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Nancy Rodrigo Art Blog

The Joy of teaching art...

by NancyRodrigo , December 9, 2009—12:00 AM

Topics: art education, art therapy, nancy weinstock, teaching art

nancy Rodrigo said... Painting today was blissful. More than painting for myself, was teaching art to another human. Every time is a spiritual journey-sharing a deeply personal process of creativity, finding voice, and speaking with images. I am always grateful for my ability to create art. All gifts come with a responsibility, and mine is to use art to heal, communicate, and connect with other people

My art career began when I was married, as Nancy Weinstock. I exhibited in the Village, the East Village and in Soho in the 80's. It was a wild time, crazy and self indulgent. As a 20 something with a new baby, a blossoming art career and husband in advertising-I felt a need to give back to the community.I was politically active in NOW NYC and ACT UP, but wanted to do something that integrated my art.

I started teaching back in 1987, through an artists' in residency program sponsored by the College for New Rochelle. A fellow artist, Mary Frances Judge and I taught about 20 men and women who were recently released from prison and residential rehab. All of them had histories of domestic violence in their lives. Most were survivors of physical and or sexual abuse. We taught in Mary's loft in Soho-a huge cavernous space filled with her monolithic dream paintings. Our students were mesmerized by the giant canvases, the paint covered floors, the obvious devotion to art as process-and living 24/7 with it.

We spread out large sheets of paper on the floor-and instructed our students to forget about every thing they were ever taught about "how to draw". We told them to free up their minds and not censor themselves, and let their hands, bodies move across the paper freely.

Most people are terrified by these instructions-almost everyone complained they could not draw-so why try. It saddened me to see how beaten down our group was-fearful of even putting crayon to paper. One woman began to cry-the exercise was a catalyst for all the failures she felt in life. It took about an hour of discussion, tears, and even some outbursts of rage till everyone agreed that to not try was an even bigger failure.

So the images began to take shape slowly, timidly-then breathe and come alive-great swirling arches of colors-orange, red, deep dark blues and browns. Tiny methodical shapes and doodles danced with faces, figures, and rainbows with tears-dozens of images across the floor. Mary and I connected the images with our students until a giant multi layered composition lay before us. It was powerful. It was a collaboration of 20 people in recovery-and 2 artists humbled by this experience.

This was my first experience teaching and with an art therapy exercise. It blew me the fuck away, and changed me forever. All the art openings I had been attending in the East Village, the parties at the Michael Todd Room with celebrities were dust compared to the monumental action of giving/sharing/teaching art/using art to heal.

Each day I teach, or do art therapy-I think of the 20 souls I worked with in 1987. I wonder where they are, how they are-did anyone ever pursue art as a way to heal the wounds. I know I did-as a child...but that's another story. December 8, 2009 11:14 PM



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