Death and Life

Through September and into November, in between marathon Art Bag Lady writing sessions at the Berea College library, I have been engaged in a number of art experiences with at-risk and artistic youth via the after school program with William Wells Brown/LEXengaged @UK, and the Day of the Dead festival at the Living Art and Science Center.  I’ve also been stalking (well, walking!) the historic Richmond KY cemetery — thus the title of this post, Death and Life.

Last year, just 8-10 weeks after Owen’s death, was very difficult. Halloween was a nightmare, November, except for a day or two, a blur. I am so grateful, therefore, to have this year’s celebratory life and death holidays and my involvement in them for comparison.

As part of LEXengaged I helped facilitate a field trip and scavenger hunt at African Cemetery #2 with dozens of little and big students taking photographs of headstone symbols and writing about the unique markers they found. It was a beautiful day, and beautiful to watch the kids interacting with the space and one another.

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I am most grateful to have been involved in the upbeat and positive Day of the Dead Festival hosted by the Living Art and Science Center on November 1. The nearby Episcopal Cemetery was open and embellished with candles and decorated altars; there were colorful dances in the street, food vendors well worth the wait, and art activities inside that I helped facilitate.  It was a joyous, wondrous evening despite the rain showers.

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In looking for a place to get my daily walk in Richmond, KY, I decided to check out the old, historic cemetery,  have been entranced with new memorial art every time I visit.  Some of the stones are quite old, and many so personalized it is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It is a bummer that picnics are not allowed!

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Photography with LEXengaged & at-risk youth in Lexington

Here is the first installment of a photography project I am facilitating with college students and at-risk youth in Lexington.The focus is on symbolism and metaphor as portrait.

 

Summer 2017 work with Living Art and Science Center, Lexington

Sprayed banner, detail, Street Smart Art

I recently joined a group of amazing teaching artists at the Living Art and Science Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Their mission is in perfect alignment with mine: “engaging the community through education, discovery, exploration and creativity….collaborative experiences for the community, and educational programs in schools, community centers, and other venues to reach special needs, at risk and underserved children and adults”.
I am so excited to be part of this artistic community!

My first arts experience for 3rd-5th graders was Street Smart Art, introducing them to graffiti styles, vocabulary and (sanctioned!) activities.  We explored designing our initials, and transforming them into tags, we practiced tagging until we got it down to three seconds, we designed words expressive of ourselves in graffiti style, and we learned to cut stencils and spray them successfully. Some of the kidz had real skillz, apparent on the day we went outside and sprayed a panel and canvas banner.

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ID ART

My second art experience with LASC kidz was ID Art — art about ourselves, from a fine art and design perspective. We explored our wishes and dreams with word and image collages, created logos, created designs for business cards, used the LASC gallery and the high school art exhibit for inspiration about the many ways to illustrate ourselves. Some kidz made free art at the end of each class period.  Coming up next: Crazy Creative Quilting!

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LexEngaged and WWB Artist Books

On March 1, I helped William Wells Brown Elementary and LexEngaged students from UK create handmade books, and illustrate them.  The original topic and focus was an upcoming essay contest about the contributions of African American jockeys to Kentucky horse racing. But some of the WWB kids wanted to illustrate and tell their own stories instead. The end result: Quite a mix of images and text!

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It is a little known fact that WWB Elementary sits on the original Kentucky Racing Association property and race track once located at 5th and Race Streets, and that the local racing industry was once dominated by successful and talented African American jockeys. As WWB students talked about and created horse racing images, it was clear that they were very proud of this heritage.

 

 

 

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!

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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.

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Life Stories, Life Lessons Update

Progress continues on the Life Stories/Life Lessons writing and art project, funded by the Kentucky Foundation For Women. Also find the KFW on Facebook!

On 1/5/2016 — before the wild winter weather set in — the elders at Redbanks Pleasant Pointe decided to write a personal note to the group of girls involved in the project via their after school program at the Henderson County Housing Authority.  The girls loved getting these “letters” written on the backs of old book covers, and were touched (and attended to!) the advice given by the elders. Then the girls responded during the week of 1/18/2016 with a collage of Loves and Hates, a topic currently being explored via poems and prose at Redbanks.

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We also exchanged photographs — as bringing the two groups together had to be postponed due to the bad weather.  The girls were especially enthusiastic about doing this — and both groups were fascinated and excited to share photographs with each other.

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Both groups can’t wait to actually meet!  But until we do we will continue this “pen pal” part of the Life Stories/Life Lessons project.  And a website is in the making as well!

 

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!

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

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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.

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

Holiday Windows by kids in Henderson KY after school programs!

Thanks to Lacey a generous volunteer and participants in Art In the Margins at United Caring Shelters for the old single pane windows and designs, and to the CYJS program at Henderson County Public High school for helping to fund this fun and engaging project for Evansville’s homeless as well as kids at CHEERS and the after school program at Henderson County Housing Authority.  Look for an update on the installation of the Holiday Windows on Main Street in downtown Henderson soon!  And thanks to the Downtown Henderson Partnership for helping to make this happen!

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A Room of Our Own!

Thanks to principal and guidance counselors at Central Learning Center/Henderson County Schools, The Art Bag Lady now has a dedicated “art room”! It is a generously sized but windowless former “freeze” location, so kidz and I are planning a window theme for the walls. On 11/19 girlz also continued work on illustrating Life Stories/Life Lessons themes being explored by female elders at Redbanks independent living facilities in Henderson KY.  These include “Loves and Hates” and family via alternative forms of family trees. And I was introduced to my first group of exclusively boyz, who took ownership of the room by signing off on what will be our ever changing expressive wall.

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Work of Art at the Henderson Housing Authority, November

Our “growth” panel was installed for their 11/17 Family Night last night! Lots of positive comments from parents and kidz alike. Our vinyl self-portrait project is also well underway, using “selfies” from the kidz that are Photoshop altered, printed, projected and painted.

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