From Artist to Advocate to a Work in Progress

June 21, 2014 at 2:58 am (Work in Progress)

“In the art world, there are no labels and the artists within these walls, have been non-judgmental and accepting. The real world, unfortunately, is not so kind, especially to those who color outside the lines, march to the beat of their own drum, or are truly exceptional in their own right. Of course, I will always be an artist. But I am first and foremost a mom and now, an advocate.” June 2013 (onlylauren.wordpress.com blog post)

A year ago this month I moved out of my beloved Studio 109a at Artspace. At that time, the future seemed uncertain. My daughter had been diagnosed with autism just a few months before my last post, and my husband and I were about to wage war on the second largest school system in the state of North Carolina.

“All I know is the new found grace…  All I know since yesterday is everything has changed” [Taylor Swift]

Everything has changed. Today, my daughter is a happy, thriving, rising seventh grader. Last year, I couldn’t get her to go to school. This year, I couldn’t get her to leave. She joined four different school clubs, including Student Council and the Science Olympiad team. More importantly, she has learned to navigate what she could only write about last year as “My Life with Autism” and has found her smile (a smile I wasn’t sure a year ago I would ever see again) and more importantly her own voice. Slowly but surely she is learning to be her own advocate. The highlight of her year came on her last birthday when she got to spend a few quiet minutes alone with Taylor Swift (who she affectionately called her BFF Tay Tay).

My daughter and her new BFF Tay Tay.

My daughter and her new BFF Tay Tay.

Every Child, One Voice

The week of my daughter’s birthday, my present came in the form of a letter from our School Board. We won. This small victory was an opportunity to once again find my voice…  one voice for one child or every child, one voice? I joined the largest parent advocacy association in the nation, the PTA, and became our middle school’s PTA President. In this new role, I found the skills I developed as an artist to be my most valuable assets.

“The World Would Be a Better Place If….”

The PTA’s Reflections Program is America’s oldest and largest arts education program of its kind. This year, I was able to bring this program back to our school. Shana Dumont Garr, Director of Programs and Exhibitions at Artspace agreed to judge the students’ visual art submissions and Project Runway Alum Justin LeBlanc graciously agreed to attend our school’s Reflection Celebration and Awards Ceremony. Who knew when I launched my Project Runway Studio 109a Challenge, that three years later I would be standing next to a Project Runway fan favorite in support of arts education? This year’s Reflections theme is “The World Would Be a Better Place If…”, and I am anxious to be inspired once again by our students’ work.

Project Runway fan favorite, Justin LeBlanc at our school's Reflections Celebration.

Project Runway fan favorite, Justin LeBlanc at our school’s Reflections Celebration last fall.

 

Either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing. [Benjamin Franklin]

As a “starving artist-y” (as my kids used to call me), I wrote and received my first grant in 2008.  As a United Arts Regional Artist Grant Recipient, I used the monies I received to participate in the Coconut Grove Arts Festival Visiting Artist Program. Coincidentally, that year I was assigned a middle school in South Florida (perhaps a sign from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come). This year, I used those grant writing skills to not only secure three grants for our school (a physical education equipment grant, a field trip grant, and family engagement grant), but I also helped teach a group of eighth graders how to write their own grant to fund a safe space and peer counseling center for all students on our campus.

The gray has gone away. I am living in bright Technicolor. [Rosie O’Donnell]

Last week, a customer from New York called me and asked when I was coming back to New York to show my work. She talked about her Peter Pan Heart Necklace and how much she has enjoyed it over the past six years. She is one of the many wonderful custodians of my work who have reached out to me over the past year. It is for them that I write this post.

Just like my life, my art can only be described as a work in progress. I set up a home studio and  have continued to experiment with fiber and most recently crochet. Ultimately I envision developing a line of accessories. I am not doing art shows and have no upcoming exhibitions scheduled. I am just enjoying the process of rediscovering myself and my art.

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement. I will continue to keep you posted. If you need to reach me, please e-mail me at onlylaurenart@gmail.com or visit my website onlylauren.com.

My home studio.

My home studio.

 

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