Posts Tagged ‘art’

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Thoughts and Prayers by Kelli Broussard Kaufman

When we don’t know what to say, art can speak for us. This painting was done by Kelli Broussard Kaufman. She’s a Lafayette artist I follow on Facebook. (Her parents are good friends and neighbors.) I asked her permission to post the image here, and she also told me about her process. Her playlist while painting included Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence. Her art, the song, and her process notes inspired this poem.

In the sound of silence,
we think no one cares.
The words have all been said.
Prayers are empty now.

Silence like a cancer grows.
The wax burns, drips, soils
the flag we want to save us.
How many more?

In the naked light I saw
a flicker of candles in the wind
drawing strength from one another
burning bright and singing out–

This is not who we are.
This is not our story.
We are one people.
We are better than this.

(draft) Margaret Simon

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.


I admit it, I use Facebook for news.  I may not be getting the most current, real news, but I’ve come to trust my “friends” to help me see what I need to see.

One of these friends is Phanat Xanamane.  Phanat (pronounced Pah-not) created a community organization called Envision da Berry.  The Berry (da Berry) is what New Iberia is commonly called.  Anyway, this weekend Phanat posted about Mary Lacy.

Mary Lacy showed up last Monday with a lift truck ready to paint a mural on an old downtown building.  After I saw Phanat’s post, I had to go check it out for myself.

Mary Lacy is from Vermont.  She is an artist on a mission.  She plans to travel all over the US to paint murals.  I asked her if she is being paid.  She said that only her expenses are paid.  Benjamin Moore is her paint supplier.  They will be promoting her tour through a video that is not out yet.  She hopes to gain some fame and recognition from her tour.  Well, she has certainly gotten this in New Iberia.

On Saturday when I talked with Mary, she said she hadn’t gotten much work done because people were out and about and stopping to talk with her.  I took a few pictures of the paint cans, her truck, and the mural in progress.

“How do you do this on such a large scale?”

A quick one word response, “Math.”  She lays out her design on a grid, plots it out by measuring and taping.  To her, the image is just a plot on a graph.  Amazing math work here!

Mary has one stipulation; she takes complete artist control of the project. For New Iberia, she chose the alligator. She wants her murals to represent the area she is working in. An alligator is certainly appropriate for bayou country.

Phanat shared this video interview on Facebook.

Alligator mural in process

I wish Mary luck in her adventures.  According to the Daily Iberian, Mary has four cities remaining on her 10-city tour: El Paso, Texas; Santa Monica, California; Portland, Oregon; and Bethel, Vermont.

Mary Lacy is spreading love with paint strokes.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

For Easter weekend I visited my parents in Mississippi.  I am so grateful that they are doing so well.  My father still draws upstairs in his studio every day.  My father’s art is pointillism.  The images are created by dots on the page.  Last year he was on a medication that kept him from being able to hold his pen steady.  He didn’t know if he’d ever be able to draw again.

Now he is preparing a set of drawings for a gallery show in May.  Each one takes at least a month to complete.  I admire his perseverance and his talent.


Pop in studio

Focus, patience, and a steady hand are necessary for this style of drawing.

In 2013 in honor of my father’s 80th birthday, I published a book of his Christmas card drawings alongside my original poems.  The book is Illuminate and is still available on Amazon. 

Pop Studio view

My father’s studio looks out at this view of the lake.  He is currently drawing the tree that hovers near this window.  Trees are his favorite subject.  “Beautiful and complicated and challenging.”


Pop drawing

This drawing hangs in the hallway near the studio.  The chiaroscuro (play of dark and light) is prevalent in this drawing.

My father is not a famous artist.  He doesn’t sell many of his drawings and when he does, they are modestly priced.  That is not why he draws.  His art is as necessary to him as air, an intimate part of his being in this world.  Drawing dots is his meditation and his communication. I am blessed to be a witness to its beauty.


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Art Heals

  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.


My little Emily is an artist. She is a fragile leaf fluttering in the wind. She blew through the classroom Monday quietly creating. I read aloud the book Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly. In this story, the character Emily is sad about her parents’ divorce. She uses art to express her feelings. That is how my Emily expressed her feelings. It was her first day back at school following the death of her mother.

I don’t want to become an expert at this, but Emily is helping me discover the best way to handle the death of a child’s parent. Be present. Be flexible. Let the child lead you to what she needs. Do not deny the death. Talk about it. Let the other students express their love. Be patient. Cry. Hope.

This is the collage project she created on her own. She gathered different papers from my box for journal decorating. She patiently used a ruler to make smaller and smaller crosses, nesting them together. The final cross is covered in black yarn glued in a swirl.

Emily needed space. She needed art. She needed freedom. I think I heard her singing.

Emily cross

I am posting my schedule for NCTE. Please join me if you are there.

NCTE Schedule:

Thursday, Nov. 20th from 4:30-6:00 PM: Elementary Section Get Together: I will receive the 2014 Donald Graves award for the teaching of writing, an amazing honor. Read about it here.

Friday, Nov. 21st from 12:30-1:45, I am presenting with colleagues from the National Writing Project: From Poetry To Picture Books To Polemics: We Write and We Teach Writing: A Story of Cross-curricular, Cross grade-level Collaboration Among National Writing Project Teachers.

Saturday, Nov. 22nd Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life dinner. I can’t wait to meet my virtual friends face to face.

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sans souci fountain

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Children have an exquisite capacity to play, to imagine, to create stories, to connect with nature, art, and ritual. When children move into an imaginative space in their minds and spirits, a world of possibility and promise opens up for everyone. –Ed Bacon

This summer I have been responding to Ed Bacon’s book 8 Habits of Love. The 5th chapter is what I’ve been waiting for, the Habit of Play. What a boring world this would be without play!

This week I coordinated an art camp for kids. Each day we made something new. Rainsticks, cardboard self-portraits, and wood sculptures. We read The Dot by Peter Reynolds and made our unique dots. This was the 6th year for our art camp, and I finally had the brilliant idea to make a “Free Time Activity Box.” One little girl built a park scene using pink paper, pink tape, some wood scraps, sequins, etc. We put a sign next to it, “Do not touch.” It stayed up all week. Finally we transferred the scene to a scrap piece of foam board. I was fascinated to watch her play.

A sense of Play is essential to happiness and a feeling of safety in this world. Ed Bacon speaks of the difference between childlikeness and childishness. “Childlikeness makes room for everyone to play.”

Recently a friend of mine, a colleague and young mother, died in her sleep at 41 leaving three young children. As you can imagine, there were feelings of sadness,confusion,and helplessness. Following the service, I watched as my priest lifted up her 3-year-old son. He smiled and bounced the boy up and down. “I love you. We sure had fun today, didn’t we?” A sense of play in the midst of so much sorrow helped me see the hope that lives in love.

Love always wins. When we allow love to be in our nature, Play helps us relax and see the beauty in God’s gift of childlikeness to us all.

Instructions for Play

Leap in the green grass meadow.
Blow bubbles into the wind.
Twirl a girl in a swirling dress.
Open up the blossom of a flower.
Wave to everyone you see.
Smile, it’s always contagious.
Run through the sprinkler.
Climb a tree.
Make a bird out of an egg carton.
Create a space ship from a paper towel tube.
Laugh, giggle, belly guffaw.
Spend time with someone you love.
Praise the creator of Play.
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

When we invite Play in to all areas of our lives, we turn away from our fearful natures and invite the loving self to reengage with the world and with the parts of our brains that imagine and create. –Ed Bacon

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

On Sunday, I went to an art opening at A&E Gallery. In this show, I knew some of the artists, and I took the time to talk to them about their work and their process. My simple question, “Tell me about your art,” usually leads to a long, fascinating story. I learn a great deal about the artist and what drives their work.

This piece drew my attention. I’ve known the artist, Cathy Mills, for many years. We were Writing Project teachers together, but we had fallen out of touch. When she told me about this piece, she talked about how it had started out as a tree and then became these heavenly women. After others stepped away, she said, “Can I tell you what is really going on in this piece? I lost my son a year ago.” She proceeded to tell me how the painting was healing to her. She feels at peace now. She knows her son is at peace. Teary-eyed, I asked if I could photograph the picture and write a poem about it. I sent her the poem by email, and she approved its publication here hoping it may help someone else who is struggling with grief.

Art by Cathy Mills

Art by Cathy Mills

The Story

The flames ignite in her spine
growing to yellow gold. She can feel
her bones, every sinew, every nerve hot,
like her pulse, raging and fierce.

She remembers the call at 2 AM.
She hears the nurse’s voice,
“We have your son here.”
She knew he was gone.

With all the time she had, every arrest,
every hospital stay, every cry,
nothing could have saved him
from the fire. Now, peace rises

in blue angels from the roots
of her mothering. These women announce
Joy, pronounce Glory.
Tell her that he is well.
All will be well.

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