During the Charlotte Street 25th Anniversary Block Party in Kansas City last weekend, Professor and Coordinator of Public Engagement Adriane Herman held her fifth "Emotional Value Auction," through which thirty items (and no money) changed hands.
These auctions are designed to help people let go of something they feel no longer serves them but that they have been unable to release through conventional means such as donating or selling. Instead of offering money, aspiring receivers write why they are interested in an object at bidding stations stocked with tissues. Herman sends written bids to each object's owner and empowers them to choose who receives the possession.
When interviewed about this unconventional auction grounded in reciprocity, Herman explained to NPR’s KCUR 89.3, “It’s really about public displays of vulnerability, rewarding connection, and showing up/being present for people. The project leverages the power of witnessing to facilitate release, which can be hard for people.”
Herman likens the process of finding a new owner to receive and carry something with a meaningful past into the future to a "psychic crowbar," highlighting the generosity inherent in receiving and the power of authentic communication.