La Verne is a beaming light that glimmers softly through the village. Her calm and steady demeanor and encouraging spirit uplifts and warms those who surround her. She is a peacemaker. A lover. A nurturer. La Verne, you are a thoughtful individual whose writings and artwork express the commitment that you have to the peace and harmony that dwells within you. Your gift to us has been in the way you spread this peace to others.
When the project first struggled to get on its feet, my impatience had disguised itself as failure. La Verne said confidently,
"Don’t worry. I’ve been asking for an art program. I manifested you. You were brought here to us."
and encourage with,
"Everything works out the way its supposed to. You’ll see. Everything comes together on its own time."
and remind me,
"Whatever happens, and however it happens, it’s going to be great."
Ms. La Verne is a phenomenal force of positive energy, and is generous with her smiles and her laugh. She gives love and because of it, she receives so much of it back from those around her. *We love you, La Verne. You are an angel whose wing span lifts up this village. *
To express our appreciation for her, we threw her a surprise birthday party, organized by her daughter, Sharonda. Many of the residents came with their family members to feast and celebrate her life. Even with a party going on, this does not stop the residents from continuing their artwork. So, they took it upon themselves to set up a side table so that they could continue working on their projects.
Lessons the Village has taught (and continues to teach) me
It really does take a village to conspire and make things whole. It takes the coalescing of different personalities, histories, gifts, and voices to elevate us with the possibilities that abound, to help us practice kindness, to stress for us the importance of support, togetherness, and oneness.
There is a splendor that is taking place. This is the gathering of a Souls whose desire is to contribute to the beauty in the world by expressing that which lives within them. This is essential to social practice work—recognizing the participants as important, valued, necessary, and active collaborators.
Whether helping them pick up their medications or an order of menudo, Ron Segura is a resident who finds joy in assisting his neighbors with their daily tasks. In this portrait of Frida Kahlo with flowers in her hair (in progress), Ron experiments with different mediums here--charcoal, color pencil, graphite, and sharpie markers.
How has art brought a change in his life? Ron describes,
"I notice everything differently now. Colors are brighter. I used to be able to walk past a painting without paying it any attention, but now, I have to stop and look, and try to figure out how the artist made it.
Whenever I walk by a painting, I take the time to stop and look, observe the colors, shapes, and the areas that draw me in.
I’m finding that art is a way for me to share my thoughts. Art is this thing that I’ve found. It's like a new toy. And I want to experience all of it."
"I've walked past the Santa Ana murals for years, but they look different to me now.
Now, I see that they are about the city, the people, and life."
- Ron Segura
This small group allows us ample time to connect closely to each other. The discuss openly as they work their way through the ideas that have become important to them, these ideas that a year ago, might not have existed in their world. They each move in their own direction. I've inherited the task to support them as they search through their own curiosities, help encourage the mindfulness that goes into work, and I bear witness to more ideas that are discovered during the process. They are growing deeper into the fluid language of art, and it is an utter privilege to watch it flow.
They have consistently shown me, time and time again, this important need to just let go. When Joe comes to class eager with a new idea, we might talk about different ways to approach it. When Claudia has a lucid dream of stars bursting out of a cornucopia while she watches a conversation that the moon has with the sun, and feels compelled to document it in vivid color, we work together on bringing her vision to life. When La Verne feels compelled to spend all evening, conjuring images, words and thoughts in her sketchbook, she tucks herself away into her corner space, with ears still sensitive to the conversation that take place. When Ron wants to practice portraiture, we sit with charcoal-powdered hands and practice the rendering of Frida’s eyes.
And in their sketchbooks, this inner truth continues expressing itself in earnest:
I love how the village artists incorporate text with imagery. Some of the writings are phrases. Some are glimmers of thought. Some are quotes absorbed from various sources. Some are poems written to supplement the artwork. And in some cases, the art work arises from the poetry.
When first starting art class, I was very unsure with myself. But after a few classes, I began feeling more free with my painting. Now, everything I see, I believe that I can paint; I have so much confidence now. I’m so happy that art has come into my life.
**Stay warm, Friends. The warmth is within you.**