When You Wish Upon a Tree at the Hirshhorn

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Some wish for their mothers. Some wish for their fathers. Some wish for siblings or friends, children or partners. Some wishes are rather rude. Some wishes are earnest and sweet.

Yoko Ono’s Washington D.C. Wish Tree is back in bloom in the Hirshhorn sculpture garden this summer.

The tree has stood in the sculpture garden since 2007. It is one of many wish trees around the world installed by Ono as a part of her international peace project Imagine Peace (the name a reference to her late husband’s celebrated album and song).

Every autumn, sometime in November, the leaves fall off and the tree becomes a whispering tree. Rather than hang their wishes from the tree on small strips of paper, as they do during the warmer months, visitors are encouraged to snuggle up to the tree and whisper their wishes to it.

But, come June, the tree buds again and the Hirshhorn provides pencils and little tags to write with and to hang on the tree.

Each day exhibit staff and intern volunteers pluck the tags from the tree.

“We harvest the wishes and send them to the Yoko Ono Peace Tower in Iceland where they become part of a larger collection of wishes that the artist has amassed,” Hirshhorn communications director Gabriel Riera told me in an e-mail.

Many wish for peace. Many wish for good health, success and happiness, many are quite simple. One written in childlike handwriting reads: “I wish no one was bad.”

Though many of the wishes reflect Ono’s mission of peace, many are more individually focused—a fix for a shaky relationship, luck in school, puppies, video games, iPods; even an end to sibling rivalry: “I wish me and my brother won’t fight.”

Some want things quite unattainable. Sitting in the back of the tree, near the wall of the sculpture garden, one tag reads: “I wish I could fly.”

Bet you that one was written by Yves Klein (just a few yards away in the Hirshhorn).

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