A sweet gift, circling around…
Three weeks ago I got a Face Book message from my friend Sheyssa. At one time Sheyssa was a very, beautiful little girl (see photo of my daughter Allison and Sheyssa from 1993). Now, she is a very beautiful, young woman. Sheyssa and her mom, Enid and her brother, Victor, were part of the Lansing, Michigan version of Little Artshram, called ARTSPACE.
Sheyssa’s mom, Enid, a passionate Puerto Rican woman, was an extraordinary “Picture Person” at Gier Park Elementary school, and helped bring additional art programming into K-6th grade classrooms. Our families spent many long, happy hours together making art, looking at art, along with other adventures in our very diverse north Lansing neighborhood.
And now, here it was a cold day in February 2011, 18 years later, and I wondered why Sheyssa was calling me. This is what I learned:
Sheyssa lives and works in Chicago, and at the onset of the phone conversation and, in her words she explained: “Being involved with ARTSPACE was a big part of my childhood, and I want to give something back. I would like to begin a version of ARTSPACE for kids in the Chicago neighborhood that I live in, and I’d like to plan a fundraiser to benefit the work you are still doing and to help us get started.”
I had to hold back a bit of the surge of emotion I was feeling. I gathered myself back into a listening place, as Sheyssa earnestly continued.
She told me…. “ I have a strange bond with Chicago. My mom is now living in Puerto Rico, my brother is in Florida, and I moved to Chicago 8 years ago, and live in the second largest Puerto Rican neighborhood in the United States. (The biggest is in NYC). I started doing Makeup and Production early, with no training (17 yrs old). Just picked up a brush and went for it. First a paint brush, then a shadow brush, then an airbrush. My mom had a brush of some sort in my hand as a wee one. And I think color theory, is embedded in my head for life.
I have been a Freelance Artist for…ever really. Working on Video, Photo, Film, TV, and Runway. I’ve had a few Titles too…Key Makeup Artist, Creative Director, Art Director, PA…lol so fun, Wardrobe, Production in general. I love being behind the camera. Love it!. Making things happen, with lil or no money.”
I asked her what was most memorable about her experience at ARTSPACE, and she said…”I think it was the nature walks at lunchtime to the same little park…that little gem of green space in Lansing along the Grand River…We would walk and collect stuff, “garbage art” items. While we were collecting art materials, we were also cleaning up the neighborhood. I also remember the space, the building where ARTSPACE was…our BIG windows…and how we would all help with the window displays…all of us little people making things and helping design the window displays….”
She went on to say, “My connection to ARTSPACE as a child helped me gain the tools and perspective that has led me into becoming a full-fledged, no holds-barred artist with a “green focus”. My two valuable skills that I use constantly are observation and elimination…those are what guide my “green focus” as a person with an objective to make…to produce. I’m self-taught in set design, wardrobe, costuming, make-up application and special effects. I consider my job title to be: a Creative Consultant, with the intention of influencing people in every aspect of life with a creative esthetic and to tune into their “green focus”.
So, there it is….and….I’m not sure if I can compose this writing in a way that expresses this moment when us “older” folks hear from the ones we get the privilege to hang out with as teachers, educators, care-takers, parental units….
It’s kind of a whamming heart-melt, that connects everything to everything…including how very special our place in Lansing was…with so many special people supporting ARTSPACE, like our dearheart Robert Busby, owner of our building and the “King/Mayor of Old Town”…and all the people, families, youth, children who were gathering and converging to connect in this neighborhood and do their creative culture-connecting work.
What a way for ARTPACE to be remembered and honored! And, what a gift. This circle just keeps circling on and on and on.
I may be able to make it to Sheyssa’s event on March 6th in Chicago, if so, I’ll let you know how it goes. I can’t wait to see her, and her neighborhood.
If you would like to support Sheyssa’s project, contact me at:
In lieu of your presence, donations can be mailed to:
Little Artshram/Everything But the Camera
P.O. Box 844
Traverse City, MI 49685
The Greater Lansing ARTSPACE/dba Little Artshram is a non-profit 501.c3 organization.