Exploring Silence at Grace Farms

11/5/17 - By Ally Noel

I don’t know about you, but lately my mind has been racing - my lists have been growing lists and my “to dos”  have been expanding at a remarkable pace. So, when I had the opportunity to Explore Silence with Grace Farms Foundation’s Arts Initiative, I jumped at the chance. 

My daughter and I have been to Grace Farms several times since its opening in 2015. When I try to explain my experience there to people, I frequently find myself at a loss for words. Grace Farms is a completely unique experience nestled in backcountry Fairfield County, and to understand this facility, you truly have to “experience” it.  


Grace Farms itself is gorgeous - it features the River Building, designed by prize-winning Japanese architecture firm SANAA. It includes an amphitheater, library, common space offering delicious food and snacks, tea pavilion, and a recreational sports court. Two renovated barns house a visitor center and classrooms. Additionally, guests are also invited to explore the 77 acres of meadows, woods, wetlands and ponds, and walking trails. 

On this day, we were there to take part in The Quiet Circus - a contemplative and participatory public art project. Now, I’m not going to lie - the title of this installment kind of terrified me. Currently, my life feels like 100% circus, with very little room for quiet.  Trying to explain what we were about to do to my five year old daughter was laughable at best. 

It was around 11:30 when we arrived at the Visitor’s Center, we were instructed to follow the path until you “see a lady with a giant white balloon.” My daughter’s eyes grew wide with excitement, and we began our adventure. She quickly spotted the balloon, and ran ahead of me where we were greeted and invited to reserve our time slot to play the game. Thankfully, there was a 12:00 time slot available for us. We warmed up for awhile in the Tea Pavilion while anxiously awaiting our turn. 

While we waited, I tried to explain what we were about to do to my daughter. The premise of this “game” is actually quite simple: in groups of two, the participants interact with nine found objects inspired by the history of Grace Farms. The participants take turns placing the objects within the landscape, without speaking to each other.  “So, we have to talk to each other using only our minds?” my daughter asked. “Yes.”, I answered. After being assured by a Grace Farms staff  that there are no winners, losers, or mistakes in this game, we were ready to go. 

I sat in one of the found objects, and  inventoried the materials in front of us: two chairs, a piece of driftwood, a net, a hollow tube, a fiber blanket, a balloon, a curved piece of metal, and an angular piece of wood. Unsurprisingly, my kid made a beeline to the giant white balloon - and just like that - the game was on!  

And - just like that - all my anxiety disappeared. My daughter knew exactly what to do. I watched her silently move around the landscape placing objects in very purposeful positions. I watched her persevere and problem solve when she couldn’t get a piece of wood to lean against a tree just so. I watched her make carefully calculated decisions about how to move a giant fiber blanket and wrap it around a tree. In general, I just sat there in awe observing this tiny human understand exactly what to do with fierce independence. We spend so much of our day talking to each other, that it felt like a pure luxury to just sit back and observe her. After we placed each object, I’d give her a high five - and her face would just light up. I have to imagine, that being in control of her environment and surroundings is very empowering for a five-year-old. 

After we placed the last object, I asked her if she enjoyed that and was shocked by her emphatic, “yes!” 

The Landscape Game is available on Saturdays from Octover 28th to Novemeber 25. It is suggested for ages 5 and older and is located outdoors. While limited player slots are available, everyone is invited to observe the game. 

Additionally, Grace Farms has several family friendly programs to entertain the whole family. 

Practicing Silence | The Quiet Circus (free)
10:30 am-5:30 pm, Saturdays in November through November 25th

Open Art Studio for Kids ($5)
Every Saturday, 10:30 am – 2:30 pm
Theme: Rubbing, Wrapping and Printing 
Exploring the Nature Initiative at Grace Farms

Birdwatching (free)
Saturdays, November 4-December 9
Times Vary
Join master birders in search of seasonal birdlife during a tour of Grace Farms’ walking trails. Participants of all experience levels and ages are invited to learn more and discover more than 40 species of birds that thrive at Grace Farms.

If you are looking for something fun and different to do with family during this busy holiday season, a trip to Grace Farms is the perfect cure for the seasonal insanity that the holiday season can bring. 

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