Artist in Residence at Enfield Village School

Post date: Mar 17, 2021 2:37:9 AM

Over the last year I have really been searching for ways to speak into the lives of my community. It seems that there is so much darkness from politics and from the pandemic. But I believe that beauty and goodness are stronger than darkness. I have been working furiously to heap these good things into my community as a form of encouragement and hope - a cheer for perseverance.

I have had the privilege of working with Jason Jarvis, who is the elementary art teacher for the Mascoma School District. He was inspired by some of my metaphorical paintings to represent community. Together, we developed a program in which we could teach the grade schools about creating artwork using metaphors to painting things we cannot physically see. I am honored and humbled to be able to serve the Enfield Village School as the Artist in Residence. The children have been over the moon to have a professional artist come to their classrooms.

I have been meeting with the children every day. They are creating plaques with metaphoric symbols, colors and textures to express appreciation for characteristics of our community that they value. They were very excited to learn that they each get to use a real wooden panel just like the Mona Lisa was painted on. We have talked about the metaphorical symbolism of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi in the Statue of Liberty, Makoto Fujimura's color metaphors in his Silence and Beauty paintings and Bisa Butler's textural metaphors in her quilts. Here, I am showing them an example of a metaphor plaque we are making with the children: this apple represents a healthy community and the green background symbolizes growth that we have when we make healthy choices.

We were fortunate enough to hang a complete exhibit of my work throughout the school building for the children and staff to enjoy during my time at the school. I am amazed at the dedication of the staff to help make this happen. A special thank you goes to Barry and Jason for their generous help with hanging everything! They did a tremendous job laying it out.

Look how the colors of my paintings compliment the tile mosaic in the lobby of the school! They chose that perfectly.

In between classroom time with the children, I have been painting in the lobby. This painting will be donated to the school after my time with them is completed. I followed the same process for this painting that the children are using for their panels in class. They have watched me over the course of the last two weeks every time they come into the school in the morning, every time they go out for recess. A few have found me "on the way to the bathroom" (which is not close to the lobby). Painting in a public place is much more difficult than I could have ever imagined! I can't quite reach that deep state of concentration that I am accustomed to, and I answer continual questions. But the excitement of the children as they have watched the painting evolve has been a joy. As one eloquent first grader pointed out - joy bubbles like a fountain.

It is good for the children see how long it can take to paint a painting. It is good for them to watch me struggle with a color here, and a line there. They have watched it start to pop and as I paint a little bit, they are surprised to see things evolve. There is a tree! Oh, I didn't notice that flower!

The painting is called "The Winter Wren". During the summer months in NH, our woods have a tiny and ordinary looking brown bird - the winter wren. Though they may appear drab, these little birds do something extraordinary: they sing a loud bubbly song that floats through the forest with great clarity. Like those little birds, we may feel small and ordinary - but we must remember the power of our words. We also have the ability to add beauty to the world around us. Words of respect create community. Words of truth create trust. Words of empathy create brother and sisterhood. Words of graciousness build people up. Words of encouragement create bravery and perseverance. Words of loving correction create reflection and change. Words of assurance create confidence. Everyday we have the privilege of determining who we will be and how we will affect our community. This ordinary bird is to be our extraordinary example, reminding us to choose words full of humility, truth, hope, mercy, compassion, forgiveness and peace.

The comments from the students have been so encouraging to me. I had one student tell me that the school was much friendlier with my paintings up. Another student said they felt calm when they looked at my paintings. Another said they felt more joyful. The price tag that I put on a piece of my work is not actually what gives it value. When people are moved by my artwork, when it makes them feel deeply, when it makes them think - that is where the true value is. Usually, I don't know what value my work holds until much later. Sometimes I never know, actually. While I came to serve these small children, their comments, excitement and cheers of encouragement for the painting in the lobby have actually been a service and blessing to me. I am awed at how much goodness they have in them. Thank you, EVS. Thank you very much.