Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Penner Family

I love my friend Erica. She and the Freeden family were family friends of mine growing up in our hometown of Roeland Park, KS. Now her own clan, Darin, Emory and Adeline Penner have only expanded the circle of life and love. A few years ago, a voraciously progressive form of MS (they think), began to deteriorate Darin's body. It's been devastating, but they have shared every step and are surrounded by a generous community. My miniscule part this year was to facilitate a collaborative piece with them in their home. My only instructions were that each of their hands were traced, and their names were there. I jumped in, too. Wonderfully, Darin was able to participate. We had a blast. For Christmas, I had the piece framed (thanks, Cleo Copeland of Cleo's Frames in Joplin). They love it, as I love them. Count your blessings, people. And keep this precious family in your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Gallery 831

As if I didn't have enough going on in addition to a new job and lots of new community art projects, I had to go open a gallery out of my house in Carthage, MO. First artist was Sandra Conrad, and the opening reception and later open house was fantastic. We sold a good amount of work, connected Sandra to future shows and contacts, and I got to live with beautiful work for a couple months. Bravo!

Bicknell Family Center for the Arts

30 years in the making. Ribbon cutting. Lots of pride, smiles, and anticipation. The gallery isn't quite ready, but I had a couple of the first pieces on display ever at the grand opening of the center. An honor!

PSU Faculty Show: Assembly Required

Teaching Collaboration

Art ed majors at PSU, discovering some lessons they can use in their future classrooms.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Matisse Mash-Up

So proud of students in ART 441 Art Education Theory and Practice. We planned and executed an installation for the Art Connectors Gallery on the second floor of Porter Hall at PSU. The exhibit includes a lesson plan, gallery guide, interactive component, and original artwork from three Missouri and four Kansas public schools. Show is up Sept 22-Oct 24, 2014.

Article in the Joplin Globe by PSU alumnus and reporter, Andra Stefanoni:

Collaborative public wall at end of show!

My favorite student piece, a middle schooler from Pittburg Community Middle School

Sweet note left on the table

Kente Wall

70 students contributed to this classroom display of original Kente cloth designs painted with tempera.

Wacky Self-Portraits

First we took a selfie with the free Warp It app. Then we drew that in pencil on 12x18" black paper. Next we put even glue lines over the pencil lines. After the glue dried, we lastly added color with chalk pastels.

Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm Inspirational!

Just came across this lovely link on my friend and colleague Nellie Mitchell's blog: http://thislittleclassofmine.weebly.com/home/my-most-inspirational-colleague-day-7

We have such a great working relationship, and she's a hungry, challenge-seeking creative like me. I think we knew we were in the same tribe as soon as we met. I can take no credit for teaching her how to teach. Upon my arrival in Joplin, all I did was observe her student teach, ONE time! What I have been able to do is throw her one opportunity after another in the art community, as I see them come available or as I create them myself. And she is smart enough and self-aware enough to embrace those or opportunities or just say no. Not to mention creating her own hugely successful opportunities: http://nelliepalooza.weebly.com/http://www.theartofed.com/2014/09/19/the-life-of-a-traveling-teacher-with-nellie-mitchell/.

As a professor, students cycle through SO quickly, rarely do I hear, "thank you". They are off to their first jobs which is often overwhelming, and I'm off to my next project. But sometimes the magneticism sticks, and keeps sticking, rather than repel. That's me and Nellie. Thanks for the thanks, friend. Back at you big time!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Thank you, Spiva

September 12th, 2014

Dear George A. Spiva Center for the Arts,

I'd like to take a step out of the whirling machine of my creative life to say thank you.

I arrived in the Joplin area in 2005, and very soon was sitting on the Board of Directors. I kept quiet for a year until I finally had a programming idea and mentioned at a Board meeting that someone should implement it. The Board President looked me in the eye and yelled, "YOU do it". Well, duh. Coming from Brooklyn, where I was a minnow in a vast ocean of artistic ideas and leadership, I had come to a place in Southwest Missouri with a legacy of art tradition, but not as many hands on deck to steer the ship. I became the whale in the puddle.

But let's be clear, I was not the only force of nature. I was encouraged and mentored by and worked alongside of a Spiva powerhouse. Jo Mueller, whose steady, piercing and innovative vision transformed Spiva in a mere decade. I hung shows with her approval (Jo: that corner is a touch too high; Me: Really?), I created gallery guides for exhibitions (Jo: logo needs to go in the other corner; Me: You bet!), I curated art and events for a huge summer show, Artworkers (Jo: I need you to really step in here; Me: I am here to translate that lead artist's vision for Spiva), co-created and taught the high school program (Jo: Current instructor needs to move on; Me: Let me teach a session), and on and on.

A myriad of professional art opportunities, and Spiva let me try just about everything. THAT is what a great art center can do; take the energy and vision of its citizens, and match it to the needs and potential of the art center itself. This is what Spiva has consistently done for me, over and over. I recently took a new job at Pittsburg State University, thankfully still in the Joplin metro area. I get to focus on the art education program there, and I am thrilled that I am immediately teaching the skills I learned at Spiva to these future art educators. It is seamless and natural to pass on those skills. When I look at my resume, many of the professional achievements I am proudest of were anchored by Spiva. The ideas may have been mine, but Spiva was the fertile soil.

I am honored to continue to serve on the Education Committee, and can't wait to coax a new set of undergraduate art students through Spiva's doors at my new job. We will continue to grow together.


Josie Mai

Sunday, September 7, 2014