Sunday, September 26, 2010

Art at the Murray House

A fellow artist and friend, Connie Hozvicka, wrote a blog the other day about what it means to hit the big time as an artist. The thought perplexed me. For months I have tossed that concept around, chewed on it, tip toed around it, and occasionally given it up for dead. Alas, it would never leave me, and then I read a blog about the exact same thing and I knew, like I was breathing, that it was something I must come to grips with. Some greater force in this crazy artistic world knew I needed an answer to that big time question so I threw in the towel and decided to really pin my thoughts down about it. During the pinning, I was invited to go cut and paste with some ladies in their 80's and 90's, and I oh, so couldn't pass that up......idea on hold yet again.

The Murray House is a retirement center in the heart of Mobile on lovely Dauphin Street. I have passed it many times, but never had the opportunity to visit, until Jami Buck rang my phone and invited me. Her dear friend Annette Simmons, who is sister to a dear friend of mine, Mary Beth Culp, lives there and Jami had thought the idea of doing an art class at the center would be grand. I was thrilled and suggested we do an art party for Annette, work with collage, and we both got excited. Now, we knew the ladies would be in their upper years, some of them artists in their earlier days, but we actually had no idea, other than Annette, who we would play with. I say play because art is always play to me, or it should be at least. 

When we arrived, we had met our four ladies, which turned to six, which turned to seven, which ended up at nine! And, rather than freak out, we rolled with the punches, shared supplies, and had a lovely time with these ladies. They all, well into their 80's and 90's still had their wits about them, were quite hilarious to be honest, and had a come back for every joke we threw at them. They loved the color palettes we worked with and some of the images brought back happy memories for them, of pets, and family, and things they didn't like. They told a bit about their occupations, Flora Mary was an elementary school principal at Mary B. Austin and Annette, who was an occupational therapist for children, was also an artist. It was just a great experience sharing art with them and here is why....

That hitting the big time question came full circle to me during this event. With total clarity, at least for me, I realized that hitting the big time as an artist was in this moment. It wasn't about being 'discovered', selling a piece for a ton of money, getting into what some would say is 'the best' gallery. It also wasn't about me getting my name out there or about me trying to network or sell my art. All of that, which is necessary for a professional artist, is trivial to me really. What means the most, what tells me that I have hit the big time as an artist was the look on Lurlee's face when she clapped, and with teary eyes, said, " This is so much fun, I had so much fun." Yes folks, clap your hands, I have hit it big! 
Thanks Jami for this photo, love it!

After we left, we learned that many of those women were the movers and shakers of their time in Mobile. Mary Abbey Berg, who now has a senior center named after her,  was not thrilled at the temperature, but she was pleased with her finished piece, especially the use of the word "fearless." I hope and pray that when I am their age I still feel fearless and am able to create art in some capacity. But more than that, it would mean the world to me if I am in a place like the Murray House, to have some young, whipper snapper artists like me and Jami show up with paper, scissors, glue, and paint ready to make art. 

Annette added the phrase "Don't Be Afraid" to her collage

Ms. Sullivan was a hoot, kept us on our toes.

Their finished pieces, which I think are beautiful!

Flora Mary thought out of the box, loved her!

Can you tell they were loving this?

Annette's finished collage

Mary Abby Berg's finished collage
I have seen with my own eyes how our elderly folks are forgotten and it's heartbreaking. The Murray House seems full of love and it's clear that they have families who visit and love them, which is rare for so many their age. If you are an artist, I hope you would consider hitting the big time with me and volunteer at a senior center. We will be there one day won't we? 
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