I remember a video I used a lot during team building classes I taught about 20 years ago. There was a video we showed about paradigms, those funny absolute ways of doing things we often establish in our heads, within society.
Over time, they often change because someone dared to challenge what was supposed to make perfect sense, dared to move the needle, show another possibility. I still like to color outside the borders, always have, so it resonated with me, reminded me it can be done.
There’s a Local entity I’ve been working with much of this year daring to do that with Art, the other portions of their business. It’s a funeral home, Carey Hand Cox Parker on Fairbanks. While it’s owned by a large corporation, they appreciate lots of things that get to the value of small, what it means to exist in such a community as this one. And, they’re interested in changing to whole idea of what a funeral is supposed to be.
In 2007, after months I’d prefer to forget, my family lost my stepfather. My brother and sister, and surely my mother, proved much stronger during that time than I. At the end, though, I was rather surprised what we all viewed an appropriate memorial. We were all much more interested in celebrating who he was and what he LUVed than anything else.
Celebrating the life that was lived, the person who lived it, that is now a significant push for Carey Hand Cox Parker, other funeral homes like them. Whether your lost LUVed one was into fishing or golf, LUVed the Oscars or gardening, they’re interested in helping bring that special and unique interest, life lived into whatever ceremony you wish to arrange. Each of leaves imprints on others, on communities, on so much we encounter and take part in during our lives. Our absence doesn’t erase who we were or what we accomplished. It’s a focus on what we did while here, that he or she will be missed for all the things we LUVed about them.
In that same vein, just over a year ago they began 1350 West Art Gallery. It’s a very large and long space, with ivory walls and sprawling floors, spotlighting, a gallery space quite similar to others you may have seen. But, yes, it’s in a funeral home.
I took a class in college entitled ‘What is Art?’ The likely intent was to challenge our thought processes, prompt a pattern of questioning. I thought it a pretty mediocre class, but perhaps it achieved its objective. With my involvement with 1350 West Art Gallery, I now find myself asking: What is the PURPOSE of Art?
I’ve asked a few Local Artists recently, been delighted with their answers, much echoing and adhering with what I’d expected. I do some Art-y things myself and I know what I hope will be produced when it is viewed. As they say, there is no one answer, no singular correct one. For me personally, I think, it’s to UPLIFT.
If you are happy, I’d like you to be even happier. If you are sad, I’d like you to feel less so. If you seek beauty, I’d like to see you smile because I provided some. Where ever you are, however you are feeling, I’d LUV to think something I made gave you a boost higher.
For Artists who feel similarly, this is rare opportunity, a unique one. Imagine someone at one of the true low points in their life, trying to make sense of loss, deal with it, coming across the colorful works inside 1350 West Art Gallery. I’ve heard the individual stories, the comfort which has been sought in the space, can imagine what impact a work of Art appreciated, there at a difficult moment, may have done for them. Art does not have to come with a specific message to deliver a very uplifting one. Without even trying, it can provide a sense of hope, of comfort, of promise that maybe, just maybe, things will be okay and life will go on.
I’ve been involved in Art-y things before, even here Locally. None has ever gone just the way I’d hoped. When starting on new endeavors, especially ones which are about hope and renewal, I can’t help but turn my thoughts to the innocence and creativity, the optimism of children. They are all Artists, unafraid to create, to think outside the box, color outside the lines, until they understand they are not supposed to. But children, for me, if you wish to start something new, it’s through their eyes that you can begin fresh, develop something interesting with great promise. Start there, see where it takes you.
To that end, as I begin to help 1350 West Art Gallery put an increased focus on not just Art, but Local Art, I asked that we first go to Local school children, ask them to be our Artists, taking on the theme of Christmas and all the promise this season of celebration and renewal might provide as inspiration. The submitted works are from the Arbor School in Winter Springs, a school for Autistic children, and a mom in Maitland with eager neighborhood Artists armed with paints and markers. Each of them will receive a token of our appreciation from Winter Park’s favorite candy store, Sassafras Sweet Shoppe.
Our featured Artist is one of my all-time favorite Local Artists, Dawn Schreiner, whose works captivate and delight, have the ability to touch the child inside us all. Her works from favorite childhood cartoons are so delightful, each one stirring a positive emotion, time in our own lives. Her work is magical.
In our one month exhibit, JOY TO ALL, there are also some of my own mosaics. I hadn’t planned this, but this being the first, an exhibit I put much thought into, had wonderful hopes for, perhaps that was meant to be.
The next exhibit, focused on pets and related works by Local Artists – and looks to include the amazing John Whipple of McRae Art Studios and the delightful Gena Semenov – is in the works. My goal for each and every exhibit is to highlight the colorful and the beautiful while also celebrating the amazing talents of our Local Artists, the power they have to uplift and comfort, to bring real joy to all.