Monday, March 30, 2015

I AM... an Artist!

On any given day, the volunteers who create art in the Mosaic Studio at Song and Spirit might enter our work space in different ways - happy, anticipating a fun, creative experience, or preoccupied with worry about a sick friend or relative. They might come full of ideas or with little artistic motivation; embracing  a new project or pulling out one they've struggled with for several weeks. Some come in practically skipping(!), we've had others come during and after arduous cancer treatments, weak, but thrilled to see friends old and new.

And a few, like J., arrive with... nothing.

We were approached awhile back by a small nonprofit that assists young women who find themselves alone with an unplanned pregnancy. Might a few young ladies join our art tile volunteers for a morning or two each month while they await the birth of their babies?

And, that's how we met J.

She arrived a few weeks ago to a room full of strangers all laughing, snapping glass, discussing everything from the art in front of them to the news of the world. A very quiet 'hello' and a tour of the gift shop for inspiration and J. sat down to tackle an art form she'd known nothing about 15 minutes earlier.

She is an artist, choosing her colors carefully, afraid to make a mistake, but drawn by something she feels very deeply. When she sees her first effort grouted, buffed and polished - she sees a 6-inch square like every other piece in the room, but HER OWN in a way that is deeply important, even spiritual....  This first effort is given as a gift to her and she takes it back to the residence to share with the others - setting it in a place of honor where everyone can see.

She's back a week later - and selects a complicated Spanish tile image for her inspiration. Long-time volunteers have not tackled such a tile, but she was so excited to try that we didn't have the heart to suggest something else. She came back each week - for three weeks(!) - cutting tiny bits of glass, learning about contrast and color placement, growing more and more comfortable as an artist and, well, just as herself.

Finally, the last tiny piece of glass was dropped into place and the tile was put in a pile of others awaiting grout. Knowing how important this piece had become to its creator, at least six of us weighed in before we chose the grout color.... No one wanted to make a mistake....

J. arrived in the studio last Wednesday morning with two other young women in her program. She knows more people now - and took a few minutes to say hello. I was at my work table when I noticed someone coming toward me. I looked up to see J. - not the timid girl who had arrived a month ago, but a smiling - no, beaming(!) - confident, young woman who embraced me and cried out, "I AM an Artist! I am an ARTIST."

And, knowing that the sale of her tile would help support the mission and the people served by Song and Spirit touched J. in a way so deep, so powerful - the idea that she, who thought she had nothing to give - had something so precious to share after all....

What's so important about having an art program at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace? We discover ARTISTS in everyday people - and they become people who make a difference in the world.

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