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Sunday November 17, 2019
Posted: Oct 20, 2015

Finding strength in the help of others

College Connection

It’s never been easy for me to ask for help.

It may have something to do with my upbringing or a vestige of my Swedish heritage. Ever stoic, my paternal great-grandparents came from Sweden to Iowa and farmed, working the land. There is something in the Midwestern mentality which demands that the person responsible for plowing the fields is also responsible to uproot any stumps or move any rocks that might get in the way. After all, you own those obstacles because it was you who decided to farm the land in the first place.

I am greatly reminded of my tendency to “go it alone” as I move through what is arguably the busiest October in my recent memory. As the University of Maine at Augusta Bachelor of Architecture program works toward our next architecture accreditation happening the first of November, I have had to turn to colleagues, co-workers, present and former faculty, and current students to achieve a goal that I set for the program some five years ago: To bring a professional degree in architecture to the University of Maine in Augusta, and to the state of Maine.

Asking for help takes practice, so recently I am getting pretty good at it.

Little did I understand then the amount of personal and collective effort it would take to bring this goal to reality. The sheer vastness of this endeavor makes getting help a simple necessity, my personal issues tossed aside. The needs of the situation have shown me how generous people are, but also remind me that working collectively is more rewarding than going it alone. Not only do I have others to share the burden, but also to celebrate the small victories along the way.

Life is like this. There are times when we must turn to our communities for help — and they unfailingly give it.

Simultaneous to the preparation for our architecture accreditation visit, I’ve been working to pull together my part for an art show, “Architects: on the INSIDE,” to be held at the Danforth gallery from Oct. 28 to Dec. 8. My work in the show is a series of objects and drawings that I made ostensibly alone. However, pulling the work together has turned into a collective effort involving art professor Peter Precourt, who helped critique the work; Professor Amy Hinkley, a colleague in the architecture program who helped tighten up the drawings; and my 9-year-old daughter, who asked some surprisingly direct and pointed questions that helped focus what work made it into the show.

the collective

I will admit I approached each of these individuals with some trepidation … even my own daughter. I guess I equate asking for help as exposing my own shortcomings. In my mind not being able to go it alone is a type of failure. However, as I dropped off the work today at the gallery, I understood that it was much improved from their input. And even though it is my name on the submission, at some level I feel the work is representative of a kind of collective effort, and that makes it all the more special.

It could be said that architecture is inherently collaborative. No designer, no matter the level of genius, works alone. Architects work with colleagues, clients, consultants and contractors. Any project is brought to reality through a Herculean group effort. And while the architect may lead that effort, and even give it its sense of purpose and focus, the end result is impossible without the collective efforts of the whole.

So this October, amid the long hours and hard work, I reflect and am grateful on what my situation has shown me. I found some humbleness in my self, witnessed the generosity and strength of others, and realized that it is good to share the work.


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