Art Opening - Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

From the Artist:

When I began my work with the Dowd Center's young artists, I was amused and enlightened by the "happenstances" and experiences that they were genuinely grateful for in their daily lives. The Dowd Center is a drop-in center for children and young teens experiencii homelessness or transitional living circumstances. Like the sparkle and effervescence we enji in the release of a child's bubbles, I witnessed their optimism and grace as they shared their stories in the art assemblages we created with bright, layered colors.

Each young artist enthusiastically made more confident brushstrokes as the process grew from week to week. Small house shapes became landscapes of their neighborhoods ...or cityscapes reflecting bright lights in the night skies. A place where they could grow up anc feel safe -- a place called Home. These young artists have experienced many examples of home life, often anxious and uncertain about their families‘ ability to stay united and living unde one roof, if possible.

The young artists exuberantly collaged canvases, which took on their own stories through metaphors of brushstrokes and bright colors...flowing upwards into a new day. I asked each artist to share what he or she was thankful for in his or her life. Several of them began a conversation to help the quieter students verbalize what they all might have in common. I supplied words from magazines, so that they could choose freely to add context and include details from their life stories.

As they recounted their life experiences to me and one another, I treasured the brief hours we could work together to cultivate their “Gratitude Awareness.” In the final phase of this project and creative journey, the young artists floated bubble-shaped tissue paper upward in their pieces, conveying Optimism and Hope for a better future. Due to illness and low attendance, some young artists struggled to complete this last step. Their determination to be included in this unique exhibition fueled the final work on their sacred pieces.

Working at the Dowd Center has provided me with insight into the daily lives of these middle school students who are from diverse cultures. For a moment in time, once a week, we gathered in the art room after the community dinner. There we discussed the meaning of Gratitude and made visual decisions to share and to teach one another about Love. Children at this age are often easily excited, so holding their focus can be challenging. I am personally honored to have glimpsed inside their visions, even if only to witness their creative journeys for but a brief moment.