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Branford First Amendment Wall project co-creator Laura Noe holds a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution beside the wall outside Branford Art Gallery on Main Street. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
In the spirit of freedom of expression, passerby are encouraged to write a message in chalk (provided) on the First Amendment Wall outside Branford Art Gallery. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Free pocket copies of the U.S. Constitution are available to take away as part of the First Amendment Wall project in Branford. (Photo courtesy Yvonne Gordon )
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At a time when the nation has been divided by efforts to build – or not to build – a certain wall, two Branford citizens are hoping their version of another type of wall will help bring their community together. On January 16, friends Laura Noe and Yvonne Gordon set up an interactive "First Amendment Wall" that will stand over the coming months outside Gordon's Branford Art Center in the town center.
"Like a lot of us, I'm a little concerned about what's going on in the country right now, and I'm concerned about how divisive the country is," Noe told Zip06/The Sound. "And I don't really know what to do; and I want to do something. So I wanted to do a wall of a different sort. And I really wanted to do something that brings the community together, as opposed to dividing people."
Noe, an author and 16-year Branford resident, said she was inspired by the spirit of the moveable, chalk-friendly Freedom of Speech Wall in Charlottesville, VA. She contacted Gordon with the idea of doing something similar in their hometown, and the two moved forward with developing the project.
The First Amendment Wall in the Branford town center is one of four First Amendment Walls Noe and Gordon built for the project, using plywood, chalk paint, and multi-colored paints. Propped up on the Svea Avenue sidewalk just around the corner from the gallery's window front at 1229 Main Street, passerby can take up a piece of colorful chalk and exercise their freedom of speech on the wall, topped by the powerful first words in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution: "We the People."
While the materials used to build the walls are simple, the chalked-in, changing expressions that will appear will help make the message of each wall mighty, said Noe. Even the multi-colored hands framing the wall represent "...all of us," Noe said. "And they are multi-colored as we -- as a people -- are diverse; and diversity makes us stronger."
Noe thanks U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal for supplying 400 pocket copies of the U.S. Constitution for the project, which are being available to the members of the public in holders on each wall. As part of the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment defines America's fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, the press, and petitioning, noted Noe, in a press release issued Jan. 16.
"I know I need to know and understand this important document more thoroughly," Noe stated. "I'm interested in being a better citizen. We invite people to take a pocket constitution and encourage open conversations about what being an American means."
For her part, Gordon stated in the release, "I'm excited to be part of the First Amendment Wall project. The BAC was founded almost five years ago on the same principles- that art is available to everyone. Everyone has creativity inside them, and art and the BAC are democratic. Everyone is welcome to visit and create on the wall."
Gordon said she plans to keep the portable wall, one of four constructed for the project, available for public comment outside her gallery through the spring. A second wall will travel to the Blackstone Library in the spring, said Noe.
"I invite people to the walls to write or draw what is on their hearts. No hate speech please," said Noe.
During the coming months, Gordon and Noe hope to nail down many more opportunities to temporarily install First Amendment Walls at community events, schools and programs. Organizations, groups and others interested in bringing a First Amendment Wall to their program can contact Noe or Gordon.
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