People and Progress are the words I would use to describe today. People came off and on this morning while I worked. Traffic was slower this morning so I was able to make great headway on outlining the tree on the left panel of the mural. When more and more people came to the mall for their daily rounds, I would go in spurts of working for awhile and then talking for awhile. Today I brought along a sketch of what the mural will look like when it is complete to visually explain what is being made. It seemed to help people understand the mass of glass on the panels.
Midway through the morning, one of the ladies I met a day or two ago, asked if I'd be around later to bring her granddaughter by. I would be and looked forward to meeting this young gal since she had previously told me about her. After our first discussion she decided the two of them would create a mosaic of their own. Somewhere after noon, she returned with her granddaughter and we began the most productive part of the morning and the highlight of my time at Gateway today. She jumped right in as if she was born knowing how to make a mosaic and fit the pieces together while I glued. She knew to look for the unique pieces. The pieces that make the mosaic interesting. We asked each other if the piece should go here or there and when it fit, she got excited and clapped. I couldn't help but smile as the rest of the mall and the people around disappeared. She had my attention. Then she sat on the floor and started digging through the bucket of green glass pulling out the small, seemingly insignificant pieces. Something was different about each of these pieces, special in little ways and she talked to me about each one. This one had a streak of blue or this one had a bumpy texture. She pulled out a 1/2" square piece of blue had me to look at it. She saw six smaller squares etched into the tiny piece. She amazed me, how did she see that? She kept right on pulling out pieces. Some were different colors, all somewhat out of place in the green bucket of glass. Yet she carefully placed each one on the mosaic so I could fit it in and glue it down.
This process is representative of the people theme today. God brought some very unique individuals to chat. Many the culture would disregard, step away from, or turn their noses up at. I want to share several of them:
The first man and I talked about stained glass windows and his church who commissioned them. He then shared about the lose of his wife of 40+ years and the struggles he experiences from concussions.
Another man showed me his helmet, purchased in the mall, and talked with me about weather and being prepared for every kind of situation.
A man in his late 40's or 50's picked up a giving envelop and chatted while waiting for his mother. He talked about his fixed income but wanted to help people in India in case he never got to travel overseas.
My gentleman who comes for his daily hug stopped by. He and I talked about what he was having for lunch today. His agenda for the day is usually to come to the mall, say hi to people, eat lunch, and walk it off.
A lady who showed obvious signs of a hard life, came over and cheered me on. She shared her desire to keep giving of what little she has to help others. She even talked to a couple who'd come to check out the mosaic and Hope Venture table and encouraged them do something for others. My heart sunk, however, as they side stepped this joy-filled woman.
Then there were the elderly men and their middle aged sons who stopped to check out what I was doing and discuss all sorts of topics. And the moms or couples bringing their wheel-chair bound children with obvious physical and mental disabilities.
God brought the marginalized to me today. The people some wouldn't value. The ones people would look or point at, piety and wonder about. Each of these special unique ones have their place in life and in this world and we miss the gifts they are if we fail to see them. The aren't insignificant, they are the pieces that make the final artwork a masterpiece. They add the interest and the deeper beauty. They may stand out in the process of creating the piece but they are what completes it.
AND though much of the day was about SEEING these people, it was again about great surprises, encouragement, and building relationships. A friend came by and surprised me today. She came and did a bit of a photo and video shoot. I never realized how self conscious that would make me. I hope she got good shots. We chatted, she got me a coffee, and it was just the boost I needed for the rest of the day.
Of course the daily mall - walking crew came by to say hi. They include one man who stops to chat and one who loves telling me off the wall stories. I'm sure I've heard many of them (or versions of them) from my dad and uncles. The guys who take care of the maintenance and security at Gateway also stopped in to check in on the progress and give me a hard time. I also got to chat with the above mentioned young gal's grandmother a bit more in depth today. I learned this woman is a survivor of cancer and loves white flowers because they cause her to think of heaven every time she sees them. I love that. For those of you who know cities show up in my artwork from time to time, don't be surprised if white flowers start showing up in my artwork from here on out.
The day flew by and for those wondering, yes it will take 10 more days to complete the mural, there will be enough to do OR yes we will get it done (minus the part I'm leaving for Hope Venture's Night of Hope fundraiser on October 21, 2016)
And to all who have been following this processes and reading these blogs, thank you. Thanks for caring enough to read and join in on the journey.
So the day began with an unexpected bout of intense pain. It's hard enough to do what you need to as a wife and mom when an episode like this hits, but be in the public eye? Maybe is sounds cliche' but all I could do was pray. Pray and ask for strength, for the moments to pass, and for strength beyond what I could physically muster. I took it slow and somehow I knew it would be ok. There was a calming sense in my soul that Day 5 would go on. When I stopped to drop my boys off at Bible School an old friend and I exchanged our joys, struggles and needs for prayer this week. After a much needed hug and a couple of conversations on my way out of the church door, I took the journey across town for the morning of work. Turning off the music as I approached Gateway, God and I chatted about the day. I really sensed how tired I was, and even asked if I could just work today and not talk to others. Though not the best attitude, that's how I felt and yet at the same time I knew what I was going to the mall to do. So, with hand in His and trust in His unlimited resource of energy I entered Gateway. . . .
And work began at 9:30 am. I went today tired but ready to be used by God to bless others, maybe bring hope, and create new relationships. I wasn't ready for the way God would turn that around and use others to love on me today. The first person was a young gal who was playing Pokemon Go. She walked by, smiled, and waved. I returned the gesture and she acted surprised and came over to chat. She told me she'd done the same, smile and wave, to 20 people prior to coming my way and no one reciprocated. We chatted for a bit and then she was on her way. Then some of my mall walking friends came over to chat. I knew some well and others I've only seen in passing, but now know their names. Because of the rain this morning, more people were at Gateway on their morning walk. One was a gentleman I am always excited to see. He touched my heart by donating to Hope Venture but more than that he said some very encouraging words. Another man I met this past winter, also stopped, listened to me share about the project and Hope Venture and gave me a double thumbs up with encouraging words as he continued his walk. The next time around he hollered out "How does it feel to be an artist in residence?" I guess that is what I am becoming in some way -- an artist in residence as Gateway Mall. Gave me something interesting to think about as I worked.
In the middle of thinking through the idea of artist in residency, my mind wondered to an arts organization leader I had a great conversation with back in June. I sensed God move me to stop what I was doing and email him right then. But as I began, another mall walking friend came over to chat. When the couple left I sent my email, and went back to work.
One of the sweet ladies I know came and gave me a much needed hug. Then another lady so dear to my heart, gave me a great hug, told me she was praying for me, and then went and got me a latte'. What a boost - and I'm not talking about the caffeine. As I waited for her to come back with the coffee, I talked to a marvelous man who has come every day to chat since we set up Saturday. He brought me one of his signature kolache. God kept loving me through these people. People I see daily in the winter when it is indoor walking season. I have known that Gateway had an amazing little community of people there daily but today I really realized I am one of them. They surrounded me today with encouragement, affirmation, gifts, love and I felt God's hand through each and every moment. I'm glad I didn't miss a single one of them.
The morning ended with an artist friend visiting and helping me fill in some gaps in the work that was done last weekend by the public. It was a surprise, I was so thankful for her visit, and to spend time getting to know her better as we worked. There definitely was progress made today though it may not look like it in the photos. More of the tree is outlined and I'm looking forward to getting that complete to start filling it in. I'm also super excited about the public coming and working on Saturday and Sunday. I end the day tired, yet thankful for so many things and in awe of how God used others to lift me up and encourage me to keep pressing on in this project.
Working last evening and then turning around to work this morning proved challenging. This was due to my inability to calm my mind down after writing about yesterday's encounters and an overall restless night's sleep. I woke up super tired and when I'm in this place all I want is to spend the day alone. BUT, that isn't in the cards when you are working in the public eye. So how do I handle that? I get on my knees and turn to God, my Strengthener. I asked for energy and stamina, but mostly that today He would be my words, and move my heart to listen and care about others. May a reiterate that when I'm tired like this, kindness, patience, and being around others aren't my natural bent. The day would be a challenge, but I was ready to lean on my God.
After a refreshing talk with a close friend (while outside enjoying a walk) I arrived at the mall to find the entire mall staff waiting. They were walking the floor, as they do daily, and were analyzing the space in which we'd moved the mosaic. I was encouraged by our conversation and reminded again why I love partnering with Gateway's management. They have a heart and vision for so much more than the bottom line. It never ceases to amaze me that they interact with the people who walk daily and know them well. They help to make the mall a community of people and not just a building with people in it.
As you can tell relationships and people became the theme of today once again. But today a challenge lay ahead as God brought more and more people to talk - various mall walking and maintenance friends, Jo (who I now think comes for a daily hug), older folks sharing all types of jokes and stories with me, an artist, a church planter, a co-worker / friend, and two gals from Omaha who were wondering around the mall playing a new interactive gaming app. As I write this, I'm surprised and amazed at how God moved today. How He answered the prayer for stamina, patience, and the ability to represent all parties involved in this project in manner worthy of Him. That's not me for sure. I recall a couple times while placing glass that my heart cried out for energy and the ability to talk to one more person. All I wanted to do was get wrapped up in the art (which is my happy place). And I'm thankful today for His answers to prayer and for the gifts He has already placed in my life, like my son Anthony. Anthony is a gamer and loves to tell me all about the ones he plays. Now, I'm no gamer, half the time I don't quite understand what he is telling me BUT God has used him to teach me how to listen, learn from, and really engage with someone who has an interest that I don't care for or know nothing about. I am thankful for this and write it because my last and longest conversation or rather listening session centered around gaming and learning about the new Pokemon Go game. Having played a little of the card game I'm somewhat familiar but these two gals gave me the 411 on the game. And they shared memories with me about their lives and like the woman the other day thanked me for listening when our conversation finally closed.
That seems to continue to be a theme. People are craving a listening ear. A listener who cares not to interject their thoughts and ideas but someone to just be there and hear them out. So I ask today, who needs you to listen? Your spouse, your kids, a co-worker, maybe the person behind you in the check out line.... People are everywhere if we are willing to look and listen. And listen with out saying a word - listen with full attention.
I want to end there but also want to tell you progress did get made on the mural - one side of the tree is about outlined and while I'm working, more of the deeper meaning of the piece is surfacing. (This is normal while working on an art piece. Much of the meaning comes from the journey. I look forward to sharing more of that in another blog.)
And thanks for all the continued prayers and visitors. It has been an overwhelming response from everyone. Thanks for following the journey. And side note: I got some much needed silent, restful time this afternoon so I'm refreshed and ready to work tomorrow!
NEW LOCATION ... RHYTHM ... AND A DEEP QUESTION
The day started with a quick visit to the mall management to talk about relocating our mosaic working station. We were originally placed behind Auntie Ann's Pretzel place but no one could find us -- even those who knew we were at Gateway. So, we relocated to the Food Court area today. From an artist standpoint, the lighting is much better and from the representative standpoint, the visibility is much better. The move was by far the most exciting part of the day. A bonus to the move was I finally learned the name of one of the operations men I've talked to at the mall for several years when I'd be in there to walk.
The morning was short and other than my mall walking friends not many stopped to ask too many questions. Some of my favorite mall - walking ladies stopped to encourage and support me in the process. And a second time, I learned the name of a someone I have seen at the mall for years. One woman and I discussed how to decide who to give money to and why someone would choose to give to a group supporting people in other countries versus our own.
So after the morning work session and an afternoon off, I returned to the mall around 6 pm and got into a fairly good rhythm of working. It is always amazing to me how long it takes to get in a rhythm when working on a mosaic. This project is no exception. It usually means not only working on the piece, but processing it and the steps to complete it when the art is not directly in front of me. When I'm in one of these projects, I live, eat, and breathe the process and journey God takes me through. My family can attest to that. But today the rhythm seemed to begin as I was able to complete the outline of the word HOPE.
Working rhythm in place I was still able to chat with people. Who? Well some friends as I mentioned, people interested in the art, some wanting to know about Hope Venture (they had "never heard of them"), and some impacted by the Indian girl's heartbreaking story. This included one young man in his 20's who let out a verbal response of dismay. As I chatted with him, he explained his method of sharing hope through sandwiches. Then explained that as a student, he chose to forgo taking the high ability learning classes offered to him in order to help and tutor many of his classmates. When he left, I kept thinking about his story and how was an example of disadvantaging oneself in order to advantage the community. It left me pondering if and when I have REALLY disadvantaged myself. I'm not talking about laying down my ideas, plans, etc. I talking REALLY disadvantaging self like this young man. He could take higher level classes to be challenged, maybe getting a scholarship and advancing in life. But he chose not to leave his classmates in his wake and instead bring them along for the journey. Interesting to me and has me thinking.
So today, I'll end my blog by encouraging us all to think about what is might look like if we made one step to disadvantage ourselves in an area of our lives so that our family, workplace, school, classmates, town, city, church, or any other sphere of influence we are in can be advantaged. And here's a thought, if God happens to give you an idea on this, share it in the comments on this blog post. I'd love to see where you might be used to reach someone's life and bring a little hope.
Today was one of those days that is summed up in this statement "this is why I do what I do and this is why I love to create art in public."
The working day began at noon at Gateway and it started by clarifying with a beloved friend and fellow artist my expectation for artistic help on this project. I'm honestly not always great at conversations where I have to set boundaries with people I love and know have serious life struggles. But through much prayer and a long standing relationship, we were able to talk, clear the air and engage in a beautiful conversation. I learned more about this amazing, resilient person than I had known in the last 10 plus years of our friendship. I asked questions about what it is like to live life while battling a mental illness and have a much greater compassion for those who struggle with one daily. And all this, mind you, while we placed glass pieces on the mosaic.
THIS was only the beginning .....
About a half hour in to working, I noticed a middle-aged couple standing on the outside of the stanchions near the third panel. The man seemed to be leaning in peering at the mosaic pieces. I went over to talk with them and asked if they had any questions. They proceeded to tell me that yesterday some of their family placed pieces for their granddaughter who died. First off, I'm going in my mind -- "what, that happened yesterday and we didn't know about it!?" So, I asked some questions. They told me the young gal was 17 years old, died of Huntington's disease after a four year fight, and her funeral was tomorrow. The woman was there looking for where the grandkids had placed the pieces to show the gentleman with her. I asked the man "Would you like to place one?" He nodded and asked if I was using pink anywhere. Though that was not the plan, I ran over to my buckets of glass and prayed "God I know I have a whole container of pink at home but not here . . .please provide just one pink piece for this couple." I dug through the red bucket looking for a miracle and at the very bottom were two small pink pieces of glass. I asked the man if that would work and he nodded. So, I handed him the piece and invited them beyond the tapes to look for yesterday's addition and place the new pink piece. I encouraged him to pick anywhere on the mural, so he placed it in the center of the "P" in HOPE so he could find it later. (you can see it in the image above). I asked if I could share their story on my blog. They agreed and proceeded to tell me more about McKenna and her life. Her "Papa" even shared how she loved to ride behind him on the motorcycle and tell him to go faster. I could see they had a special relationship. This mural of hope was, today, a step in the process of grieving the loss of a loved one for this family. This story represents why I work in public when given the chance..
BUT the day wasn't over, it had only begun. While we worked on outlining images in preparation for next weekend's public work days, I stopped to chat with people who wanted to know what we were up to. Then I received a very special visit from some amazing friends right around 2 pm. As we talked, I noticed a lady hovering around the work station. I saw her go up to the brochure table and grab a booklet on Hope Venture's projects. While continuing in conversations with my friends I kept an attentive "eye" on her. She continued to hover and I saw her step back up to the table about to put the booklet back, so I asked if she had questions. She proceeded to say how her money was taken by an organization claiming to help people overseas and I reassured her this was not that type of organization. I share that I knew the people personally, they have high integrity, and they are based right here in Lincoln, NE. She then let me know that we have problems in this country and we shouldn't send our money overseas. I felt God shut my mouth. No talking -- just listen. I got her story. Her son had become homeless, wasn't helped by government or organizations claiming to help. And I asked if she thought maybe the solution wasn't in these places? She agreed with her words that yes it was deeper, but I could see her hurt. I could see her heart as she expressed years of pain and frustration with the world around her. And I remembered the sermon I had heard this morning on Proverbs 8 at Lincoln Berean Church. I was face to face with what the brokenness of our world has done to so many people. People looking for hope in the wrong places. People looking for hope in their culture when God is the only place where truth and hope exist. So I continued to listen not saying a word. Twenty or so minutes later she turned to leave and I thanked her for sharing her story and she said "thank you for listening." This women just wanted someone to listen -- someone to take time to care. The very small difference we are encouraging people to take through the creation of this artwork was in that encounter. Just being able to listen and ask good questions without interjecting or taking over the conversation is one simple way to care about someone in our culture today. So many people don't listen -- you learn this when you talk with people especially at the mall.
With all that in the first two hours -- what would the rest of the time hold? It included: sharing with a 5 year old girl and her grandma how they can make a difference in someone's life on the other side of the world; getting real with two pre-teens about the level of poverty in India; inviting many to take brochures and come back next weekend to place pieces on the mural; and meeting a young couple excited about the organization, artwork and potential to come back and take part. Then there were the good conversations and deeper connections with the artists who helped me today and of course placing more piece of glass on the mosaic.
All together we made progress outlining the image of the art, but more importantly were the connections, relationships, and conversations shared with others over the four hour period. That's why I do this and why I love creating in public.
Beginning at 11:30 am, today, The Sixteen Days of Hope officially kicked off at Lincoln's Gateway Mall. The purpose to this project is to bring awareness to local non-profit Hope Venture and the work they are doing in Asia and Africa.
A number of people showed up to place glass on the work's 3 panels. I can't even begin to share about the amazing people who stopped by and the different walks of life they came from. Some deeply touched by the young girl who inspired this piece. The young Indian girl who took her life because her family could not afford a notebook and pencil to go to school (worth just 16 cents). Others were excited to be part of something bigger than themselves and seemed to understand that we can all bring hope to our spheres of influence. Others were interested in learning more about Hope Venture and getting involved with the work they are doing.
My friend Carol Welker showed up mid way through the work today for a visit. She is a great photographer and gave of her skills today to capture many of the images in this blog. When I saw the images, I was taken by how she captured exactly what a project like this is about. Yes, it is about the Hope Venture and the work they do, but in a broader scope, it is about people standing next to one another .... working together .... to complete a beautiful work.
Though we began the day wondering if it would really take 16 days to complete this project, I can safely say that yes it will. I am thankful for some amazing artists, colleagues, and friends who came out to not only support the work on the project, but also came to lend a helping hand on crowd control and instructing participants in what to do.
I did learn, once again, how difficult it is to let go of an idea and let God take the process as He determines. This is nothing short of stretching for me. And I think the hardest part of letting go today was to let the project be safe in the hands of my very capable artist friends. And yet, it was super fun watching them proceed in the process in a way they were most comfortable. I look forward to working with them more during our next public time Saturday, July 16 from noon to 4 pm.
As I think on some of the lessons I've learned today and yesterday, I am amazed at how they apply to my life as a mother of boys. Lessons like stepping back, letting go and watching them proceed in the process of life -- even when it's not the process I think it should be. And as I write that, I am amazed at how God wired me to learn life lessons by creating pieces of artwork. To learn about relationships, community, how we walk life and view one another. And how to hold my tongue, my email, or my text to calm down and proceed in patience and grace. It is all very humbling, but lessons I need to learn and wouldn't know I needed if I wasn't creating art and doing that which God made me to do.
I'm tired, could use prayer for stamina for the next 15 days, but overall excited to be starting this journey.
The Cat was officially let out of the bag this morning as this article: ((http://journalstar.com/niche/neighborhood-extra/news/artist-to-create-glass-mosaic-at-gateway-mall/article_4d9548be-a3de-5eef-a053-d2f2cbc6b086.html) hit the newpaper today talking about a 16 day art project at Gateway Mall entitled "16 Days of Hope." Starting July 9 thru July 24 (16 days) I will be working to create a large scale mural of this sketch.
The mural is being created to bring awareness to Lincoln-based non-profit Hope Venture. thehopeventure.org
Hope Venture works inside the countries of India, Kenya, and Uganda helping to meet basic and educational needs through local businesses in these countries. The organization has partnerships with locals and seeks to bring a better way of life for an entire community. Hope Venture is partnering with Gateway Mall -- where this event will be held and at the end of the project's journey it will be on permanent display near the Cookie Company entrance of the mall. The mural will be completed on October 21st at The Night of Hope fundraiser event at Chet Hay in downtown Lincoln. That night a small version of the mural will also be auctioned off with all proceeds going to the work of Hope Venture. One amazing fact about the Hope Venture is that 100% of what they bring in for projects goes to the projects they support. There is a totally separate path to give to in order to support their staff. The mural and the name of the event "16 Days of Hope" are inspired by the story of a young gal who committed suicide over a mere 16 cents - the money it would take for her to purchase a notebook and pencil to attend school. Many of us in the USA have that amount of money rolling around on the floor of our vehicle or stuck in our couch cushions. That was heart-wrenching and inspiring to me. Inspiring because it means that it doesn't take much to make a HUGE impact and that anyone -- even the "poor" in our country can make a difference on the other side of the world.
So that's the next path I'm on. God has put me here, I am sure of that and I look forward to what He has in store and who He will have me meet along the way. If you want to follow the process - things kick off at 11:30 am on July 9 at Gateway Mall and the public will have the opportunity to place pieces on the mural. Then follow me on Facebook and on this blog as I plan to keep it updated throughout the process.
And I'm requesting prayers for stamina, for myself and the Hope Venture volunteers who will be out at Gateway everyday throughout the event. Also for protection for the people placing glass during public working times.
Ann has worked as a professional artist since 2006. She currently works on her own studio artwork as well as large, commercial works and with other artists in any way she can.