May 9, 2011

Ironman for Haiti Update

I wanted to let you all know that I survived Ironman St. George last Saturday.  Despite the fact that Utah had a heat wave on race day (95 degrees) that basically negated all the training I did in New Jersey's 35 degree weather, and despite Utah's hills which are most certainly twice the size of NJ's hills, I finished forty five minutes ahead of my projected time.  The swim was a crazy mass start of people kicking and squirming over each other.  During the bike ride I got made fun of for having so many cliff bars tapped to my bike.  The run was brutal but I finished the 140.6 mile race in 14 hours 14 minutes.  If you need to remember what the heck an Ironman is, here is the official video:

The best part about the race?  We raised $3,500 dollars for Foundation for Peace.  I traveled with Foundation to Haiti during August 2010, and left feeling convicted I had not done enough to help the people there.  Foundation is working on numerous projects from medical centers to keeping kids in school; and they are, in general, amazing people doing great things.  I'll send out another update email with how the money gets used to make a huge difference in Haiti.  

Thanks again for your encouragement.  I couldn't have done it without you.

Apr 19, 2011

AOH Logo

Inside the room that now acts as both classroom and administration room, I added AOH's logo.  Soon, this room will become the student lounge.   

With this last mural, my project is finished.  I do, of course, have several upcoming events inspired by my adventures of the past year.  I will be interviewed this Thursday on WNPR in New Haven.   The Ironman Saint George is coming up in 3 weeks.  Soon after that the Class of 2010 will host a lunch during Reunions to fundraise for Haiti.

Beyond that, who knows!  As the wise Tolkien once wrote,
"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."

Apr 18, 2011

Academy of Hope Mural

Here's a step by step video I made to record the process of painting the AOH mural:

Finished mural:

I'll be painting their logo on another wall tomorrow.

Apr 9, 2011

Brief Reflection on Second Half of Dale Year

It has been almost a year since I received the Martin A. Dale Fellowship to paint murals in shelters and centers for the poor.  At every mural site, people greet me differently.  Sometimes Alzheimers patients yell at me until they realize I was the artist who came yesterday, and the day before.  Sometimes homeless people predict my future.  On January 21st, 2011, I was asked:

"You wanna see something?"
The man who asked it was a student at Strive D.C. in Washington D.C. working hard to find a job.  Unable to think of a reason to say no, I put my brush down and said, "I guess so."
He removed his sunglasses to reveal an empty eye socket.  Then he told me he liked my mural.

Art asks many things of us, but most of all it asks us to confront ourselves.  Those who are braver, those like this man, do not hesitate to look into their souls and bare who they are to the world.  The one eye of a jobless poor man, he was trying to tell me, is more than enough to appreciate beauty.  His gesture was as powerful as it was personal.  In that odd moment of deep sharing, we were still strangers, but only by a little.

Apr 4, 2011

Last Mural!

I'm happy to announce that my last mural of the year will be in our nation's capital, Washington DC, at the Academy of Hope.

It's been a year and half since I first envisioned Creative Currents, a year and four months since I contacted my first woman's shelter, and a year and three months since I visited my first mural site.  I've painted almost double the number of murals for which I thought I'd have time.  Instead of reaching five places, I'll have painted at eleven separate places by the end of April.  Between those eleven places, I'll have painted eighteen murals (does include general aesthetic fix ups I did to other parts of the buildings).  Some of the paintings are five feet by five feet; others are larger than 50 feet by 10 feet.  Along the way, I picked up a passion for Haiti, and the fundraising efforts will continue as I race my Ironman in May and work with the Princeton Class of 2010 to set up a Haitian awareness luncheon in June.

Meanwhile, I'm working on finalizing the sketch for the mural at Academy of Hope -- an organization that helps people get their GEDs and look forward to a brighter future.  The concept of this mural is to include landmarks from nearby places in the neighborhood, inspirational historical people, and a picture of the founders.

Here's sketch 1:

Here's a rough sketch 2:

Updates on this project come...

Mar 27, 2011

"Come Dance with the Saints"

On Friday March 25th from 7pm - 10pm, I attended "Come Dance with the Saints" at the Church of Saint Paul and Saint James.  Not only was it the only party that has been thrown for one of my murals, but it also felt more like an official art opening than my senior thesis show!  With an attendance of sixty people; an array of cookies, food, coffee, and wine; and performances by jazz, flamenco, and capoeira groups, the evening truly mirrored the fun and lively spirit of the mural.  I got to shake hands, smile, and pretend to be a minor celebrity.  The true pleasure of the evening, however, was watching people pose for photos next to their favorite saint.  

More pictures from the evening...

The Theodicy Jazz Group preforms at the opening


People begin to mill about the space

Capoeira performs

What a spectacular event.  Thanks to all who spent time putting it together!

Awesome blog written by Ashley Makar about the PJs Mural

“Dance with the Saints” Friday Night

There’s a dance party happening in the undercroft of New Haven’s St. Paul and St. James Church: American Revolutionary David Wooster raises the roof with Joan of Arc; J.S. Bach leaps between Harriet Tubman and Black Panther Warren Kimbo; Moses’ sister Miriam twirls her purple skirt behind the wall outlet that keeps the coffee pot hot for “Loaves and Fishes” food-pantry guests.  The Wooster-Square Episcopal parish known as St. PJs celebrates its new mural, “Dance with the Saints,” Friday night, with Theodicy, the music collective that offers a jazz Eucharist every Sunday, and the Capoiera and Flamenco dancers who practice in the church basement.    
Last month, I went to visit the mural-in-progress, on the tail end of a narcotics anonymous (NA) meeting. As people were saying “see you next week,” one man named C. hovered around the artist who was outlining bodies on the 50-foot wall around us. “What’s the concept?” he asked.                     
Julie Dickerson, a recent Princeton grad who got a fellowship to paint murals in homeless shelters and community centers, spent two weeks last month painting figures on the 50-foot wall of St. PJ’s undercroft. She explained the project to C.: to paint dancing saints (not necessarily traditional Christian saints), community leaders and heroes, who represent the different people who use the space. They can see themselves, reflected in the dance mirrors, as part of the mural. She pointed out a body suspended mid-kick, her outline for the founder of Capoiera, Brazilian martial artist Mestre Bimba.                                                   
“Are you good at portraits?” C. asked.                                                                            
“Not amazing,” Julie told him. “But you should be able to recognize the face, when I do Martin Luther King.”         
“That’ll be the distinction,” he said: the faces.       
In the completed mural, MLK looks like he’s about to deliver an “I Have a Dream” speech. Miriam has strikingly high cheek bones. Charlie Mingus is sporting a goatee, the smoke from his cigarette rising to the arc of his halo. Joseph Cinque, the West-African who led a slave mutiny on the Amistad ship, rubs elbows with white abolitionist William Wilberforce.                             
Julie invites C. to fill in one of the saint figure’s robes, in an orange-brown base color she’s mixed. As he’s making crescent-shaped strokes on the wall, he tells us he’s an artist, mostly a poet. I tell him I write poetry, too. He invites me to the monthly spoken-word poetry slam at the New Haven People’s Center. (I go and find a familiar face, a man  who always introduces himself as Rick B., Rick B., the poet; who carries a briefcase full of his poems, a walkman, and thank-you notes from Sisters of Mercy for his contributions.)                                                                                                
The fresh mural is already serving its purpose: to bring people from different walks of life together. Already, a Princeton art major, a New Haven resident in NA, and a Yale Divinity student have found common ground on a church-basement dance floor.
The Saturday after my first sight of the mural, I volunteered at Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry. I greeted all manner of people—a Jehova’s Witness, a biker, a young woman who’d been assigned community-service hours—at the door. Coats were hung on the hooks above the saints’ haloed heads. Donated clothes were laid out in front of an angel touching an abolitionist’s shoulder.
St. PJs serves diverse communities: the Latino, Caucasian, and African-American guests of the emergency food pantry; the dance troupes, NA and AA groups that use the church undercroft throughout the week; the church goers who come for jazz Eucharist. The Reverend Alex Dyer hopes the mural will bring more St. PJ’s parishioners down from the sanctuary, into the undercroft. I hope Friday night’s “Dance With the Saints” party will testify to that Capoiera-kicking kind of vision.

Feb 17, 2011

Dancing Saints Mural

For the past two weeks, I've been painting a dancing saints mural in the undercroft of Saint Paul and Saint James Church of New Haven, CT.  Thank you to Katie, Andy, Sarah, Will, Pastor Alex, Wendy, Pastor Vickie, Craig, Alex, and my new friends from the NA meetings who welcomed me into the New Haven community so instantly.  Your care, enthusiasm, and support made this project possible.

About the saints: they include historical Christian saints along with community heroes, jazz musicians, dancers, social and political leaders, those who fought for justice, and a past parishioner.  Of course, the dance mirror reflects the viewer's image as well as those of the saints; anyone in the room becomes a part of the mural -- welcomed into the community of surrounding saints.

 I was privileged to paint while various groups used the space: Loaves and Fishes food pantry, capoeria and flamenco dance groups, and numerous NA groups.  I tried to reflected the diversity of life, energy, and courage that came through the space.  

Click on the picture below for a video or go here:

On a side wall we have Florence Li Tim-Oi, Rev. Pusey, and a famous Jazz musician (name to be inserted)

On the left side of the dance mirror we have Rev. Shoemaker, Bob Yates (former parishioner who was involved with Loaves and Fishes), and Henry VIII (who better to advertise the clothing closet)

The dance mirror reflecting the other side of the wall

On the right side of the mirror we have a famous Flamenco dancer (name to be inserted), Lady Guadalupe, Florence Nightingale, former New Haven Mayor Frank Logue, and Bishop Seabury

View part one of the 50' wall.

View part two of the 50' wall.

Random angel, William Wilberforce, Cinque, David Wooster

John of Arc, Thomas Crammer, Martin Luther King Jr.

The bumps and inconsistencies of the wall made for an interesting challenge.  From straight on, the saints look perfectly normally.  From a side view, everything shifts.  This actually turned out to my advantage since it made the saints' feet look like they were jumping and moving.

Saint Paul & Saint James, Miriam

Saint Thomas, Mestre Bimba, John Coltrane

Dancers that represent the New Haven Ballet that started at Saint Paul and Saint James, Charles Mingus

Please, Charles, stop smoking.  This is a church for Christ's sake!

Harriet Tubman, ebullient Bach, Warren Kimbo, another random angel

On the other side wall we have Absalom Jones, Evelyn Underhill, and Samson Occom

Here I fixed Bob's tie to be his most worn burgundy with gray stripes.  

I can't wait to attend the opening party at the church in March!