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Abandonded Asylums and Defenestrated Cassava

Posted on Friday, March 4th, 2011.

Danielle Linzer and Diane Exavier

Danielle Linzer (L) and Diane Exavier (R) after their StoryCorps interview at the Whitney Museum of Art

In November 2010 my co-Facilitator, Matt Herman, and I set up a Door-to-Door recording day at Youth Insights at the Whitney Museum of Art. Danielle Linzer (L) and Diane Exavier (R), associates at the Whitney, successfully planned 5 interviews for youth members to record visiting artists, their peers or parents.

They also booked the last day’s slot to interview one another. Although Danielle and Diane had then shared an office and desk space for over a year, they told each other some stories of their mischievous childhoods for the first time.

Danielle grew up on New York’s Roosevelt Island, roaming its ad-free waterfront walkways and exploring its abandoned buildings. She and her friends climbed the insane asylums’ empty stairs and marveled at the dark halls of rooms for smallpox quarantine. As teenagers they looked out over the East River at night to midtown Manhattan’s resplendent skyline reflected on the water, with its endless white noise humming across.

Diane described growing up Haitian-American. She disliked her family’s homemade food, and she and her cousin once realized that they could spill their plates’ contents out of the window instead of swallowing it down. Months later someone could have found cassava casseroles in all forms on an empty stretch of sidewalk outside their Flatbush building in Brooklyn.

Danielle is a photographer, and Diane, a playwright. They commiserated over being arts professionals while working on another craft. Laughing at their similar names but very different heights, these office mates left their StoryCorps interview with a little more to connect on.

One Response to “Abandonded Asylums and Defenestrated Cassava”

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  • This story reminds me of what I did in class. We sit in class twice a week for eight weeks around the same people, and don’t learn too much about them, until we ask. We did a “world with questions” activity, and it was a great way to meet people, and learn a lot about them. Good story.

    Comment from Torsh Torto on March 21, 2011 at 12:02 am - Reply to this Comment

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