June 19, 2012

June 14, 2012

Once Upon a Time.

I found a project.

I mean, it found me.

let me tell you a story. a big beautiful story. One that is full of dreamers and believers.


But I think I should start from the beginning. Because this project has affected me profoundly.

I believe that what you do today is preparing you for what you are called to do tomorrow. I think when you find something that feels "right."  you realize why everything else happened the way that it did.

I have been looking for this project all along...


I grew up in love with everything.

*actual photograph of me.

I loved dirt. 

and softball.

and the hot dog and beans dinner at Aunt Sissy's.

and when my brother would ask me to go throw the ball with him against the house.

and Garbage Pail Kids cards. (apparently letting us have these meant my mom was awesome/shady)

and horses. I loved them so much I got a magazine subscription to HORSE CRAZY. and my friend Meg would come over and we would circle what we WOULD buy. if we had a horse.

and field trips.

and being under water. 

and Bandit. my childhood dog with a teeny head and large body.

and Kings Dominion. I would literally look out the back window of the station wagon and feel sorry for everyone I saw who was not going to Kings Dominion that day. I thought- poor souls.

and sleepovers.

and the first day of the season when you get to wear shorts.

and water balloons. which I thought only rich people had. 
(I had this really skewed view of what "rich" was. I also thought if you had those frozen rectangular "icee pops" the pool had... then you too... rich.)

and if you had a tree house or swing set.



sometimes I love the little version of me. I love the idea of being naive. and innocent. 

like before-I-could-do-my-own-pony-tail innocent

when I was only interested in gathering enough change for the Tuckahoe Little League
Concession Stand. 


nachos. with fake melted cheese.


we were not poor.

I just thought for some reason that if we didn't have it.

It must be a luxury.

That is what I mean though. That is exactly what I am talking about. I want to think those things now.

Like, erase some of what I have unfortunately learned.


Mostly the parts about limits.

But I think that fortunately, even though I am entirely aware of what you can't do.

I don't let that affect me too much. 

I think that is when I feel the closest to my dad. 

When I am scared of something but do it anyway.

When I am driving a precarious load in the bed of my truck over the Verrazano Bridge.

or when I am not sure I know how to make a deadline I have. when I am not sure I have the actual knowledge to finish that task... but I said I would do it because I had a feeling. That I could.

or when I don't know anyone involved... but I follow my instincts into a project.


When you feel some of that fear. It is actually not just straight up fear only.

If you sit for a second you realize it is only 80 percent fear. 
(which is necessary because WHAT cool ever happens out of safe and easy.)

so, it is 80 percent fear and 20 percent excitement.

and because measurements are always off. I am adding hope to that. 


And I leapt out of my full time office job because I was so positive that I needed space in my life to accept more of the creative projects coming my way. 



I needed to sleep some too.

and doing everything artistically that I wanted to do was robbing me of the ability to function.



But I value that time because it wasn't easy.

working full-time on art and full-time in an office.

It pushed me.


but, full-time art has been a difficult path too.

Sometimes it is crazy lonely and confusing.
but mostly. it is the right thing to do and I am very sure because

there are piles of glitter that occasionally shoot out of imaginary cannons right in my face.
and they stop me every time I want to stop and walk in a different direction.


One of those cannons is my current project,


Live Art is so very hard to describe because when you start to talk about it you want to just smile and cry. and then nod at the other person like- yes. you too right? you get it?

but because I am fully aware that sometimes words are necessary... I will say this, 

Live Art is a concert. 

Live Art. is also. a concept.

It is a rich 20 week performing arts experience where artists, dancers, singers, musicians, poets, writers, designers, and teachers work with students of all abilities.

Some students can raise their hands as high as they want. some have to work a little harder to get there.

Some students are deaf or hard of hearing. Some students have developmental disabilities. Some don't.

Many of these students have varying special needs.

But who are we kidding, because EVERY human being has a special need.


The cool part about this creative environment is that at LIVE ART we think about the need. and address it. we want the students to be in a comfortable place where they can explore the arts.
and be empowered.

But also, we are patient. have high expectations. hope. root for. and celebrate everything different.

HERE. different is cool. 


and I was swept up in it from the minute I heard about it.

I have been very lucky. I got to swim with kids of all abilities in high school every Saturday morning. And in college, I worked with a therapeutic horseback riding program. It was an amazing blessing. I adore people of all abilities.

I adore people really.


So, I was swept up in this program right away, but I was locked in

because of Erin.


This is ERIN.

Erin Thomas-Foley had the idea that became LIVE ART. 

she started the tornado. and the concept was so beautiful that it kept spinning on its own.

You really know something is right when nothing can stop it.

And when everyone who hears about it commits to it with everything they have.



I have yet to see one of the LIVE ART artistic collaborators give less than ALL
 to this project.


To be a collaborator on this project. to be involved. at all.

an honor.

and how I got involved is amazing.


It seems crazy that I found myself in a stranger's office talking passionately about special needs. and art.  and theater. and magic. and wait-how-did-I-get-here.

It literally combined all my passions into one project.

All I know is it was not by chance.

It was meant to be.

and thank goodness.

Thank goodness someone walked my my art studio and was moved enough by my work to meet me for coffee. She told me about her friend that she wanted me to know.

Dream Big. Dream Embarrassing Big.

And, because I follow whatever leads feel instinctively like good ideas, we scheduled a meeting and I went to her friend's office to just say "hi. I make art and you make art. nice to meet you."

Her friend, Candace, works for SPARC theater and she walked me around the building. Candace sat with me on a couch and mentioned that they would be starting a brand new program in the new year called Live Art.

I heard nothing else after she said- STUDENTS OF ALL ABILITIES.

within minutes I was in Erin's office where I realized we were on the same page.

The page that believes in magic and dreams coming true. and


and I pulled out of the theater parking lot that very day as a member of the LIVE ART committee.

(hi thunder lizards :) ... thats what you get to call yourselves when you scream to the community about how amazing LIVE ART is going to be)

I also said yes to teaching. (because I was most excited about working with these kids.) and I said of course! to designing the logo.

It happened so fast.


Our first full staff meeting was on pillows on the theater floor.

And I looked around at everyone. I looked at the other staff members' faces.

They were some of the most passionate and committed musicians, dancers, teachers, actors, special educators, artists, administrative leaders, and creative individuals

and they all had the same expression.

And there it was. The second time I had to choke back tears.


The LIVE ART classes are just like those you would find in any theater program. The students learn to act and sing and dance and express themselves. They get comfortable being on stage and committing to their ideas. They try new things and they work in the same space as other students.


There are amazing added elements in some of these classes.

Like, in the class I work with, the students dance with paint on their feet.

In other classes they paint to music.

They sign and sing.

They dance holding computer mice that create imagery on a large screen behind them.

I spent 20 weeks dancing with these students. I am the luckiest.

here.  you are inspired every day.


The plan was that these classes would lead up to a brilliant, grand, professional show.

A concert.

June 3, 2012.

It happened.

LIVE ART students performed on the same stage with talented and professional Virginia musicians.

Jesse Harper
Josh Small
Steve Bassett
Robbin Thompson
Susan Greenbaum
Samson Trinh and the Upper East Side Big Band

There were wonderful artistic advisors as well.

Daniel Clarke
Jason Mraz
Tim Timberlake


When the students first sat on the big stage and watched the way that the stage lights changed. their gasps and cheers...well

They were so honest.

And they said the great big theater felt a little like a haunted mansion.

or maybe it was like

I was amazed at how well they handled the long rehearsal hours, the dark areas backstage, the loud sounds...

 But they leapt over any expectations. they had a show to do.

They were artists.


It was a huge undertaking on a large scale.

*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory

how breathtaking is this.


Here is a page from the LIVE ART program that we handed out at the show on Sunday night.
 It helps to explain the mission.


I am so thankful that I got to illustrate and design for this project.

I am beyond grateful.



This project is right in line with my artistic pursuit.

It was easy to know what everything should look like.

It made sense.


front of the playbill.


a donation business card


shirts for sale in the theater lobby

CD sale banner 


back cover of the LIVE ART CD design


These are only a few pieces from the LIVE ART projects I worked on.

I got the chance to try so many new things.


I'm a fine artist that occasionally sneaks into the world of graphic design. (riding bareback beside a train... you know... doing something the not-so-normal/sometimes-ridiculous way) I even told that to the printer we worked with.

she said. That is awesome.

 I figured a lot out on my own. Asked a lot of questions. And googled about a zillion things.
Because I wanted to illustrate and design everything possible.

and just so you know- in the graphic design world- the shift key is your friend. (thanks becca)
(I feel the need to preach that)


But it is really great to try something and just commit to figuring it out...

If you jump in the deep end without water wings... you'll find out whether or not you can swim.


And while I am thrilled that I got the chance to design several pieces for this project,

I am most thrilled to be IN it.

With the students.

as a teaching artist.

Standing in paint with them. Eating lunch with them. Dancing beside them. and Learning from them.


As an art educator, what you really want from a student is for them to be WILLING.

willing to learn.


they were.

They went ALL in.

and the power of this program is in the inclusion.

It is that the students are so very different.

and so very the same.


They all grew mad confident over the course of 20 weeks.

You could see it in their arms.

You could see it in their expressions.

But you could really see it in their relationships.

Many of the typically developing students never spent much time around students
with special needs.

I was most touched when I watched the students reach out for and comfort one another. When no teacher needed to intervene because

They could handle it.

*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory

When during tech week, one sweet girl whispered backstage to another sweet girl,

"It's ok. I am two people behind you. You need to stand in your spot. It will be ok. I'm in my spot right here. and you are right in front of me."


The students who could hear started to tap their deaf friends on the arm or leg so that they too would know the beat of the song. They helped each other feel the music.

They thought of that on their own.


Moments like that. When one student learns to be there for another human being... even though they may seem different.

that is what the program was about.

watching their character grow.

The relationships that developed over our 20 weeks are proof that this project was good.

and that what they learned here. They will take everywhere.


after crying it out (often) along the journey. witnessing amazing moments of kindness. and fearlessness.

There was a big peace in my heart on show day.

I did not cry and cry like I anticipated.

I didn't lose it every time I saw a student claim their spotlight or perform with everything they had.
I didn't bawl at the lyrics of the song written just for this show. or tilt my face towards the sky for most of the show so my tears would stay in my eyes.

It was quieter.

And the sweetest, precious moment that usually made me cry, while still touching,

was quiet.

*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory

At this moment in the show,

The mimes poured paint all over the canvas.

while Jason Mraz stood in the middle singing Details in the Fabric.

he sang-  Hold your own. Know your name. And go your own way.

and these students heard that. they heard it but,

They definitely felt it.


And I absorbed that last moment with my class.

their faces. their stillness.

And I felt the energy coming from them.

*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory

I don't care if this picture shows me in a zone. Because. to be honest. I was in one.

We were about to step on that canvas. And dance our dance.

And it was about to


*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory


Our dance was to "Little Bird" A song on the playlist below. You can select it from the playlist and hear the musicians at their first group rehearsal singing the lyrics that Erin wrote.

Fly, Fly, Fly, Little Bird.

*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory

*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory

*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory

*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory

*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory

*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory.

Like I said,

It happened.


and it felt amazing.

shout out to Dreamers Theater


I will get in line with them in a second.

What's up cast party!!!

Heck yes.

Art makes you want to be better.

it inspires.

*image is a frame grab from the documentary footage filmed by Martin Montgomery Films and humanstory

And this production.

It is.


It may be the best thing.

 to ever find me.


(this is a clip filmed by Martin Montgomery from our last rehearsal before the big night)


But please, keep an eye out. The entire LIVE ART journey has been followed since day 1 by a brilliant documentary film crew.

and William Gaff of humanstory http://www.humanstoryfilms.com/

LIVE ART will be a beautiful documentary film.

I saw it all happening in person. And trust me.

I cannot wait.

I want to relive it all again

And again

And again


go little birds.


and leave a paint trail everywhere you step.

i love music. almost more than everything.