Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Community of Hope and Sheila Crider by Tommy Finton

Community of Hope and Sheila Crider

“This city has enough stuff dedicated to Marvin Gaye,” she said. “Let’s get something different.” Only a true Washingtonian would see a Marvin Gaye painting and know not to keep it because of repetition.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the new Community of Hope building in Ward 8. Fitzgerald Fine Arts has been hired to oversee the selection of art placed in the new building. First off, the new facility is quite large and there is a lot of wall space, an art enthusiasts dream come true. Because Community of Hope places such an emphasis on, that’s right, community, Kelly Sweeney McShane, Executive Director, thought it would be a great idea to involve the local residents in the selection of art. So as Lillian, Erica, and I arrived at the construction trailer, about ten smiling faces of men and women who had lived in the neighborhood ranging from less than five years to sixty-plus greeted us.
A PowerPoint was created with potential pieces, and after a few slides were shown, a wonderful painting of Marvin Gaye was presented. Seeing it for the first time, I thought, “that’s a wonderful piece that shows a local musician who was a great symbol of the city.” Accordingly, over that past few decades, many people have thought the same idea, as there is a day dedicated to the singer and street named after him. I never thought not to include him, but the community felt that something new was needed. Without the help of the neighborhood, we could have blindly put that painting in the collection. That meeting served as a direct reflection of Community of Hope’s goals, and it was wonderful to hear some input from those who would possibly be using the center.
Most of our visit was dedicated to the art selection, but we were able to tour the construction site afterwards. I have learned quickly that if you work for Lillian, she’s going to put you to work, and you are going to be able to visit a construction site. It is impossible not to notice the sheer scope of this project. The building is quite large and everywhere you look there is going to be an office or clinic available to the public. Community of Hope’s ambitions are high with such a large project, but it is without a doubt that the center is important and will help the inhabitants of Ward 8.
Once our meeting was over, Lillian, Kelly, Erica, and I decided to head over to Sheila Crider’s home. Sheila lives and works in Congress Heights in Southeast, making her a local Ward 8 resident and a quick drive from the new Community of Hope center. She has been approached with idea of crafting a large mobile to hang two stories in the entrance of the soon-to-be-center. Her work is abstract, yet it gives meaning; it has color, yet it is simplistic. We were welcomed into her studio and saw not only her plans for the mobile, but her other paintings. They are simply beautiful, and I feel embarrassed not having heard of Sheila before that day. She is a great artist that has the benefit of being local, giving greater meaning to her enormous mobile.
Simply put, with Sheila Crider’s help, Community of Hope will become a shining beacon in Ward 8. Each wall in the building will hang a work that the citizens can be happy about, for they helped pick it. My second construction site visit proved to be very different than my first, but seeing projects come together and rise is amazing, and to be a part of those is remarkable. 

If anyone is interested in learning more about community of hope, the website is   They are still working to identify funding for the art component and use many volunteers in all their programs, including working with children who are homeless.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Our first Blog post by intern Tommy Finton!

When most people think about art, da Vinci and Michelangelo come to mind: painters and sculptors. Well, there is one artist who seems to be under-appreciated when it comes to fine art. Mother Nature is perhaps the best artist of all, and I was witness to that when I visited the Aquilino Cancer Center at Adventist Hospital, Shady Grove and saw the 2,200-pound boulder. I walked into the unfinished room and saw three bulky men attach straps around the behemoth and lift it with a lever. I have never seen a piece require so much maintenance before; the straps had to be in the right place so that the boulder would lift easily.
With Mother Nature’s keen eye for art, and a few sticks of dynamite, a construction team was able to isolate a piece from a quarry and send it as is to the meditation room at the soon-to-be-finished center. There are no conceived angles and lines; the boulder is going into that center as Mother Nature intended it. Stoic yet contemplative, this large piece of rock is the perfect addition to the room. Although quite large, it does not distract people. It quietly sits there hoping to inspire others and add to the overall ambiance.
Now, I am quite new to the professional art world, having been Lillian’s intern for a little over a month, and I am already seeing new things everyday. I have taken many art classes in the past, both in the creation and study of the subject, and I have to say that this enormous boulder is the first natural object that has been described to me as art. In all of my Art History books, not once did I see Victoria Falls, the Nile, or Ha Long Bay mentioned for its beauty. Nature being left out of my textbooks is like Babe Ruth being picked last to join a team. Mother Nature has been an artist for 4.5 billion years, and it’s wonderful to see Shady Grove and Lillian put a rock in the center. There is nothing to interpret; there is nothing to learn. It may just be a rock, but it is also art. Art is all around us and sometimes we choose just to see that which is carved, painted, or filmed. We live in a beautiful world and Shady Grove is creating a fantastic center that will have a piece of Mother Nature’s collection. So, to those who will be meditating, enjoy the boulder, for you will be in the presence of true art.

Priscilla's beautiful painting for the Aquilino Cancer Center!