Visiting VISTAS, Cumberland, KY, October 1, 2016

Alexia  Ault showing me sorghum processing

Alexia Ault showing me sorghum processing

Many thanks to Partners For Education/Berea College Higher Ground VISTAS for inviting me to the Kingdom Come Swappin’ Meetin’/Black Bear Festival on October 1 to watch sorghum processing — and attend a lively and hilarious performance of Life Is A Vapor at The Godbey Appalachian Center at Southeast KY Community and Technical College.

I missed the milling part, but no big deal…it was done by machine instead of the usual mule! Alexia, our Higher Ground VISTA showed me how the sorghum is cooked and reduced, and the green gunk and foam at the top of the boiling/simmering vat skimmed off. Eventually a smoky/sweet tasting molasses is produced — which I got to taste with a “dipper”, a piece of cane hacked off with a knife by Applachian Center Director Robert Gipe.

I also got a tour of the festival as well as of the fine arts building — which is graced by this beautiful text based and storytelling themed mural. The second, figurative mural was created by many hands, each taking charge of a tile, which gives the overall piece an authenticity and energy not found in more “technically perfect” murals. I loved them both.

Then, at 6:30 p.m., I attended a Higher Ground performance of “Life Is A Vapor”. According to VISTAS Alexia Ault and Cassidy Wright, Higher Ground productions are written by the performers themselves, and based on real people known by the cast and community — so they are really about life stories. And by the way, I didn’t think I was up to seeing a play about a funeral — but it was hilarious and touching.

 

Higher Ground about to perform Life Is A Vapor

Higher Ground about to perform Life Is A Vapor

Life Is A Vapor poster designed by Cassidy Wright

Life Is A Vapor poster designed by Cassidy Wright

The Art Bag Lady In Appalachia

Where I work now. Beautiful.

Where I work now. Beautiful.

This is an aerial view of the place in which I now work.  It is as different as you could possibly imagine from the landscape, as well as the path my life has taken over the past six years. I still can’t believe I’m here.

Berea College, at the edge of Appalachia.

In early spring, I journeyed to this beautiful place. It was not my first visit to Berea, Kentucky, but it felt like I was seeing it for the first time. And myself in it, after a swift interview for an AmeriCorps VISTA position, and, back at the Boone Tavern, a brief read of a book about the mission and history of Berea College. Reading it made me feel at home for the first time in a long time.  Maybe forever.

Shortly afterward, I accepted a VISTA Leader position at Partners For Education. Then, in quick succession, a series of serious changes transformed my life. Some of them were politically driven — like the drying up of funding for teaching artists in after school and art enrichment programs in my (former) area. Some were personal.  And some of were physical — like discovering, purely by accident, that my heart was literally broken in a very small yet significant spot. And my knees are simply not as strong, or as flexible, as they used to be.

 

In any event after these and other travails, I am here, being of service and rebuilding my life again at my advanced age. And loving it.

Luna Moth captured on the screen @Middletown School, Berea College.

Luna Moth captured on the screen @Middletown School, Berea College.

More coming soon.

Mural work at Central Learning Center

Both the girls and boys I work with at Henderson’s Central Learning Center have been enthusiastically helping out with two mural projects.  The “Kentucky Tree” mural, located in the high school hallway, was creatively begun by a very talented young man who is no longer a student at Central, so a guidance counselor asked if I might facilitate the completion of it with the help of several small groups of girls. We are still considering adding detail and/or interest to the blue state of KY!

We are also working on a mural in the art room. The plan is to make these “windows to the outside world” reflect place these at-risk youth have been, and where they want to go.  The art room was recently readied for Family Fun Night on 2/18/16.

Art In The Margins!

Accomplished artworks, including mosaic stained glass and jewelry, all created by guests participating in United Caring Shelter‘s Art in the Annex Program, are now fully moved into the exhibit/sales space at Zion Evangelical United Church of Christ in downtown Evansville, just across from the homeless shelter. This is part of my ongoing efforts to promote awareness of the many gifts the homeless have to give their community!

AIM is located off the Vegetableland lunchroom hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.  And many thanks to The Pollination Project for helping to fund this economic empowerment project for the homeless in my community!

More than busy work @Art In The Margins!

Shelter guests @United Caring Shelters Art In The Margins wrapped up 2015 by writing holiday cards to distant loved ones.  I provided everything necessary: the cards, writing and art supplies, and stamps. But I never thought I’d have so many participants in this rather craft-like art activity.

At least a dozen Art In The Margins participants took advantage of this opportunity to re-  or temporarily – connect with loved ones, some of them clearly long lost. For example, a young woman with a child in her lap called her mother in Texas for her current address.  The volume on her mobile phone was turned up, so I could hear her mother’s tone of shock and surprise at both the phone call, and the question.  And although it was a very short exchange of information that seemed to end abruptly, there was nothing negative about it.

A homeless couple came into The Annex together and made cards for each other. I witnessed the loving exchange, which involved hugs, and tears.

I also met a half dozen shelter guests, mostly male, whom I had never before been able to coax into The Annex, and all because they wanted to share holiday greetings with estranged loved ones. It was indeed an honor to mail the many cards that were entrusted to my care.

As an alternate AIM activity, I finally opened the first of several puzzles that were donated some time ago by the former executive director. At issue was commandeering and keeping set up a (hopefully undisturbed!) table in the Annex for this purpose.  But so far, and through several White Flags (when UCS is open to all, with sleeping palettes on the floor) our puzzles have emerged unscathed.

And… As I both witnessed and learned from this Internet article: http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/The_Healing_Power_of_Jigsaw_Puzzles.html…jigsaw puzzles are not just busy work. They are powerful healing and learning tools!

And last but absolutely not least, I must thank a lovely lady who donated several hundred dollars worth of beautiful adult coloring books and gel pens that AIM guests (and girls in an after school program in Henderson KY) have been enthusiastically using for relaxation and contemplation.  Again…the unexpected healing power of art!

 

 

 

 

2015 Art Wrap Up With At-Risk Youth

My 2015 art enrichment/outreach with at-risk youth in Henderson, KY wrapped up with the beginning and ending of several projects.

Henderson County High School CHEERS program: These energetic participants in the after school program — and a few unexpectedly interested boys at Central Academy — helped finish the Holiday Windows, now on display in downtown Henderson. Two girls at CHEERS also wrote a special holiday message of thanks to CHEERS director Scott Wilson!

At the Henderson County Housing Authority, we made Peace Bird ornaments, and wrote a graffiti/artistic message of Peace to accompany them.

And and Central Academy, girlz created A Christmas Card To Send…Or Never Send…to add to Kentucky Foundation for Women funded Life Stories/Life Lessons writing/art project they are collaborating on with elder women at Redbanks, while boyz began work on their box sculptures.

A peaceful holiday to all! See more Art Bag Lady initiatives in the New Year!

Art In The Margins @UCS, December 11

Participants in this unique art program at United Caring Day Shelter continue to produce stained glass mosaics, to be displayed for sale at Combs Gift Shoppe in Newburgh, IN.

Highlights of this week at Art In The Margins: the design and beginning painting stages of several Holiday Windows, completed by kids in the Henderson KY schools and displayed in Henderson KY, courtesy of the Downtown Henderson Partnership.

And O and other shelter guests assisted in creating “hobo” bird feeders for the many sparrows that hang out in the smoking yard, constructed of recycled and additional cheap household items and hung in the now empty-of-picnic-tables shed.  And through the winter months, AIM Saturday afternoons will include homemade (by me and volunteer O) soup!

 

Update on art for sale to benefit UCS Art In the Margins!

New photographs of stained glass mosaic projects, facilitated by me and designed/created by artistic shelter guests at United Caring Shelters in Evansville. All and more, including embellished chairs, are for sale at Combs Landscape and Nursery in Newburgh, IN! All sales benefit these talented individuals, as well as the Art In the Margins program.  Come check them out!

Outreach with at-risk kidz, week of October 7

The Henderson County School’s Central Academy murals are almost done — touch up takes a long time! Thanks to O for helping me with the middle school Pride on 10/7, while I worked alone, way up high on a tall ladder, on the gym mural on 10/8.  Next: a 3D project with boyz, and a Van Gogh inspired mural in the high school hallway!

We are beginning a multi-panel acrylic/encaustic painting at Henderson’s Housing Authority.  The kidz were really into applying a base color to our tree shape, and coming up with text that addresses growth and change.

…and I was really pleased to engage a few quiet and reluctant-to-make art kidz at Henderson County High School CHEERS on Thursday! Two young men who repeatedly insisted they could not draw helped create letters for our collage board.  And one of the girlz got so into stapling that she refused to share the task!