Engagement

Not mine; wish it was!

Five years ago, a newspaper article was written about me and my efforts to help the homeless through visual art experiences. It never would have happened if I hadn’t walked into that shelter at the right time, and met the right kind of executive director who believed that the homeless have gifts to share with the community — and believed in me.

When people believe in you, you can move mountains, and I felt like I did during the three years I devoted time, effort and care to the homeless in my community by working directly with them, building trust, encouraging them to engage and take artistic risks when they spent most of their days being told by others what to do and how to do it — or else. I helped the homeless engage in three fundraisers (not just be the recipient of proceeds); I created an art-based economic empowerment project that for a short period of time helped the homeless earn while making art AND made them feel part of the community via art sales in local galleries; I made for them a peaceful, safe artistic space separate from the stress of the day shelter; and last but certainly not least, the homeless helped ME create a beautiful mural that I hope will stay on that smoking yard wall to remind staff and guests that the homeless have abundant gifts to give, if we just offer them the tools, and the chance.

M on wall with camo

Five years later, after almost three years living in a new community in Kentucky, I am finally feeling the urge to be engaged again. There are a lot of reasons for what caused this lengthy delay — such as the death of a marriage, the death of a loved one by suicide, health compromises, and what it takes to recover from those traumas as well as the length of time and energy it takes to rebuild ones life in middle age. It wasn’t hesitancy though. It was knowing what I could handle and what I could not. It was taking good care of myself. It was survival.

Now I am ready to begin helping the homeless again — but not via a program that makes shelter available to some instead of all, and not in alignment with any agenda, only as an artist. I am ready to engage my community in public art projects — and that means all of the community, not just the artistic or able. I also hope to spread an engaging message: That art is not just about teaching it, making it and selling it. Art is a resilience builder and a survival tool and I know this, because that is how Art has helped me.

Sweetheart Flying, 2017 Ink, marker, colored pencil and watercolor on paper

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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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!

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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.

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…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!

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Outreach with at-risk kidz week of 9/28/15

We made a glorious mess at the Henderson County Housing Authority on 9/30, making encaustic paint out of old broken crayons. More touch up mural work at Henderson County Central Academy on 10/1 too, as well as prep and planning for a new one in the high school hallway. And persuaded a few very reluctant, afraid of art kidz at HCHS CHEERS to participate in making an unusual bulletin board advertising the program outside the high school’s media center.

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Art In The Annex @United Caring Shelters, September 2015

Hot, humid days have meant art inside the Annex, working on stained glass mosaics to be sold at upcoming art/craft fairs in Evansville, IN and Henderson KY, to benefit the Art in the Annex artists — some who participated in Haynie’s Corner’s Funk In the City on September 26! But the weather is moderating as we enter autumn, and that means more time on the smoking yard wall, which we expect to complete by November. We are working on two window wells (see the amazing dragon sketch planned for one of them!) and memorial benches for several homeless shelter residents who died in 2014/2015. I was also honored with a pencil portrait of me by artist Rick Lewis. So touched! Again, thanx for the friendliness, assistance and trust of those who voluntarily make artwork with me!

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Art Enrichment with at-risk kidz in Henderson, week of 9/14/15

We are getting close to completing both murals at Central Academy in Henderson, KY!  We also had a guest graffiti artist visit the Housing Authority, CA and Henderson County High School’s CHEERS after school program on 9/16 and 9/17/15.  The kidz loved learning about graffiti styles from a veteran who knows first hand about graffiti, and kidz like them.

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