who set up tables outside of government buildings in his home country of Malaysia to help citizens fill out paperwork.
Although he held his "Bureau of Thanks" just before Thanksgiving, the holiday was not critical to the work, he said. Rather, he wanted to create an unusual experience that would snap students from their routines. He hoped to create something that would make people curious, make them stop, and make them smile.
"I chose to do this with thank-you notes because it’s something that feels good to sit down and do," he said. "It's something that's very universal, that everyone can relate to."
His table and album of thank-you notes were put on display November 11-22 as part of the first year art student show in the East and Peggy Phelps galleries.
Thanksgiving falls this year on Nov. 28.
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