Monday, August 6, 2012

Artist in Residence: Melinda as Minor Vessel of Good

There was another workshop I facilitated while at the Grand Canyon. This one moved me so deeply I cried and rejoiced, as I was used as a vessel to speak art to young people.

The program Grand Inspiration offers high school students time to become "immersed in the beauty of Grand Canyon and record ...their unique perspectives."

After some days rafting the Colorado through a segment of Grand Canyon, the kids return to the Rim and put on an art exhibit and reflect on their journey together.

Grand Kids after the workshop

They gathered at the residence with me for a couple of hours. When an adult guide asked how I came to be an artist, I told them this: I was in my mid-twenties and lost. I had experienced too much tragedy. In despair, I lay down for a week--not eating--waiting for some answer to go on living with purpose. Nothing happened until a week had passed, I heard (almost audibly) two words:
s t a i n e d   g l a s s!

This startled the students. They thought I would have gotten some kind of transformative wisdom from God, not two unfamiliar words. I have to admit, I was a bit perplexed. Yet, those words were lightning bolts to my soul. I went on: I had $60 to my name and no car. I borrowed one and drove to Oakland to buy a book (How to Work in Stained Glass, by Anita Isenberg, Seymour Isenberg) and some tools. I returned to cut glass, bleed, get flux in my cuts, and to make a few small pieces before moving back to Tucson. Four years later, I was supporting myself doing commission s/g work and had been in two newspaper articles about stained glass (along with other artisans of the day). I also had completed two large restaurant commissions, one at Macayo Restaurant and one at El Parador. 

My point for them was this: Each of us can find a way to be artists in this culture, despite tragedy, bias, and a host of other obstacles. The way is not straight, nor easily explained in a textbook. 

Grand Kids with their work

That evening the kids had an art exhibit and were so full of life. The Canyon seemed to inhabit their eyes with renewed purpose and strength. As I looked at the large artwork they'd created at the workshop and the fabulous poetry and drawings and photographs they'd worked on, I was humbled to be a part of it. 

Then, a gifted student walked up to me and told me that he'd had an epiphany. Art is saving his life. He, too, he had suffered too much tragedy recently. He shared such loss with me that I was speechless. But we encouraged each other, hugged, and I left overwhelmed with emotion. 

© 2012 Melinda S. Esparza


Micros said...

What a great moment. . . right now. Right this very second, for you. To recollect a moment when your life was unsettled and to share and enlighten a young person and one who understands exactly of what you speak. For I too, have had moments (years) in my journey, when events where very fatiguing and arduous.

But, some of us, do survive, for what ever reasons deem necessary. We do.

Melissa, thank you for sharing a part of whom you are.

I wish you continued success in all your endeavors.

Be well


Melinda said...

Thank you so much, Micros. I really appreciate your thoughtful comment and for your insight.

Our connection to art really does keep us going, and when we share this fact with others, it can be encouraging to them too. This always amazes me because the power of art to stimulate our spirits seems so private--enough in its self. But, I believe it's good that we share our stories as well as our work. None of it happens out of context.

Wishing you every success as you go forward.

Donald Diddams said...

And your story here is humbling, Melinda -- both your personal story and the story of the connection you made with that student. Sometimes things do just happen at the right time.
It's something you both will likely remember forever.

Melinda said...

Yes, Donald, we just don't know how we'll touch the lives of others until we do.

My hope is that the young artist will have a lifetime of goodness and a lifetime of great art experiences.

It's made me think that being isolated in the studio too much of the time is not always the best thing. It was really inspiring to meet those young people.

Virtual hugs to you!

Barbara Muir said...

How wonderful. All the logic in the world and every rah rah lesson (some I even teach myself {my bad}) says to get up, but as you pointed out sometimes lying down and giving in to sorrow teaches us how to move on. I love the story, the art and the pictures. You are clearly an awesome teacher as well as an exceptional artist.

XO Barbara

Melinda said...

Hi Barbara!

Sometimes we find our best answers during difficult times--it's true.

I definitely don't think of myself as a teacher, but I had a moment to share, and that was very uplifting.

Thank you so much for commenting. I think of you as a gifted teacher.