Community Figureheads Partner with Students to Create Collaborative Art
by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
Education for peace is at the core of the Montessori school’s approach, and the River Song School’s third annual art show takes this mission to heart. The Animal Spirit Show at Paul Scott Gallery on June 6 seeks to instill an awareness of universal peace, both with their students and the community, by creating a collaborative artistic process that focuses on art: the most universal means of communicating basic truths and emotions.
“Here in Bend, the culmination of our [education for peace] program will be a celebration of our children’s art depicting their visions of peace. This year the inspiration will be Animal Spirit, a celebration based on Native American knowledge about the ways of animals,” shared River Song Founder Robin Johnson. “The purpose of this program is to promote children’s awareness about the goal of world peace expressed through art.”
The River Song annual art shows were created with the cooperation of the Dali Lama Foundation’s Missing Peace project which focuses on the development of a sense of universal values that are likely to be universally recognized. “Education must develop the ability of non-violent conflict resolution. Maria Montessori believed establishing lasting peace is the work of education…The Dalai Lama Missing Peace project has been a source of inspiration for me as I develop my school’s peace curriculum,” Johnson continued.
New this year is the community leader collaboration component. The Animal Spirit theme was introduced to 15 children (ages 5-6) through various exercises, conversations and yoga where students learned the corresponding animal yoga poses to help them access their creative spirits. They then painted a depiction of their spirit animal. The students were paired with 15 community leaders who added their own creative inspiration to the canvases with the goal of sharing their expression of peace on the artwork.
“The sense of community and responsibility are important to us. River Song is committed to instilling compassion and a feeling of community responsibility in our students,” Johnson said.
New River Song Board Member Orit Schwartz was central to developing the show and commented, “When we asked people to participate in this unique endeavor, folks were scared, in a good way, of working with a child’s artwork. We figured we would pick people that could roll with it!” she laughed.
“I have absolutely no artistic talent for visual art except to know what I like…in fact the painting is sitting on my counter at home and I am terrified of touching it!” exclaimed community leader Pamela Hulse Andrews. “A young artist painted this delightful painting and I am struggling for a way to improve it…or even enhance it. But that’s the good part: it’s stretching my own creative thinking.”
Jay Henry, another community leader commented, “I have a great passion for creativity, but it doesn’t typically manifest in the visual arts….I love connecting dots that wouldn’t necessarily be connected otherwise. I hope that this skill will translate into something that adds meaning to my young colleague’s artistic gift.
Henry received student Harper Warne’s painting but instead of adding to the work, he took a unique approach to the assignment. “I chose to frame Harper’s painting – both spiritually and physically – with pieces of aged wood taken from my treasured grandfather’s desk,” he explained in his artist statement. “He wrote his sermons and crafted his messages on this desk, pursuing peace for all. I hope his spirit of unconditional love serves as a nice frame for Harper’s vision of peace.”
The paintings will be displayed at Paul Scott Gallery on June’s First Friday ArtWalk with the proceeds of the sale benefiting River Song’s fine arts program and 10 percent going to support CASA of Central Oregon which provides trained citizen volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the court system.
“Paul Scott Gallery was very generous in allowing us to have the children be the artists,” Schwartz said.
“I think it’s important for the kids to be exposed to the art world and see that you can make a career out of being creative,” said Kim Matthews, Paul Scott Gallery director. “It’s good exposure for the children to learn all the different aspects of being an artist.”
Mosely Wotta, another community leader said, ”Every gallery in this town could use a “breath of fresh air.’ This is an opportunity for us to gain perspective on the meaning and value of Art. [I am] grateful that Paul Scott Gallery is making advantage of this collaborative opportunity.”
“Bend is our home. It’s so important to us that we are able to participate or give back when we are able. While growing up, we didn’t have much exposure to culture or the arts, so we like to think that whatever we can contribute may help bring more diversity of experience to the community,” said Lisa and Lori Lubbesmeyer, both artists and community leaders in the Animal Spirit Show.
“Art is so important to the development of our youth through creative education increasing critical thinking skills, social tolerance, improved historical empathy and developing an understanding of our culture. And art is fun, enlightening, inspirational and interpretive…doesn’t get any better than that!” said Andrews.
Art will be up for auction May 30 – June 7 at Paul Scott Gallery, 869 NW Brooks Street. Reception June 6, 5-8pm.
Community Leader/Student Pairing
Pamela Hulse Andrews – Sophia Bartlemay
Bea Armstrong – Walter Petkun
Sandy Brooke – Riley Beard
Jay Henry – Harper Warne
Julia Junkin – Logan McMahon
Lubbesmeyer Art Studio – Grace Ozolin
René Mitchell – Maddison Gibbons
Mytchell Mead – Fritz Petkun
MOsley Wotta – Sienna Magana
Jesse Roberts- Alex Bucklin
Holly Rodes Smithey – Roman Ardeljan
Amanda Stuermer – Madeleine Stassen
Ruth Williamson – Connor Davis
Valerie Winterholler – Brennan Johnson
Donald Yatomi – Esme Garcia