So, I have that goofy little timehop app on my phone, and as I was checking it the other day a text popped up in the “1 Year Ago Today” section in which I was telling my boyfriend, “I have an interview scheduled for tomorrow!” It’s been almost a whole year already since I started at what is basically my dream job. I became interested in art programs geared towards individuals with disabilities and mental illness after picking up the book It’s Kind Of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini at the library (Before I knew it was also soon to be a movie. As always, the book’s better). The role that drawing his “brain maps” plays in the main character’s recovery as well as how he uses his drawings to bring joy to others was something that stirred immense inspiration within me. I knew I wanted to work with something like this, but all I could think was … crap. I just finished an interior design/art degree. I will not accept that I endured 4 years of blood, sweat, and tears to go into the wrong field. And … I tried to push the thought from my mind. After some weird forays at furniture stores and hardware stores being promised by prospective employers that I’d “really get to do a lot of designing!” yet ending up as more of a sales clerk, I received a mass email through the Midland Artists Guild mailing list calling for instructors for a new art program offering instruction to adults with physical and mental challenges at Creative 360. I had zero teaching experience at that point, but knew I could make art so decided to go for it since I needed a job. The rest is history. This post title isn’t quite accurate, as I’ve worked with Artshop as an instructor for 2-3ish years before becoming Artshop’s Program Coordinator, but it’s been 1 year as an “official” employee. This date a year ago was my interview, and even though I already knew everyone who I’d be talking to, I was freaking out. Artshop is truly such an important part of my life. Yes, it’s my job, but my students feel like friends and family. I want to share with my readers the first full year of my new adventure.
I was kind of eased into the job by happenstance because I officially started right around the holidays, which means there was a lot of fun activities going on and of course, parties. Basically, maximum events, minimal drudgery, and everyone was in a really good mood all the time :). The previous coordinator, who was quite an awesome lady herself, came back for a visit for our Christmas party.
I know I’ve mentioned my Art Clash buddy Heather-Dawn Deogracia before (psst! She’s pretty much Midland famous with her recent front page story. Next – the world!). Our artistic styles are pretty in-sync so we’d always clicked, but I had the opportunity to get to know her even better as I was around Creative 360 more often. We started sharing drawings with each other and giving critiques from time to time, and currently we are even working on a collaboration together.
My dear friend Heather-Dawn again! When I started as coordinator, I was still teaching 3 of my previously 6 classes. With so many other things going on now I’m down to 1 fine arts class, and I do miss doing fun, crafty, pinterest-esque projects with students. A heart wreath made out of puzzle pieces covered in iridescent paint, what? I find myself sending other instructors lesson plans sometimes being like Do this! …. Or wait, I mean if you want, it is your class now but …. seriously do it. Luckily, most of them don’t see it as bossiness and actually appreciate the suggestions … at least I think ;).
One of the things I’ve always been passionate about is empowering artists to get their art out into the world through selling it to the public. It’s not about the money, it’s about having the confidence to say my work is worth something. We opened our Virtual Gallery on facebook, and had our first “live” art sale at Dollar Daze. The guy in the blue Artshop T-shirt is Doug. He is our top salesperson, no joke. Like, I should tip off my previous employer Art Van about giving him a job.
Our Artshop Redbubble Store is another opportunity to get students’ work out there. We sold a ton of these Easter cards. Look at that adorable pink bunny, how could we not?
Everyone knows those wine and canvas or painting party things are all the rage and have been for quite some time. They’re super fun but can be pricey for those on a tight budget, and aren’t really structured for one-on-one assistance. I began teaching Creative Canvas Workshops for Artshop following the same format, and it has been a blast. The workshop in May was tiger day! What has been the coolest thing about these workshops is that a large number of participants often aren’t our usual Artshop students. There is a lot of research coming out now about the benefits of inclusive environments. I love getting together to paint with people of all abilities, and seeing how they encourage each others’ work and learn from each other.
Summer is the season of outdoor art fairs. This time, I got to be a vendor not a looker in setting up a booth with the students’ creations. The temperature was in the record highs. I was hot, I was tired, and I realized that for my own art I am only doing indoor art fairs around Christmas, if I ever do any for myself at all. Did I say I was hot and tired?
Another month, another art fair. The things you do for love … There’s Doug again! What did I tell you?
This wonderful lady would come every Wednesday with a different animal she wanted to paint, and complete a piece start to finish without fail. Seeing what she would come up with next was seriously a highlight to my week. After the summer, she unfortunately had to move to an assisted living facility out of the area. Suffice to say we will all think of her for months and years to come. Her talent and cheerful spirit is simply amazing.
The fall brought our long awaited showcase. Artshop students were able to show their work in a gallery setting along with pieces sent to us from VSA and Do-Art. There were also monologues, musical and choreographed dances performed. It was a celebration of joy, expression, and accomplishment.
What’s this? Another art fair! I asked for more opportunities for students to show their work, and I got it. This fair right at Creative 360 was nice because it was indoors and also students had the option of setting up their own table so they could be there with their work throughout the day. The variety and skill level of the handmade works shown was incredible, as was seeing the excitement and pride on students’ faces, many of whom had never had the opportunity to participate in something like this before.
All in all, I am so glad I get to spend my the majority of my day around people who bring things like this into the world … yes, it’s a fierce looking hot pink and lilac unicorn. Things aren’t always perfect, and there are days I’m frustrated and just want to stay home like any other job. But overall, I love what I do and not everyone can say that. I’m thankful that I can.