Notes From the President
Paint skipped across the canvas with a splat. The morning began as a shower but soon after the sun was beating down on our heads, making the paint dry quicker than we could apply it. I felt a strong sense of independence with the loaded brush in my hand, though I was working on a community painting that many artists had worked on before me. The animated chatter spun circles around our tent as the patrons laced the isles with painted faces and energetic paces. Children consumed by play were in full effect at the slides and jungle gym nearby and the rich aroma of a chili cook-off lingered in our noses. The other artists and I had put in quite a bit of work on the painting by midday. Every age from kids to parents and back down again. The first couple of things we added were as sparse and sparing as a beginner’s confidence in their own abilities. Even still, we broke the seal and creativity was making a presence in that hot park off the main road. After some time in the drizzle, the multi colored strokes began to run. Just as the first few artists scampered in to make their mark and hurry back to hiding, our community of colored circles began to smear down the canvas as if they too were trying to run away. Our first reflection was disappointment as we witnessed the beginning of our creation slowly start to fade. Being an artist for many years as well as an ambassador of positivity, I quickly decided to embrace the effects of nature. I told my fellow artists that art is everywhere and everyone is an artist. I told them we could still make this work and I began collaborating with Mother Nature. As I pushed the paint around and around on top the dripping colors of what was, others decided to join me on a journey of what could still be. Before we knew it, the canvas was being covered with wild, electric colors. Reds, oranges and blues were ripping their way through the center of the painting as the edges slowly became rolling shades of teal and green. I did my best to encourage the younger artists to give it all they had. They were so excited to help with the painting. I think the idea of slinging a paint filled brush around without any consequence was extra appealing. As I made my way to the parking lot I was met with an overwhelming feeling. We were doing it! Our art community was finally building a force in our hometown. When I returned to our tent I was surprised to see the entire canvas covered from top to bottom. These artists that were timid in the beginning had since found comfort in their abilities and band together to reinvent our creation. I couldn’t have been prouder. I spend a lot of my time as an artist trying to inspire, reiterating the idea of self-confidence. No one artist can become any more seasoned than the next without the simple act of practice. Anyone can practice anything if they desire. It is in fact self-confidence that catapults the inactive artist to artistic heights unimaginable. As I grabbed up a brush and a fresh pallet of paint to make way, I was met by some passers-by who casually strolled close enough to get a better look at what we were doing. Much like most adults, these two laughed in my face as I offered them the brush. “It’s your turn now, let’s see what ya got!” I shouted playfully to the curious new comers. Another brisk laugh from one of them let me know she did not consider herself an artist. I quickly shifted the brush in the direction of the young man with her and gave him the go ahead look. Much to my surprise he obliged. “Hold my drink” he told his friend with authority. A sure sign that this gentleman had at least one thing he needed to summon his artistic ability, confidence. With great excitement, he took the brush from my hand and dunked it in every color on the pallet at once. His brush was over loaded and the look on his face meant business. With a grin from ear to ear he gave one last look to his friend. He let out a deep breath and moved in towards the six-foot color bomb. As he raised his arm to create he paused. Unsure of his hesitation I moved to his side to offer any bit of help or encouragement he might need. His head whipped around to me and he cut another smile. “I can do anything I want?” His confidence pinched but for a second. After my simple assurance that he was the artist in charge there were no holds barred. He flipped and flopped that brush and twisted and torqued it. It was as if a giant, snarling, creative beast, trapped inside this man had finally been set free. He tore through that painting with great pride as he spent my entire pallet painting what turned out to be just another glob of pretty colors. “What is It?!” his friend snickered from back behind him. Without hesitation, he replied loud enough to inform the people a couple streets over. “IT’S ART!!” He was certainly confident in himself and it was almost understood that he knew he could do it if he wanted to. He stood there painting as if that’s what he had planned to do that day and made another five minutes of sheer pleasure seem like what was hours. Our art community was born for these two types of on lookers. I know several people are still wondering what exactly it is Wythdraw Art Community can do, which is fine with me because we will do quite a bit so it may take some time to establish our outline within the community. Every great adventure starts somewhere. We as the founders of WAC declare a state of creativity and hold everyone accountable. A large part of our mission is to infiltrate the inactive artist’s doubt and reconceive the diminishing essence of being a creator. That young man certainly represented an energy that found joy in the simple yet empowering act of creating. I’d venture a guess that the young lady who was hesitant to partake in even the littlest bit of adventure is probably an ace in the kitchen or plays a mean guitar. But because there are no paints, no pencils, brushes or canvas she doesn’t consider herself an artist. A sad notion. Often, I find people with the lowest self-esteem or little confidence very interesting, eccentric people when you get to their core. Like an onion with some layers that can make you cry and some that leave you feeling habitually satisfied. Most importantly our mission is to reach those in need of therapeutic benefits that may not have or want the help or assistance offered in the medical field. I personally desire to work closely with this group. It is my belief that what society labels a handicapped mind actually is a miraculous gift too wonderful to tame and too intricate to understand. My ambitions for our community are vast and plural though designing a syllabus that speaks to the ill minded and introduces them to the therapeutic benefits of the creative process is a top priority. It is obvious that artistic expression stimulates both viewer and creator. Later that afternoon, our painting had taken on many different looks. We had people of all ages stopping by and lending their hand to help paint. Some of those people had painted before, others had never had the chance. One gentleman pretended he was going to “give it a try” only to reveal that he has been an artist his entire lifetime. It was blatantly obvious as he was one of the only artists to add anything substantially intricate. As the crowd slowed a bit I decided to take another turn at the big colorful painting. I prepared a pallet and grabbed another brush. With vibrant greens dripping from the bristles I began adding another part of my vision to what was already turning out to be a remarkable piece of artwork. As people walked by, I stopped them for a bit of good old fashion interaction. We made small talk and jokes all while I continued being as productive as I could and encouraging them to do the same. Kids and parents were in and out of our tent painting ceramic tiles and making donations to our cause. We had several parents so supportive of our mission they decided to sign up as volunteers. I was certain the day would be a success but the outcome exceeded my expectations. I must say that I was instantly empowered. I began painting harder and faster with little regard for my surroundings, flinging streaks of color across the canvas and watching them race downward as if we were placing bets on which color would win. Just when I thought the day couldn’t possibly be more of a success I heard a snicker from over my left shoulder. As an artist of a public nature I am used to the clamor of onlookers and I can usually ignore any input or criticism but this laughter had a certain sound. A sound that resonated in me each time I heard it. The snicker kept coming and sounded closer each time. Finally, my anticipation strongly suggested I turn around and meet this phantom laugher. Much to my surprise it was a young man who obviously had some sort of “disability” gazing over my shoulder at our colorful creation. I am still not sure what his condition was as I spent more time getting to know him than his handicap. “Hi, I’m Collin!” He told me with a big, floppy wave. The grin on my face was tugging at both ends. “Hi Collin, I’m Mr. Clynt. Nice to meet you!” and we shook hands. Contrary to popular belief, his hand shook mine just like any other young mans could. “Hi Mr. Clynt. Are you a painting teacher?” It was music to my ears. Tell me how someone who is labeled handicapped or disabled is the only person to draw on that conclusion. “Why, yes I am Collin!” I told him as I turned to give him my full attention. We talked for a minute or two as he playfully asked several questions about me, art, and the giant painting behind me. I couldn’t help but notice Collin’s attention kept drifting from me to the painting. “Wanna give it a try, bud?” I offered him my brush and pallet. “I can?!” Before he could even get the words out he was taking my tools and making them his own. Happiness rushed over Collin’s face and into my heart. I love to see people open-up. It is one of the most intimate feelings you can share with someone. “Buddy, I’ve been waiting on you all day. The only thing this painting needs now is what you’re about to add!” Collin couldn’t believe he was being allowed to work on someone else’s artwork. He told me he’d never had the opportunity to collaborate with an artist on a work much less several artists at once. “People don’t think I know stuff.” He said to me as he took a small pause from painting to tap on his hearing aid. He awkwardly identified for me his contraption as if I couldn’t already see it. While I did my best to combat my sympathy, his joy filled the air like a bunch of loose balloons. Up, up and away he went with his imagination. He painted circles and he painted squares. He went from this color to that one and back again. I must have refilled Collin’s pallet with every color we brought that day. With wide-eyes he stepped back a foot or two and began flinging paint up and down the canvas. His laughter was almost contagious as he gave everything he had to his work of art! After several minutes of watching this young man work I decided to test the stigma of social stereotypes. I told Collin to get in a couple more strokes and then we were going to give it a rest to let the painting dry. I wondered if this might encourage erratic behavior from someone who had so far been the most pleasant person I had encountered that day. I wondered if Collin could only be spry and cooperative while doing something he found thrilling. I quickly received my answers as he did just the opposite. He stepped back and took one last swing leaving the final stroke of his genius right down the center of our community effort and all over the side of the tent. “There!” With one last snicker, he added the punctuation to his time behind the brush. He kindly handed me the tools he was using and wiped the paint from his hands on the side of his shorts. As he looked at his colored hand he became mesmerized by trying to peel off what was left behind on his skin. “That looks great Collin, thanks for your help bud!” Collin shook my hand again and scurried over to sign up on our volunteer sheet. His handwriting was anything but legible so I did my best to personally retrieve his valuable information. He told me he had his own phone but couldn’t remember the number, so I double checked the spelling of his name and email so that we can ask him to join us again someday. He wanted me to know he had a great time helping and that he would love to do more. He also informed me that he was already a volunteer at a summer camp for his fellow handicapped. I was continuously blown away by this young man and saddened to see him trot away. As he neared the edge of the sidewalk he turned back for one last look at his artwork. His pride could be measured in full and I had the pleasure of witnessing the entire experience. After we let the painting dry a little while I took another look at it. I was inspired by my new friend Collin and compelled to add more, so I did. All the way through the day and into the night. As the moon reared to light the sky the Bluegrass Festival settled to an end. People were dismantling and loading up all around us as I bathed in the success of Wythdraw. Words can’t quite explain my devotion to our cause and passion doesn’t fully describe what fuels me. Seeing all those people consumed by creating art was more than just euphoric. I believe that this organization is only adolescent with many great years and festivals to come. I also believe that if it weren’t for people like Collin we may not have people like me. I’d like to give a special thanks to our board of trust. They have taken my wife and I by the hand and dared to take this journey with us. The amount of knowledge, love, consideration, community and commitment that our board offers, is a tremendous blessing and we could not be more grateful and excited for the future of WAC! So as your seeing life through the lenses of your daily routines don’t forget to stop and remember. Share a story with a stranger. Shake the hand of someone new. You never know who you will meet and what their heart can offer yours. Always consider your emotions and the emotions of those you encounter. Being at peace with one another only builds a stronger community. Believe in yourself and believe in your fellow man. Eliminate your doubt, activate your confidence and create your future. Turn your back on negativity and never forget, life without art would be BLUE!
C. R. Costley