This is one of my all time favorite gallery piece entitled "Resurrection"

This is one of my all time favorite gallery piece entitled "Resurrection"

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Big, Important Things

My work allows me to meet lots of people. Kids, adults and seniors from different places with different backgrounds. It's one of my favorite things - community projects that put different people together to make something great. It feeds me creatively and connects me those people participating and spectating. Of course it is hugely fulfilling to see the impact that it has on those I'm working with. And while I see lights turn on and walls come down with the adults that I work with, it's the young people that I most wish to inspire.

Usually when I'm working on a project with kids, there is a basic design that we are working on, with room for what I refer to as "happy accidents" - spaces where we can innovate and be inspired to add detail. Kids participating in my summer camp murals or after school projects are doing "real" work. They meet with business owners or an organizations leader and understand that the art that they are creating is permanent. There is no better moment when the project is complete and everyone stands back with pride at what they have accomplished.

I recently finished a large mosaic mural in Easton with an organization called Talbot Mentors. I've worked with this group for about five years. Their mission is to "match young people in Talbot County, Maryland with volunteer mentors in order to support those children in the challenges and opportunities of adolescence through friendship, guidance, and education." In the past mentor/mentee pairs have created stained glass mosaic windows together, participating in my regular mosaic classes.
As with all of my mosaic students, the design and mosaic style of the pieces were determined by those creating them. This year I was asked to do a little something different.

The Talbot Mentors team of Natalie Costanzo, Javana Bowser, and Rachel White were in the process of renovating the Talbot Mentors offices and had the goal of creating a warm, welcoming place for Talbot Mentors participants and visitors to hang out, engage in activities and workshops and to just feel at home. When we began the early planning of this mural I asked them about design content. "Let the children decide," was the answer that I received. And that's exactly what we did.

The first session was a design brainstorming session. The question I asked them was,"What should people know about the Talbot Mentors and the space itself?" The mural is on a very large wall facing the front door - it is the first thing you see when you step inside. It would greet all participants and visitors. There was no shortage of ideas: downtown Easton (including the paint your own pottery spot - a favorite amongst the kids), the Earth, the solar system, astronauts, a representation of friendship, animals, and many more. Our next job was to narrow the design features. This involved many conversations at the mural site. We drew in the parts that we knew we wanted; the word "Welcome" across the middle of the mural with the Earth in place of the "O." We added other features as we went, always talking ideas out and making sure everyone felt good about the direction of the project. Next we decided to add people, and the kids came up with the excellent idea to trace each other onto the mural. Flowers, insects, birds, and apple tree and a sun were added. Every part of the mural was their creation.

                                           Yikes! That's a BIG empty wall!

The completed mural is a colorful, cheerful and creative mural that puts a smile on the face of everyone who walks through the office. There are fun "characters" created by the kids; creatures that don't exist in our ordinary world but that live in the garden of their creativity. And while the finished product is an incredible, beautiful artwork to behold, it is something even bigger. It is a reminder to all the kids that worked on it of an experience that they were not only a part of, but the actual creators of. A large example of the thousands of little decisions we made together, the challenges that presented themselves, and the ability to think up an idea and see it through to it's creation. It's truly their's, not something thought up and controlled by the adults around them. I was there to help; answering questions, providing ideas, moderating discussions. I was simply a facilitator of their efforts.


                                                             The Mural Completed!

                                              A couple of my sweet proud helpers at the Partners In Art night!

A second project  finished just  this week was with an after school group at Colonel Richardson Middle School. We only had 4 days, 1 hour each day to create an anti-smoking mural funded by the Caroline County Health Department. The Director of  Wellness Promotions Leigh Marquess had the same idea as my friends at the Talbot Mentors - the design was to be determined by the students working on the project. Having the ability to truly brainstorm and the opportunity to see their ideas take shape in front of them set a serious tone with the kids. We didn't have much time - the piece was to be presented at an upcoming dinner so there was no wiggle room with the deadline. None of the kids had ever made a mosaic before, and most of them didn't see themselves as "art kids." But they went right to work, creating a design that was clean and eye catching while still delivering the anti-smoking message required.

Yesterday they saw the  finished piece and I was truly touched by their pride in their work. One girl was brought to tears, she couldn't believe what she had helped create. We threw ourselves a little party, eating pizza and cake, and showing the mural to every student and faculty member that walked by. These kids were excited and proud of the work they had done.


It is this pride of accomplishment that I believe we need to focus on with our young people. Kids need to have their ideas validated and taken seriously. We need to teach kids how to work in groups, share ideas, give positive feedback and work through challenges. We need to empower them by taking the time to hear their ideas and to help them affect positive changes on the world around them.  My friends at the Talbot Mentors and at Colonel Richardson Middle School know this - I'm thankful to have community partners to work with that share tis vision. These life skills will serve them wherever their path leads.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Birth of Ouvert Gallery

I'm a sentimental gal. I aways have been. I save ticket stubs, buttons, and little notes; all cherished mementos. Sometimes I pull them out and spend time holding each one, feeling the way that moment felt. Not all are happy. But I honor the sad memories just the same. I've never been one to edit out the less than great pieces - it is all important.

 This may seem like an intro to a secret hoarding confession, but, ( spoiler alert!) it isn't. Hang in there, I promise I am getting to the point. 

As a kid I would keep a calendar in my room and write little notes about the day. Each year I would look back and see what had happened on that day in previous years. It's a ritual I've never lost, however technology keeps some of those records for me now. The past two days (via FaceBook memories) I have been reliving the excitement of one year ago, when I decided to open a gallery in just five days.  It's a pretty good story and I can't help but share it.

It all begins a few years ago. I had been looking at St. Michaels as a potential gallery location for the entire six years since I had moved back to town. The crowds of people throughout the year, the ease of navigating the downtown, and the closeness of the waterfront were all desirable features. But I was unsure that people would want what I was selling. After all, my taste and style lies on the more contemporary side and I wondered if the crowds there were looking for art that was more traditional. And I had seen several art ventures fail. I did little "tests" in town over the years but didn't see much to encourage me. Until December 2013. Then one of my tests succeeded.

It was a hunch, that showed up out of nowhere. I knew Midnight Madness was approaching in St. Michaels, and suddenly I couldn't get it out of my head that I needed to set up for this event. I had attended Midnight Madness in previous years (an awesome event which draws many residents and visitors to the town) and enjoyed it as an attendee, but never really considered it to be a venue for my own work. But by Dec 1, of 2013 I was determined to try. I contacted several of my artist friends, and checked out my options. On the night of Midnight Madness we were set up in a parking lot right in the middle of town. It was bitter cold that night and we had minimal lighting but we forged ahead, trying to ignore the freezing temperatures. And by 9pm I had sold out of my inventory at gallery prices. That's when I really started to pay attention.

Throughout the next 12 months I continued with regular tests. I helped launch a gallery in town, and consulted on a few other art related events. Everything I saw was encouraging. By the end of November 2014 I again knew that I wanted to be set up for Midnight Madness, but this time I was ready for my own space. The day after Thanksgiving, I walked through town with my step daughter Mackenzie, and wrote down the numbers of every available building on the main street. We went home  that afternoon and made calls.  I began meeting with building owners and real estate agents the following day. I saw many beautiful spaces, but none felt "right." And I have learned (often times the really hard way) not to ignore that instinct. I was starting to think it just might not be in the cards. But I had one more appointment the next day. So early on a Sunday morning, my husband and I met with an agent and checked out the building at 207 S. Talbot Street. It was love at first sight. In that moment I knew I had found the perfect space.

Immediately I started calling, emailing and texting my artists friends. Feeding off of this excitement I negotiated the lease, set up insurance and other details, and began planning. The goal was to open that Saturday for Midnight Madness. I had the keys to the building on Tuesday, and artists began to drop things off. My good friend and DC gallery owner, Margery Goldberg was the first to hang work in the building, driving a van full of the coolest art from the District to my space in St. Michaels. The building has two floors and seven rooms. Throughout the week work arrived and we hung things, then moved them, then hung them again. My husband Mike Campbell and friend Deena Kilmon and I became a team, brainstorming constantly through texts and phone conversations that probably sounded incoherent to any outside listeners. There was work to do from the moment we awoke in the morning until we could no longer stand up at night. Just to keep things interesting I ended up with a stomach virus for part of that week, but was able to work through it. We were completely creatively engaged, performing superhuman feats without thinking twice. By Friday evening the space was almost complete, and we turned our attention to making food and preparing to be hosts the following night. Excitement almost kept me awake all night but exhaustion won and I was able to pull off my most amazing accomplishment which was getting a good night's sleep.

We awoke the next morning to cold,driving rain and fog. My daughter had a cheer competition that day, so I found myself on the phone being interviewed by Kathy Bernard for her NPR show "Two Boomer Babes" while applying glitter eyeshadow in my downstairs bathroom. And while it may have been tempting to be overwhelmed, I have to admit I loved every second of it. The anticipation of potential is a feeling that I live for, and in those moments I was breathing it in and my creative wheels were turning. Total bliss. And then the brief, but panic stricken moments of doubt, where I wondered,"What am I doing? This is crazy!!!" Experience has taught me to shut that sentiment down immediately, to not let that destructive monster in the door. But truly, would people come? We had no sign, and a limited amount of time to get the word out. I also didn't want to disapoint the artists. Had we done enough? 

And, yes, we had. The night was a success. We still had people shopping at 12:30am! The next day was great, and the next. We stayed open throughout the winter, holding workshops and seeing what would happen. It was intimidating at times not knowing what was ahead; we saw another business in town set up an online donation account to compensate for slow winter months. Yikes! What were we in for? 

But we found there were sales to be made, and were surprised and encouraged by the business of January. The weather was prohibitve in February but it gave us much needed time to paint, add lighting , and make necessary improvements. By May we had recieved a Certficate of Appreciation from MCE, a sign that our hard work was paying off and we have never lost momentum. Amazing artists from near and far have contacted us about showing their work, and we have made many new friends. We have contributed to our community by partnering with local non profits such as Check Yourself Talbot, Talbot Humane, Talbot Mentors, Mariah's Mission, TalleyWags Productions, Destination Imagination,St. Michaels Rotary and Tilghman Waterman's Museum. We have promoted and sold the work of many artists. We could not have come as far as we have without the work of our young, talented interns; Sarah Kilmon, who designed our beautiful logo and created our website, and Zoe Pochron, who became a technical advisor and cinematographer. Both of these ladies have also produced and sold their art in our space. Our children, Mackenzie, Collin, Seth, Selene and Mason who have all worked in the gallery, brainstormed with us, and created and sold their art at the gallery are also invaluable members of the team. Artists Teri Bildstein of Tide Together Jewelry, Ryan Jacobson, Erin Fluharty, Dawn Malosh, Bill Wilhelm and Victor Abarca have been with us since Day 1 and have offered their creativity, time and encouragement and we are forever grateful. It is an honor to represent such great local talent and to call these people my friends. Tim Boyle of Vintage Books and Fine Art of Easton took a chance with us and has given us the opportunity to sell great books and rare historical documents and maps. The list goes on and on, and we are continually reminded of the wonderful people around us.

This Saturday it all comes full circle; we will be celebrating our One Year Anniversary at Midnight Madness 2015. We are of course throwing a party, and rolling out the red carpet to our customers as a sign of thanks. I haven't lost that feeling of excitement; the magic of potential is bigger than ever. I know that with my partner/husband Mike Campbell that the sky is the limit. And it just doesn't get better than that.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Burden of Loving a Creative Person

The other day I had a revelation. To me it was groundbreaking. To those around me, not so much. Really it was just old news for them. And what was this "ah-ha!" moment for me, you ask? Well, ready for it?

I am possibly not an easy person to live with.

Yes, it's true. But in my defense, I'm really not trying to be difficult. As a creative person, I am literally overflowing with ideas. I get excited and want to make things happen. I see so much potential and have a hard time walking away from opportunity. And I tend to just jump in, and give 100%. There is a zone, or a groove that I get in where I am performing optimally and it is one of the best feelings in the world. Adreneline is pumping, my heart beating fast and I posess the ability to organize, plan and pull things together in a near perfect way. It is euphoric to skip from project to project, with ideas flowing, connecting people and places. What I tend to not recognize is how this fast pace of wild creative abandon feels like to those around me. While internally I am feeling blissful, the external me reads quite differently. 

Truth is, these times are a roller coaster of emotions and moods. I work to near exhaustion, push myself past my breaking point, have little patience, and can easily burst into tears. Having a conversation is very difficult because I can't just focus on one idea and everything comes out in an intense burst. There are waves of despair; when I think it all won't work out and that I've just made a series of mistakes. An hour later I am positive again - all of my previous worries forgotten. My loved ones scramble, trying to offer support, or even just figure out what the hell I'm talking about. I don't mean to make them crazy, it's just hard to remember that I'm experiencing a very different reality than them.

I wish that during these times I could see how my intensity affects my loved ones. My focus on the events and projects I am co-ordinating eclipses everything else around me and I push all other concerns aside; things like meals and kids' schedules are secondary. I know how selfish it all sounds (and is). And when it's all accomplished and I have a chance to catch my breath, I only see the sweet wonderful people around me, forgetting what I've just put them all through. Hopefully I let them know all of the ways I love them. And hopefully I remember to tell them how they inspire me. Because it is my life with them that encourages me to move mountains.

People say,"I wish I had your energy!" or "How do you do it all?" and I just shrug. It's no big deal I say. But for those special people around me, they know differently. They know the blood, sweat and tears that goes into everything that I do. And they know that each piece is me laying my heart on the line. And that is their burden to carry. The burden of loving a creative person.