Thursday, August 25, 2011

Making the Best of It...

"Behind Her Smile"  12x12  Mixed Media  ©Toni Ruppert
The only thing missing from my meeting with Jackie Taylor...was Jackie Taylor.

I had high hopes to meet the theatrical history maker from Chicago.  My friend Kuki had suggested I seek to speak with her several weeks ago. Kuki thought Ms. Taylor would be excited about my creative work and that I could learn from her. 

To prepare for my meeting with Ms. Taylor, I researched to find out her background.  I utilized the  -   a biographical information and audio and video clips about African Americans who have influenced history.  I literally cried as I  found out that Ms. Taylor  and I have these things in common:
  • We both attended Loyola University
  • We both juggled marriage and motherhood as a Loyola student
  • We both have had great mentors and teachers along the way
So after confirming our appointment the day before we were to meet, I was so excited.  The Black Ensemble Theatre headquarters is on the north side of Chicago.  I knew I had to take my six year old to her sitter who would watch her as I  drove across town to reach Ms. Taylor.
I walked in with my bag and my portfolio.  Upon my arrival, I was told that Ms. Taylor was unavailable.  Her previous meeting had run over.  Oooh!  Crushed. Surprised. Disappointed. 

I would instead meet with Gwyn Sea, her assistant of 9 years.

As John Wooden, the famed college basketball coach said: "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."

So with Ms. Sea so graciously standing in, I asked my questions--some of which I got from my Facebook friends and fans:

How did Ms. Taylor juggle her craft, motherhood and marriage?
How has Ms. Taylor dealt with failure?
What did her parents and mentors do to instill leadership qualities in her when she was a child - how does one make a history maker?

I learned that:

  • Ms. Taylor did whatever she could to put her craft first.  She does not use the word “failure.”  It’s all feedback for the next growth opportunity. 
  • As for children--Ms. Sea says that as a teacher herself, Ms. Taylor would seek out the child’s strong points and build them up.  One must emphasize the strength and offer encouragement with the weakness.  Offer plenty of lessons and opportunities to grow that strength. 
  • Ms. Sea said that Ms. Taylor’s philosophy is there are “no bad children.”

After meeting Gwen Sea, I was greatly impressed by Ms. Taylor and the Black Ensemble Theatre.  I hope to one day meet Ms. Taylor in person.  For today, I am blessed to know of her.  She is a history maker and someone to admire.

Who do you admire? Who is your history maker? How do you make the best of disappointing circumstances?  I can't wait to read your comments below.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Crazy Whoa! Summer

Let me say that it's been a minute since my last I'm super glad to have you here reading this.  Thank you for joining me here.

From the beginning of the summer until about three weeks ago, I was on a magical ride.  I partnered with the Oak Forest Park District to start an art program called the “Art House” in Oak Forest, IL for young artists.  Our focus was learning art techniques while doing work in the community.  You can see a video and read an article about the Art House via the Oak Forest Patch.

Art House student, ©Toni Ruppert
 Half-way through the summer, I took on another program in Tinley Park, IL--teaching young people via the Tinley Park Park District Summer Art Camp.  We taught 4 weeks of non-stop action packed classes.  And we had an art show at the end of each week for parents and students.
Proud parent, ©Toni Ruppert
Student Show, ©Toni Ruppert
Well, the summer was Crazy Whoa! - borrowing a term from my teenage daughter.  We face painted at the Relay for Life(American Cancer Society).  We participated in the community kite fly in Oak Forest as well as the Oak Fest--a fun fair for families. 

Looking back, I'm like Wow! - I learned 3 things from my experience at the Art House and the Tinley Park Summer Art Camp: 
  • Young people have a lot to offer the world with their artistry and are genuinely interested in the world.
  • Many of my students needed a tiny bit of encouragement and once they got it--they were off running and creating. 
  • Flexibility was a must.  I learned to be absolutely adaptable in my plans.  One of my students, Maddie made sure I never got too stiff. Thanks Maddie!
With our last art show, my students decided to raise money to supply a huge dog bone for Orry, the Oak Forest K-9.  By selling their art, they raised not only that amount, but also enough for one month supply of food.  I was blown away by their generosity. 
Art House students with K-9 Orry
After teaching this summer, the magical ride concluded.  Last week, I realized that I had not painted in a month. NO PAINTINGS=NO EXPRESSION + NO EXPOSURE.  I'd been teaching young people art for several months.  Though I loved that part of my life too, much of my creativity went to the kids as I teach.  I knew it was time to get back in the studio. 

So last week, I started painting little landscapes near where I live.  Then we went for a little getaway this weekend.  And I painted three more little landscape paintings near the Fox River in Ottawa and Norway, IL.  It was like me and God time.  After not painting for a while, it’s like He whispered to me--”Just Do It.”

Painting on the Fox River, ©Toni Ruppert
Painting in Norway, IL, ©Toni Ruppert

So what’s next?  More teaching in the fall via the Art House in Oak Forest.  And more painting.  Definitely more painting.