A Day in a Park

62 3Arts supporters
$8,795 raised of $5,000 goal
0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
Funded on December 09, 2022
    • 176% contributed

I am developing a multidisciplinary performance event that aims to gather artists and audiences together for an afternoon of whimsy and childlike wonder: A Day in a Park. After experiencing so much isolation and hardship, many of us can benefit from a literal, figurative, and surreal breath of fresh air. With this new piece, which will be suitable for all audiences, the indoors leaves its inertia to move outdoors, all set pieces double as musical instruments, and participants will join forces with the natural elements to create a unique concert experience. Enlisting a cast of creative collaborators, my hope is to bring this vision to life in September 2023.

About This Project

While A Day in a Park emerges from an experience of solitude, the goal is to cultivate a moment of collective joy and childlike wonder in the everyday world. A panacea for loneliness, I hope the project can offer a way out of ones heavy head. My lifelong battle with major depressive disorder gives me a unique perspective and empathy for the isolation people have experienced since 2020. The path I have taken to health and wellness will permeate this work. The semi-autobiographical subtext will say again and again, Go outside. Breathe. Breath again.”

The life of a composer can often be isolating and constrained by academic tradition. While healing from my most recent six-year depressive episode, I found solace in play, both as an artist experimenting with woodworking and sound sculptures, and through chance encounters with nature, animals, and fellow human beings. Play led me towards self-compassion, relief, and re-emergence.

With A Day in a Park, I am bringing all of my interests together, blending unusual performing forces and employing a refreshing way in which the audience will experience and interact with these talented people and nature. I am planning this to be a three-act event that moves indoors to outdoors at the Ladd Arboretum in Evanston and involves an ensemble of musicians joined by other performers.

Act One will show performers moving from their solitary confining solos, into duos, trios, quartets, and so on. Playful discovery reveals that the stage set blooms into a musical sculpture garden. As the performing forces diversify, the ensemble will lead the audience outdoors for Act Two in the arboretum with the performers shifting into street buskers. As nature blends into a concert format, unusual combinations of sights and sounds will emerge, such as a juggler crossing paths with a wheeled kinetic sculpture, a bicycle with a percussionist in a sidecar, and a tap dancer on a modular floor. Becoming more wondrous and joyously absurd, A Day in a Park evolves from a place of isolation to a world of inclusion that joins humans, musical contraptions, and the sounds of nature for a final immersive and participatory Act Three in which anyone can be and play an instrument.

As the creator and director of this project, I am asking for donations to help support fees for collaborators and material costs for sets, equipment, and other production needs. Your contributions will help me bring this vision to life and create a moment of musical joy and wonder to all who attend.

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $10
    A shout-out and heartfelt thank you on social media. ($10.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $25
    Above, plus your name in the program notes for the live performance. ($25.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    Above, invitation to a pre-show meet-&-greet toast with Carolyn and members of the cast. ($50.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    Above, plus an invitation to an open rehearsal with Carolyn and the cast. ($100.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $250
    Above, plus an 18” x 24” limited edition show poster created by graphic designer Robert Hullinger. ($150.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    Above, plus a handmade music box with an original hand-punched composition by Carolyn O’Brien. ($250.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $1000
    A handmade music box with two original hand-punched compositions by Carolyn, the show poster, invitations to the pre-show and open rehearsal, and your name acknowledged in the program notes. ($750.00 is tax deductible.)

Carolyn O'Brien

Make a Wave Artist

Carolyn O’Brien (she/her) is a composer, creator, and collaborator who creates shows that integrate multidisciplinary artists with the audience. Kinetic sculpture, absurdist theater, visual art, vaudeville, silent film, dance, jazz, and folk music inspire much of her work. She uses …

View Carolyn O'Brien's profile
  • Update 1: Wow! A first update . . .
    Posted on November 06, 2022


    Hello Donors!

    I am sending this email to you with an update about the project and crowdfunding campaign, A Day in a Park. I am ecstatic to tell you that thanks to your support and generosity, this campaign surpassed the $5000 goal in the first three days! I was also granted a 33% match from my beloved 3Arts. The campaign has reached $7072. I’m not exaggerating when I admit to feeling dizzy from awe and overwhelming gratitude. I spent the following week reeling from all the love…ok, ok…from that, and also from tending to all sorts of medical appointments and that dratted COVID booster. While I am deeply grateful for this amazing science, it laid me out flat for several days. Worth it!
    If you are keeping up with the project, you may have noticed that I decided to push for a stretch goal of $10K. Please know, this email is not a shakedown for more sweet, hot cash from you. You are my first donors and have been so generous at a time when money and the lack thereof is scary, U.S. inflation rates are out of control, and the big shopping season is upon us. Because of this, I will never forget your gesture of goodwill and faith in my work. What I do want to share with you is that I am learning to be bolder, to push my arts away from an academic setting and into a less traditional arena. This stretch goal will help me and my colleagues do this in creative and absurdly joyful ways. Next week I am meeting with some builders who are helping me take that absurdity to the max. Is it possible to take absurdity seriously? I’ll update you if I figure that one out!
    My aspirational goal of $10K will go beyond paying the performers and for materials to build a set. With the additional funding, I will be able to create accessible audience experiences. While I have known that ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has been a law since 1990, I am discovering that these bare minimum requirements are not always met, and that they do not include members of all communities in need of accessibility. I am still in the learning phase about these civil rights and needs. I aim to become conversant about these needs as quickly as possible. Thanks to being a member of the 3Arts family, I have learned that ADA compliance in the arts can move far beyond providing wheelchair seating at a concert: ASL (American Sign Language,) AD (audio descriptions with live narration,) personal assistants, and other factors must be considered for the inclusive experience I dream of providing. 
    I am pushing my multidisciplinary and collaborative art form into inclusivity in every way I can. I have a great deal to learn, and I know I will make many missteps along the way. Fortunately, I have the 3Arts family to help meI believe in my ability to learn and grow as I create. Your contributions show me that you believe in my ability, too. 
    Carolyn O'Brien


    Update 2: Fun and functional + hooray we have reached over $7500!
    Posted on November 15, 2022


    Hello again, my dear friends,

    Sending you my best wishes and an update with gratitude for today's total $7572! I am feeling more confident than ever that my colleagues and I will reach our $10,000 stretch goal before this campaign closes up shop. 

    I have to show you something fun and functional, though I will only tell you part of it because sssshhhh it's a bit of a jealously protected secret while still a work in progress.

    I am working with some local builders to help me create some strange contraptions for my show. Attached is a sketch of one of my ideas (illustration courtesy of my dear husband, Robert (Bobby) Hullinger) which is already in progress. Thanks to a Evanston, IL bike mechanic and fellow whimsical soul, Flowers Luna (they/them) and their workshop Luna Alley Bike Shop, this thingamajig will have movable feet. When pushed it will look a little bit like a wheelbarrow with centipede feet. That part is for fun and pure whimsy. But wait, there's more! It is also going to be a useful vaudevillian companion for tap dancer Tristan Bruns. Wait until you see the kickstand on this thing! I am getting such a kick (ahem, dad joke, ahem) out of introducing these contraptions and multidisciplinary colleagues to each other and the world. It's down to donors like you that are making this dream possible, and I cannot thank you enough!

    yours truly, Carolyn

    P.S. Anybody out there wanna help me name this thing?? I am not accepting Footy McFootFeet. However, I am open to all other clever japes and dad jokes.

    Update 3: Location, location, location!
    Posted on November 18, 2022


    Dear Friends, 

    I had the pleasure of meeting with the program coordinator of the Evanston Ecology Center today. This is where the first act of my show, A Day in a Park, will take place in September. The facility sits on the site of the Ladd Arboretum, one of my favorite places in Evanston. I love their prairie section, their pledge to keep things a little messy during the winter to feed birds, and a cleverly designed pollinator sculpture used as a home for working insects. I was allowed to tour the space and especially enjoyed a classroom that is a home to well-loved animals, including one very impressive tortoise. The indoor meeting space has beautiful bamboo floors, tall ceilings with exposed joists, and is flooded with natural light.

    The reasons I’ve chosen the Ecology Center and the Ladd Arboretum as the location for my show are deeply important to me. This location integrates many facets of my life, my evolving art form, and my daily quest to find the light. Treating my major depressive disorder requires more than a proper diagnosis, therapy, and medication. I need to garden and to be part of something bigger than my ailments and fretting mind. I am an avid gardener who has fallen in love with native plants, trees and prairies. Being a caretaker of a native garden has attracted many wildlife friends, cats, dogs, and beloved humans, too. Slowly, I have emerged from my emotional bunker. Now, I thrive.
    The Ladd Arboretum and the Evanston Ecology Center are committed to getting people outdoors and appreciating the natural world. The Ladd Arboretum is free for everyone. Likewise, the outdoor component of my show will be free. I am sure it will probably surprise quite a few locals who meander along the paths in the arboretum. Some Sunday afternoon in September, they will spy with their little eyes, some guy playing the saxophone for a tap dancer, a cart that has feet, two flutists standing in a patch of spinning lollipipes (an invention I’ll share soon), percussionists with a bunch of contraptions that encourage interaction, and a spectacular juggler at the other end! Thanks to you my friends, we won’t have to imagine that for much longer!
    Warmly, -Carolyn
    P.S. I know it’s not that easy to see exactly how tall these ceilings are with a photo of me for scale, for it is a fact, that Hobbits are often called statuesque in my presence. However, I assure you, this space is tall enough to accommodate a juggler’s projectiles, and I can’t wait for you to see it.
    Update 4: A Flutist, a Juggler, and a Composer Wander into a Garden
    Posted on December 01, 2022


    A Day in a Garden with Luther and Eliza

    Hello dear Donors,


    It's update time. Before this fundraiser campaign is over, I would love to spend this final week telling you a little more about my wonderful collaborators. I am going to add links to all collaborators names (just click their names to find their websites) so you can go see for yourselves. This show & tell situation is so much better in the showing. Briefly, though I will tell, then you can go look for the show.


    In 2016, I was finishing my doctorate at Northwestern. That time was an exquisite Hell that only academia can bring, yet it had one very bright point: my doctoral recital. What I really wanted was for this to be a show, not a recital, and this is a risk to take in academia. I did it anyway. It was continuous hour-long show, was far from academic, incorporated many aspects from my musical childhood and music pedagogy, and even had a few nods to my secret desire of wanting to run away and join a damned circus already. I am going to admit to you now, I think that dream is finally coming true.


    Something that should have been the clearest harbinger of all was an email I received during that time from flutist, Eliza Bangert. Eliza is a very intriguing person. In addition to being a musician, a wife and mother, the kind of person who adores correspondence via the USPS with proper penmanship, she was also recently appointed as the music librarian for the Grant Park Music Festival. Big responsibilities. It was a very lovely surprise to hear from her amid my school turmoil. I immediately replied. I will roughly paraphrase our exchange. Here goes. . .


    "Hi Carolyn, my name is Eliza Bangert. I play the flute and my brother Luther is a juggler. We have been trying to find a way to combine our talents. A mutual friend of ours said you might be the composer for us. Would you write us a piece?"


    Well, friends, I think I blurted my flabbergasted response within five seconds. "Eliza, I don't care if Luther is a lousy juggler. I would love to write for you!" 


    Eliza then confirmed, “Luther is not a lousy juggler." You guys, the fact is, he is an extraordinary juggler. Luther Bangert's website has so many beautiful films of his work. I highly recommend you explore these films and his life story.


    In June 2016, this very devoted brother and sister visited my home, and we started playing in my backyard. Let me say this another way. A professional juggler and his professional flutist sister showed up to the garden of a professional composer. Our combined talents found joy, laughter, common ground, and we started our collaboration. When health threw many obstacles in the path of those plans, these two steadfast friends of mine stuck by me. On September 10, 2023, our premiere will take place, and you will experience something really wonderful.


    I cannot wait.


    yours, Carolyn





    Update 5: Final day of the fundraiser.
    Posted on December 09, 2022


    Dear Donors,

    Today is the final day of a 45-day fundraiser. It won't be the last time you hear from me, but I couldn't let this day go by without acknowledging you all once again, and to tell you about a few more of my favorite cohorts.

    I am very moved to report that, as of this post to you, our campaign has reached $8595. My initial goal was reached in a matter of mindblowing three days. While my aspirational goal of $10k may not happen, I am truly astonished to have gotten this far, especially for my first crowdfunding experience. I remain realistically hopeful for the remainder of the day, and very much look forward to moving from fundraising mode to hitting my desk for creating, researching, working with mechanics to create contraptions, and above all, working with this talented team.

    Today, I want to tell you about three more people who have been steadfast friends to me during difficult times. I won't belabor the points of COVID being hard on us all, nor will I remind you that this show comes from a reemergence after my long depression. I will say that this instead. This post and this project is a testament to steadfast friendships, friendships that remain intact and help one another when things are as bad as can be.

    Three of these great friends of mine include saxophonist, teacher, and cat enthusiast, Tom Snydacker, musician, singer and craftswoman, Liz Pearse, and teacher, flutist, mother to two incredible kids, and the Thelma to my Louise (or is it the Louise to my Thelma? All I know is we have agreed that she gets Brad Pitt, and I get to drive the car off the cliff), Meret Bitticks. I don't have a huge space in this blog format to share photos, videos, pyrotechnics and other shenanigans to show off these people in their element. I encourage you to check out their links and learn about their work. Also, quite possibly, they wouldn't thank me for showing you some candid shots that I may or may not have promised never to share with the world while I shutter-bugged in various states of my own insobriety. Instead, I will be brief, unusually understated, and tag on this deplorably cobbled-together triptych of head shots with three beautiful people as they look ready to pounce headlong into our project.  

    Wish us luck today!

    Sincerely yours, and as always with gratitude,



    Update 6: Thank You! Until next time . . .
    Posted on December 10, 2022


    Dear Donors,


    By now you have all received an email from 3Arts that the fundraiser has ended and was successful. I am honored by your faith in me, and I appreciate your show of support during a financially difficult time for this country. Thanks to you, I now have the funds to pay some extraordinary performers and make this dream come alive. 


    Today, I shout a profound thank you to the invaluable help and unwavering patience of 3Arts. The following people held my hand and led me through every step of this difficult crowdfunding project: Mesha Arant, Esther Grisham Grimm, Sara Slawnik, Taylor Roberts, and Jon Satrom. The folks at 3Arts have helped me to feel my worth since 2018 when I became part of the family. From inspiring educational workshops, to awards, to personal service, they have been there for me in more ways than I can enumerate. I don’t know how any of them get a decent night’s sleep while getting all their work done. For all the time you have devoted to my cause and many other artists like me, dear 3Arts team, I thank you!


    I can now confirm that A Day in a Park will be held on September 10, 2023, at The Evanston Ecology Center and Ladd Arboretum. The exact time is still being decided, but it will definitely take place midday-afternoon. I chose the date and location for several personal and practical reasons. Practically, September in Evanston can be a little calmer, and this date does not conflict with any Northwestern University events. For out of town guests, you will be able to find accommodations without severe price gouging. That was important to me because I want you here. The main reason I chose this location is that it is my personal mission that everyone visit this native prairie garden and 23-acre arboretum, two things that are vital to the local ecology and have become vital to my well-being. Now, we come to the most personal reason I chose this place and time of year—my mental health and yours. September can be difficult for anyone with depression because, in addition to chronic conditions, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) starts to emerge. While I adore autumn’s cooler weather, it is a bittersweet time as I start to feel the shorter days and pernicious creep of darkness. Scheduling an event in daylight at a beautiful location near the autumnal equinox helps me and others like me to stay buoyed during this seasonal transition. 


    Going forward, I want to be respectful of your overflowing inboxes, as well as get to down to my work. I will go a bit quiet for now, returning to the 3Arts page with details for the show nearer to September 2023. For any of you who would like more frequent updates, I am starting a monthly newsletter from my personal website. In January, I will send an email to those of you that included your email addresses with a (no pressure) option to join. I look forward to sharing video footage of this joyful work process, showcasing the core performers, and highlighting some additional people who have decided to join the crew. It’s not easy keeping that last part a secret. I’ll try to contain myself, but you should know I am giggling like a kindergartner. 


    Finally, I want to say that in addition to your kind donations, I have truly enjoyed catching up with all of you. As a person living with depression, it is very easy to focus on negativity and false narratives which cause me to forget the loving kindness that surrounds me. This project has been a wonderful reminder that I have good friendships, old and new. I look forward to celebrating this with you in 2023.


    In gratitude, Carolyn

    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

    • Jono Kornfeld

    • Jean Henslee

    • Eliza Bangert

    • Julie Henslee

    • Sophia Arconti

    • Melissa Snydacker

    • Erin Dennis

    • RB Moralez

    • Jackie Wheeler

    • Zuleyka Benitez

    • Trisha Leavitt

    • Bonnie Wedster

    • Dave Clark

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Chelsea Elward

    • Kevin Smith

    • Shanna Pranaitis

    • Ellen O'Brien

    • Diana Hamann

    • Doyle Armbrust

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Tod Brody

    • Lawrence Dunn

    • Lindsay Kesselman

    • Marti Paschal

    • Leland Cheuk

    • Carl Schimmel

    • Anna Hamilton

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Sharon Smith

    • Terry Gant

    • Jan Berry Baker

    • Grace Menary-Winefield

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Nicole Lumetta

    • Kathy Hall

    • Jahan Minoo

    • Billie Howard

    • David Bond

    • James Montes

    • mabel kwan

    • Drew Baker

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Chris Evans

    • Deborah Read

    • Bob Dow

    • Liz Remizowski

    • Stacey Cloud

    • Chelsea Elward

    • Sandra Summerbell

    • W. Anthony Cole

    • Sara Slawnik

    • Ryan Berndt

    • Sheri Graciano

    • Steve Albertson

    • Robert Hullinger

    • Melissa Snydacker

    • Angela Shelton

    • Dave Roth

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Esther Tweedy

    • Meret Bitticks

make it work


3AP Presenting Partner:

  Joyce Logo

 Additional support provided by: 

Department of Cultural Affairs logo  Illinois Arts Council