January 22, 2014

it happened. it was glorious.

                                                                                                photo credit: Isaac Harrell 

no exaggeration.

I have a lot to say. 

My biggest fear in life. honestly. 

is not getting to say


And it doesnt mean I think I know everything. 

wow. I don't. 
but I learn so much when I stay very aware that
I do not know it all. 

in fact. I know the tiniest piece.  


but I think if we all tell our little tiny story. 

it turns into something really really big. 



I have been very quiet on here lately because I have been working very hard on a big show.

I have never been off the map for so long. but while I was gone. I swear to you.

I did some of the best work.

I have ever done.

and what I mean is that... I work with extremely talented and ambitious people.

and what I mean is that... I did as much as I could. and tried my best.

and what I mean is that... I worked until my arms were tired. literally. exhausted physically.

and also.
I teach some of the most amazing students there ever were.

Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

 Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

 Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

 Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

 Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

 Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck


and work with some of the best teachers.

Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

                                                                  Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

 Photo Credits- Dean Whitbeck

 Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

 Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

 Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

  Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

  Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

  Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

  Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

 Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

 Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck


I am part of a group of FANTASTIC CREATIVE SOULS.

four of MANY.

We made a show.

so many of us.

This is the second LIVE ART show. ever.


(also thats live as in rhymes with hive)

LIVE ART is a groundbreaking new educational program for students of all abilities (with and without disabilities), culminating in a major public concert featuring these students and prominent headlining musicians. 

As a unique, multi-disciplinary, inclusive educational program, LIVE ART is building relationships among arts organizations, educators and artists to expand arts opportunities for students with developmental disabilities and typically developing students alike. LIVE ART is at the leading edge of arts education, integrating performing arts curriculum with special education to create a major performance event.  


The first show was created and produced in such a windstorm of love and support that we were able to dream again. bigger.

always bigger.

Erin Thomas-Foley. 
is the director. ( and creator ) of LIVE ART. 

She has a big heart. and thinks wildly. 

she has ideas. and she has friends. and so. she can do things. 

Last year, the educational program was followed by a documentary film crew as it culminated in a large scale production.

and that full length film is in the later stages of editing. It will be finished this year.


The big dream is to clearly state the message that 
all people are valuable. 
the arts are powerful. 
and community is necessary.

There is no half-way with this program.
No settling.
 There is such a commitment to the vision and the opportunity.
That we go for it.

This time:

This time. The show was at the LANDMARK THEATER in Richmond, Virginia.

The Landmark Theater is 

we sold out.

 There was a through line in the show this year.

We had parables... performed by puppets.

parables that illustrated the times in life when your heart feels.... the most.

Which meant a cast of puppets.

Which meant.


and. I'm the luckiest person in the world. 

Because I am the Art Director for this program. 

See, Live Art is my favorite thing. 

Because I love people.
 I am passionate about special needs. 
and the power of theater. of art. of all of it.

and Live Art is ambitious and bold. 
The performance is important. 
and it has a strong heartbeat. 

I have said it before, but I walked in SPARC's front door just in time. before it all started. 


Live Art is that thing that people tell you - YOU WILL FIND IT... keep trying. someday it will all make sense. 

for me. LIVE ART... is THAT thing. 

when your heart beats fast because you are where you should be. 
where you are meant to be. 
and where the things you have experienced... prepared you for.


I get to make LIVE ART look how it feels

 Tree of Life was easy. 
It looks like this.

and the team... they make it happen. 

Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

There are so many hands on deck that I cannot list everyone accurately. 

wait. I can show this---here is the production page from the program. 

Which is the most fascinating part to me- how much people know in their area... how much they know so that they can work with other people... who also know a lot. 

and then. 

big happens. 


because working in a studio can be great. but bringing that work out of the studio.
can be overwhelmingly.

May Lou.

first day with their first puppet.

second nature.

the boy. 

the old man.

he may be my favorite puppet I have ever made.

because no matter who you are. 

you know him.

see, look.
I am constantly reminded that I am small.

thats why teams are good.

they give us a wider reach.

and they threw the posters out of the theater door. where they were swept up by wind. and landed



PSSSST. more puppets.

Blue. the young man. 

I carved all of the puppets from a giant block of styrofoam that made its way from the John Adams movie set into my little studio. 

puppets. waiting for puppets.

The woman.

Mornings in my charming town make work... happy.


on her way somewhere.

and. The Bird. 


and oh. those 

who performed beautifully and with focus. learning every day. 


It isn't easy figuring out how to make it look effortless. how to give a puppet life. and how to work so seamlessly as a team.

It was hard on their bodies.

and it was all very new.

To say they did a remarkable job is an understatement.

and. they are a blast to work with. hilarious.

(caught her holding the puppet like this while waiting. I really liked it.)



Also, things I see along the way. and have to share. 

because when else are these pictures slightly relevant...



and more Live Art classes.

so many.

really fulfilling classes.


If I could do only one thing with Live Art I would always choose to know the kids. 
and teach. 

By far. 

This is my favorite part.
They. are my favorite part.
and why I am so passionate about this specific show.
I love going to work.

Photo Credit: Dean Whitbeck

Live Art Classes...

where the students. often teach.

and being kind. is cool.

 Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

 Photo Credit- Dean Whitbeck

Where we try new things.

A Deaf student's illustration of music.

Photo Credit: Andrew Wallen Scott

Photo Credit: Dean Whitbeck

Photo Credit: Dean Whitbeck

 Photo Credit: Dean Whitbeck

And we have high expectations. 

Photo Credits: Dean Whitbeck

and we celebrate each other. 

Photo Credit: Andrew Wallen Scott

Where you leave inspired 
and loved.

Photo Credit: Andrew Wallen Scott

and with a stronger creative voice.

Photo Credit: Andrew Wallen Scott

Watching students build confidence. 

and character. 

Photo Credit: Dean Whitbeck

is a dream job.


Chapter- 23. The Tree. 

also known as - A big. magical set.

If I were writing a book. about Live Art. it would be a million chapters. so. this would maybe be the twenty third. 

and someone would probably ask me to control my punctuation. 

And I would say. 

I am. 


Carrying on


Live Art production meetings are exciting because there are a ton of ideas.

but mostly, because, if you are me.

you look around and say. HOW DID I GET HERE.

and also. YES.

I say yes sometimes before I know how.

and then I sure as heck will figure it out later.


Because trust beats fear.

The Tree of Life needed to grow out of the stage.

with a canopy of leaves that covered our students.


I drank a lot of coffee.

The master of building - Alan Williamson. 

I never take it for granted that I am able to watch and soak up other people's knowledge. 

Sometimes I like to remember how it feels to be in a space like this. 

A secret space no one knows about yet. Where I am swallowed up in art that is much bigger than I am.

And. I also painted a block of a main road.

The set was a carefully built puzzle... in a million parts.

Until we could get in the theater.

The Tree. 

and the canopy.  

I knew it was big, but seeing it stretched out made me laugh out loud. alone. 

Drawing something in this scale. 

Honestly. It is a blast. and just. really cool. (being honest) 

I decided if you have to pick up a jog while holding charcoal
 in order to finish an entire line... something awesome must be happening. 

it feels that way at least.

and if you have to worry about painting yourself into a trap,

must be something great.

and the canopy flew in two parts. to envelope the stage.

And. the choral wall of roots.

Sometimes. I did this. 

filled. every. inch. of. space. 


I attached the leaves that the students painted and cut out in class.

So that the canopy was full of their hard work.

They splattered. rolled. swept. sprayed. and dripped paint all over the leaves.

And cut the leaves out.

So. Many. Leaves. 

thank you to VCU's ASPIRE program for helping to cut. 


And while the journey is the rich part. 

There is a lot to be said for the grand production. 

and what that does for every little soul involved. 

That is where faith and trust come into play.

and where magic is made. 


That is where expectations are climbed on. 

so students can LEAP.


                                                                                                photo credit: Isaac Harrell

Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

Photo Credit: Tom Topinka 

Photo Credit: Tom Topinka 

Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

the good kind of exhausting

Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

They let go. and it is a joy to watch. 

and an honor to be around.

 Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

I love this picture.

because they move each other.

  Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

 Photo Credit: Tom Topinka

My heart.

Photo Credit: P. Kevin Morley (Richmond Times Dispatch) 

Probably one of the neatest things to ever happen. 

Richard Jenkins came and rehearsed with our puppeteer ensemble. 

and read our parables. as our narrator. 


When he read the first one at rehearsal. I cried. 

Never dreamed. 


He elevated the work. 

It was an honor to work with him. 

On day one, one of our students ran directly up to him before we realized it. 

with a painting that said 


he looked at it. 

looked up. 

and said. 

Well. This is worth the flight.


Our kids also get to perform with amazing musicians.

It is such a gift.

Some are pictured below.

Photo Credit: P. Kevin Morley (Richmond Times Dispatch) 

 Robbin Thompson, Daniel Clarke, Raining Jane, Susan Greenbaum

Photo Credit: P. Kevin Morley (Richmond Times Dispatch) 

 Rene Marie

Photo Credit: P. Kevin Morley (Richmond Times Dispatch) 

k.d. lang,  Jason Mraz,  Christina Perri,  Jesse Harper

Some of the musicians come into rehearsals knowing a little about the show.
But inevitably they connect with it quickly.

and watching them love and support the students is the best part.


photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

                                                                         photo credit: Isaac Harrell

                                                                        photo credit: Isaac Harrell

                                                                         photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

Photo Credit: P. Kevin Morley (Richmond Times Dispatch) 

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

quiet moment where the little boy sits stage left while students dance to Hallelujah

Photo Credit: P. Kevin Morley (Richmond Times Dispatch) 

sung by k.d. lang

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

                                                                                                 photo credit: Isaac Harrell

     photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

it's the backstage that matters the most. 
it's the very best part. 


  photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

                                                                        photo credit: Isaac Harrell

Spot on guys. Spot on. So proud of their focus.

Photo Credit: P. Kevin Morley (Richmond Times Dispatch) 



A tree grew from the stage. 
and the canopy flew in.


photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Andrew Wallen Scott

 photo credit: Andrew Wallen Scott

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

Photo Credit: Andrew Wallen Scott

(stage manager's perspective.)

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

photo credit: Isaac Harrell

I am so proud of everyone. I could burst. 

Such a quiet little SCREAM from our end of the earth - 


talk about it,  #LiveArtRVA


I believe in opportunity.

Opportunity for everyone.

In loving every person.

When a child learns to express themselves,

when they realize that art isn't an extracurricular activity, but access to a voice.

that is when the life changing happens.

for that child.

for that person.

and all of those people who hear their voice.


and these voices are worth hearing. 

They are smart. and caring. and brave. and observant. and creative. and honest. and



And the best part of the program.

That is simple. It is every class.

When a student says outloud.

This is so fun.


This is hard.


I have the best friends.


Stand next to me.


When they are scared.

and the whole class stops to talk about it.

When they do a good job

and the whole class has a high five party because they earned it.

When they say bye to me over ten times.


They don't want to walk out.

I love these guys.

and this family.


to my friends who came to the show. supported the program. and cried all over the theater. 
I love you. thank you. you have now seen my insides.


For more information. or to support the future (and very present) LIVE ART: 

The program is free for the students. and supported by amazing people who hear about it. 
and believe in it.


and keep your eyes peeled for the full length documentary film
that followed the first year of the program.

This program is so very important. The film will show you more of that.




I am sure I didn't.

But please know this. Working with people who experience life differently. Have different talents. Think uniquely. Work hard to communicate. See the world in new ways. In deep ways.

It is beautiful. 

This program, the intimate classes. the grand scale of the production.
It affirms all the best things about life. 



it feels like home. it is safe. and it is wild. and it is good. so good.


Thank you, Erin.


if you were not at the show in December.
you can still hear our Tree of Life message.

that when people seem to be gone.

they aren't completely.

in fact, they simply aren't at all.


1 comment:

Bethany J said...

your blog makes my heart smile.

i love music. almost more than everything.