Hi Tom and Winthrop Faculty, Drexel Faculty and friends (beloved mentors),
Great to hear from you, Tom. I hope that everyone is doing well. Tom suggested that I keep in touch and it inspired this letter to all of you as you all have been such a support and encouragement to me on my journey as an arts educator and art therapist. All of you have touched my life in a positive way that I will forever be grateful for. I hope I can make it by Winthrop and Drexel for a visit someday while up visiting family or traveling through.
Things are coming together beautifully down here in the big easy. I think my year as an exchange student in Brazil was preparing me to move here and settle down…as well as my training as a therapist. I love it. I spend my days making art with children and helping them overcome obstacles as they develop socially and emotionally. I also get to work in the field of arts education/administration and will be overseeing the teaching artists and their collaboration with teachers in my new school. I still teach but small groups such as the arts integrative math camp I am working with through next week. The school that I am working with now (Homer A. Plessy Community School – http://www.plessyschool.org/) is a new school and one of the George Rodrigue Foundations A+ arts integrative schools-all part of the A+ arts integrative schools network that originated in NC. As of now there are about 120 schools in the network across the US. We also collaborate with a program called Young Audiences which is a network of teaching artists and a few of my art therapist friends who work in the schools either during the day or after school hours. They also just opened an arts integrative school in Jefferson Parish. It is fabulous to be able to be a part of the movement that our community needs in order to reach all types of learners and help them adapt to the joy of learning that is so often lost in worksheets. Most of the work I have been doing is in costuming, but I have some sketches for new carvings I plan to create as a series. I am dedicating most of my time and energy at the moment to the development of my career as an art therapist. I am collecting hours towards my art therapy registration and certification (ATR-BC) as well as my license as a practicing counselor (LPC). It requires time and money…. both precious, right? I just keep sketching when I can and my experience as an art therapist is an inseparable influence in my work as a visual artist, as is the culture within which I live.
I have a number of artists that are close friends as we live in the Bywater where most of the artists reside and work. My landlord, Natalie Nichols,(http://natalienichols.net/Site/Home.html) is a jeweler and metalsmith. She has her jewelry studio as the other half of our shotgun house. She uses the space as a gallery during special arts events like Prospect New Orleans (http://www.prospectneworleans.org/). She also rents it on air bnb if anyone from Winthrop is ever heading down and needs a place to stay (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/438116) If it is someone I know she will reduce the price. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if any of you are headed down. I would love to have dinner and spend some time enjoying the city. They just opened a healing arts center in my neighborhood about a year and a half ago (http://neworleanshealingcenter.org/) There are several galleries close to me that have openings once a month (http://scadnola.com/). There is Good Children Gallery across the street (http://goodchildrengallery.com/) and Antenna Gallery down a few blocks (http://press-street.com/antenna/) as well as Barristers Gallery (http://www.barristersgallery.com/) and the UNO Gallery (http://finearts.uno.edu/artpage.html) all right on St. Claude in the Bywater/Marigny area where we live.
My school (Homer Plessy) is located a block from my house… at least for this first year. We are right in the middle of the art of our city. We may move school sites after the first year but we will stay in the neighborhood. We will start as a Pre-K-2nd grade school and add a grade each year until we have a Pre-K-8th grade program. We are located right beside NOCCA (http://www.nocca.com/) and our students will feed into that school should they decide they want to attend high school there. It’s pretty fabulous!
We have such a rich community I spend my time soaking in art, I garden in my yard and listen to my neighbors practice… whether it be the kid learning the trumpet, the musician practicing three doors down or the band practice of the jazz group that sometimes graces me from my next door neighbors yard. I also have started swing dancing which is a blast. I bike down to the French Quarter and dance with my friends who are dancers and visit with the local musicians any chance I get. I also participate in a few parade krewes and have spent a lot of time working on costumes and face painting. I recently consulted for a new local non-profit called ricRACKnola (ricRACKnola.com). They are costume designers who provide workshops teaching children how to sew and create costumes from repurposed materials and costume materials donated from local movie and theatre productions. Thanks to Dr. Simmons and Dr. Gardner who taught me everything I know about teaching art to children and integrating the arts. 🙂 I was invited to be on the arts education board at NOMA (http://noma.org/pages/detail/58/Educators) which helps develop educational programming for students and teachers. Another friend, Michelle Kirk, who owns Square 459 Gallery (https://www.facebook.com/Square459) has invited me to join the Kohlmeyer Circle (http://www.ogdenmuseum.org/kohlmeyer/) at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art which supports and develops programming and outreach opportunities. I stay busy and have lots of fun.
What is most beautiful about New Orleans is the family feel and the open attitude of those I meet. Everyone is welcoming and accepting. It’s hard to meet a stranger. With that being said, please don’t be a stranger. If you have any students or alumni moving this way, interested in a career as an art therapist, or just visiting I welcome them to contact me. I would love to hear back from all of you. I wish you all the best and I thank you for the support you have provided to me as an educator and mentor.