So when I'm not fiddling around with flowers I work with students at a non-profit organization called Studio By The Tracks (SBTT). It was founded by Ila Faye Miller in 1989 to provide free art classes to emotionally conflicted children as well as adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder or other mental illnesses in some cases. The painting you see at the top of the post was done by one of the adults with autism, Herman Hatch. I love his work and have been collecting it for several years. In fact, that painting inspired these flowers in a way. I love how Herman's work is highly structured and highly expressive at the same time. I love the strong lines and the quirky color selection - he does not mix color as much as he places them side by side and lets them interact that way. Bold but inviting. I set out for these flowers to embody some of these qualities. Not an easy task, but hopefully I did Herman justice.
The main reason I got to making these flowers was to give an arrangement to Ila Faye who was feeling a little under the weather last week. I am inspired by many things in life - things I see and experience, behold in some way. As sad as this statement may sound it's nonetheless true so I'll say it - I'm rarely inspired by people. I am often inspired by something a person has created but the life of a person becoming a source of inspiration for me is unusual. I think it's because life has taught me that putting people on pedestals can be unfair to them and disappointing to me. It's just too far to fall when you're on a pedestal. Plus I'm a bit of a skeptic and blindly following leaders has never been a real strong suit of mine. I've always felt like true leaders lead by example and most people just aren't that consistant.
But Ila Faye is different from most people. She's never seemed to be concerned with her position in the eyes of others, her concern is simply for others. She has led a life of a servant. She has set up SBTT to be a place where students can come and have a very particular set of needs met. People need many things to survive - food, water, shelter. But we need more than that to thrive. We need connection. All of us. At SBTT, art is what we use to help people connect to one another and to our own true selves.
I work with the emotionally conflicted children and with the adults with autism. On the surface, their needs seem quite different. But underneath I feel like they have a very similar struggle - a struggle that I think we all battle from time to time and that is our ability to connect to others in a genuine and honest way. This involves trusting ourselves and others which can be difficult. Sometimes we can't do it on our own. We need a connector. Something that serves as a bridge between ourselves and another human being. At SBTT that connector is art. We make art together. We find our voices and let others hear those voices. For a lot of students, it is a voice that they had never before had the opportunity to find. I have seen talent come out of students and watched them be shocked to see it emerge. I've seen students communicate through their art so much about their true selves - hidden beliefs about themselves, things they probably wouldn't admit, couldn't admit. Things they didn't know were there. For instance, I'm realizing this moment how I just finished writing a whole paragraph about not putting people on pedestals and half of the arrangements in my photos for this post are what? On pedestals. It's just interesting to see how what is going on inside our heads and our hearts manifests itself in our works of art whether we like it or not. Fascinating!
Anyway, please take some time to check out SBTT online and on Facebook. You can make a donation or purchase student work at several events we host each year. I hope you will take a moment to learn more about this special organization.