Thank you, Mascoma Valley Regional School District

Post date: May 28, 2021 8:30:16 PM

In March of 2020, when the pandemic struck the Northeastern part of the United States, it seemed as if the whole Mascoma Valley banded together. We all stayed home. Friends of Mascoma greatly increased the capacity of the food shelf to meet the needs in our district. Quilters all over the Upper Valley stopped quilting and started sewing masks enmass to donate for public use. Local microbrewers started making hand sanitizer. The school district’s administrators worked tirelessly to meet the needs of the students and staff alike. Teachers spent countless hours learning new technological platforms, teaching remotely from their living rooms, and innovating new lesson plans with limited resources.

When brick and mortar education resumed, schedules were completely rearranged, the entire school district rearranged furniture and implemented increased sanitation practices, health screens and organized crowd flow plans in the buildings. Buildings were completely sanitized. And as if that were not enough, as a parent, I received calls from multiple teachers just to make sure that I was emotionally ok and that our family’s needs were being met as best as possible. I had multiple friends working in the district, and have never seen such strain on them all. I am overwhelmed with the amount of care our schools have given to our community. Though our responses to the pandemic have become less unified with time, each one of us found it to be incredibly hard and tiring.

In January of 2021, I wanted to honor the strain the last year had put on all of us. The needs of the community and school district were tremendous. I am neither a doctor, nor a teacher; but I did want to express gratitude and provide some beauty and encouragement to our community.

Our Hearts Are Bleeding

Oils on canvas, 30"x40"

This week I finally finished the memorial painting, Our Hearts Are Bleeding. These bleeding hearts seem so appropriate to me. The white flowers represent the lives lost to covid-19, while the pink flowers represent the individual people in the Mascoma community. Though we spent a socially distanced year apart, we were still tethered together within our community just as these hearts are strung together by their stems. We all worked together to overcome the adversity with which we were faced. We all gave up so much this last year. Just like us, these plants are strong and hardy and long lasting. Their lines have grace, and they are resilient.

I am excited to be able to give this painting to the Mascoma Valley Regional High School. Many hardy thanks go to the Canaan Hardware Store, Christ Redeemer Church, the St. Pierre Family and the Isabelle Family for financially supporting this work. The painting is currently drying at my studio but will be installed after framing.

Inspired by this memorial, Jason Jarvis invited me to participate at Enfield Village School and Canaan Elementary School as an artist in residence. Using my work from the last two years as a springboard, we taught the children about the use of metaphors in art. It is easy to paint what we can see, but it is much harder to paint things we cannot see. How does one paint love or peace? They were very excited to create metaphoric panels and have them hung for a public art show on the town greens to celebrate what they valued about our community. While I went with the intent of encouraging the schools, I was the one who was truly encouraged. The children’s hearts are so big and tender. They have a true caring spirit and they have a deep value of so many noble things: joy, kindness, teamwork, patience, goodness, perseverance.

Cardigan Mt.

Oils on canvas, 24"x36"

As the artist in residence, I also was able to give Cardigan Mt. to Enfield Village School. It was meant to address the great ideological divides that slashed through Mascoma Valley as a result of the pandemic and the politics of the last four years. To establish healing and unity, we must pause to see our commonalities. Though we may have vastly different perspectives, we share so much simply because we share a common community and physical space. This painting is meant to inspire us to reach down into our frustration and anger in order to find goodness in one another, just as these trees root down through the hard granite to flourish. Seeing our commonalities unites us and helps us to extend grace, mercy and goodwill to others. Like these wind battered trees, we must choose to love one another with grit and determination.

A Cairn of Hope

Oils on canvas, 22"x28"

Lastly, A Cairn of Hope (Cardigan Mt. from Firescrew) was given to the Canaan Elementary School. From time to time, we will all experience dark, trying circumstances. When the world seems too heavy, when there is no end in sight to our burdens, when we are at our breaking point, it is so easy to lose our way. It is easy to make poor choices, say foolish things and behave badly because of pure exhaustion or limited resources. But as a community, we can choose to seek out and care for one another. We can extend encouragement, guidance and patience, gently pulling one another back into the fold. We can calmly create time and space for people to rest and heal. We can forgive. We can gingerly resolve our differences. When we choose that posture, we become solid beacons of hope, just as this cairn points the way to weary hikers in inclement weather.

I truly hope that the Mascoma Valley School District enjoys these works for many years to come.