I had grown up in Baltimore my entire life, just outside the city, until I decided to study in a small, rural college in upstate NY. Prior to college, art had always been a joyful and expressive outlet for me- supported by my dad and nurtured by my mom. I was given the freedom to explore most art mediums as a child which I suppose fed my love and enjoyment of so many different expressions of art.
Once I entered Houghton College I was challenged and stretched even more in my own art techniques. My professors gave me the freedom and support I needed to explore various mediums, such as watercolor, oil, pastel, and pottery. During a semester-long study abroad program to Tanzania I was able to paint and sketch my own depictions and reactions to the beautiful culture, people, and countryside of Tanzania. However in addition to recording my own feeling through art on this trip I was able to see the beautiful art that is unique to the Tanzanian people. Through song, dance, beadwork, brightly painted fabrics, and even pottery I was inspired by the vibrancy and boldness that is uniquely different from western art.
In my last year of college I decided to narrow my artistic pursuits to just working in pastels, and focusing on child portraits. This was a challenge and a joy since the subjects were much of the time very squirmy and rambunctious. My love for pastels grew, as did my love for painting children, as I discovered and explored the painterly qualities and versatile abilities in the medium. In May of 2009 I graduated with degrees in communications and art (concentrating in painting and ceramics) and prepared myself for another adventure.
This adventure landed me in Charlottesville, Virginia where I lived with my aunt who is a Law Professor at the University of Virginia, apprenticed with Malcolm Hughes, a professional landscape artist, and worked part-time in a cheese shop. Within this one year that I committed, I focused my attention on developing my painting techniques as much as I could. I learned much about painting landscapes as well as how to train my eyes to see color and shape properly, various ways to prepare canvas, exhibiting artwork, ect. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to learn from another artist so kind and accomplished as Mr. Hughes!
At the end of my 1 year of painting I decided to take a trip up to Philadelphia in June 2010 to attend the BuildaBridge Art Institute. It is there that I sat across a breakfast table from Dr. Nathan Corbitt, one of the founders of BuildaBridge, as he shared about an oppurtunity to use my artistic skills in Kenya. “You have two weeks to decide whether you will go.” But even after our initial conversation I was already excited to go on this new adventure.
I arrived in Nairobi at the beginning of September 2010. As an Artist on Call with BuildaBridge I began to work underneath the Center for Transforming Missions in Kibera and the Inspiration Center of Mathare. My job description is 4 parts… teaching a children’s art class every Saturday, networking and mobilizing artists in the informal settlements, developing blogs and websites involving the arts here, mobilizing artists and facilitating 3 art camps per year in 3 different locations in various slums around Nairobi.
I was meant to stay in Kenya for 6 months. However, I am still here and am still not ready to go home. In fact, the word “home” is becoming drastically redefined in my mind. The people, culture, and lifestyle of Kenya has captured my heart. The opportunity to impact people in profound and tangible ways has given me new purpose and passion that I want to wrap my arms around and never let go.